Douglas Cohen (douglascohen) wrote,
Douglas Cohen

Realms of Fantasy: December 1995 (Issue 8)

Part eight in my ongoing retrospective as I read the fiction to the back issues of Realms of Fantasy and offer my thoughts, up through the present issue.  This time around I'll be discussing the December 2005 issue.

The cover to this one is illustrated by Michael Whelan, which marks his third illustration in the magazine.  It features a dragon clasping an unconscious woman in its claws.

A rundown of this issue's nonfiction is as follows:

In adult books, Gahan Wilson reviews Candlenight by Phil Rickman, Traveling with the Dead by Barbara Hambly, and Zod Wallop by William Browning Spencer, and Jeanne Cavelos reviews Great Writers & Kids Write Spooky Stories, edited by Martin H. Greenburg, Jill M. Morgan, and Robert Weinberg, as well as Isaac Asimov's Ghosts, edited by Gardner Dozois & Sheila Williams; in folkroots, Terri Windling discusses the magical legends of the "Enchanted Lands" of Wales; in the movie/TV column, newcomer Lisa MacCarillo covers the movie, Jumanji; in the Artist Gallery, Ric Meyers covers James Gurney's Dinotopia: the World Beneath; and in the gaming column Mark C. Sumner reviews the video game Pitfall: the Mayan Adventure, Panzer Dragoon for the Sega Saturn, and the miniature paints and accessories line, The Chessex Magic Wand Beginner Paint Gift Set.

On to the fiction ...

The lead story is "Eagle's Beak and Wings of Bronze" by Deborah Wheeler, which marks her third appearance in Realms (the first to reach this mark).  Art to this one is a reprint from Carl Lundgren.  With this story, Wheeler demonstrates her versatility in the fantasy short form.  The first tale she published with us was a piece of surrealism about a painter and her sick mother, the second was a post-apocalyptic about a vampire and a devout Jew.  This time she chose the fairy tale form, with the main characters being a were-griffin and a were-dragon.  I'll point out that while I've yet to read any stories in Realms about werewolves, this does mark the first story in the magazine with lycanthropes.

Next up was the story "Wings" by Patricia Duffy Novak, and it was the first piece of Greek mythology in Realms of Fantasy.  Art is by Carol Heyer, which marks her third illustration in the magazine.  I have to say, the idea behind this one is major cool.  Novak chose to do a retelling of the Icarus myth,  but substitute the word "sun" with "moon" and you get the gist of the major component she tweaked.  Honestly, in terms of reinvention to a well-known tale, this is one of the more engaging ideas I've encountered in Realms.

The third story was "Good Help is Hard to Find" by William John Watkins, a vampire tale with a rather psychological bent.  Told strictly through the pov of one of the vampires, this tale focuses on the mindset of a vampire, why they do what they do, how they think.  It didn't make me sympathize, but it did make me understand.  Art to this one was provided by Mark Harrison.

So of the three stories I've discussed so far, one was a fairy tale and another story was a retelling.  So I guess it's only appropriate that this fourth story was a retelling of a fairy tale, the Little Mermaid to be exact.  I must confess that before reading this story ("Foam" by Dave Smeds), the only version of this tale I ever came across was early during my run as assistant editor at Realms.  One of the first slush survivors I passed along was a dark retelling of the Little Mermaid, although at the time I didn't realize this was a retelling.  It was just a cool story by my good friend, Alethea Kontis.  Shawna didn't take that tale, though Alethea did place it elsewhere and eventually sold us another story (to be discussed many many retrospectives from now).  So yes, this means I've never even seen the Disney movie for this story.  But I'd liked this story a lot, and I'm fairly certain this is the first story in Realms that had a mermaid in it.  Art to this one was provided by Gary Lippincott, which marks his second illustration in the magazine.

The next story was "The Perseids" by Robert Charles Wilson.  This is a reprint ...sort of.  As Shawna explained it to me, she accepted this story first for RoF, but it was first printed in the Canadian anthology, Northern Frights 3.  The Locus Awards index lists this as being nominated for 1996 Nebula Award for Best Novelette, with Realms of Fantasy as the publisher.  However, it also lists the nomination as being [deleted].  This all happened way before my time, but I think I can piece together what happened here.  The story was first published in a Canadian anthology, and the Nebulas only recognize stories originally published in the U.S.  Meanwhile, Sovereign Media neglected to print anywhere in RoF that this story was a reprint (perhaps because Shawna accepted it first).  So I suspect that for a long time a lot of people thought it was eligible for the Nebula Award, to the point that it was nominated before everyone was made aware of the mistake.  What a mess!  Anyway, while it never had a chance to win the Nebula Award, it should be noted that it won the Aurora Award in Canada for best short sf.  And not to be left out, it was also nominated for the 1996 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction (though the original publisher was listed as Northern Frights 3).  This story has a heavy philosophical sensibility to it, questioning the very nature of evolution and life.  Early on I was absolutely convinced this story was science fiction, but as I kept reading it, I came to see how this could be considered fantasy as well.  To me, it doesn't fall neatly into any of these categories though.  You can argue for it belonging to either one of these genres really.  Given this, it could certainly be published as a piece of fantasy.  In her description of the piece, Shawna describes it as blend of Arthur C. Clarke & H.P. Lovecraft.  I agree, but I'd also add that something about the characterizations and paranoia also brings Philip K. Dick to mind.  As to the story itself, it's really hard to describe, but it had me thinking after I was done.  I may think about stories after I'm done with them, but this was something different and far more rare.  It just had me thinking.  Very heady stuff.  Art to this one was provided by Ken Graning, which marks his third illustration in the magazine.

The last story of this issue was "Stealing From the Woman Snake" by Fred Askew.  Art to this one was provided by Joel Napstrek.  It marks the first tall tale we ran in the magazine, a zany story about a man stealing soil from an ant colony run by a coral snake.  Kind of coincidence that I should read this so recently, since I'll soon be passing along the first tall tale I've ever fished out of the submissions piles.

So this brings us to the end of Realms of Fantasy for 1995.    And my favorite story?   I have to give the nod to "The Perseids" because of how thought-provoking it was.  And my favorite original work?  "Foam" by Dave Smeds.  And my favorite artwork?  Carol Heyer's illustration to "Wings" by Patricia Duffy Novak.  Next time we'll kick off the 1996 publishing year with the February 1996 issue.  Until then ...
Tags: rof retrospectives
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