"Seeds-For-Brains" by David Barr Kirtley
"The Man Who Did Nothing" by Karen Traviss
"Pinioned" by Gabriel Edson
"Alephestra" by Bruce Holland Rogers
"A Fault Against The Dead" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
"The Drowned Mermaid" by Christopher Barzak
Realms of Fantasy is one of the few major periodicals published today that specializes in presenting fantasy tales only, as opposed to the more mixed genre stories of most publications. The June issue is a fine example of this, containing six new tales of wonder, along with a reprint of a short story by Robert Silverberg, and a half-dozen nonfiction articles.
"Seeds-for-Brains" by David Barr Kirtley is an odd retelling of the classic fantasy, "The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow." Only this time, we are told the tale from the perspective of the ghost of the dead soldier who has lost his history and identity along with his head. In this story, the schoolmaster agrees to assist the horseman in finding his head, but only if the spirit will do an evil deed for him. He does, with disastrous results for the schoolmaster.
"The Man Who Did Nothing" by Karen Traviss is a dark tale revolving around the arrival of the Antichrist at a public housing complex in London. The local councilman is a consummate politician who has remained in office largely through his skill in avoiding any action. Can he just sit by and watch as the apocalypse arrives?
"Pinioned" by Gabriel Edson is another retelling of an ancient folktale. The original tale is about how a man discovers that swans can remove a magical cloak and become human for a time. In the original tale, the man steals the cloak and marries the beautiful woman. This tale is set in the present day, and flashes forward a dozen years to when the man and his magical bride are living in suburban America with their daughter. But is his wife happy? Is his undying love for her enough to replace the loss she has suffered at his hands? He finds a wisdom in the lyrics from the musician Sting, "If you love somebody, set them free."
"Alephestra" by Bruce Holland Rogers is a disturbing vignette based in Roman mythology. Alephestra is a minor goddess of the Roman pantheon who draws the ire of great Jupiter. He hurls her to earth with the intent that she will suffer all the pain and degradation that is inherent in being human. But her reaction to the human condition baffles him, leaving him impotent.
"A Fault Against The Dead" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman is an unfocused story about a young lady that sees dead people. Much like in the hit movie Sixth Sense, Julia has gone through serious emotional difficulties before coming to grips with her special talent. Sadly, the tale then degenerates into a slasher story where she is chased by the evil serial killer. This is an interesting concept well presented, but the story never goes anywhere.
"The Drown Mermaid" by Christopher Barzak is the last and best story in this issue. Helena and her husband lost their daughter to drug abuse years ago. One day she simply wondered away and never returned. Sadly, Helena has never been able to make peace with her loss. Matters come to a head when a mermaid is stranded on the beach outside her home. Merpeople reappeared some time ago and are considered commonplace. However, Helena tries to replace the hole in her life left by her absent daughter with this sea creature. The result is a disaster. How can you replace something you never lost? And in the end Helena seems to recognize that what she is really seeking is escape from her life and the pain.
Overall, this is a wonderful collection of fantasy tales well worth your attention. If you're able to obtain a copy of this issue of Realms of Fantasy, please do.
Jim Reichert has been a reviewer for Tangent and Tangent Online for many years. He's a government lawyer specializing in the field of child abuse prosecutions, and lives with his wife and family in a rural area of southern Delaware. He's been an avid fan of speculative fiction all his life, and has been writing short stories and novels for 5-10 years on a sporadic basis. His fiction has been published in the e-zine Dark Matter Chronicles, Nova SF magazine and most recently in Nth Degree magazine.