January 2nd, 2010

Summary: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 2009

Summary: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 2009

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 at least one issue this year had an extra story. Due to the Thursday issues date falling on Dec. 31, they managed 27 issues in 2009, with an impressive total of 55 stories, 1 novella, 15 novelettes and 39 shorts, for very nearly 365,000 words of fiction -- a thousand a day. That makes it the fourth largest source of new fiction among magazines and webzines, behind only the traditional "Big Three". Somehow that hadn't occurred to me -- and it's really a striking fact.

I consistently enjoyed this webzine. They routinely publish fine adventure fantasy, and occasionally publish outstanding work. Quite suddenly they have become a really important source of fantasy.

Holly Phillips's "Thieves of Silence" (July 16) was probably the best novelette, a lovely tale of a thief who gets captured (in more ways than one) by witches, as her lover schemes to land a rich husband -- a rich net of betrayal and maneuvering, shifting loyalties, unexpected emotional responses. I also liked Sarah L. Edwards's "The Tinyman and Caroline" (May 21), a steampunkish story about a very small human who tries to steal a trinket from an aristocratic household, and ends up entangled with the young daughter of the house, almost as small as he, who thinks he’s an elf and wants to go to Faerie with him -- not perhaps the best choice. Also, K. D. Wentworth's fine, spooky, "The Orangery" (March 12), about children lured into a different world through the title room. Other strong novelettes came from Aliette de Bodard, Matthew David Surridge, P. E. Cunningham, and Jonathan Wood.

Of the short stories I really liked Rachel Swirsky's "Great Golden Wings" (October 22), a lovely little story, very simply told, of a cinematographist trying to market films of dragons, and of the one court lady who is entranced. Also, Grace Seybold's "Unrest" (March 12), an excellent dark tale of the ravages of war, told effectively from sequential points of view of the participants/victims. Tony Pi's "Silk and Shadows" (February 26), fine romantic fantasy, about a Prince exacting revenge against the man who killed his father -- but having to pay a dark price to a witch in the process. T. D. Edge’s "System, Magic, Spirit" (May 21), is told by an aging wizard who encounters a prince in whom he finds unexpected depths. Marie Brennan’s "Driftwood" (April 9), is set in her curious universe where different worlds crash together eventually to disappear -- here we meet a woman who has somehow survived the death of her world for centuries. And Saladin Ahmed, in "Where Virtue Lives" (April 23), introduces a promising series in telling of a ghul hunter and a young dervish who becomes his apprentice. I also liked short stories by Richard Parks, Yoon Ha Lee, B. Gordon, and Dru Pagliossotti.

This year I thought one story -- the year's final story! -- was SF (2%), and 33 were by women, or 60%.

Summary: Neo-Opsis, 2009

Summary: Neo-Opsis, 2009

Neo-Opsis is a Canadian magazine edited by Karl Johanson. The first issue came out in 2003 and with 3 issues most years and two in 2008 they've reached number 18. The focus is on Science Fiction, but they do publish some Fantasy. The three 2009 issues included 23 stories, one short novelette, five short-shorts. Over 80,000 words of fiction.

This year I enjoyed Hayden Trenholm's "Symphony of Stones" (#16), about a conquering alien seduced by human music; Richard Herr's "Diplomacy" (#16), a decent alien diplomacy story; Sara King's "Moderator" (#17), in which a vampire hires a webmaster; and Scott Overton's "No Walls" (#18), about a man who can walk through walls and who is hired by the government to act as a spy. Other decent stuff came from Grace Seybold, Peter Andrew Smith, and Pippa Wysong.

6 of the 23 stories were by women (26%), and 17 of the stories were SF (74%). Both numbers are more or less similar to past years.

Summary: Jupiter, 2009

Summary: Jupiter, 2009

Jupiter is a small British magazine, devoted primarily to straightforward SF, that publishes on a quite impressively regular quarterly schedule. The editor is Ian Redman. The four issues this year were numbered XXIII through XXVI, and named Kalyke, Iocaste, Erinome, and Isonoe. For those who might be wondering, these issue names refer to the moons of Jupiter. As there are 63 moons known so far, we can hope for over nine more years of this magazine! There were 21 stories (4 novelettes, 17 shorts (two short-shorts) this year, for a total of some 114,000 words.

My favorites this year: "The Rule of Law", by Elaine Graham-Leigh (from issue XXIII), about a future Earth allied with aliens in a war against other aliens; "Our Man in Herrje", by Andrew Knighton (issue XXIV), about aliens who hate all sorts of lies, from those of politicians to Shakespeare; and "Dusting Tycho", by Vera Sepulveda (issue XXV), about a space veteran trying to retire in an old Moon city, and the lessons he learns from the longterm residents. I also quite liked both short-shorts, Gareth D. Jones's "Dog's Best Friend (issue XXIV), a brief character sketch set in his "Roadbuilder" future; John Rogers's "The Bridge of the Compass Rose" (issue XXIII), about an old space captain reacting to the scrapping of his old ship. Other nice work came from Kate Kelly, Gustavo Bondoni, Huw Langridge, and Rosie Oliver.

Statistics: I believe 4 of the 21 stories were by women (19%), lots more than the zero total from 2008. (I believe the ration was closer to that of 2009 in previous years.) And also none of the stories is fantasy -- which is by design, Jupiter is explicitly a science fiction magazine.