I was a big fan of Grimdark Magazine 1# and thought the ezine had a lot of potential. Any magazine which contained an interview with Abercrombie and fiction by Mark Lawrence deserved to be able to call itself the publication for grimdark fiction. However, the defining moment for any publication isn't the first issue but whether or not it'll be able to repeat success on a regular level.
What do I think of the second issue?
Not as good as the first in some places, better in others.
So, overall, a success.
One thing I'd like to comment about the magazine is, despite the fact it has a gloomy and depressing subject matter, the mood of the fanzine is overall very bright and optimistic. The love of the material shines through on every page from the editorials to the reviews to the interviews. The staff for Grimdark Magazine love not only grimdark but they love writing about it and that sort of enthusiasm is infectious.
That being said, let's get to my review of the magazine's actual contents.
After the disappointing Beatles' White Album cover of the previous issue, I'm pleased to say that we've got actual fantasy art on the second issue. There's so many talented artists out there working in fantasy both amateur and otherwise, it's nice to see some of them get work. The scene of a Pit Fighter standing triumphantly over his foes also ties into one of the stories within. It's not the best art ever but it's good art and perfectly appropriate for the material.
The nonfiction section of the magazine this time around includes some interesting interviews with Kameron Hurley (Bel Dame Apocrypha) author and Richard K. Morgan (Takeshi Kovacs, A Land Fit for Heroes). Kameron Hurley's interview is a source of unintentional comedy as the interviewers attempt to engage the author about how progressive and feminist the main character of Bel Dame Apocrypha is, only to get shrugged off with a "meh, not really."
The description of the interview material did make me interested in the series, though, which means interviewer and interviewee both did their job, though. I know Richard K. Morgan, ironically, more for his spectacular (and sadly unfinished) Black Widow graphic novels more than his work but he seemed both enthusiastic and enjoying himself during his interview, which is always good.
We get a couple of good book reviews with The Falcon Throne by Karen Miller and The Heresy Within by Rob J. Hayes getting examined. I'm a huge fan of The Heresy Within and it was interesting to see Grimdark Magazine's chief objections to the book were about the (relatively mild, in my opinion) sexual violence. It's interesting to note the publishers have a progressive stance on this issue and one I approve of. I also loved an article called "Grimdark Onscreen" by Layla Cummins and Kyle Massa, which was one of those articles I mentioned that really show a great love of grimdark.
As always, the big attraction for skeptical readers of any ezine is the professional quality fiction which fills the magazine. This issue is no exception and there's some really fine pieces this time around.
"The Line" by T.R. Napper is more properly cyberpunk than grimdark, though the difference between those two is razor thin at the best of times. A professional gladiator in a dystopian corporate-run hellhole is "asked" to take a dive, only for him to decide to solve things in a Pulp Fiction sort of way.
"Drone Strikes for Fun and Profit" by Aaron Fox-Lerner is a science-fiction tale about the normalization of evil. Again, not really something I consider grimdark per se but I'm not going to cplain about quality science-fiction either.
"The Knife of Many Hands Part 1" (The Second Apocalypse) by R. Scott Bakker is kind of hard to describe because it's one of those things which dumps you in the middle of a world without much time for explanation. A suicidal half-insane pit fighter is famous throughout a city, which attracts numerous enemies who want to either break him or enslave him. The irony is no one wants to kill him, which is the protagonist's fondest wish.
The magazine ends with an excerpt from The Dark Defiles by Richard K. Morgan which is PURE grimdark, excellently written, and something which has convinced me to pick up the Dark Defiles once I've caught up on my existing list of writing. An arrogant harlot-loving mercenary has to stop an incident with a brothel like so many Wild West-style heroes, only it's complicated by the fact the people who are going to turn it into an abbatoir are his allies. Delightfully dark and seedy, which is what I like in my fantasy.
Buy at Grimdark Magazine