Magazine Review: Fantasy Magazine, December 2015, Queers Destroy Fantasy!

Perhaps it’s because fantasy is my first and forever true love under the SFF umbrella, but I’m convinced that the Fantasy Magazine entries in the DestroySF project are the best. At the very least, they’ve been consistently my favorite magazines in the series. Queers Destroy Fantasy has, hands down, the best fiction in any of the Destroy issues so far.

A new Catherynne M. Valente story is always a treat, and “The Lily and the Horn” is a near-perfect fairy tale where wars are waged by pitting poisoners against unicorn horns. Like much of Valente’s work, it’s a story concerned with interrogating very old fantasy tropes, and it’s full of her characteristically beautiful language and meticulously structured prose.

Kai Ashante Wilson is a newish author who I only discovered this year when I read his Tor.com-published novella, but I quickly fell in love with his work. I was thrilled to see a new story by him in this magazine, and “Kaiju maximus®: ‘So various, So Beautiful, So New’” did not disappoint.

“The Lady’s Maid” is a weird and subversive and deeply unsettling tale by Carlea Holl-Jensen. It deals with a maid who is charged with caring for a strange mistress and the mistress’s many interchangeable heads. I actually enjoy being unsettled by stories, so of course I loved this one.

Richard Bowes’ “The Duchess and the Ghost” takes a turn towards more magical realism than simple fantasy, and it’s a haunting story about identity and the tradeoffs and compromises we make in order to survive in a world that is often hostile and unsafe.

The first of the reprints, Shweta Narayan’s “The Padishah Begum’s Reflections,” somewhat mirrors Valente’s “The Lily and the Horn” in tone. It’s similarly in the fairy tale vein, though “The Padishah Begum’s Reflections” is more like a steampunk Arabian Nights story than anything else, being told from the point of view of a clockwork princess. This is probably my favorite story in this magazine.

“Down the Path of the Sun” by Nicola Griffith is a fantasy with an almost post-apocalyptic feel to it, although the setting is never quite explained. It’s the only story in this issue that I didn’t care for, but that is largely a personal preference as I found the brutal rape described in the story to be highly unpleasant to read and not nearly as effective as the author seemed to think it would be.

Austin Bunn’s “Ledge” starts off slow, even boring, but it rewards the patient reader by delivering a great and very memorable ending.

Finally, “The Sea Troll’s Daughter” by Caitlin R. Kiernan is a nice piece of sword and sorcery with a woman character in the sort of gruff, tough adventurer role that is too often reserved for men. It’s not a particularly groundbreaking story, but it’s fun.

The non-fiction in Queers Destroy Fantasy was somewhat disappointing, with only Ekaterina Sedia’s piece on fashion standing out, but the author profiles are, as always, wonderful and well worth reading.

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