This weekend Fantasy Magazine will debut at the 2005 World Fantasy Convention in Madison, Wisconsin. Focusing upon original, fantastic stories with unconventional approaches, Sean Wallace, the editor of the publication, hopes to present fiction that will leave the reader with "a sense of wonder and excitement." Showcased in the premiere issue are fifteen stories supporting that statement.
Among the writers in FM that are known for their unique application of style and content are award nominated and/or award recipients Jeffrey Ford, Jeff VanderMeer, Nick Mamatas and Tim Pratt. Jeffrey Ford's "In the House of Four Seasons" is a story in nonchronological scenes written by an unreliable narrator. An exploration in early psychological treatment, the story contains a bizarre cast of characters in an environment where "everything outside is brought inside." In content and tone, the story feels reminiscent of works by L. Frank Baum, Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe. Jeff VanderMeer's contribution is an excerpt from his upcoming novel Shriek: An Afterword. The excerpt introduces the narrator of Duncan Shriek's story, his sister. She relates events of the siblings' childhood, particularly, the death of their father and, afterwards, their move to the city of Ambergris. "At the End of the Hall," written by Nick Mamatas, is a contemporary story about an ailing, older woman, who has one last wish, her only wish, to make. Satirical, with a fast pace, the characterization of the protagonist in Mamatas’ story makes it one of the highlights of the issue. Characterization is also a strong point in Tim Pratt's story, "The Tyrant in Love." This tale is told from the point of view of a hedonist, a tyrannical ruler who becomes bored with cruelty and debauchery and decides to do good deeds. Although a moral tale, this story isn't an examination of righteous choices, just selfish ones.
A closer examination of right and wrong is made in Eugie Foster's "The Bunny of Vengeance and the Bear of Death." Celestial deities debate the value of intervening, of interfering, in the lives of humans by using the life of one particular individual as an example. Another philosophical debate occurs in "The Sense of Spirals" written by Sonya Taaffe. In this case, a brother and a sister try to come to terms with their world of consistent, constant, change; they live in a city "changing, beneath the eye, beneath the hand, when no one was looking and in plain view." This examination is only enhanced by the lyrical, poetic quality of Taaffe's prose.
Sarah Brandywine Johnson and Catherynne M. Valente also use rich, complex language in their fiction. Johnson's narrator in "Hanging the Glass" is a writer telling the story of his lifelong friendship with an artist suffering from Asperger's Syndrome. Placed in a contemporary setting, the story not only explores friendship but the relationship between the artist and his society. Valente's narrator is the Gretel from Grimm's Hansel and Gretel. "Bones Like Black Sugar" examines the psychological consequences of Gretel's childhood trauma. The subject matter and the prose give the story the feel of Angela Carter's rich, dark fiction.
One other story in FM expands a fairytale’s narrative. In "A Sure and Certain Song," Erzebet YellowBoy returns to the tale of Grimm’s Rapunzel. Taken from her parents as a baby, isolated from people throughout her life, this feral child learns the one word that that allows her to balance, to retain, her pastoral existence.
The most common setting in fantasy is the pastoral —a time of kings and queens, servants, magicians and gods, rights and wrongs clearly defined but difficult to abide by. In Fantasy Magazine, this setting is represented by two stories. "To Make the Dead Speak" by Margaret Ronald tells the tale of a young man as he attempts to reunite with his deceased first love, and Vera Nazarian's "Sun, In Its Copper Season," creates deities whose very presence and behavior regulates the world in which they reside. Both stories use a gentle pace and romantic language to tell a story of the consequences of one’s decisions and actions.
Megan Messinger and Richard Parks set their stories in the near past or the present day. Messinger tells a beautiful story of identity and changelings set in San Francisco of the early 1900s. "Tear Her Standard Down" sets the protagonist, a young man who has been born in the wrong body type, against an Yksin, a creature of mixed animal and magical heritage. In Parks' "The Finer Points of Destruction," meanwhile, the protagonist must deal with the destruction of his apartment's belongings when he is visited by the Goddess, Kali. A quick and charming read, this story is more typical of genre fiction than most of the stories in the issue.
Two of the stories in FM take place in futuristic settings. Holly Phillips’ "Summer Ice" (the only reprinted fiction in the issue, reprinted from her collection, In the Palace of Repose) occurs in a future of continental poverty. The narrator, an artist recently moved from her family in the north, struggles in her new environment. She struggles with the warm temperatures. She struggles with multiple roles: teacher, co-worker, and neighbor. She struggles with the fear that she can no longer create her art. This story is not only about community and the sensitivity of the artist, but also about cyclical nature of life. On the other hand, "Closer to the Lung" by Simon Logan is a gritty, hard hitting story. Set in a stark, sparse future of infectious disease and industrial-hazardous employment, the protagonist seeks beauty and affection from a woman in a parasitical lifestyle. It is a story of obsessions, acceptance and resignation.
So that is the fiction in the premiere issue of Fantasy Magazine: fifteen works of fantastic fiction presented in one publication; fifteen writers, each with a story to tell. It is quite wonderful and very exciting.
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