The cover of this issue is by Brom and it features a half-elf warrior with a dragon in the background. This cover was nominated for a 1997 Chesley for Cover Illustration.
A rundown of this issue's nonfiction is as follows:
In adult books, Gahan Wilson reviews a reissuing of Ill Met in Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber, Love & Sleep by John Crowley, and The Bloody Red Baron by Kim Newman, and Jeanne Cavelos reviews The Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia A. McKillip; in the Folkroots column, Terri Windling writes about Merlin and Melusine: legends from the Breton coast of France; In the Movie/TV column, newcomer Craig Reid discusses the TV shows Hercules and Xena; in the artist gallery, Michael Resnick discusses the art of Jim Warren; and in the gaming column, Mark C. Sumner reviews Warcraft II and Shannara, based on Terry Brooks' books, both for the PC.
On to the fiction ...
The first story is "Sarah's Window" by Janni Lee Simner. Art to this one was provided by J.K.Potter. In my opinion, this story is middle-grade fantasy, which marks the first time such tale has graced the magazine. What is interesting is that the protagonist isn't a young child, which is usually the case with this type of fantasy, but rather the child's father. In a very few pages, Janni manages to explore a lot of old and familiar tropes in fresh ways, all the while painting a rather vivid picture with powerful characterizations. I haven't read too much fantasy in this vein, but I must say that I really liked this one.
Next up was "Snow" by Al Sarrantonio, another middle-grade fantasy, though this time the protagonists are children. The story itself is fun, as it explores the old theme of being careful what you wish for. Saying anything more would give too much of this story away, but I enjoyed this one as well. Art to this was provided by Laurie Harden, which marks her second illustration in the magazine.
We move back to an adult protagonist in the next tale, "Pavanne For a Dead Pross" by Jo Clayton. Art to this was provided by John Berkey. This story is dark urban fantasy. So far I haven't encountered too much urban fantasy in the back issues. For that matter, I've noticed we haven't run too much urban fantasy since I've come aboard, nor have I come across too many stories of this sort in the slush that have excited me (my slush survivor "Snake Charmer" by Amanda Downum being an obvious exception). And this leaves me wondering something. I've heard a number of times (and have said as much myself) that it's difficult to write effective high fantasy in the shorter form. But based on everything I've read so far--these being the earliest issues of Realms and the most recent ones--I'd say we've published noticeably more high fantasy than urban fantasy. So maybe urban fantasy is another sub-genre that lends itself more to the longer form (in reference to some of the other more recognizable areas, sword & sorcery strikes me as lending itself to the shorter form, and magic realism seems to lend itself to all lengths). If others have thoughts on this matter, I'd love to hear them. Regardless, I enjoyed the darkness and tension in this tale. It kept me engaged throughout, so I see why Shawna took this one.
Next up is "With Vorpal Sword in Hand" by Bruce Boston. Art to this was provided by Marc Sasso. Just about everyone is familiar with Lewis Carroll's nonsense poem dealing with the Jabberwocky & co. This tale attempts to make some sense of the nonsensical, as it treats the Jabberwocky & co. as real characters with real motivations. A very outside-the-box tale, and I'm sure fans of Lewis Carroll's ALICE IN WONDERLAND will appreciate this one. Alas, I've yet to read this classic. I know, I know. How could I have not read this yet? The more I do these entries, the more my reading deficiencies in fantasy literature are becoming revealed. Oh, well. There's always something we need to read. So far we know I need to read more Robert Silverberg (see my last retrospective) and ALICE IN WONDERLAND. I'm sure the list will grow as we continue.
The last story is a high fantasy piece, "Leuka and Phlego," by Lisa R. Cohen. Art to this one was provided by David Martin. This has to be one of the longest stories we've ever run in ROF. If it's not a novella, than it comes in as a very long novelette. The characterizations and ideas in this piece strike me as its biggest strengths. Each character is clearly defined, and some of the ideas--like a fey queen stealing a human male's beautiful voice for her own nefarious purposes--strike me as awesome. Certainly worth a read.
So that covers the fiction for April 1996. And my favorite story? "Sarah's Window" by Janni Lee Simner. And my favorite artwork? Marc Sasso's illustration to "Vorpal Sword in Hand" by Bruce Boston. Next time I'll yak about the June 1996 issue. Until then ...