Realms of Fantasy Déjà vu

Just last month I reported that Warren Lapine was ceasing publication of Realms of Fantasy after having acquired the magazine in March of 2009.

Late yesterday came the news that Kim Richards Gilchrist of Damnation Books had bought the magazine and would begin publishing it essentially immediately. The December 2010 issue (which had already been finished under Lapine) would go out to subscibers and the February 2011 would be the first published under Damnation Books, thereby continuing the magazine without a break.

From the Damnation Books website:

Future plans include continuing to produce the same quality fiction magazine in print and to expand digital editions for ebook and desktop readers. The April 2011 issue will be themed ’dark fantasy’ to coincide with World Horror Convention 2011 where Damnation Books will be hosting a party, and a booth in the dealer’s area.

The same text is on the Realms of Fantasy website. It also notes that the magazine is reopening for submissions. I’d like to suggest to the new publisher that they move to electronic submissions as part of moving forward with the magazine.

Beyond that, I don’t know what to say. It’s getting harder and harder to run a newsstand-style print fiction magazine. Given the fact that the magazine has ceased publication twice in just over 18 months, I’m not ready to jump up and shout hooray about this news.

At this point we also don’t know anything about the staff. Add that to the fact that Damnation publishes horror (they call it dark fiction), and I’m not sure what that means for the editorial bent of the magazine going forward. Looking at their website at their new releases and topselling titles and I don’t get the name recogniation I get looking at a typical issue of Realms of Fantasy.

My point? I’m taking a wait and see attitude. I’m certainly not going to dismiss this out of hand just because I don’t know anything about them. I don’t follow horror/dark fiction, so I have no idea how Damnation Books is regarded in the field.

Their main website gives no indication how long they’ve been around, which would give some idea of their longevity and therefore their potential success. On their Facebook page, it’s noted that Damnation Books launched in 2009. On their main website, it does not indicate whether they are a traditional print publisher or an electronic publisher. Again, on Facebook, they call themselves an ebook publisher. I don’t know, and can’t tell, if they have any experience working with printed material or magazines.

If they’ve never worked with magazines before and don’t know anything about subscriptions, fulfillment, distribution, amortization, and so on, it could be interesting. It’s a steep learning curve with not much room for error.

Despite how it sounds, I do wish Gilchrist and Damnation Books success with Realms of Fantasy. They are doing some interesting things with ebooks and appear to have a lot of energy and enthusiasm, which is important. I have no idea if their current experiences will translate to success with a print magazine. I will be sad if I’m back here in a year or so announcing the closing of Realms of Fantasy again.

John Klima is the editor of Electric Velocipede which won the Hugo in 2009 and has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award four years in a row. In his deep, dark past he worked for newsstand publications like Asimov’s and Analog and therefore speaks from experience.


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