For the third time, Realms of Fantasy is going under. I would think that, since this has happened before, I’d feel less upset by each subsequent announcement of the magazine’s demise. That’s hardly the case, though. While there are a lot of great spec fic magazines currently out there, RoF always was and always will be special to me; I’ve said as much in the past, and that’s no less true under its latest owners. And, since the magazine has been in this situation before, I’m holding my breath that someone will purchase it and give it yet another lease on life.
Still, look at any fairy tale: Three is an important number. It has undeniable significance. Collapsing thrice over is a lot to take. If this were a boxing match, RoF would be out according to the rules. TKO. Fortunately, publishing is beholden to a different set of rules, in so far as there are any.
I was talking with my friend Adam (whose blog you should read) about this and he raised a terrific point; Damnation Books, with its emphasis on dark fantasy, hardly seemed like the ideal candidate to support RoF. As John Klima of Electric Velocipede points out, they had no experience working with a periodical. The publishers also, from my perspective, had nowhere near the same visibility in the field as other small presses such as Small Beer, Prime, and Night Shade. I admit that, when I heard about Damnation picking up RoF, I was skeptical—a press I’d never heard of, even in passing, producing material that isn’t aligned well with Realms’ overall trajectory. Of course, I’m an optimist, so I’d hoped that my skepticism would prove unfounded. The Universe had other plans.
Keeping a niche print magazine afloat has never been an easy proposition, and in the last few years, it’s become increasingly precarious. That Asimov’s, Analog, and F&SF continue to publish in pulp-and-ink form is a small kind of wonder. Maybe the market can only handle so many spec fic short story magazines, especially one with the production values of RoF. I can’t help hoping that someone with both genre and commercial savvy rescues RoF once again from the maw of history. If this is its swansong, though, I will always be grateful for all that RoF did for me as a reader and a writer. And if it does return, I’ll only be too happy to welcome it back. In any case, I won’t forget Realms of Fantasy.