Review: ‘Realms of Fantasy’, October 2011

I’ve been a subscriber to Realms of Fantasy for a couple of years now, through two of its near-death experiences. A new issue in the mail is always a treat, and the current issue is exceptional. Unfortunately, it is also the last. The magazine’s death experience may be real this time. The publisher has announced that publication is ceasing effective immediately. To call this a shame is an understatement, but it’s just one more sign of the times. I wish the magazine would continue as an electronic-only venture, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

In the mean time, the last issue sparkles. The non-fiction sections (which, to be honest, I didn’t always read) covered the recent and current crop of movies and TV shows based on fairy tales, starting all the way back to the 1946 French version of Beauty and the Beast and continuing to the current TV series Once Upon a Time and Grimm. The Folkroots section, which every month covers the origins of some fantasy literature-related area, made a detailed examination of the influence of Greek and Roman myths on C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. (Another confession: I have not read these books, but this article got me wanting to.) Elizabeth Bear’s history of urban fantasy is essential reading for anyone who wants to write in that genre, and worthwhile reading for fans. There was also the regular assortment of book and game reviews.

The heart of every issue is the collection of short stories, and this is where this issue really shines. My favorite, hands down, is Scott William Carter’s The Man Who Made No Mistakes, in which a man with the ability to rewind time spills his story to a jaded priest in the confessional. This story made a flight from Atlanta to St. Louis pass extremely quickly, and I’d love to hear it in a future episode of Podcastle (are you reading this, Dave and Anna?) Betsy James’ Sweeping the Hearthstone is a variant on the Cinderella story (fits nicely with the discussion of fairy tales referenced above) in which the Cinderella character acts…not exactly as you’d expect.

In Second Childhood by Jerry Oltion, a woman’s long-dead mother reappears, looking as she did when she was in her 30’s. As you might imagine, this has a significant impact on the woman, her husband and daughter. It ends with a nice message, and it includes the immortal line, “A ghost of your mother gives my willie the willies.” Nick DiChario’s Barbie Marries the Jolly Fat Baker is about a toy, jilted by a Barbie doll, who decides he’s had enough. You need to read this for the conversations between the toy and the family dog alone, but the entire story is humorous and touching.

Lastly, Return to Paraiso by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz tells the story of a land and a people that are under the oppressive thumb of a military dictatorship. One young woman takes on the army. The army clearly has no idea who they’re dealing with.

This fine magazine is going out on a high note. I’m sad that it won’t land in my mailbox anymore, but this issue is a fine swansong. If you can find it on a newsstand, I highly recommend buying it or the PDF version.

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