A couple of days ago, I wrote about Atomjack, one of two online fiction magazines that really stood out for me when I was reading for the Million Writers Award. The other standout was Fantasy Magazine, which I had not read before. I tend to prefer science fiction to fantasy, and so generally prefer magazines that publish both, or only science fiction. Fantasy Magazine had me re-evaluating that position when I found myself crazy about all three of the stories its editors nominated.
Of these, I put Holly Phillips’ “The Small Door” on my final list, but it was a very close call that again came down to personal preferences. A few themes emerged as I read through piles of stories. One of them was that I am really interested in stories that investigate the dark side of childhood. “The Small Door” is an excellent example. The story of two children’s morbid fascination with a neighbor (classic theme), it’s got an atmosphere of dread that is tempered by a current of sweetness. The end has a satisfying “up” note, but it’s far from a happily-ever-after conclusion. I like stories that really take on the complexity of childhood, and this story does that well.
“His One True Bride” asks an important question: What if God is real, but he can’t be trusted? The story doesn’t flinch, and the essential horror of its central question comes out clearly not only in gruesome physical imagery, but in the main character’s mental state.
“Erased” is another very interesting premise, well-executed. It’s the story of the narrator’s boyfriend disappearing. The story doesn’t explain the mechanism of this happening, but this didn’t bother even my science-fictional brain. There’s a certain way of presenting strange occurrences as simple fact that can be a real selling point for good fantasy. This story nails that.
A number of stories from Fantasy made the notable stories list. From what I’ve seen, the recognition is well-deserved, and I’m glad to have been introduced to the site. Even in my reading frenzy, I took time to browse around to see what else Fantasy Magazine had to offer. It all looked good to me, and I plan to revisit it now that the frenzy is over.