Retro Review: December 1983 “Fantasy Book”

Later today I will be driving MBW, the HA, and myself down to Galveston for the remainder of the Memorial Day weekend. My sister and brother-in-law are driving down from Nebraska to join us. Time constraints thus demand a more abbreviated post, but I trust it will still be worth your reading time.

Fantasy Book was a relatively short-lived magazine, putting out 23 issues between 1981 and 1987. It was one of the first publications I submitted to as a budding teen writer (I hope I never run across any of the manuscripts I wrote back then) so I picked up a copy. I wonder if I still have an ancient rejection letter from Fantasy Book somewhere? I still have the magazine and decided to give it another read after the interval of (oh so many) decades. Here are my brief notes on each story.

Little Axes. Richard Mueller. Two generally unlikeable protagonists encounter a kingdom of Tolkienesque dwarves (note the spelling) in the Pacific Northwest. Slight, moderately entertaining, though implausible. Still, fantasy is the literature of the implausible.

Abraxas. D. Jeffrey Ostling. A slow burn of a horror story, reminiscent of something from The Twilight Zone or Tales from the Dark Side. The composition is a little awkward and the dialogue stiff. But it works okay.

Coco. Don Sakers. A short piece. Part of a larger work? An anecdote? (Too long for a vignette.) An enigma.

Exhibition. Kristine K. Thompson. An orchestral horror story? I failed to grok this one.

Dark Reckoning. Tetti Pinckard. An ambitious weird tale of sex and death.

Wind of Steel. Gene O’Neil. A quiet family drama set in post-war Japan. (Okinawa to be precise, and I know there is a difference.) It is a tale of self-sacrifice, relying heavily upon hints and suggestions. Poignant. Unhurried (perhaps excessively so.)

For the Hell of It. Jefferson P. Swycaffer. The one story I’d retained some recollection of. Was there a reason it had stuck with me? Re-reading informs the answer is “yes.” A medieval army invades Hell itself. Divinely entertaining stuff.

Parameters. Patrice Duvic. A darkly humorous meditation on the nature of change. Science fiction rather than fantasy, the first in a sequence of such in a purported fantasy magazine.

It’s How You Play the Game. Lois Wickstrom. A sci-fi morality tale of some sort? Notable for the conception that text-adventures were the acme of early 80s video gaming technology.

Coyote Awakens. Roger E. Moore. A post-apocalyptic fable featuring the Indian trickster god. There is a humorous Gamma World quality that seems appropriate given the author. Maybe my second favorite story in the magazine.

Godgifu and Aelfgifu. Esther M. Friesner. Lady Godiva meets a fairy. While interesting conceptually, not much was done with it other than a brief moment of “Girl Power.” A fantasy interrupting the string of science-fiction.

The Tempest Within. Jayge Carr. Shapechanging psychic faeries in space!

For a magazine whose cover features a unicorn in a bucolic setting, this issue seemed oddly heavy on dark, horrific stories and science fiction. Interesting in a time capsule sort of way. Overall, few of the stories connect with me now. But the re-read was worth it if only for Swycaffer and Moore’s stories.

If you want to read any of my short fiction, some are available here, here, or even here. And you can check out my Author page for more links.


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