I have been fortunate to subscribe to this magazine since it began. Each magazine does a very good job of covering fantasy in all its media aspects, with occasional nods to horror and science fiction.
Each issue has standard departments in addition to an array of stories. The list of contributors is at the front, along with photographs of some of the contributors and a brief comment about each.
The next department is "Folkroots." Each issue explores an aspect of folklore and mythology. I can recall articles on the green man, gemstones, and Sir James M. Barrie, the author of "Peter Pan." The range of coverage knows no bounds, and I would be unable to give you the full scope unless I dug through my numerous back issues. I generally find these articles informative and expand my understanding of fantasy.
The next department covers movies. Typically the scope of coverage is very broad, running the gamut from fantasy to horror, thrillers, and science fiction. This magazine also periodically covers television shows and series. The scope of coverage is far broader than the name of the magazine suggests. The department covering books is next, with a scope of coverage similar to that of the movies department.
Later in the magazine is the "Gallery" department, featuring the work of a different fantasy artist each month. I quite enjoy this department as I am able to see a broad spectrum of artistic talent and am able to read about the artistic philosophy of each artist.
The last regular department is near the end of the magazine. The games department is typically my least favorite because I generally do not play video games and I never caught the Dungeons & Dragons or the Magic bug. However, if you are into video games for any machine, or role playing games, this magazine covers them all.
Of course, the main reason to buy the magazine is for the half dozen or so stories. Typically the stories range from a page to more than ten pages. While some of the stories have typical fantasy topics such as witches, faeries, elves and sundry other creatures, quite often the stories are bizarre and may modify your definition of fantasy. I believe that the quality of the stories has improved over the last couple of years, and some of the stories I believe are breakthrough in creativity.
There are many magazines vying for your attention today. In addition there are video games, the internet, movies, television, and books. With all these things distracting you it can be difficult to read another magazine. However, I have been cutting back on the several dozen magazines that I subscribe to and plan to limit myself to a mere half dozen or less and "Realms of Fantasy" is one of the few that made the cut. I highly recommend this one to fantasy fans and for open-minded science fiction fans.
I have been reading Realms of Fantasy for years (since middle school, in fact) and I have always been impressed with the quality of this publication. It reviews the range of fantasy products, including books, movies, and games. The articles, on a variety of mythological and fantastical subjects, are usually well thought out and interesting.
The main point of the magazine, however, is short fantasy stories; and it is here that the magazine truly excells. Almost all of the pieces I've read in this magazine have been mature, creative, and unusual fantasy stories. Contributers have been anything from first-time writers to famous authors such as Terri Windling, and the tales are therefore just as varied and interesting. RoF is a suberb publication overall.
For those of you who prefer fantasy over science fiction, this is the magazine to subscribe to. It has on average five to eight stories every two months with plenty of columns to read, such as book reviews, video games reviews, and folklore. A must have for writers of fantasy.
This is an excellent magazine with an stories an eclectic mix of savory illustrations and stories. Aside from the excellent romps through fantasydom each issue has a column on folk lore, fantasy books, fantasy video games, and fantasy art. I am so very glad to have a subscription to this magazine and expect to continue it indefinitely. (And as to the reviewer comparing it to Entertainment Weekly...ya see...ET is crap, and it isn't all that hard to fill a magazine with crap. One need only look at most of the periodicals on the newsstand for more examples.)
I'm sometimes grateful for the plain wrapper this magazine arrives in, because the cover art can be lurid. But inside, the articles are thoughtful, and the stories are often quite good. My particular favorite is "Folkroots," written by a revolving group of authors. I have enjoyed their meditations on the history of folklore, and can sometimes lure my non-fantasy-reading friends into sharing them with me! Realms of Fantasy benefits from good editors, and while I sometimes don't enjoy all of the stories in an issue, there is always something that makes me happy to have the subscription.
Every issue of this mag has a great cover and some excellent artwork within. I used to grab it at the supermarket but its circulation has decreased and I recently bit the bullet and went ahead and subscribed. I'm really glad I did; the issues seem to have only gotten better during the hiatus between the former abundance on shelves and my recent decision to aggressively track a subscription down.
Some of the best new authors are represented with excellent genre fiction and more established authors drop by regularly to contribute a short story or excerpt. All of the writing is very professional and imaginative and the featured interviews and movie close-ups are also highly informative and entertaining. I'd put it up against Analog or Asimov's for textual content anyday, and the production quality, color, art, and layout are decidely superior. I only wish fantasy fans would buy magazines like this one more readily so that we'd have more short stories to read on a monthly basis! Oh, the bygone days of pulp fiction, Wierd Tales, and Omni!
Like a previous reviewer said, this mag retains or even increases its value over the years like a comic book or Dragon Magazine, but if you're like me you probably will be loath to part with any of the issues!
In my quest to be caught up on a large portion of the science fiction and fantasy short story markets, I decided to give Realms of Fantasy a try after being away from it for a long time (the last issue I had picked up before the October 2004 issue was back in the mid-1990s). This issue was quite good, so I decided to try the next one. While December 2004 wasn't quite as good, it still had some interesting stuff in it. Sure, it doesn't quite attract the big names in fantasy fiction (there is the occasional one, such as Gene Wolfe in the December 2003 issue), but it does have some authors that I have heard of. Kage Baker has had a story published in the magazine (I know! I know! Shut up about Baker!). Also, Stephen Popkes was in the October issue, but I don't think I would have ever heard of him if I hadn't read a couple of "Best of the year" anthologies. Then again, I guess that means he's pretty good.
The authors they do choose, however, seem to be quite good. Sometimes the stories are hit or miss, more so than in the other magazines in my experience. However, being bi-monthly, you're not getting as many stories on a monthly basis as you are with the others. Thus, it just seems like it's not as good. Overall, I'd say that the quality of the writing in this magazine is definitely up there, just not quite as good as the others. When I say Realms of Fantasy is my least favourite of the three that I buy, that is by no a put-down. The stories are always fantasy of some sort (hence the name of the magazine), and that is my preferred genre over science fiction, though I am beginning to like both. You get a wide range of fantasy stories because of that. There could be a sword-n-sorcery story alongside some modern-day fairy tale, or bit of Celtic lore. Probably the magazine's strength is the fairy-tale and mythological stories, which Fantasy & Science Fiction tends to shy away from. I like that.
Then, there are the covers. Egad, some of them are bad. I don't mean bad in an artistic sense, as a lot of them are quite good. I mean bad in the "do I want to be openly reading this on a bus?" way. The artwork tends toward the "chainmail bikini" cheesecake shots, which forced me to fold the October issue cover over when I read it on the way to work. Thank heavens for Lord of the Rings! From what I understand, many of the covers over the last couple of years have been photos from the movies, meaning we can avoid the cheesecake. Thankfully, the December issue is like that, with Frodo Baggins on the cover. Ideally, like Fantasy & Science Fiction and Asimov's, the covers would represent one of the stories. Alas, that's not the way it works.
The magazine does have regular media articles too, including a movies section, a book review section (usually covering a lot more books than either of the other two magazines) and a section on fantasy games. Also included is usually a folkroots article (the December issue had a story on the Mythic Journeys conference in Atlanta and the October issue had an article on historical and fantasy labyrinths), and the occasional "Past Lives" article, which seems to be about clothing a lot (one article is about medieval re-enactors' garb and another is about dressing for time travel). There is also always another main non-fiction article that's highlighted on the cover. The last two issues have been interviews or profiles of fantasy artists, though I can't say whether that's always the case.
Finally, I have to comment on the web site, which isn't always the case with a magazine. In an earlier version of this review, I commented on how their web site has not been updated since December, 2003. That has now been rectified.
All that being said, Realms of Fantasy is an interesting magazine. It helps that it's bi-monthly, so my wallet doesn't scream too much that I'm not getting my money's worth. I will keep it up for the time being. I am afraid, however, of when they run out of Lord of the Rings photos.