After being really busy and falling behind for a while, I’ve finally caught up with all the stories on Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
Can I just say how delightful it is to find a magazine that is reliably For Me? I’ve always been sporadic about subscribing to print mags, because I’ve yet to find one that hits my personal buttons consistently enough. I pick up free issues of F&SF at conventions, and a couple of years back there was one where every single story was at least decent, and some of them were fabulous . . . but that isn’t my usual success rate with F&SF. Generally I find maybe one story I like in each issue, which isn’t enough for me to keep up a subscription. (It is probably not coincidental that I’ve sent practically every short story I’ve ever written to them, and not sold a single one.)
Note that this isn’t me saying what they publish is bad. It just mostly isn’t to my taste.
But Beneath Ceaseless Skies, in thirteen issues (with two stories per issue, a couple of them serialized across two issues), has so far had almost a 100% success rate on that front. By which I mean that pretty much every story is at least the kind of thing I want to read, and many of them are both the right kind and good enough to entertain me.
What kind of thing are they publishing? A broad definition of “secondary world fantasy,” in that pretty much the only fantasy they don’t take is stuff set in the modern world. Invented settings are good; historical settings are good; alternate histories are good. But more than that, the editor has demonstrated a clear preference for secondary settings that are different, in exactly the way I appreciate. I think I decided I was really enjoying the magazine in issue #8, with Aliette de Bodard’s Mesoamerican fantasy “Beneath the Mask” and Megan Arkenberg’s creepy Enlightenment-era French fairy-tale piece “Winterblood”. They’ve also had fantasy westerns, Russian-tinged puppet magic, classical-myth arena fighting, and an alternate faerie English Civil War — yeah, that one got my attention. And something in an African-inspired setting! The magazine is already getting well away from the quasi-CelticNorseFeudal trifecta that’s fantasy’s standard; I’d love to see it explore more non-European settings, too. (Based on the evidence, I suspect they’re open to it, which probably means they haven’t gotten enough good submissions of that type. If you have such a story, send it to them!)
Of course, I’m going to be biased in favor of any magazine that keeps picking up my own work <g> — but not just in an ego-stroked way; if they’re buying what I write, they’re (obviously) buying the kinds of stories I’m interested in. Our priorities coincide. They also podcast some of their fiction, so if you’ve got a car commute that doesn’t allow you to read en route, you can give them a listen instead. If you, like me, enjoy rich and interesting settings for your fantasy, they’re definitely worth a try.