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%.