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Challenging Destiny

Entry updated 19 February 2024. Tagged: Publication.

Canadian Small Press low-paying magazine of science fiction and fantasy, published by Crystalline Sphere Publishing, St Marys, Ontario; edited throughout by David M Switzer, initially with Graham D Wall (issues 1 and 2) and then Robert P Switzer (#3-#12). It ran for 25 issues between May 1997 to December 2007, as a Print Magazine until #17 (December 2003) and thereafter as an Online Magazine. It tried to keep a regular quarterly schedule but only managed this in 1999, otherwise there were usually two issues a year. It was perfect bound in large digest format with colour covers and interior artwork.

Although the magazine had a small print run, usually about 250 copies, and so barely scraped into the Semiprozine category, it more than made up for it in determination and purpose. Switzer adopted a serious single-mindedness, determined to acquire original and interesting fiction, even if mostly from new and unseasoned writers, with the result that after a few issues the magazine acquired a maturity which attracted better known writers and fiction that lived up to the magazine's title, of humans fighting fate and the forces of time and nature. There was a diverse number of contributors and only a few regulars, notably Hugh Cook and A R Morlan, but other occasional contributors included Ian Creasey, Ken Rand, Uncle River and, after the magazine had gone online, Jay Lake. The magazine published the first stories by Greg Bechtel, "Black Magic" (March 1998 #2); K G McAbee, "With Murderous Intent" (April 1999 #6); and Karina Sumner-Smith, "How to Kill the Sun" (July 2000 #10). "Life Water in the Desert" (August 2007 #24) by Hayden Trenholm won the Aurora award for best short form fiction in English. The fiction was mostly sf, initially with a strong emphasis on Virtual Reality, but broadened over time to include a diversity of fantasy and more traditional sf. One of the magazine's strengths was its nonfiction. Switzer provided thoughtful, often practical editorials; there were Interviews with many major writers, mostly Canadian, including Candas Jane Dorsey (July 2000 #10), Phyllis Gotlieb (November 1999 #8), Nalo Hopkinson (April 2001 #12), Guy Gavriel Kay (December 2000 #11), Robert J Sawyer (January 1999 #5), Peter Watts (December 2004 #19) and Robert Charles Wilson (August 1999 #7); and James Schellenberg contributed a series of knowledgeable and informative essays on a variety of themes, films and authors, such as "The Life and Works of Judith Merril" (December 2000 #11) (see Judith Merril), "The Origins of Canadian SF" (June 2002 #14) and "The SF of Ursula K Le Guin" (December 2004 #19) (see Ursula K Le Guin).

Switzer found when he switched to online publication that, although it saved costs, it also lost readers and with that his enthusiasm for the magazine, which had been its main driving force, faded. [MA]


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