January 10th, 2007


Phantom: Issue 0

Phantom: Issue 0 is a one-shot magazine that was freely distributed in the World Fantasy Convention goodie bags back in November (though there are also copies for sale exclusively at Clarkesworld Books for $5.95). Acting more like a showcase than a magazine proper (there are no editorials, columns, reviews, ads or sex quizzes), Phantom collects eight short stories and one interview by some of the most vibrant, original authors in horror fiction, edited by nihilistic_kid and published by Prime Books/Wildside.

I haven't heard much buzz about the magazine since November, which is a shame. There's some exceptionally strong work on display here. All the stories are excellent examples of the lengths to which a genre like horror can stretch. You won't find any run of the mill killer-likes-to-stab stories here, no wild gore fantasies or genital preoccupation, just well written stories with original voices and ideas.

With a lineup this strong, it's hard to choose favorites, but with a gun to my head I'd pick sarahlangan's "The Changeling" (I'm biased, though - I saw an earlier version in workshop), pgtremblay's "Feeding the Machine" and buymeaclue's "Everything Is Better With Zombies", which was perhaps my topmost favorite of the bunch. But they're all outstanding pieces from authors you'd expect nothing less from. Read it if you haven't already (and I suspect most people have not, even if they got it in the goodie bag) and get in on the ground floor of the next generation of horror lit. Because if you don't already know about writers like F. Brett Cox or Darren Speegle or Laird Barron, you really need to start.

And now a word about the production values: I understand when you're planning to give something away for free, you want to keep the costs down. Makes sense. But the layout and design of Phantom: Issue 0 are kind of atrocious. From the nigh-unreadable grayscale cover to the at best workmanlike blocking of the text to what appears to be internet clip art accompanying each story, the whole thing looks cheap and rushed. The project deserved a better presentation. (Maybe if they make enough money selling copies through Clarkesworld to turn Phantom into a regular magazine, this will be rectified.)