One thing our submission box could always see more of is heroic fantasy that breaks the mould but still sings like heroic fantasy. This hankering was my main reason for putting out a call for tales on the theme of “Battles.” I wanted stories that tell of conflicts away from the battlefield, too, but full confession: I was hoping for several tales with stalwart fighters, fantastical beasts, and, well, epic thrumming. I’m pleased to say our contributors rose to the challenge.
Two of this issue’s authors bring you heroic fantasy-plus; these pieces open and close the collection. dave ring presents what he calls a “homage to Nevèrÿon- esque pulp” while Craig Hinds has crafted the most legend-ringing retelling of Arthur’s twin knights, Balin and Balan, since Tennyson. I also received the sports-battle story I was hoping for, thanks to Devin DeMarco’s take on synaesthesia made manifest on the pitch. Kyle E Miller offers up duelling wizards and neighbourly strife, and Cristina Osmeña and H.L. Fullerton provide this issue’s quieter stories, each dealing with the ineradicable imprint of wartime trauma.
Most of these pieces are about word-conjuring, too, or the way words themselves form part of our arsenal. Here, they are uttered as well as etched in metal and wood, but they’re front and centre. This makes sense right now—a time when writers must sweat a little more to get language on the page. Writing (and any creative endeavour) feels like a battle between imaginations and exhausted souls, and those who manage to write past a pandemic—adding colour to this world—deserve a hero’s thanks, as does our tireless illustrator, Carrion House.