Fantasy Scroll Magazine issue # 9 (e-magazine review).

December 16, 2015 | By | Reply More

Cards on the table, ‘Fantasy Scroll Magazine’ rejected a story I sent them. I submitted, believing it to be a lower level sort of market that might take the second best stuff (mine) because they only pay one cent a word, semi-professional rates in the twilight world of small magazines. Imagine my surprise on actually reading this issue to find out that it’s really good and the stories are excellent and professional. Sadly, this means there are a lot of very good writers out there submitting stories to a finite number of markets. It means readers get stacks of quality fiction for low prices or free but for writers, very little money. Oh well. The purest do it for love and so to the stories ‘Fantasy Scroll Magazine’ accepted.


‘Thomas Lynne’ by Jordan Taylor is a country and western yarn with faeries. Set in small town USA, it features a couple of good-hearted misfits getting involved with denizens of the other world who are not kind. It was very readable and shifting the faeries to that far away land worked well. I believe they normally hang about in Ireland or Europe, at least.

‘When Angels Wear Butterfly Wings’ by Stone Showers is harsh proof that wishing don’t make it true.

‘Sea Found’ by L.R. Lieber is a ghost story. An artist haunts the shoreline of New England and our strange heroine wants nothing to do with the real world, wants only him. A love story with a difference and a surprising twist. The prose works well to deliver that unworldly atmosphere you need to create for this sort of yarn to work.

‘Fountain’ by Lynda Clark is a Science Fiction story, though you could easily mistake it for fantasy at the start. Maud lives in a remote shack with a couple of cats and is wary of strangers and therefore cautious when a couple land on her doorstep. She is even more wary of Sheriff Gustav in the nearby town of Fountain. This delivers several surprises along the way. Strong stuff and cleverly written to keep you guessing.

In’ Beneath The Raven’s Wing’ by Rebecca Birch, a young girl wanders into the forest at night and encounters dangerous creatures of faerie. She is Moira and her father is Lord Clary of Castle Clary but her rank doesn’t impress the supernatural ones. Another well written fantasy with a couple of plot twists to surprise.

Obviously, dragons have hoards of gold but stealing it is a dangerous job. ‘Exit Strategy’ by Shane Halbach is a lively, clever and amusing yarn about three thieves who attempt just that. This was my favourite story of the issue but I have a weakness for light entertainment.

Author Zach Lisabeth goes to Wonderland or somewhere very similar in ‘Where The Millennials Went‘. The Jolly Gopher of Grindlehook plots to distribute tambourines on the Isle of Wight while unionised Lumpkins divert the Dandelion River into New York City discotheques and Parisian wine bars, even as the Pajama King of Picture Books has started growing coffee beans in his Quark fields. This will not suit all tastes but, in the end, I decided I liked it

‘Scents Of Life’ by Robert Lowell Russell has a contemporary real world setting and could almost be a romance story for a ladies magazine but not quite. It deals with Alzheimer’s. The realistic, pleasant characters get you up close and personal with that awful condition and there’s some Science Fiction at the end to qualify it for inclusion. Juxtaposed with the previous tale, this nicely demonstrates the breadth of the genre.

Ben’s sister, Annie, taught him that the best way to see strange creatures out by Cobalt Lake is to pretend you’re not interested in them. Then they’ll ignore you and carry on with their everyday activities. Now Annie is dying and he doesn’t know what to do. ‘The Parting Gift’ by Hall Jameson is an effective fantasy of family devotion

There’s a graphic story by Josh Brown and Alberto Hernandez. ‘Shamrock Part 4: Hero’s Scream’ was rendered too small to read by my kindle but it looked like a sword and sorcery yarn. The art was competent which might sound like faint praise but really isn’t nowadays when much of what gets published is execrable. If the rest of the mag is anything to go by, I’m sure the story is good, too. There’s also a very scientific article on ‘Black Holes And Academic Walls’ by Sabine Hossenfelder which people smarter than me will surely like. There are a couple of book and movie reviews but obviously the canny reader will come to SFCrowsnest for those.

All the stories in Fantasy Scroll Magazine # 9 were worth more than one cent a word but that’s not a criticism of the publishers. Fred Pohl once wrote a very good article about the economic realities of magazine publishing which is enlightening to us poor temperamental artists who feel cheated by the cruel realities of the business world with which we have to interact. Admittedly, Pohl was writing about a print magazine in the 1940s but I expect the problems remain the same. Someone has to do the grunt work to sift out the bad stuff and put the good stuff out there. I’m grateful to Iolanthe Ionescu and the team for making it possible to read these fine stories. Free! (Well, I paid to put it on my kindle for convenience but you can read it all free online.) Generous folk who contributed money towards the production are listed in the back pages.

I was reading online an old ‘Guardian’ newspaper article by a publisher’s reader who worked on the slush pile. He was pretty scathing about the 6000 page fantasy epics submitted by people who couldn’t write and there was some bitter feedback in the comments from unpublished writers. But unpublished writers should start by submitting short stories to small magazines. This will give them feedback without the titanic time wasting effort of writing a novel nobody wants. Practice will improve them and with some published stuff in the CV their novel manuscript will get a more kindly reception. This time honoured route to glory was taken by Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Silverberg, Stephen King, Philip K. Dick and most of the other giants in the field. Sure, J.K. Rowling and Stephen Donaldson wrote novels straight off and made it big but they’re the exception, not the rule.

Definitely worth a look, ‘Fantasy Scroll Magazine’ and its ilk are doing the necessary work of encouraging small acorns of talent to grow into giant oaks of publishing one day. Not all of them, of course, but even a small acorn, perfectly formed, is nice.

Eamonn Murphy

December 2015

(pub: Fantasy Scroll. e-magazine. Price: $ 3.99 (US).

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Category: Fantasy, Magazines

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