Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blogging Kull: Two Fragments

Kull:  Exile of Atlantis
Robert E. Howard
Del Rey, 317 p., $17 

In this post we'll look at the last of the Kull fragments, with a close examination of the racial attitudes displayed in one of them.  After that there are three lengthy and well known stories left to examine.

The first tale, although barely started (incomplete hardly comes close to describing this piece), has a title, "The Black City."  It takes place in the city Kamula, which seems from what few details are given to be something of a resort, to use modern terminology.  It's a place of art, music, and poetry.

Kull is in the throne room, wishing he could get some rest when Brule bursts in, vowing to tear the entire city apart.  He and two other Picts, Grogar and Monaro, are hanging out when Grogar leans against a half column.  The column shifts back into the wall, Grogar falls into the darkness behind it, and the column begins to shut.  Monaro is able to get his sword in the crevice to prevent the hidden door from closing completely, but he and Brule are unable to open it again.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

I was going to post something appropriate for Memorial Day.  Then I read this post by Scott Oden.  I can't improve on that.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Status Report and Thank You's

Good afternoon (or whatever time it is when and where you're reading this).

For those of you either living in the States or US citizens living abroad, allow me to wish you a happy and safe Memorial Day.  If you are in the armed forces, allow me to offer my thanks and gratitude.  Your service and sacrifice is appreciated.

Hopefully your weekend will be restful and enjoyable and will include reflection on what and why we're celebrating.  Here on the South Plains, it's hot.  The record temperature for this day is 102 degrees Fahrenheit, and the thermometer in the car at 1:00 p.m. read 103.

Anyway, I haven't posted for a few days.  Not because I'm slacking off.  I've been reading an anthology that will premier in two weeks in order to have a review ready to go up the weekend the book launches along with an interview with the editor.  That will be the same weekend as Howard Days in Cross Plains, which I'm also trying to prepare for.  I've been trying to make progress in a novel I'll be reviewing.  My son completed the Third Grade this week (Yay!), so I've been celebrating that accomplish with him as well as just spending a little time with him before our regular summer schedule starts next week. Finally, I've got some projects in development, some of which involve Adventures Fantastic.  It might be another day or two before any new content goes live.  I've posted a list of links to some of my favorite posts at the bottom of the page in case you missed some of them.

May has been the best month I've had since I started the blog.  I've had a record amount of traffic and have picked up some new followers.  I want to thank everyone who has taken time to visit, share comments, post links, or otherwise been supportive. Stay with me.  I'm just getting started.

Here are some selected posts:

I've been blogging about Kull, one story at a time.  Here's the first post.

In my opinion, Henry Kuttner, while acknowledged for his science fiction, did help keep sword and sorcery alive after Robert E. Howard's death.  Here's my look at the four stories in his Elak of Atlantis series.

My analysis of  Robert E. Howard's "Skull-Face" was one of my earliest posts, and one of the most popular.

Besides fantasy, this blog also looks at historical adventure.  Here's a look at the first in a series I intend to return to later in the summer.

Finally, some of my opinions.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Some Thoughts on the Occasion of Oprah Winfrey's Final Show

For some, today is a day of great sadness.  Oprah Winfrey, mogul, talk show hostess, would be kingmaker, and self-appointed arbiter of what we should all be reading, is closing out her show with its final broadcast.  And while it's sure to be a sobfest with a lot of celebrities giving testimonials about how Oprah has changed their lives, given them meaning, and cured them of rickets, it truly marks the end of an era. 

About time, I say.

Now maybe we can get someone to step into the vacuum and start a book club to promote what we should really be reading.  Fantasy (especially sword and sorcery), historical adventure, science fiction, and noir.  Can you imagine what publishing would be like if someone with as many sheep minions followers as Oprah has were to get on national television and promote Robert E. Howard?  Or Jack McDevitt?  Or Harold Lamb?  How about Rafael Sabatini?  Michael Koryta?  Or, to be really radical, the poster child for all that's wrong in fantasy, Joe Abercrombie?  I could go on.

Can you just imagine it?  The shelves in bookstores, Wal-Marts, and supermarkets would be packed with great stuff to read rather than, well, the stuff they're packed with now.

Of course, those writers appeal to people who aren't cattle who can actually think for themselves, rather than having someone on TV tell them what to read, so that would probably never work.

A Summary of Grand Masters

Christopher Heath has written a great post over at Home of Heroics about heroic fantasy grand masters and who they've influenced him.  His assessment is insightful and informative.  Check it out.  The only one I'd add (at least off the top of my head) would be C. L. Moore.  Her Jirel of Joiry series, while barely enough to fill a book, are powerful and eerie.  Jirel was one of the first warrior women, and created in a time when science fiction and fantasy was a male dominated field.  Moore's stories brought an emotional depth to the field that had been lacking in the bulk of the work published up to that point.  Heath credits Lovecraft for atmosphere.  While Moore's writing was certainly atmospheric, I would have to say one of the techniques at which Moore excelled was imagery.  I've been wanting to take a detailed look at her Northwest Smith series, which is really fantasy in a science fictional setting, for a while now. Imagery will be one of the things that series will focus on.  Hopefully those will start appearing by the end of the summer.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Long Looks at Short Fiction: "Travelers' Rest" by James Enge

"Traveler's Rest"
James Enge
Pyr Books
free download

The first installment of Long Looks at Short Fiction, back in the early days of this blog, was an examination of "Destroyer" by James Enge.  It's been in the top ten posts ever since it went live.

When I recently came across this short story on the Pyr website, I knew I had to write an LLaSF column about it.   It's just taken me a while to get to it.  Pyr has made this story available to celebrate the publication of its 100th title, The Wolf Age by, who else, James Enge. It's set before the events of Blood of Ambrose and is self contained.  If you're not familiar with Enge's alcoholic swordsman/sorcerer Morlock, this story provides a good introduction.

There's an old saying that something is worth what you pay for it.  In this case, it's definitely not true.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Congratulations to the Nebula Award Winners

The winners of this year's Nebula Awards were announced yesterday in Washington, D.C.  They are

Novel:  Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis

Novella:  "The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen's Window" by Rachel Swirksky (Subterranean Summer 2010)

Novelette:  "That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made" by Eric James Stone (Analog 9/10)

Short Story  (tie):  "Ponies" by Kij Johnson  (Tor.com, 1/17/10)
                             "How Interesting:  A Tiny Man" by Harlan Ellison (Realms of Fantasy 2/10)

Adventures Fantastic would like to congratulate all the nominees and especially the winners.  A complete list of the nominees as well as winners of associated awards can be found here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Seven Days of Online Fiction, Day 8: Recap

So a week ago today, I acted on this crazy idea I had to look at a different venue for online fiction every day for a week, with as much a focus as possible on fantasy.  I called the project Seven Days of Online Fiction.  It started when I read Karen Burnham's list of work that had received multiple award nominations this year; most of the short fiction was available online.  (Karen updated the list on Wednesday.) 

I've had the opinion for a long time now that what has been appearing online is just as good as what the print magazines have been publishing.  I intentionally left anthologies out of the mix because even the few anthology series that appear regularly have at least a year between volumes and are often trumpeted as Events.  I wanted to look at what was appearing on a consistent basis.

So I managed to read and post for seven days in a row, although the last couple of days were a bit of a strain from a time commitment perspective.  Links to each day are in the sidebar on the right.  The next time I do something like this, I'll have at least half the posts done before any go live.  Anyway, I thought I would take today, Day 8, if you'll allow, to look back and see what I've learned from this experience.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Seven Days of Online Fiction, Day 7: Quantum Muse

For the almost final installment in the Seven Days of Online Fiction series (I'll do a summary post tomorrow or the next day; here are installments one, two, three, four, five, and six for those who missed them.), we'll look at another site that was new to me.  This one is called Quantum Muse. It's a monthly with a featured artist, an editorial, and weekly flash fiction updated on Mondays.  The editorial process here is a little different from most.  Stories are submitted to a peer review group, which contributors have to join.  In order to have their stories critiqued, authors must review the work of others.  Once a story has received five critiques, it's moved off the list for consideration by the editors.  This is an interesting way to do things, which frankly makes me a little leery.  Peer review of fiction can weaken a story, making it more bland, just as often as it can strengthen one.

The story for consideration is called "The Quack" by Ross Kitson.  I couldn't find much about Dr. Kitson from the internet, so all I know of him is what's in his author bio.  I'm assuming that "The Quack" is his first published story since his bio doesn't list any other publication credits. 

The story concerns a young man, probably not much more than a boy, named Anase who ends up working for what would be called a snake oil salesman named Deradin.  Only this is a pseudo-medieval world, so the term snake oil salesman probably wouldn't have been in use.  I'm not sure when the term "quack" entered the English language, but I suspect it was later than medieval times.  But that really doesn't matter much since this is a fantasy, and unlike some titles, this one tells you something about the story.

Anase is a troubled lad, whose mother died in a tragic fire.  He's terrified of fire now.  Of course this is going to be significant before the story is over.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Latest on ebooks

Passive Guy over at The Passive Voice has been doing an amazing job of keeping up with changes in the publishing world, frequently posting two or three items a day.  Today he posted this little tidbit about ebook sales surpassing paperback and hardback sales combined at Amazon.  If you're interested in where publishing is going, he's one of the people you ought to be reading.

Seven Days of Online Fiction, Day 6: Abyss & Apex

Today's online magazine is a quarterly called Abyss & Apex which shouldn't be confused with the similarly named Apex MagazineThe former is a quarterly, while the latter is a monthly.  Also, Abyss & Apex bills itself as a speculative fiction magazine.  Apex Magazine, which made the transition from print to electronic formats a while back, tends towards dark science fiction and horror.

Based on a perusal of the contents (I don't have time to read all the stories if I'm going to stay on schedule with the Seven Days), the current issue of Abyss & Apex seems to have a good mix of core science fiction and fantasy.  That's a good thing, a very good thing.  An additional good thing is the story I've chosen to take a closer look at is sword and sorcery.

This one is titled "Demonfire Ash" by Helen E. Davis.  It's something of a mystery, so I'll only give you the setup.  Much of the satisfaction comes from the unfolding of what happened over the  previous years.

The protagonist, Geoff Bowman, is a journeyman sorcerer, and not a very good one.  In fact, he's at the bottom of his class.  As the story opens, he wakes up in a bed not his own with a strange woman going through a trunk.  He recognizes the chamber as that of the Hall Master.  The woman makes a cryptic remark about Geoff being alive and her not undressing him, takes the Hall Master's demon killing knife from the trunk, tells him he can rot, and leaves the room. 

Geoff  is puzzled, but when he looks in a mirror, he sees he's now an old man.  Things get worse from there.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Seven Days of Online Fiction, Day 5: Fantasy Magazine

Some of you may have been wondering when in this project I would get to Fantasy Magazine, as it's one of the more high profile online publications.  I'm trying to alternate between venues with which I am familiar and those that are new to me.  The drawback is that what's new to me might not be new to some of you.  One of the goals of this series is to introduce some new sources of reading material to some of you as well as expand my reading horizons.  For those reasons, I'm not necessarily going to look at the more well-known venues.

Anyway, onto Fantasy Magazine.  This publication started out in print form and made the transition to electronic format a few years ago.  The format of this one is slightly different than the others we've looked at so far.  It's a monthly publication consisting of fiction (2 new and 2 reprints) and various nonfiction features, but they don't put all the stories up at once, nor do they leave the stories and features up once they've been posted.  Instead the contents of the main page rotate on a weekly basis throughout the month, changing on Monday.  Of course, if you don't want to wait, you can purchase the complete issue in electronic format on the first of the month.  (And if you like this magazine, you should consider doing that to support them.) Once something is rotated off the main page, it is available through the archives..

The story I'm going to look at is "The Devil in Gaylord's Creek" by Sarah Monette.  This was an enjoyable urban fantasy in a rural setting.  The main character is Morgan, a young lady who happens to be dead.  She travels with her companion Francis.  He's the replacement companion; the first was eaten in the line of duty. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Seven Days of Online Fiction, Day 4: Ideomancer Speculative Fiction

Today, in the fourth installment of this project,we turn our attention to Ideomancer.  Or more correctly Ideomancer Speculative Fiction.  This one has received a bit of critical acclaim if my memory is serving me correctly.  I don't recall where all I've seen the acclaim, so I might be getting two different sites confused.

Anyway, there were three stories in this issue, along with some poetry and features such as reviews.  One of the stories was science fiction and the other two were fantasy.  Since science fiction and poetry isn't really the focus of Seven Days of Online Fiction, I'll look at the two of the stories which are fantasy.  Both of them are short.

One of the nice things about this site is a box (I'm not sure what you call it) at the top of the ToC which rotates the first few lines of each item in the ToC.  This allowed me to quickly realize that one of the stories was science fiction, and so I didn't need to read it for the purpose of this series.  It also showed enough profanity in just a few lines that I knew I wouldn't be reading it period.  But I digress.  I think is a cool idea.  It allowed me to sample the first paragraph (or the first few lines in the case of the poetry) and get an idea of whether or not I would want to read the rest of the story.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Regarding Tom Reamy: An Open Letter to Bud Webster...

...because I don't have Bud's email address.

Dear Bud,

I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated your profiling Tom Reamy in your inaugural installment of "Who?!" in the new issue of Black Gate.  I've enjoyed your "Past Masters" columns for years.  You have a tendency to profile most of my favorite writers from my teenage years.  I assume you know which ones to pick because you have exemplary taste.

I was especially pleased that you chose Tom Reamy.  He is an author who is sadly neglected, and I wish someone would bring him back into print in an archival edition.  His work could easily fit into a single volume, and given the size of some of the retrospectives being published these days, it shouldn't be that hard.

The reason I'm glad you chose him is because, although it's rather tenuous, I have a personal connection to Tom Reamy.

Seven Days of Online Fiction, Day 3: Electric Spec

For the first two days of this project, I looked at two sources of online fiction with which I was already familiar and read regularly, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.  For Day 3, I turned my attention to a site I haven't read before, Electric SpecThis is a quarterly publication which publishes "schockingly good short works of science fiction, fantasy, and the macabre."  That's a pretty big statement.  So just how well does the magazine live up to its own billing, at least as far as the fantasy is concerned?

We'll look at two stories and see.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Seven Days of Online Fiction, Day 2: Heroic Fantasy Quarterly

For the second day of Seven Days of Online Fiction, we're looking at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.  You might remember that one of the editors, William Ledbetter, sat down with us a few months ago in the first Adventures Fantastic Interview.

There are three stories in this issue.  One of them, "The Dome of Florence" by Richard Marsden, is a novella.  I really like the novella length.  This would have been the story I would have preferred to look at here, but because of its length, it's broken up into two parts.  This is the first part.  For that reason, I'll have to examine it another time. 

That leaves the two short stories.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Seven Days of Online Fiction, Day 1: Beneath Ceaseless Skies

The first story we'll be looking at in our Seven Day of Online Fiction is"Buzzard's Final Bow" by Jason S. Ridler in the May 5 issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  This is issue number 68 for those of you who are counting. The other story in the issue is "The Finest Spectacle Anywhere" by Genevieve Valentine.  It's the second in a series.  Since one of the rules of The Seven Days is to only look at standalone stories, it won't be considered here.  It looks intriguing, though, so I may post about it after The Seven Days.


OK, when I posted "Announcing Seven Days of Online Fiction" a few minutes ago, I did something that screwed up the labels on that post and the two preceding.  I have no idea what.  Anyway, I went back and fixed them.  When I did, the software reposted those two articles ahead of the new one.  Rather than try to put the posts back in order, I'm going to leave them.  With my luck, I'll just screw things up more.  I apologize for the snafu, especially to anyone who follows the blogs and gets notification of updates.  Follow the link above to the newest post.

The Battle of the Sexes Continues

Now that grades are finally in, I'm looking forward to getting some rest.  I had hoped to last night, but before dawn Ragnarok erupted.  There were flashes of light and loud noises, and it seemed the end of the world was imminent.  Turned out it was only a thunderstorm, not Armageddon.  It's been so many months since we've had any rain here on the South Plains that I'd forgotten what it was like.  But I digress.  The point is I'm not going to have anything new ready for a day or so, at least as far as reviews or in-depth essays go.

A couple of months ago I wrote a post entitled "In Defense of Traditional Gender Roles in Fantasy" which I expected to generate some heat.  Instead it sank like a stone.  Although in the last month it's gotten 20 hits, 10 of them in the last week.  It may resurrect itself, zombie-like.  It seems like someone is taking an interest.

Dreams in the Fire Cover Posted

You may recall that Mark Finn mentioned a forthcoming anthology of Robert E. Howard inspired work entitled Dreams in the Fire.  Well, Jim and Ruth Keegan have posted the cover over on their blog.  Check it out.

Announcing Seven Days of Online Fiction

I've held for a while that the online sources for short fiction are providing quality fantasy and science fiction, and in many of a quality at least as high as, if not higher than, the traditional print sources.  Apparently I'm not alone in this view.  Karen Burnham, at the Locus Roundtable posted a list of the works which have received more two or more award nominations this year.  While (not surprisingly) none of the novels on the list were published online, the short fiction of all lengths is a different matter.  Two of the four novellas, all three novelettes, and two of the three short stories on the list were published online.

There are multiple sources of online fiction.  In fact the online landscape can change suddenly.  New websites arrive and disappear quickly.  If you're not paying attention, you could miss something.  I thought this would be a good time to survey some of the sources of short fiction on the web.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Blogging Kull: The Curse of the Golden Skull

Kull:  Exile of Atlantis
Del Rey
trade paper, 317 p., $17

Once again, a story so brief it's almost a vignette.  And like the last one we looked at, "The Altar and the Scorpion," Kull doesn't actually appear in it, although he is mentioned.  Only this time not with respect, but hatred and venom.

The story opens with the sorcerer Rotath of Lemuria dying from a fatal wound.  He had been struck down by Kull after having been betrayed by the unnamed king of Lemuria, a man he had thought he had controlled.  At least until he turned to Kull for aid.

As he dies, Rotath, who Howard shows to be a vile, evil creature, curses all men, whether alive or dead.  Here is one of those passages that is frustrating by what it doesn't tell.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Something to Read

Between being in the middle of final exams and taking care of my wife while she recovers from surgery, I haven't had time to post much.  For those of you who have dropped in looking for new content, the best I can do today is refer you to the two latest posts at Home of Heroics:

Steve Moody's reflections on the popularity of antiheroes:

and Sean T. M. Stiennon's examination of heroics in martial arts movies:


Saturday, May 7, 2011

More on Ebook Prices

My wife had surgery yesterday morning.  She's home now and doing fine, but I have been and will be a little distracted.  Also it doesn't help that I'm in the middle of final exams.  Point being, posts for the next few days, when there are any, will tend to be short and sweet.

So for your education and edification, let me refer you to the following post about ebook prices by Nik Fletcher, at the end of which he makes a couple of good suggestions.  And thanks to Passive Guy at The Passive Voice for making me aware of this post.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

When Honor is a Career Liability

Among Thieves
Douglas Hulick
Roc, 417 p., $7.99

This is a first novel, but it doesn't read like a first novel.  It's polished, complex, fast-moving, and keeps you off balance.  In other words, it's a great deal of fun.  If you like Scott Lynch or Stephen Brust, this one is probably your cup of tea.

To briefly explain the setup.  Ildrecca is an ancient city, seat of an ancient empire.  An empire with a very old emperor.  A number of centuries ago, the Angels split the soul of the Emperor Dorminikos into three parts.  Each of the three parts was then reincarnated as the emperors Markino, Theodoi, and Lucien.  When one dies, the next in the cycle assumes the throne.  That way there is always one aspect of the original in power at any time.  Sort of a sovereignty-by-time-share.

This arrangement has worked for centuries and allowed for a (mostly) unbroken sequence of rule, with only a few interruptions when someone has attempted kill off the present incarnation and take over before the next incarnation can be identified.  There's only one problem.  Each incarnation is starting to show signs of insanity, and each incarnation is showing those signs earlier in his life than his predecessors.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

David Gemmell Legend Award Finalists Announced

This year's slate of finalists for the David Gemmell Legend Award for Best Fantasy Novel 2010 have been announced:
  •  Towers of Midnight by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan (Tor/Orbit)
  • The Alchemist in the Shadows by Pierre Pevel (Gollancz)
  • The War of the Dwarves by Marcus Heitz (Orbit)
  • The Black Prism by Brent Weeks (Orbit)
  • The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (Tor/Gollancz)
  • The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett (Voyager)
Named after the late David Gemmell, the award aims to recognize excellence in the fantasy field.  The main page of the award is here.

Also announced are the finalists for the Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Newcomer/Debut and the finalists for the Ravenheart Award for Best Fantasy Book Jacket/Artist.

The nominees for the Morningstar Award are:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Long Looks at Short Fiction: The Forest Boy by Martha Wells

It's been a while since I've done one of the Long Looks at Short Fiction posts.  Far too long a while.  A few weeks ago I reviewed The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells and griped a little bit about having to wait on the order of a year before the sequel is published.

I really enjoyed the world Wells created and have wanted to see more of it since before I finished the last page and closed the book.  Fortunately, I have.  On her webpage, Martha Wells has made available a selection of novel excepts and short stories.  You should really check some of them out.  One of them is entitled "The Forest Boy", and it's a prequel to The Cloud Roads.  In that book we learned that the protagonist, Moon, had been orphaned as a young boy.  Because of his ability to shape shift, he was never able to settle down and find a home, instead continually being forced to leave because of the fear his other form caused the people around him.

In "The Forest Boy" we get to see an episode from Moon's early life, one of the attempts he made to find a home and acceptance, and how jealousy drove him from it.

Instead of making Moon the viewpoint character, Wells has chosen instead to tell the story from the point of view of Tren.  Tren is one of six foster children adopted by Kaleb and his wife Ari.  The settlement where they live is along a trading route called the Long Road, and the children are primarily those abandoned along the road.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Blogging Kull: The Altar and the Scorpion

Kull:  Exile of Atlantis
Del Rey
trade paper, 317 p., $17

This is another of the brief tale, although unlike the previous one, "The Striking of the Gong," Kull isn't featured in this one but merely mentioned. This is a minor story in the Kull canon, and upon close examination it's easy to see why. 

Howard opens the story with an unnamed youth bowing before an altar of a scorpion and imploring the scorpion to save him and the girl he loves, also never given a name, from the evil priest Guron.  Guron isn't a priest of the Scorpion God but rather the  Black Shadow.  Guron and his priests are sacking the city, something else that doesn't have a name.  Guron plans to sacrifice the pair on an altar to the Black Shadow.  From what Howard tells us, the cult of the Black Shadow practices human sacrifice. 

Gene Wolfe's 80th Birthday Blog

The name Gene Wolfe should be familiar to most of you reading this blog.  Author of numerous works of science fiction, fantasy, and unclassifiable combinations of both, Gene Wolfe is a giant in the field.  Mr. Wolfe's 80th birthday is this Saturday, May 7th.  If you click here, you will be taken to a blog in which you can leave a birthday message.  Drop him a line and wish him many happy returns.  And feel free to pass this link on.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Realms of Fantasy: A Review of the April 2011 Issue

Realms of Fantasy,  April 2011 Issue
81 p., $6.99

I don't know if this issue was late or if the distributor at the local chain box store simply drug its feet, but I just saw this issue a couple of days ago.  I know it wasn't in the store a week prior to that. 

It doesn't really matter, either.  The important thing is that the issue is there.  After last year's cancellation of the magazine, it's good to see it back on the stands. The usual slew of columns are basically intact:  book reviews, movie reviews, a special in-depth look at the Addams Family on Broadway.  Theodora Goss devotes her Folkroots column to vampires, something we've examined a time or two here in the last few weeks. The Artist Gallery, always one of the high points of the magazine, looks at Brom this month. 

Which brings me to a negative point.  The cover stock used by the new publisher is of a lower quality than what was used in the past.  I was halfway through reading the issue when I noticed that the ink was coming off on my fingers.  Now I prefer my reading material to melt in my mind, not in my hands.  I understand the need to economize and that the new publisher, Damnation Books, is in business to make a profit.  But at seven bucks a pop, it wouldn't hurt to invest in the cover a little  more.

All that aside, the fiction is the backbone of the magazine, even though it tries to cover every aspect of the fantasy field.  So the question is, how does the fiction in this issue hold up?