December 31st, 2010

Summary: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 2010

Summary: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 2010

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 the second anniversary issue this year had two extra stories. There were 26 issues in 2009, with an impressive total of 52 stories, 15 novelettes and 37 shorts, for very nearly 330,000 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).

I consistently enjoy this webzine. They routinely publish strong adventure fantasy, and occasionally publish outstanding work. They have become a really important source of fantasy. I will confess that I chose none of their stories this year for my Best of the Year volume, but a few were right on the cusp.

Of the novelettes, quite a few impressed me. Two Lord Yamada stories from Richard Parks were very nice, "Sanji's Demon", and "Lady of the Ghost Mill". Ann Leckie's "Beloved of the Sun" is another of her intelligent looks at the fraught relationships between deities and humans. K. J. Kabza's "The Leafsmith in Love" is a romantic story of a maker of simulacra falling for a visiting lady, to the displeasure of his ruler. "The Six Skills of Madame Lumiere", by Marissa Lingen, is set in a whorehouse, and involves a convincing journey through Faery, an intriguing talent, different villains, and a set of interesting women lead characters -- all mixed delightfully. T. F. Davenport's "The Motor, the Mirror, the Mind" is set literally in a "world [that] is the brain of a being far vaster and grander than" the inhabitants. That striking central image dominates the story, and really works.

Of the short stories I really liked Rosamund Hodge's story of a changeling's role in a war between Faery and Humans, a war seemingly analogous in some ways to WWI: "More Full of Weeping Than You Can Understand", and a neat, funny, original wizard’s apprentice type story from Steve Rasnic Tem, "Dying on the Elephant Road", about a lovelorn young man who gets himself killed only to be restored in a fashion by a wizard. Also, Margaret Ronald's "A Serpent in the Gears", a story of an expedition to a long-isolated country occupied by mechanical beings (or partly mechanical beings); and Kris Millering’s "The Isthmus Variation", about an exotic sort of tableau in which a company of players is hired by the ruler of their country for a performance with dark political implications; and Mishell Baker's "Throwing Stones", an enjoyable gender-bending story of a man passing as a woman in a place where women are considered the only potential sorcerers, and thus apparently have the only potential power.

Other nice work came from Adam Corbin Fusco, Yoon Ha Lee, both Arkenbergs (Megan and Therese), Peter Kovic, J Kathleen Cheney, Tony Pi, and Sarah L. Edwards.

This year I thought one story was SF (2%), and 27 were by women, or 52%.