I’m a big fan of short fiction. I enjoy reading short stories on my lunch break. Short stories make perfect reading material when I have a few minutes to spare but not enough time to really get immersed in a novel. So I was exceptionally happy when I came across the first issue of Grimdark Magazine. Finally, a magazine focused on the kind of Fantasy I enjoyed. I read issue one the day it came out and especially loved Mark Lawrence’s story, Bad Seed. When I finished it I immediately purchased the Broken Empire trilogy.
Unfortunately, issue #3 did not have the same positive impact. Containing four short stories, two novel excerpts, two interviews, two reviews, and one article, the issue overall left me feeling flat. The interviews were with Luke Scull and R. Scott Bakker. Interesting and well worth it for fans. Excerpts and reviews don’t really excite me. Reviews being quite easy to find on every blog and website around and excerpt not really interesting me.
Short fiction is what I care about and the four stories in this issue were mediocre to bad.
The first part of this short story was published in Grimdark Magazine issue #2. It’s a direct continuation and cannot be enjoyed out of context. Bakker is a pro writer with many novels under his belt. This story is a great sample of his larger body of work and I recommend giving it a try to see if you would enjoy his longer pieces.
All the Lovely Brides by Kelly Sandoval. A woman who is some sort of living sacrifice for a vampire lich lord awaits to be devoured and reflects on her existence. More Dark Fantasy than what I consider Grimdark but I enjoyed this one and its somewhat twisty ending.
The King Beneath the Waves by Peter Fugazzotto. The standout story of this issue. It follows a group of shipwrecked grimdark Vikings who discover a cursed treasure. Greed, violence, vile characters, and dark magic. While not the most original piece it manages to cover its bases and deliver a tight compact plot.
A Recipe for Corpse Oil by Siobhan Gallagher. An insultingly stupid story about a thief who is enlisted to collect human chins for some sort of wizard-alchemist. The story is neither grim nor dark and fails at being funny due to the preposterous nature of “chin” collecting. I am a fan of Grimdark because I enjoy grit and realism, this story really missed the mark and left a poor taste in my mouth.
The final verdict on issue #3 is that unless you are starving for some short stories or you are a huge fan of R. Scott Bakker, you can safely skip this one.
But don’t misunderstand me, Grimdark Magazine is an overall fantastic publication. I have purchased every single issue and eagerly look forward to a new one every quarter. For this reason, I hold each and every issue to a high standard. If you take on the name of the subgenre I expect nothing but the highest of quality. I expect the magazine to be the trendsetter and innovator of the genre. Weird Tales popularized Howard and Lovecraft. Cheap Truth organized the ethos of cyberpunk. Grimdark Magazine should take the lead with the grittiest most realistic Science Fiction and Fantasy in the 21st century.