Tue
Jan 27 2009 5:29pm

Good Bye Realms of Fantasy

I’m sad to announce that the fantasy-oriented magazine Realms of Fantasy is ceasing publication after the April 2009 issue, which is at the printer as I type this. It all started as a quick comment at the end of an author’s blog post. This lead me on a short wild goose chase through rumors, until I found the rumor confirmed at SF Scope. As reported at SF Scope, managing editor Laura Cleveland states that the current economic situation combined with declining newsstand sales are the cause of the magazine ceasing publication.

I see this as quite a blow to short fiction and short fiction publications. While not everyone liked editor Shawna McCarthy’s tastes, the magazine appeared to be doing well. I always enjoyed reading my subscription every other month. And with writers like Gene Wolfe, Liz Williams, Jay Lake, Theodora Goss, Sarah Prineas, Tim Pratt, Kage Baker, and on and on and on. They also provided decent coverage of fantasy media, and the nonfiction folk roots column was always fascinating.

It will be interesting to see what this does to the short fiction landscape. Will the submissions that normally went to Realms of Fantasy now go to some place like The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction or Asimov’s? Or will publications like Black Gate, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Clarkesworld Magazine, or anthologies like Polyphony (published by Wheatland Press) benefit? Or will things go to even smaller publications like Shimmer, Sybil’s Garage, or even Electric Velocipede instead? I honestly think this will be the time to shine for online magazines. They don’t face many of the same concerns that print publications have with distribution and single-issue sales.

The worst thing of all this is how it will affect all the people I know and respect who worked on this publication.

25 comments
Irene Gallo
1. Irene
A blow to art as well..they commissioned an illustration for each story. A lot of great artists did work for them -- established guys that enjoyed the freedom they got from working with them and younger guys just cutting their teeth.
Kage Baker
2. kagebaker
Bugger. I was about to submit a story to them, too. RoF may have had some embarrassing covers, but they paid well, and the interior illustrations really were superior.
Joe Sherry
3. jsherry
Suck. Yet another magazine I've been "meaning to read", though I still wouldn't have been able to afford a subscription.
Fred Coppersmith
4. FCoppersmith
This is disappointing news, in a time when disappointing news for publishing (genre and not) has been in anything but short supply. Although I didn't read it regularly, I will be disappointed to see Realms of Fantasy go.
jrodenbiker
5. jrodenbiker
Terrible news. I have the complete run.

I always really enjoyed the story mix. The art direction on the illustrations was hit and miss. Over the past year, the advertising became embarrassing as it filled with "erotic/romance fantasy" small print crap. The covers were notoriously bad. But they were clearly designed to grab attention at the news stand. I'm sure the theory was "pull them in with a Harry Potter headline, keep them with great short fiction". Obviously, that didn't work.

The biggest loss, IMHO, will be the "Folkroots" column and the artist profile that appeared in each issue. (The loss of Gahan Wilson's book reviews over the past couple years was also a big loss.)

"Folkroots" took a scholarly look--with great, long bibliographies--at the roots of folk stories and fantasy tropes. The artist profile highlighted those known and unknown with an interview and a large selection of their portfolio.

I haven't seen this combination of art, history, and fiction in any other magazine--though I haven't been looking either.

A lot of the talk on the web now is about who will pick up the story submissions. I'm wondering where and if I'll move my subscription. I can say that _High Fructose_ has caught my eye with its past couple issues and will pick up the art slack. The column length dose of history every couple months was just right, I don't want a whole magazine of it. There has never been a shortage of fantasy fiction, especially in this age, though I will miss Shawna McCarthy’s editorial direction. Her taste was quirky, though tasteful. She set the bar very high.

R.I.P. Realms of Fantasy
Bryan Lee Peterson
6. mindofbryan
I have a lot of worries about on-line magazines being able to generate the money to pay. At the same time, I have a lot of confidence in the editorial staff that they will grow and that they will proliferate.

I'd love to see some of these go to digital readers, and have subscriptions for that service, or pay per download with some royalties kicking back to the author. The niche market of many new magazines works better in on-line format, as well. Niches are smaller and come and go, and are not a sustainable market. Niche = doesn't get carried at newsstands.

I'm starting to put stories up at mindofbryan.com and scribd.com and everywhere else I can find because it will reach more people that way.
rick gregory
7. rickg
Sad to see a good magazine fail. I wonder if something like what tor does here for downloads behind a subscription with maybe 1-2 free stories per month and adverts would sustain an online short fiction site? I'm almost interested enough to spend some time doing a business case... but I don't have any publishing ins so... meh.
John Klima
8. john_klima
@ 5 I completely agree with you. Often the Folk Roots column was worth the price of admission for the magazine. Perhaps some enterprising publishing folk will collect them together for a folk studies/mythology text for academic work.
John Klima
10. john_klima
@ 9 The main reason for Jim Baen's Universe lack of mention in this article is that I was looking for places that publish predominantly fantasy or speculative fiction. That might be splitting hairs when I include F&SF in my write-up, but Baen's Universe publishes a higher number of science fiction stories to fantasy/speculative stories.

I just don't see the stories that were getting published in RoF having any interest for the editors of Baen's Universe.
Dave Bell
11. DaveBell
The only things I've ever had published have been in the amateur fiction markets. And, while I might be writing good enough stuff now, finding somebody who would want to publish it, and pay, has just become harder.

No chance of anyone starting Indiana Jones' Pulp Adventure Magazine?
John Klima
12. john_klima
And I completely forgot to mention Fantasy Magazine, another great online magazine.

@ 6 The big thing that the online magazines need, as you point out, is something to generate a revenue stream. Both Fantasy and Clarkesworld publish books as well as the online fiction.
Samantha Brandt
13. Talia
Between this and the demise of Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, I am very concerned about the future of short genre fiction.

Here's hoping the stalwarts continue to hold out.

:(
jrodenbiker
14. John O'Neill
>Will the submissions that normally went to Realms
>of Fantasy now go to some place like The Magazine
>of Fantasy & Science Fiction or Asimov’s? Or will
>publications like Black Gate, Lady Churchill’s
>Rosebud Wristlet, Clarkesworld Magazine, or
>anthologies like Polyphony (published by
>Wheatland Press) benefit?

Hi Jim,

Boy, great question. And as the editor of one of those you mentioned (BLACK GATE), I have to admit I wondered exactly the same thing.

But frankly, I doubt it. While BLACK GATE may receive a few additional submissions, I strongly believe in Fredick Pohl's dictum, "Markets create writers."

Much as I might wish it, I don't believe the loss of REALMS will just re-distribute the fiction elsewhere. Shawna had shown a real talent for discovering new writers, and the disappearance of REALMS means that many writers will not be discovered and promoted over the coming years.

- John
jrodenbiker
15. Stephen Dedman
I'll miss them. I only ever managed to sell them one story, but they used Alan Lee artwork to illustrate it, so I continued submitting to them for years afterwards.
Marissa Lingen
16. Mris
Just for the record, John, when I last sold fiction to the Baen's Universe editors, they were specifically asking me for more fantasy at that time. That was awhile ago, so this is not a "current hot market tip" but rather an indicator that they genuinely do want both. I've sold two fantasy and two SF stories to them. I don't expect that their overall balance is that dead-on 50/50, of course, but they're an enthusiastic fantasy market.

As for whether they'll pick up the stories that were in Realms, hard to say. I would hate to see people not submitting stories to F&SF or Baen's or other publications because they'd already decided that the editors' tastes were narrower than they actually are. I think it's healthy for the field when no two publications' tastes match exactly. Realms' absence will of course be a loss.
Jonathan Strahan
17. jstrahan
It's my guess that the work that might have been published in Realms of Fantasy, sadly, probably won't be published elsewhere. I don't know if it's because of editorial taste, or whatever, but markets do draw out work. The examples that come to mind are SF Age and SciFiction. In the case of the latter, particularly, I noticed that those stories didn't really show up elsewhere. They just stopped. Sad news, indeed.
Robert Cristante
18. rcmagnus
Well I am not so shocked at all. I had a hard time to receive my first free issue and when I did send my money for a subscription, I never got my next issue and maybe being in Australia...

One thing about RoF is that the stories and art work is fantastic, its a shame it had to close the shop.
jrodenbiker
19. Scott H. Andrews
I agree that ezines may end up picking up a lot of the slack. My new pro-rate ezine Beneath Ceaseless Skies is already getting subs with cover letters saying those stories had been originally targeted for Realms or even in their slushpile.

We publish character-driven secondary-world fantasy, and we pay pro rate, so I expect and hope that we may see a lot of the secondary-world stuff that Realms was getting. We had already bought from several past Reamls authors, including Margaret Ronald, Aliette de Bodard, and Richard Parks.

Scott H. Andrews
Beneath Ceaseless Skies
http://beneath-ceaseless-skies.com
jrodenbiker
20. Scott H. Andrews
"Reamls"--no, we haven't bought from any past authors of that magazine, if it exists. :) Just several from Realms.

Scott H. Andrews
Beneath Ceaseless Skies
http://beneath-ceaseless-skies.com
jrodenbiker
21. Terri Windling
@john_klima: John, I edited (and often wrote) the Folkroots column from the magazine's first issue in 1994 until this year (when Ari Berk took it over). All of the columns published under my watch are available online, where they were co-published in The Journal of Mythic Arts.

JoMA also stopped publication this year (after an 11 year run), but all the columns can still be read in the archives: http://endicottstudio.typepad.com/jomahome/
jrodenbiker
22. Kate Riedel
I am a minor writer for whom Realms of Fantasy was a major market, and I don't know if I can find a replacement. Decent pay, incredible illustrations, and editorial staff who made me feel like a major writer -- where am I gonna find that now? I'll try -- I am, after all, a writer, and writers write to be read -- but right now I feel as if I've lost my best friend.
Richard Parks
23. ogresan
I find myself in partial agreement with both Scott and Jonathan. Some stories that might have found a home in Realms will show up elsewhere, witness that Scott's already picked up one of the Goji Yamada series. But there was also a sort of "fractured fairytale" type story that I like to do that was a natural fit in RoF and probably nowhere else.

- Richard Parks
Joe Sherry
24. jsherry
Ogresan - I'm not sure what the "fractured fairytale" type story is, but you might want to think about Shimmer. It *sounds* like what they publish.

Shimmer is in the process of relaunching its website (I don't know if there were any delays in actual publication of their magazine).
jrodenbiker
25. Anne Zanoni
Yes, Shimmer is indeed relaunching the website... and Issue Ten will be coming out soon. Per Beth, we'll be reopening to subs sometime this year.

ASZ*---

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