Vision: A Resource for Writers

Welcome to the archives.  Current Issue is here


Market Analysis:

Mar's Market Analysis #5:
Realms of Fantasy

By Margaret McGaffey Fisk
Copyright 2009 by Margaret McGaffey Fisk, All Rights Reserved

Finding new markets is only the first step of the research process. A crucial part is to consider what can be learned from the material already published by the editor or editors. This column will contain analyses that evaluate a specific publication based on one or more issues (or at least a month of content for webzines without designated issues).

This issue will analyze Realms of Fantasy.


Realms of Fantasy is one of the leading pro speculative fiction magazines. It's been around long enough to secure that position without a doubt, counting fifteen years since its debut in 1994. This is why the decision by Sovereign Media to close the magazine caused such an uproar. Warren Lapine, owner of Tir Na Nog Press, Inc., stepped in almost immediately and purchased the rights to Realms. Along with the magazine, he secured the same editorial team, allowing for editorial continuity despite the switch in publishers.

However, this raised questions as to the magazine's quality and its position as a pro market. Submissions have not yet reopened, but the first issue released since the change should help relieve the concern about quality while fiction editor Shawna McCarthy's editorial bespeaks of plans for fostering talent. Though this issue contains less fiction than Realms traditionally offers (an exception according to art and nonfiction editor Douglas Cohen who says the next issue will have a lot more), the magazine itself is substantially the same, enough so that I forgot about the difference in publishers until I got to the editorials at the end in which Shawna McCarthy characterized the August 2009 magazine as the zombie issue. They did have some copyediting problems, but according to Lapine, those were due to a misunderstanding regarding the state of the material that was transferred with the rights, and not an indication for the future.

All the content in this particular issue was written by staff or professional writers. That said, many fantasy authors have made their pro debut between the covers of Realms of Fantasy, and with the same staff, I see no reason for the trend to change. Additionally, with the content heavily weighted to staff, this issue should be a strong indicator of editorial preferences.

Realms offers both fiction and non-fiction content of interest to fantasy readers, movie goers, and gamers. This magazine is printed in 8 1/2 by 11 inch, glossy format with a mix of articles, reviews, artwork, and fiction. While most magazines avoid or minimize advertizing, Realms interlaces advertisements for books, games, conventions, and other products of interest to the fantasy/gaming crowd with the content, offering a window into the fantasy culture as well as a heads up on what new books and games are coming out. Of the ads, only the actual insert (a foil envelope containing product samples) bothered me, because it was too heavy and tore the page when I tried to remove it. The magazine is heavily illustrated with both photographs and full-color drawings, making for a visually exciting presentation.

Individual reviews ranged from three pages in length (where a page is approximately 1,100 words) down to a quarter of one page. There was also a review article which covered eight young adult novels as a group. Books, games (video and dice), and a graphic novel were reviewed, spanning almost all subgenres of fantasy. Each review offered an honest perspective, listing what the reviewers considered weaknesses as well as strengths. Though many of the book reviews offered a plot summary of the story's beginning, the focus was on analyzing why a reader would be interested in the novel, with occasional predictions as to award qualifications.

The four short stories included one flash fiction with the others at seven, nine, and nine pages in length respectively, not counting the full-page artwork that introduced each piece. Though the point of view was split between first and third person, all four were in past tense. The stories were divided equally between mood and moral as the main focus with the flash story making a statement about the rite of passage as young girls grow up and the other moral story looking at the corrupting influence of power. The mood stories, on the other hand, focused more on dropping the reader into an unusual situation and absorbing them into the feel of the place whether it was a European city during the Black Plague or the life of a modern man faced with an incredible secret. Two of the stories were more traditional fantasy, one clearly urban fantasy, and the fourth harder to classify as it is about sorcery but through the funnel of time travel into the far future, which has more of a science fiction feel.

Of the five articles, two were editorials by Shawna McCarthy and Warren Lapine about the change in publisher for Realms and the impact of this economy on short fiction markets necessary as proving grounds. The remaining three involved an in-depth look at Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, including interviews with those involved; a piece about artist Michael Hague and his adoption of digital techniques; and a thesis on the social, religious, and political impact of music throughout the ages up to modern day. These articles ranged from a quarter of a page up to eight pages, with the non-editorials all at least four pages in length. Only the editorials were in first person, but all of them were written in present tense, including Mystic Rhythms overall, despite the discussion of historical traditions.

In a time when short story markets are struggling, whether funded by subscription or donation, and publishers are giving up the ghost for economic reasons, Warren Lapine's move is one to be celebrated and supported. If you're reading this article, it means you are interested in submitting short fiction and non-fiction related to the speculative fiction genre. Not everyone can afford subscriptions or donations, but if you can, remember to support your favorite markets. Help protect the future of short fiction.


Age 15 years, since 1994
Genre Fantasy
Cost Per Issue $7.00 (lower with subscription)
Author Payment Pro Rates ($0.05 (5 cents) or more per word up to 7,500)
Editor Shawna McCarthy
Publication Schedule Bi-monthly
Issues Reviewed August 2009
Essays in Issue 5
Reviews in Issue 14
Stories in Issue 3
Poems in Issue 0
Flash in Issue 1
Advertising? yes