Summary: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 2012
Beneath Ceaseless Skies debuted in late 2008, a webzine devoted to "literary adventure fantasy". The editor and publisher is Scott H. Andrews. It publishes two stories every other week, usually -- every so often a story is serialized over two issues, and both the fourth anniversary issue and the 100th issue this year had two extra stories. There were 26 issues in 2011, with an impressive total of 55 stories, 1 novellas, 16 novelettes and 38 shorts, for some 372,000 words of fiction. That makes it the one of the largest sources of new fiction among magazines and webzines, possibly behind only the traditional "Big Three" (there may be another 'zine or two out there with comparable numbers).
It has been a strong source of short fantasy (with the occasional story I'd classify as SF) from the beginning, and to my mind it is still improving -- 2012 was its best year yet.
My favorite two stories will be in my best of the year volume. These are "The Governess and the Lobster", by Margaret Ronald (May 17), and "The Castle that Jack Built", by Emily Gilman (January 26). Ronald's story (which I read as SF) is about a young woman starting a school in a city split between intelligent automata and humans, and finding a way to reach both sorts of intelligence; while Gilman's is a beautifully written and original fairy-tale like piece about a scarecrow of sorts who remembers being a human, an architect, and in his journeys begins to disover himself. Two more stories were on my final list for inclusion -- Richard Parks' "In the Palace of the Jade Lion" (July 26) is a romantic Chinese-set ghost story, in which a scholar encounters the ghost of a young woman -- a dangerous thing, but his good sense and good will win out; while Chris Willrich's "The Mote Dancer and the Firelife" (March 8) is a colorful story set on another planet, about a woman accompanied by her husband's ghost encountering the alien who may have killed him. Other strong stories included Anne Ivy's "Scry" (March 8), about a woman who can see the future, and who ends up joining her conquerors after an invasion; Gregory Norman Bossert's "The Telling" (November 29), about a child in a household where the Lord dies, who is then called to "tell" to the bees of the household and plead for their continued grace; Noreen Doyle's "His Crowning Glory" (December 27), set in her version of Egypt, a witty story about a maverick archaeologist and a "djinee"; Cory Skerry's "Sinking Among Lilies" (April 5), about a monster slayer come to a town victimized by "anathema", but harboring a still darker secret; and Amanda Olson's "Virtue's Ghost" (July 26), in which people must where pendants that enforce a particular "virtue", such as, in this story, a woman with a beautiful voice having the "virtue" of silence. Other strong work came from Parks again, from Mike Allen, from Alec Austin, from David D. Levine, from Christie Yant, from Jack Nicholls, from Grace Seybold, from Kenneth Schneyer, and from Yoon Ha Lee.
This year I thought five stories were SF (9%), and 27 were by women, or 49%.