We’re going through a mini-short pulp SF revolution right now, and I’m missing out on it because Tales from the Magician’s Skull is only the third different magazine I’ve picked up. I place it firmly between Skelos and Cirsova. It is not as depressing as Skelos, but without the spark of Cirsova. But, to a certain extent, that is a matter of taste.
Pulpy stories make for good game grist, but thinking too much about gameability when writing is dangerous. Tales from the Magician has a gaming focus that I do think holds the stories back somewhat. Heavily inspired by Appendix N, the magazine includes game stats for the stories.
Many of the characters are featured elsewhere. I might have enjoyed the stories more had I walked in with some familiarity, but none of them required it.
Tales from the Magician’s Skull—at least volume one—is all fantasy, no science fiction. It’s not exactly genre bending in the pulp fashion. But then I’m an old fantasy fan, so that is hardly a bug.
The contents are below. Beneath the Bay of Black Waters and the fairy tale-esque There Was An Old Fat Spider are rivals for my favorite story from the magazine. Beyond the Block is my third favorite. The Guild of Silent Men has a neat bit of worldbuilding. The area it is set in is ruled by no king or lord or even council. Absent a hierarchy, the residents rely heavily on voluntary associations. Even men who are not members of a voluntary association have a voluntary association: the Guild of Silent Men. But the worldbuilding isn’t developed enough to truly enhance the story.
What Lies in Ice by Chris Willich
The Guild of Silent Men by Jame Enge
Beneath the Bay of Black Waters by Bill Ward
Beyond the Block by Aeryn Rudel
Crypt of Stars by Howard Andrew Jones
There Was An Old Fat Spider by C.L. Werner
The Crystal Sickle’s Harvest by John C. Hocking
3.5 of 5 Stars.