We continue our series of mid-month guest blogs from the SF&F marketplace with a look into the newest SFWA-qualifying short fiction market, Beneath Ceaseless Skies. If you’re just now tuning in, and missed our visits from agents Matt Bialer and Russell Galen, you may wish to go back and check them out. Next month: Joshua Bilmes, agent to Charlaine Harris, Tanya Huff, Peter V. Brett, and many more.
I’m Scott H. Andrews, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. BCS is a SFWA-pro qualifying online magazine, with issues available free online and as ebook files or on Kindle, and audio fiction podcasts online and on iTunes. Mishell Baker asked me to guest-blog here for the Clarion Foundation, so I’ll explain why I started a magazine specializing in our particular niche: “literary adventure fantasy.”
I discovered F/SF as a kid, reading books like Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky, Lord of the Rings, and Dune. They gave me a feeling of such breathtaking awe–at seeing a strange other world, at meeting fascinating characters, and at going with them as they struck out into some great unknown. Whether that unknown was a place, like the planet in Tunnel in the Sky, or a situation, like the galactic politics in Dune, I was always on the edge of my seat wondering what amazing things were coming on the next page.
Later I was exposed to literature, Shakespeare and Faulkner and Joyce–authors whose works endure because they make such a powerful comment on our human condition. But most readers who read for pleasure would admit that literature is a bit more dense than we like to read for entertainment.
As I got into current F/SF short fiction, I started to notice the few stories that for me combined the awe I felt in elements from traditional fantasy, like secondary-world settings, with the comment on humanity I felt in literature. To me it was the best of both–a breathtaking trip into some unknown blended with a literary focus on the characters and their human condition. I came to love reading and writing such stories, but they were rare and scattered over different magazines. There was no place consistently publishing this “literary adventure fantasy.”
That’s why I started Beneath Ceaseless Skies–to have a magazine where readers could always find that type of story. We’ve published respected short fiction authors like Holly Phillips, Marie Brennan, Saladin Ahmed, and Richard Parks. We’ve run stories with dragons, thieves, alchemists, and werewolves; all centered on character and what it means to be who they are.
Finding this kind of story can be difficult. Currently in fantasy short fiction, there’s a lot of gorgeous literary fantasy, but some of it doesn’t quite feel tangible or “real” enough to put me inside the character’s boots, to make me feel their human (or alien) condition. There’s also a thriving writership and audience for swords & sorcery, but sometimes for me relentless action can dominate a story and marginalize the character. And all of this is entirely subjective for each reader.
It’s a constant challenge to strike a balance between the otherworldly and the real, the drive of plot and a focus on character; and the exact balance is unique for every story. But it’s always a great joy when I find a story that achieves this, especially if it’s in a way I’ve never thought of before.
Some of my favorite short fiction authors at doing this are Chris Willrich and Yoon Ha Lee, but of course every reader has their own favorites. I’m just pleased that BCS has brought this type of story to a larger readership, and that my vision for the magazine is entertaining so many readers.
Scott H. Andrews
Editor-in-Chief & Publisher, Beneath Ceaseless Skies