Aphotic Realm Volume 1: "Apparitions" - June - July 2017 Magazine Review
Written by Tony Jones
Published by Aphotic Realm Magazine / CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Edited by Dustin Schyler Yoak, A.A. Medina and Chris Martin
Contributors: Steve Carr, Thomas Elson, Brianna Fenty, Ron Heacock, Steve Hosking, Thor Morten, Tevis Shkodra, Christopher Stanley, Kenneth Tilford Jr.
2017, 106 pages, Fiction
Released 4th July 2017
The first issue of Aphotic Realm has the tagline "Apparitions", giving this 100-page magazine a strong supernatural theme. The content is wide and varied, featuring three editorials, 12 short stories, two interviews and accompanying artwork. Priced at $14.99 for hardcopy, or $2.98 for the digital issue, it can be obtained from Amazon.com or directly from aphoticrealm.com.
On an uneventful seven-hour train journey from Aberdeen to London, I read the magazine from cover to cover, cheered by the diverse stories and interviews. The fiction ranges from a brief three pages to longer offerings of seven or eight pages. For the most part, the longer stories are the strongest and best of the bunch. Thomas Elson's "Voices", a tale of inmate madness after years of imprisonment, is solid entertainment, with the story going full circle over six very tightly written pages. Another highlight is Tevis Shkodra's "The Blue Vial", a melancholic meditation on death after a woman on the brink of dying is tricked into watching her family live their lives from beyond the grave, unable to leave her own personal purgatory herself until they are all dead themselves. Ron Heacock's "Untethered" features an entity able to move into human bodies and temporarily take over their lives is also a very striking work. After becoming obsessed with a young woman called Cassidy, the spirit realises he is being stalked by another supernatural being with similar powers.
These three stories are particularly good value and, who knows, may find their way into other publications or have the scope to be rewritten into longer versions should the authors be inclined to re-edit. I think this is the case with a lot of these stories; some may be a bit rough around the edges and may yet evolve for the better and appear elsewhere after further tinkering. They're unlikely to challenge the likes of Ted E. Grau, or the many other excellent craftsmen of the modern horror story, but they are perfectly acceptable and readable.
The three editors, Dustin Schyler Yoak, A. A. Medina and Chris Martin, all have their own editorials at different stages of the magazine. I found all three pretty dull and rather than outline where they intend to go with their magazine, this is the first issue after all, they discuss rambling pseudo-supernatural occurrences from their own lives and attempt to blur it with fiction or open discussions on the topic. All three came across as a bit forced and considering they are editors of a "Literary website and magazine for strange and sinister fiction", I expected a little more than "Paranormal Activity" mumblings and would have preferred to hear more about what made the three tick as writers and editors. A magazine like this is a labour of love, talk about that instead. For future issues I would also suggest only using one strong editorial at the beginning of the magazine.
Both interviews with comic book creator and author, Roland Mann, and owner of independent publisher Beating Windward, Matt Peters, are very enlightening, including solid nuggets of advice for the budding writer as well as useful insights into their own careers. A couple of examples, Roland makes it clear that upstart writers will never be taken seriously if they don't have good grammar and Matt insists that for him to publish a work, it truly has to hook him in from the first page and not let him go. So this snippet from Matt intrigued me enough to make a note of the next novel he is publishing to follow up, as it sounds really cool.
Some of the shorter stories, the three-pagers, are hit and miss and are pretty basic high school level ghost stories and didn't do much for me. However, the potential is still there and I'm sure many of these authors will see their work regularly appear in print. Overall, there is a solid range of fiction for the reader to dip into and the informative author biographies and accompanying photos are nice additional touches.
nearly everey page is both clunky and unnecessary, and ultimately becomes tiring over 100 odd pages.
Stylistically, I have some issues with the magazine. Firstly, having the name of the story and author superimposed on the bottom of nearly every page is both clunky and unnecessary, and ultimately tiring over 100 odd pages. Also, you could argue that columns may have been easier on the eye for reading purposes rather than having it dragged over the page in essay A4 style.
Aphotic Realm is a solid first issue and I am very interested to see what the editors both adapt and improve for issue two, which is slated for an October release. I am also curious to see whether they return with a new theme. I suspect they may find coming up with unique themes pretty difficult and it may be better to abandon the idea. It could possibly even restrict what they want to publish. Let the quality of the writing dictate the magazine guys, not the theme! Overall, though, it is good company on a long boring train journey.