Skelos: The Journal of WeirdFiction and Dark Fantasy. Volume 1, Issue 1. Magazine: Summer 2016: 158 pages, Skelos Press.
How nice to once more hold in my hands a thick, meaty magazine in print form. The new Skelos Journal makes a solid debut on the scene, and I’m happy to know that more issues are to come. If the editors can keep up the quality of issue #1, we fans of pulp and fantasy fiction will have something to be proud of.
There are three managing editors for the new magazine, Mark Finn, Chris Gruber, and Jeffrey Shanks. All are known for their interest in and commitment to the work of Robert E. Howard, but Skelos is not a Howard journal, of which there are several out there. Howard is represented in the first issue, but Skelos is a “weird fiction” magazine, and all that entails. This means it can’t be pigeonholed into one genre.
For one thing, the new magazine contains fiction of various lengths alongside scholarly—but not dry academic—articles. It contains poetry and even an illustrated comic-style story. The fiction and poetry is an interesting mix of heroic fantasy, pulp horror, and even science fiction. There are plenty of illustrations but the emphasis is on words and I, for one, am glad to see it. Most magazines I pick up these days can be quickly scanned in an afternoon. I spent several days perusing Skelos and each trip into its pages brought new surprises and ideas.
Since there is a lot of meat on these bones, I’m not going to go over every piece in the mag. Scott Cupp and Keith Taylor are probably the biggest writer names here, but there are stories by Scott Hannan, David Hardy, Matt Sullivan, Ethan Nahté, Jason Ray Carney, and myself. David Hardy’s “The Yellow Death” was my favorite, although only by a slim margin over the other excellent offerings.
The nonfiction was uniformly good, with material from Jeffrey Shanks, Karen Joan Kohoutek, and Nicole Emmelhainz. Emmelhainz’s “A Sword-Edged Beauty as Keen as Blades:” was really a fascinating read and my favorite. This is an exploration of the gender dynamics in sword and sorcery, using C. L. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry as an illustration. While sword and sorcery is usually described as a very masculine and even anti-feminine genre, Emmelhainz finds this to be far too simple of a description. I’m still studying on her ideas to see if I agree with them all, but it was fine and provocative reading.
For poets, we have Ashley Dioses, K. A. Opperman, Jason Hardy, Frank Coffman, Pat Calhoun, and Kenneth Bykerk. I was glad to see poetry in the mix here. Certainly this is something Howard included in his work and so it falls into the tradition. I liked all of these pieces.
There are also reviews, and plenty of other gems hidden in these pages, including the excellent illustrated tale, “Grettir and the Draugr,” by Samuel Dillon and Jeffrey Shanks. I highly recommend it all.