Realms of Fantasy by Douglas Cohen

Realms of Fantasy, June 2011

Fiction Editor – Shawna McCarthy; Editor – Douglas Cohen

Realms of Fantasy began publication in 1994.  The magazine has changed publishers a number of times over the years and is currently published by Damnation Books.  The June 2011 issue marks the 100th issue of RoF.  RoF is a full-sized, full-color magazine with full-page art accompanying every short story.  This is the second magazine added to our collection of periodical short fiction reviews.

This issue contains 7 short stories, poetry by Ursula K. LeGuin, a gallery and article on artist Petar Meseldzja, a Folkroots column on fairies, and a full complement of fiction, gaming, graphic novel, and movie reviews.


“The Ground Whereon She Stands” by Leah Bobet is a love story set near the Idaho-Canadian border, where a Forestry worker is sent flowers by a hedge witch with a crush.  Unfortunately, the flowers spring up under her feet wherever she walks.  This is a nice little snapshot of a relationship wherein the two people have different ideas and goals for their relationship.


“Escaping Salvation” by Josh Rountree and Samantha Henderson is the sort of story that could be used for the kernel of a pretty convincing novel.  It’s set in a post-apocalyptic southwest where fuel and water are scarce, electricity is gone, and people are living in camps.  Dirt angels, large giant sand golems, form from time to time and wreak havoc on people and settlements.  The main characters hunt these creatures and take their parts to sell.  They stumble on a camp and into the midst of a family drama that is years-old, which conjures up dreams of wind power and enough water to live.  This story is very earthy and real, with a strong sense of magic pervading the land and the lives of the people living on it.  RECOMMENDED.


“The Economy of Powerful Emotion” by Sharon Mock has one of the more interesting structures out of any shorts I’ve read in some time.  It’s told in thirty-eight chapters over the course of four pages.  No “chapter” is more than a couple paragraphs long.  Each section conjures an image or small scene, some in very evocative language.  The tapestry as a whole is that of a fairy-tale about a prince who saves a princess, whose tears are drops of diamond, from a father using her to fund a kingdom.  In all, it’s very similar to many stories we’ve heard before, but its telling, its fragmentation, asks the reader to take the simplicity of that tale and really engage with all the little details of such a story, thus taking the familiar and making it magical again.


“The Good Husband” is Thea Hutcheson’s tale of a woman who is much more than she seems and the man who comes to her farm and falls in love with her.  It’s set in a post-war time (presumably the Civil War) when men were in short supply, so getting help around the farmstead was difficult.  In this case, for various reasons, the woman in question, Keeler, and the town she lives in really need a man around to prosper.  There’s more magic going on here than one initially realizes, and some characters are more than what they initially seem.  This one speaks to the sort of love I’m sure many people of the time felt, that of two people living through difficult times and working together to survive. 


In what is probably the thinnest story in the collection, Patrick Samphire’s “The Equation” details an encounter in a coffee shop between a man and his high school crush.  It’s a snapshot view of the conflict between science and magic, between the codification of the world and the myths and mysteries of life.


“Wreathed in Wisteria, Draped in Ivy” is an Oriental-themed story by Euan Harvey.  It’s made up of tales within tales within a letter that implies an even larger tale above all.  The letter tells of one man’s discovery and pursuit of never-ending life.  He follows the trail through many hardships and battles and eventually comes to know the secret of avoiding death.  All of this is done in pursuit of vengeance he seeks to serve on someone he refers to only as Noble Lord.  This is a fun quest fantasy outside of the more typical medieval setting, and all the more interesting for it.  RECOMMENDED.


The closing story of the issue stands firmly in the tradition of urban fantasy, first person stories where there’s another magical world beyond the one most people know.  In David D. Levine’s “The Tides of the Heart,” though, the main character isn’t a detective or a bounty hunter or any of the other common sorts usually narrating this type of tale.  She’s a plumber responsible for dealing with water creatures of various sorts.  This story unfolds for us a very magical history to the city of Portland, Oregon, one of business tycoons, ley lines, and powerful water spirits.  Levine underpins these grand ideas with a very convincing love story.


This was the first issue of RoF I’ve read, and I was impressed with the production values.  The full-page, full-color art accompanying each story is impressive.  While I don’t tend to be as interested in movie and game reviews, the Folkroots column on fairies and the focus on Petar Meseldzja more than adequately covered my non-fiction needs in this issue.  The stories were widely varied in style and content and interesting to read. 


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