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The Elephant Forgets
Summary: Asimov's, 2012

I'm getting a late start on these this year, after not finishing last year's. So they'll be somewhat abbreviated -- apologies! But I figure something is better than nothing.

Asimov's published 73 stories in 2012. 9 were novellas, 21 novelettes, 43 short stories. About 688,000 words of fiction, more or less the same as last year. (The magazine's count might be slightly different, as I have Felicity Shoulders' "Long Night on Red Rock" listed as a novella. It might be a long novelette instead, but it is certainly not a short story, as the TOC had it. (At least in my advance electronic copy.))


The clear best novella of the year in Asimov's, and a contender for best novella period, was Elizabeth Bear's "In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns" (January), a murder mystery set in a future India, and also involving climate change, radical genetic engineering, and signals from the stars. Also I liked Jay Lake's "The Stars Do Not Lie" (October/November), about a scientist on a distant world discovering evidence that humans did not originate there; and Robert Reed's "Murder Born" (February), which looks at the implications of a strange execution method that resurrects a murderer's victims. Other good novellas came from Steven Popkes, Felicity Shoulders, James Patrick Kelly, and Alan Smale.

So -- my Asimov's Award votes: 1) "In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns", 2) "The Stars Do Not Lie", 3) "Murder Born".


The top novelettes included Gord Sellar's challenging look at radical posthumans, "The Bernoulli War" (August), Dale Bailey's time travel story with sex and dinosaurs: "Mating Habits of the Late Cretaceous" (September), and Tom Purdom's latest Imeten story, "Golva's Ascent" (March). Those three in that order will get my Asimov's award ballots. Other fine novelettes came from Paul McAuley, Mercurio D. Rivera, Indrapramit Das, Jason Sanford, and Robert Reed.

Short Stories

My favorite short stories in order of appearance were: "The Burst", by C. W. Johnson (January), "The People of Pele" by Ken Liu (February), "Patagonia", by Joel Richards (March), "Bird Walks" by Michael Blumlein (July), "Beautiful Boys" by Theodora Goss (August), "Antarctica Starts Here" by Paul McAuley (October-November), "This Hologram World" by Eugene Mirabelli (October-November), and "The Black Feminist's Guide to Science Fiction Film Editing" by Sandra McDonald (December).

My ballot will read: 1) "The Black Feminist's Guide to Science Fiction Film Editing" (about the potential discovery of a lost film version of Leigh Brackett's THE GINGER STAR), 2) "Antarctica Starts Here" (about eco-terrorism in a warming Antarctica), 3) "Beautiful Boys" (about some strange "bad boys" who love and leave women -- what are they, really?)


Of the 73 pieces of new short fiction, 17.5 were by women, about 24%. This is significantly lower than in most recent years. I counted 5 stories I'd call fantasy, about 7% -- somewhat less than last year but not too inconsistent with the magazine's recent history.

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K. J. Parker, The Engineer Trilogy

I started reading K. J. Parker with the publication of "Amor Vincit Omnia" in Subterranean and in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine a couple of years ago, and I loved the story, reprinting in last year's Best of the Year book. I quickly snapped up the Subterranean Press novellas Blue and Gold (which is magnificent) and Purple and Black (which is merely very good), as well as, last year in Subterranean, the also magnificent "A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong", which I again reprinted. Obviously, it was time for me to read some novels, so I bought Parker's best known (seems to me) work, The Engineer Trilogy, and I read it over the past year or so.

The first novel is called Devices and Desires. In it, an engineer working at a factory in the city-state of Mezentia is condemned to death for violation of specification. It seems that Mezentia is the source of all quality machined goods in this area, and they feel that one of their strengths is the reliance on strict specifications for anything they make. Any deviance is criminal. The engineer, Ziani Vaatzes, was caught making a toy for his beloved daughter for which he made an improvement to the established design.

So, Vaatzes escapes, and makes his way to the country of Eremia, which has foolishly got itself embroiled in a war against Mezentia. Vaatzes offers his help -- he can design defensive equipment for them which will make it difficult for Mezentia's mercenary force to take the Eremian capitol city. It turns out that Eremia's ruler, Duke Orsea, is a pleasant and honorable but irredeemably stupid man. He takes on Vaatzes. This, it is made clear, is the first cog in Vaatzes' ultimate engineering design -- a "machine" to allow him to return to his wife and daughter. The rest of this book is the story of the siege of Eremia. The key character in it, besides Vaatzes, is Duke Valens of the neighboring country of the Vadani. The Duke is, apparently, an outstanding ruler, as well as brilliant at whatever else he does -- hunting, war, and writing letters to Veatriz, Duke Orsea's wife, whom he loves but cannot, of course, have. Though their relationship is in essence innocent -- and Veatriz appears to sincerely love Orsea -- it proves not surprisingly to be another fulcrum in what becomes a tragedy. And this relationship becomes another element, another cog, in Vaatzes' machine.

I won't say too much more about the plots of the books, because saying much about book 2 would spoil book 1, to an extent. (Not that important an extent, in my opinion, but then I realize I'm much less sensitive to spoilers than many readers.) The second book is called Evil for Evil, the third The Escapement. The books are somewhat symmetrically structured, each opening with the same sentence, applied in each case to a different character; each involving a siege or attack on a different city. The ultimate theme on the surface is, perhaps, people as machines -- the way people can be manipulated in the service of a larger plan. Look one level beyond that, though, and almost all the terrible things that happen can be laid at the door of love -- Vaatze's love for his wife, Valens' love for Veatriz ... and a couple other examples that it would be a spoiler to discuss.

There is a plethora of major characters, almost all quite interesting. Miel Ducas, for example, is the scion of one of Eremia's leading families, and, like Valens, is a sort of perfect nobleman, but for different reasons -- Ducas is born to this role (and thus ends up forced out of it) while Valens has had to construct himself. Gace Daurenja is a psychopath, but a truly brilliant inventor and engineer -- apparently the only man superior in that sense to Vaatzes. Lucao Psellus is a minor clerk in Mezentia who, partly because of his fascination with the motivations of Ziani Vaatzes, is thrust into an unwanted role as leader of the defense of the city. Add smaller roles for Veatriz, for Vaatzes' wife Ariessa, for the original chairman of the ruling organization of the Mezentines, Boioannes ... These are a group of people who are mostly, viewed objectively, quite awful people, but who are often quite sympathetic.

One of Parker's great strengths is explanation of technology -- approprate for something called The Engineer Trilogy. (See for example a really neat article about swords in Subterranean, Fall 2011.) In these books there are long and fascinating sections about subjects like metalworking, hunting, and siege defenses.

Parker is a very funny writer, in a very black way, and these books are continually funny. Some of the humor is cleverness, some is very dry irony. None is slapstick, nor is any verbal hijinks.

The main shortcoming is that the plot, in its purposefully machinelike working out, becomes a bit implausible. On the one hand we are to believe that Vaatzes had his whole plan worked out from the beginning -- but there are enough clearly unplannable for contigencies (the whole question of Gace Daurenja, for one thing) that this just doesn't really make sense. The other problem is the ending -- the wrapup is a just a bit too "neat", in many ways. It's also morally queasy-making, as one group is just sort of brushed away. And the resolution of the central individual stories has the feel of the author manipulating the characters' reactions to make a point, rather than natural human responses.

At any rate, I certainly recommend these books ... and The Hammer is next on my list of Parker novels to try ...


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Priest, Barnes

I've been terribly remiss in keeping up my little quasi-journal of books I've read, so I'm going to try to start catching up. So I'll being doing very short capsules of books I've read over the past year or so, in no particular order.

I'll begin with two very highly regarded books from 2011, both of which became embroiled in awards controversy. these are Christopher Priest's THE ISLANDERS and Julian Barnes's THE SENSE OF AN ENDING. THE ISLANDERS is an exceptional SF novel that was not nominated for the most recent Arthur C. Clarke Award. Priest, stating that he felt the lack of a nomination a "liberation", went on to lambaste the Clarke shortlist. I personally think Priest was entirely right to do so (and I believe him absolutely when he says his comments were not provoked by annoyance that his book was not shortlisted) -- I don't subscribe to his opinions one for one on the books on the shortlist, but I do agree that the list was weak, and more than that I agree that this sort of passionate criticism is both valuable and great fun. As for THE SENSE OF AN ENDING, it won the Man Booker Prize, after harsh criticism of the shortlist on grounds rather less fair than Priest's (mostly, people seemed upset that the wrong sort of books were nominated (that is, genre books)), and Barnes's novel was rubbished by a few people (notably Geoff Dyer, in the New York Times) as a fairly average book that won the Booker more or less by default.

Well, I liked them both, quite a bit. THE ISLANDERS is clearly one of the best SF novels of 2011 (and it got a Hugo nomination from me). It would certainly have graced the Clarke shortlist. (I should mention that it did win a fairly significant award, the BSFA award for Best Novel.) And THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is highly enjoyable, a fine novel -- I suppose (and I hate to do this but it's true) I must say that it does seem just a bit slight for a major award winner -- partly that's because it's very short, more because the central event that drives the novel's action does have the feel of contrivance to it. Still, if it's not a great novel -- if it's not as good as such notable non-Booker winners as, say, David Mitchell's CLOUD ATLAS and THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET -- it's still very nice, and a novel I'm glad to have read.

Anyway. THE ISLANDERS purports to be a gazetteer to the islands of the Dream Archipelago. The Dream Archipelago is the setting of a number of wonderful Priest stories over the years (some collected in THE DREAM ARCHIPELAGO (1999) (and some of those stories are referred to in this volume)) -- it's a world-spanning equatorial set of islands on another planet, with the continent to the North consisting of warring nations, while the Archipelago attempts to remain neutral. There are strange aspects to the Archipelago -- the geography seems variable, there is a vortex up in the air that allows, for example, unusually rapid air travel between islands.

The novel consists of alphabetical entries on various islands. Some of these resemble real gazetteer entries (describing the geography and politics, etc.), but many are in the form of stories, or at least have aspects to the gazetteer entries that enlarge on recurring themes of the novel. A number of characters and episodes recur. The main recurring characters are the reclusive novelist Chaster Kammeston (who also writes the introduction, even though he is apparently dead), the priapic artist Dryd Bathurst, the social reformer E. W. Caurer, the journalist Dant Willer, and the artist Jordenn Yo. The most commonly reiterated episode concerns the mysterious death of a famous mime, Commis. The episodic nature of the book makes for intriguingly different views of these people, and of the repeated episodes, even though consistency is impossible to achieve (for example, trying to pin the various episodes and lives down in time is a hopeless task.) The novel is at turns very funny, very imaginative, and very moving. Geography is not surprisingly a major theme, and well depicted despite the lack of definition to much of it. So too is social organization -- we see a fair amount about differing social structures on the islands, and also about the main uniting feature, the Covenant of Neutrality. Again, there is no rigorous definition to much of this -- these are, after all, islands of the Dream Archipelago, and much of the logic can be called dreamlike. It is a wonderful novel, truly, as Adam Roberts put it, a work of art. And I should add that Priest is one of our greatest writers, and despite some obvious fame (much based on the fine movie made of his novel THE PRESTIGE, but much also based on a number of awards) he still seems underappreciated to me. I'll say this -- the most obviously neglected SFWA should-be-Grand Master is Gene Wolfe (I love Connie Willis, but seriously, how could anyone name her a Grand Master before Wolfe?), but Christopher Priest is perhaps the next writer after Wolfe who ought to get that particular gong.

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is told by one Tony Webster, an aging divorced man who considers himself almost the archetype of British averageness. Part One tells of his time at school and university. He was one of a group of at first three, then four, students at school, students who seemed to regard themselves as particularly clever. The late arriver, Adrian, seems the most brilliant of them all. Later, Tony has his first extended love affair with a girl named Veronica, but this affair founders partly on class differences -- Tony feels snubbed by Veronica's brother and her father during a visit, and partly on Veronica's snippy nature, which reminded me of Margaret Peel from Kingsley Amis's LUCKY JIM. After Tony and Veronica break up, she takes up with Adrian, and a few months later, Adrian commits suicide. Tony and his friends regard Adrian's suicide as somehow the most clever thing he's done ...

Part Two, then, tells of Tony's attempts to claim the diary that Veronica's mother leaves him on her death. The mother was the only person in Veronica's family he liked. The diary she leaves him, it turns out, is Adrian's. But Veronica is stubborn about releasing it to Tony. So Tony engages in a long process to try to get it from her, a process mediated to us through discussions with Tony's ex-wife, and a few meetings with Veronica, still unmarried at this late date. We learn -- indeed Tony learns -- that his behaviour back in the day was not precisely as he remembered -- Veronica may well be the witch he chooses to recall, and her family may have been the snobs Tony remembers, but Tony is far from blameless himself. But the real revelations turn on (as we might have expected) Adrian's suicide ...

I really enjoyed the novel, in many ways for Barnes' writing, and for his characterization, especially of Tony. It's not plotty in the sense that all that much happens, but it is plotty in the sense that it turns on a bit of a twist. I like plottiness in novels, but I must say that in some ways this is where THE SENSE OF AN ENDING falls short. Not so much in the twist, which is logical and satisfying, but in the original reactions to Adrian's suicide, which I found unconvincing. Be that as it may, in the end this was a book I liked a lot. Partly, perhaps, because it is no longer than it need be (it's about 45,000 words). Of course this shortness contributes to the sense of slightness about it -- so be it, I guess. Barnes told his story in the length it required. If the story was slight enough it needed no more length, that's OK, I guess.


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Sean Wallace and I have a new reprint anthology coming out, WAR AND SPACE. Here's the TOC:

“Who’s Afraid of Wolf 359?” by Ken MacLeod
“Surf” by Suzanne Palmer
“Another Life” by Charles Oberndorf
“Between Two Dragons” by Yoon Ha Lee
“Scales” by Alastair Reynolds
“Golubash, or Wine-Blood-War-Elegy” by Catherynne M. Valente
“Leave” by Robert Reed
“Mehra and Jiun” by Sandra McDonald
“Her Husband’s Hands” by Adam-Troy Castro
"Remembrance" by Beth Bernobich
“Palace Resolution” by Tom Purdom
“The Observer” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
“The Long Chase” by Geoffrey Landis
“Art of War” by Nancy Kress
“Have You Any Wool” by Alan DeNiro
“Carthago Delenda Est” by Genevieve Valentine
“Rats of the System” by Paul McAuley
“The Political Officer” by Charles Coleman Finlay
“Amid the Words of War” by Cat Rambo
“A Soldier of the City” by David Moles

The cover and some additional stuff can be seen here.


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We saw The Help via Netflix last night. Very enjoyable film. Certainly makes the blood boil ... the grotesque treatment of black maids portrayed therein. It's an Oscar nominee, and in a sense it's the film I most enjoyed of the (only) three nominees I've seen, but I'm not convinced it's a worthy winner. Mostly that's because I felt manipulated a lot. It's a worthy subject, but an easy one too. There's not a lot of subtlety to the film. Briefly described, it's about a young woman from Jackson, Mississippi, who comes back home after graduating from Ole Miss in the early '60s to take a job writing a Household Hints columns, and ends up deciding to write an account of the experiences of the black maids who run the households of the white people in Jackson, and raise their kids, while putting up with humiliating treatment such as being forced to use outside bathrooms (by law, even!) and being fired by stratagems like trumped-up thievery charges. She has to navigate the justifiable suspicion and fear among the black community, as well as hostility from her white "friends". All this takes place against the backdrop of Medger Evers' murder and other key events of the '60s civil rights movement.

The actresses playing the main two maids, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, both got well-deserved Oscar nominations (Davis for Lead Actress, Spencer for Supporting). I thought Spencer particularly good, in a role that admittedly allowed her a bit more scope for flashy acting than Davis' more serious role. The roles for the white women were not as good, mostly calling for varieties of hammishness (hammy villainy for Bryce Dallas Howard's character, hammy dementia for Sissy Spacek's character, etc.). The lead character, journalist Skeeter Phalen (played by Emma Stone) turns out to be named "Eugenia" but I thought for a while her name must be Mary Sue.  (As for the male characters, what few there are, well, it's a movie that would fail a reverse Bechdel test if there was one such.)

I'm being a bit snarky but that's not quite fair. The movie is really enjoyable, and it does take the right side, fairly movingly, on an important issue, without distorting things as far as I could tell. It's a good movie, not a great one.

One more thing about the movie -- the twin girls (Eleanor and Emma Henry) who play Mae Mobley, the last white child Viola Davis's character raises, are the cousins of a man I know very well, Jerry Henry, a member of my church (and Sunday School class). (Jerry grew up in Bruce, Mississippi.)

I said I'd say something about music as well. Just to mention what I'm listening to ... as I may have mentioned before, I'm a huge fan of the bluegrassy jam band Railroad Earth. I finally got the sense to try out the predecessor band to Railroad Earth, From Good Homes, a New Jersey band that broke up in 1999. Their "farewell" album, recorded at their farewell concert, called Take Enough Home, is just plain wonderful.

And, prompted by the Grammies (see, they are worth something!), I investigated two of the prominent artists. Adele is one -- I bought a copy of her album 21. She has a spectacular voice, and I enjoy the album, but it does seem a bit samey samey after a while, and while I like it I don't love it. I also tried Mumford and Sons, and their album Sigh No More. They are closer to my wheelhouse than Adele -- they play old-timey music (not unlike Railroad Earth in a way), though with a distinctly British tone. Some very good stuff -- particularly "The Cave", "Little Lion Man", "Winter Wind", and "Awake My Soul". A certain tendency to get over pompous at times, but quite nice -- I'm glad I tried them.

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Summary: Tor.com, 2011

Tor.com continued much as they have established. In the fiction area, in 2011, as I noted last year, there were some stories posted that seemed explicitly to promote Tor's books -- which is fine by me, mind you, particularly as they still post plenty of unrelated stories. In 2011 they published 31 stories, 2 novellas, 11 novelettes and 18 short stories (two short-shorts), for nearly 225,000 words of fiction.

My favorite Tor.com story from 2011 will be reprinted in my Best of the Year book, Catherynne M. Valente's "The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland, for a Little While", about Queen Mallow, who we heard of but didn't meet in her novel The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, and like that novel linguistically clever and lots of fun. I also greatly liked Michael Swanwick's "The Dala Horse", one of lots of stories these days dressing a purely SFnal tale in fantasy clothes, and on those terms first-rate post-singularity speculation. Another strong story was Charlie Jane Anders's "Six Months, Three Days", about the love affair between two people who can both see the future, in slightly different ways, a fact which doesn't necessarily help their relationship. I also liked Matthew Sanborn Smith's "Beauty Belongs to the Flowers", Ken MacLeod's "Earth Hour", Ken Scholes's "If Dragon's Mass Eve Be Cold and Clear", John Scalzi's spoof "The Shadow War of the Night Dragons, Book One: The Dead City (Prologue)", Damien Broderick's "Time Considered as a Series of Thermite Bombs in No Particular Order", Yoon Ha Lee's "A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel", and James Alan Gardner's "A Clean Sweep with All the Trimmings".

Looking at the stories by Valente, Scalzi, Broderick, Scholes, Lee, and Gardner, it would certainly seem that long titles were very much in fashion at Tor this year!

Ten of the stories were by women (32%), and by my rough estimate 10 were Fantasy as well.

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Summary: On Spec, 2011

On Spec is a quarterly magazine based in Canada that has now been running for a very impressive 86 issues (over 23 years -- I suppose a couple of years had less than four issues.) This year they published 32 pieces of fiction: 2 novelettes and 30 short stories (three of them short-shorts), for about 140,000 words total. There were also a few poems, and some interviews and other non-fiction. (All these numbers are consistent with the magazine's history -- its format has remained very steady over time.) The managing editor is Diane L. Walton, and the fiction editors are Walton, Robin S. Carson, Barb Galler-Smith, Ann Marston, Cat McDonald, and Susan MacGregor.

(I'll note that the Winter 2010 issue is included in these counts, as I have done for years. I didn't see it until well into 2011, and I'm not sure if that's because the post between the US and Canada is very slow (which it is, I must note, quite unexpectedly so); or if they purposely give the issue a 2010 date because that's when winter started, even if the issue might not appear until 2011.)

Stories I quite liked this year included two from Kate Riedel: "The Guardians" (Spring), about a girl and her mysterious friend, and how their lives entangle; and "The Man Who Loved His Work" (Winter 2010), about a lonely park ranger, and his literalized love for his work, with a mystery about a long dead woman behind it all. I also enjoyed two from Summer: Geoffrey W. Cole's "On the Many Uses of Cedar", a harrowing but ultimately hopeful story of a woman reliving the same day over and over, trying to undo the damage caused by her husband hitting her; and Priya Sharma's "The Fox Maiden", about a girl of mysterious ancestry trying to avoid marriage to a crude hunter. Other fine work came from Steve Vernon, Allan Weiss, H. S. Donnelly, Scott H. Andrews, and Sharma again.

I counted 8 SF stories out of 32 (25%), less than in the past couple of years though perhaps in line with the 'zine history. Also, 10 of 32 stories were by women: 32%, perhaps a bit low for On Spec.

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Summary: Apex, 2011

Apex publishes a mix of SF and Fantasy, plus some poetry and non-fiction. Historically they had a distinct tropism towards horror, and while I think that's diminished they do still feature some horror. They usually publish two original stories per month plus a reprint. This year in 12 issues I saw 24 new stories, all short (though several were right at the cusp of novelette length), about 108,000 words total. Apex changed editors again this year, from Catherynne M. Valente to Lynne M. Thomas.

My favorite stories at Apex this year included Kathryn Weaver’s "The Doves of Hartleigh Garden" (June), a bittersweet story about a girl who grows up in the decaying title mansion with her older half-brother, who loves the birds that infest their old house, but who is fated to go to war; Indrapramit Das's offers "The Widow and the Xir" (July), a moving story of a woman of a nomadic village who cannot stop mourning her husband, who upon death has been transformed to a xir, a predatory creature, and Valente's own "The Bread We Eat in Dreams" (from November, after Thomas took over), about a demon exiled to a village in Maine, and its influences on this split town (Catholic/Protestant) and particularly its young women. I also enjoyed stories by Seanan McGuire, Forrest Aguirre, Jeremy Butler, Shira Lipkin, and Christopher Barzak.

I called sevem of the stories (29%) SF, significantly fewer than in the past, and 14 of the stories were by woman (58%).

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Summary: Abyss & Apex, 2011

Abyss & Apex is a long running e-zine, publishing a consistent mix of fantasy and SF and poetry (and some non-fiction) for nearly 10 years now. This year they underwent a change in format, but really no change in content. Wendy S. Delmater is the Editor-in-Chief.

They published a total of 26 stories this year. one a reprint, so 25 new stories. The total word count was about 140,000, quite a bit more than last year. Four novelettes, the rest short stories, five of them (including the reprint) being "short-shorts".

My favorite stories this year included, from the first quarter, J. Kathleen Cheney’s "Of Ambergris, Blood, and Brandy", which combines fantasy, mystery, and romance quite well in telling of a spy for a mermaid-like people who falls for a surface man as both investigate the disappearance of a number of people from the Golden City; and "Twice Given", by Lindsey Duncan, about a woman trapped in a strange role in a tripartite marriage: her sister is a priestess, and so she must act as sort of surrogate wife to her sister’s husband. From the second quarter, I really liked an SF story, "Fermi’s Plague", by C. W. Johnson, about an American scientist working for a Colombian dictator, in hopes that his toleration of illegal nanotech might lead to a cure for her daughter. From the fourth quarter, "Keeping Tabs" by Kenneth Schneyer,  near future SF about tech allowing people to experience celebrity's lives from the inside; and "Silvergrass Mirror", by Amanda M. Hayes, about an herb that allows you to see your beloved from a distance.

Other nice work came from Helen E. Davis, Cat Rambo, David Tallerman, and J. M. Sidorova. I should also mention that the reprint story, C. J. Cherry's "The Last Tower", is first rate, and quite welcome as it's a not all that familiar story from a major writer.

And the gender count ... 9 of the 25 new stories (36%) were by women, perhaps a bit fewer than usual for this site.

SF/Fantasy split -- perhaps 14 of the 25 stories qualify as SF -- so 56%, about usual for the site, maybe a bit higher than usual.

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Summary: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 2011

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 the third anniversary issue this year had two extra stories. There were 26 issues in 2011, with an impressive total of 51 stories, 2 novellas, 11 novelettes and 38 shorts (one short-short), for some 335,000 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 can repeat this year what I said last  year: "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." They seem to have a particular fondness for rather outre fantastical ideas.

Favorites included Peadar O Guilin's "Heartless" (December 15), about a city maintained by magic, but magic that is killing it (as each family needs to sacrifice one of their own to make them a witch). Richard Parks contributed two more fine Lord Yamada stories, "The Tiger's Turn" (October 6) and "The Ghost of Shinoda Forest" (February 24), the latter (earlier in time) perhaps the better, in that it deals directly with Lord Yamada's wrenching personal love story. Rosamund Hodge's "And Her Eyes Sewn Shut with Unicorn Hair" (July 14) is a striking story of a kingdom protected by unicorns and the threat provided by a sneaky usurper -- that makes it sound traditional in shape, and in many ways it is, but Hodge's details make it striking and different as well. Margaret Ronald had three stories from her fine continuing series set in a fantastical/steampunk world -- these three all examine quite different facets of the world, very nicely: "Recapitulation in Steam" (January 27), "Letters of Fire" (May 19), and "Salvage" (September 8). Megan Arkenberg's "The Gardens of Landler Abbey" is a nice morality play about war crimes, in essence. I also liked work by Stephen Case, Kat Howard, Marko Kloos, Heather Fawcett, Geoffrey Maloney, Jesse Bullington, Marie Brennan, and Camille Alexa.

This year I thought one story was SF (2%), and 28 were by women, or 55%.

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