Realms of Fantasy-A Personal Eulogy

Magazines are born and die. This is a fact in and out of the field. I found myself making a list of just the print magazines I have known that are no longer here. In no particular order:

Twilight Zone Magazine

Amazing SF
Fantastic Stories
Adventures of Sword & Sorcery
American Fantasy Magazine
SF Age
Tomorrow: SF
Quantum SF
Pirate Writings
Fantasy Book
Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine

I’m sure I’m missing a few (dozen), and that’s just the print list. Online/electronic hasn’t been immune either (Sci-Fi.Com, Aeon, Future Orbits, etc). That’s reality. I know it and you guys know it. Some of these paid well, some hardly paid at all. Some had more prestige and influence than their circulations would suggest, but one and all they’re gone now and every one was a loss in its own right. Now we can add Realms of Fantasy (RoF)to that very long list.

Realms of Fantasy was obviously special to me personally. I don’t know what it was, an accident of timing or editorial taste, but we clicked. RoF came along just when I started to sell regularly, and over the next sixteen years ( I started in Issue #3) Shawna published more of my work than any other single venue. I never had a guaranteed sale at RoF, and Shawna both bought and rejected pieces that surprised me, but I always knew I’d get a friendly reading.

While individual stories from RoF were often award contenders, and those readers who liked the magazine tended to like it a lot, IMO neither the magazine nor its editor ever got the respect and recognition within the field that they deserved. I know there are reasons for this. I even know what some of them are. I don’t really give a damn, and even though that was starting to change a little, it’s moot now. Time and a little perspective will make it clearer what we’ve lost. Until then, it’s just gone.

Magazines like Asimov’s SF and Analog remain alive and at least somewhat profitable because—quality and reputations aside—they are printed digest size on cheap paper, and are thus relatively inexpensive to produce. Which we all know was a far cry from RoF–full size, mostly slick paper, with color interior illustrations. It was much more expensive to produce, and we all know that hurt it, but let’s face facts here—yes, it’s a sad day when the field can’t support a magazine like RoF, but no one questions that this is the new reality. So maybe it’s the zeitgeist, or just more evidence that the publishing paradigm itself is changing in ways we can only partially see, but no one yet understands. I know my own approach to writing short fiction in the context of what I still hope to be a writing career is changing in line with the new realities, and change is inevitable. It can also be painful, and losing RoF hurts.

And yet, credit where it’s due–seventeen years and two resurrections is a damned good run for a print magazine these days, and I was happy to be part of it. A good bit of what passes for my career in the field is due in large part to the showcase I and a lot of other newer writers had at Realms of Fantasy. It was never my only option, but it was always a good one. There’s a type of fractured fairytale that I like to do that was always welcome there, along with some of the quirkier stuff. Marketing, always difficult, just got a little harder, and people looking for my work may have to look a little harder too. I now have an orphaned story that was already copyedited and ready for the December issue, an issue that’s never coming out. That’s just from my own selfish point of view. I also think of those directly affiliated with the magazine like Doug and Shawna, and I think of all the wonderful illustrators who got their breaks through Realms of Fantasy. I know I’m not the only one who’s going to miss it. But I already do. A lot. The list below just names a few of the reasons why.

“The Last Waltz”, February, 1995
“The Right Sort of Flea,” April 1997
“Lord Madoc and the Red Knight,” December 1997
“Take a Long Step,” April 1999
“How Konti Scrounged the World,” Feb. 2000
“The Fourth Law of Power,” August 2000
“Judgment Day,” October 2000
“The Trickster’s Wife,” February, 2001
“The First Law of Power,” June 2001
“A Respectful Silence,” December 2001
“Kallisti,” April 2002
“Worshipping Small Gods,” August 2003
“Yamabushi,” December 2003
“The Right God,” August 2004
“Death, the Devil, and the Lady in White,” April 2005
“Fox Tails,” June 2005
“The Penultimate Riddle,” August 2005
“Empty Places,” December 2005
“Moon Viewing at Shijo Bridge,” April 2006
“A Touch of Hell,” April 2007
“Hot Water,” December 2007
“On the Banks of the River of Heaven,” April 2008
“The River of Three Crossings,” February, 2009
“A Road Once Traveled,” December 2009
“The Swan Troika,” February, 2011

As a coda, I offer the LoC that I wrote for the magazine’s 100th issue:

“One Hundred Issues. Wow.

Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for March 7, 1994. I’d sold my third story and was just getting used to the idea of being a “pro” when news broke of a new magazine, with Shawna McCarthy, former editor of Asimov’s SF, in charge. A magazine dedicated to fantasy. There was a huge buzz online surrounding the announcement and we all Wanted In.

Shawna bought the first story I sent her. That was “The Last Waltz” and it appeared in the third issue, February 1995. It was also the first time my name appeared on the front of any magazine, and that issue with its marvelous Bob Eggleton cover is framed and hanging in a place of honor in my library. Now at 100 issues for Realms of Fantasy with 26 of my stories included, past and future, we’re both still going. Not without a scare or two. I know how close we came to losing the magazine but I also know how lucky I and a lot of other writers and readers were that it ever existed in the first place. Shawna’s given more of my work a good home than any other individual editor, and I’ll always be grateful for that. More important, Shawna always was and is willing to give a new writer a chance, and I’m happier than I can say that this proud tradition is going to continue.

So why not go for Two Hundred? I’ll be here if you will.”

So we didn’t make that 200th issue or that 26th story, and I’ll always regret both. Even so, it was still a damned good run.