Category Archives: Anne Ivy

More Science Fantasy at Beneath Ceaseless Skies

I’ve been swamped lately between dayjobbery and trying to finish a novel for review at Futures Past and Present, which is why I’ve not posted anything for almost a week.  The current issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies went out to subscribers nearly two weeks ago and live on the web a few days after that; I finished reading the stories last weekend.  It’s late Friday night and I’m just now getting time to sit down and write it.

Not that you want to hear about my chronological issues.  You want to know if the current issue is worth reading.  The answer is, of course.  The real question is, what are the stories about and how do they compare with the previous issue, which kicked off the science fantasy month?
While I enjoyed this issue’s stories, I didn’t think they were quite as good as “Scry” by Anne Ivy, which I consider to be outstanding, they were better than what you find in many publications these days. 

The first story is “The Book of Locked Doors” by Yoon Ha Lee.  It’s set in an occupied country that could be in Southeast Asia in the future or on another planet.  The author didn’t say, and I’m not familiar enough with the mythology and religion from that part of the world to know based on what was included in the story. 

The story concerns a woman who is a resistance fighter.  She carries a book along with her written by her dead sister.  Only this book talks to her.  Sometimes she takes its advice, and sometimes she doesn’t.  During a mission, one of the priests, who have been outlawed and killed by the conquerors manifests.  The death and destruction are appalling, affecting both conquerors and conquered. 

It took me a while to get into this one, but before it was over, I was hooked.  As the crisis of conscience the protagonist experiences grows, I was compelled to follow along on her search for answers.  I’ve not read much of Ms. Lee’s work up to this point, but I will gladly read more of it.

The second selection of the issue is “Juggernaut” by Megan Arkenberg.  This one had more of a space opera feel to it.  Normally that would be a big draw for me, but I had trouble buying into some of the setup.  The story is told from the point of view of a young man who, through fear of being arrested and tortured to death by the conquering evil space empire, allows himself to be used as a pawn in a political maneuver by the woman who controls the mines in one of the last free areas of this particular solar system.

I had trouble believing some of the decisions the nonviewpoint characters made.  The villains struck me as being a little too over the top evil for the sake of being evil.  Maybe I didn’t pick up on the political details well, but I struggled with suspending my disbelief for this one.

Still, the story was well written, the pacing was good, and to the extent I could buy into the characters’ actions, the character development had some depth to it.  While not my favorite, I would certainly give Arkenberg’s work another try.  I’ve discovered that my level of fatigue makes a huge difference in how well I enjoy fiction.  My fatigue levels have been growing for the past couple of weeks, in part due to allergies and in part due to an overload of commitments.  I’ve been so busy in the evenings that I’ve not been able to do much reading without staying up later than I normally would, and this has made a difference in more than one area.  My point is that you might have a more positive impression than I did.

So, while I didn’t like this issue of BCS as much as I liked the previous one, I still think it was worth the time invested.  “Scry” was an outstanding story, and I know on some level I’m comparing these two stories against it in a semi-subconscious evaluation of the Science Fantasy emphasis this month.  The author interviews were interesting and informative.  And BCS provides some of the most varied and interesting fantasy around. Furthermore, I think the Science Fantasy Month was a great idea and should be done again.

While it’s free on the web, I’ve found I prefer to pay a small amount for the convenience of reading the magazine on my ereader.  All proceeds of subscriptions go to pay authors and artists for their work, which was a major reason why I decided to subscribe.  Subscription information is here

Science Fantasy Emphasis at Beneath Ceaseless Skies

If you check out the current issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies and happen to be paying attention, you might notice references being made to Science-Fantasy Month.  This in my opinion is a good thing since science-fantasy is one of the subgenres we don’t see much of these days.  And since BCS is published every two weeks, and this is the first issue of March, there should be another issue with this emphasis next week.  So how does this issue hold up?

The first story is “The Mote-Dancer and the Firelife” by Chris Willrich.  It’s the story of I-Chen, a widow who has journeyed to the homeworld of the aliens who killed her husband on what appears to be a mission of revenge.  Of course it’s much more than that.  Willrich comes up with an interesting alien culture, and while we don’t get a great deal of detail about how that culture works (this is short fiction, after all), what he does show us is original and intriguing.  For instance, in order to determine who picks up the check in a restaurant, patrons solve a puzzle of dried noodles, and the one who makes it collapse buys. 

I’m not sure I would have labeled this one as science-fantasy if the story didn’t involve an application of Clarke’s Law.  There are remnants of alien technology, and one of these is dust that creates a telepathy like state.  It’s common affect in the Spinies, the aliens in the story, but rare in humans.  I-Chen is one of the rare cases of the dust having this effect in humans.  It’s the reason why she can still see and talk to her dead husband.  And that’s the driving element in the story.

Willrich is a writer whose name I’ve seen, but I don’t recall having read anything by him.  I may have, but nothing comes to mind at this point.  I’ll be keeping an eye out for his work in the future.  Hopefully we’ll see more of this universe.  The Glyph Lords, the aliens who’ve left the relics and vanished are intriguing.  And the division among the Spinies between the Sanchos and the Quioxites is clever and original.  And totally believable the way it’s presented.  There’s also a podcast version of the story available.

The second story is “Scry” by a collaborative sister team writing as Anne Ivy.  This is the tale of Eyre Isri Esthe, a woman with the ability to see the future who is abandoned by her husband when he flees with the prince from an invading warlord.  He leaves her in the house thinking he has provided her with a way out.  Instead, he leaves her a vial of poison while takes off with the prince and his mistress. 

Esthe decides that just because she is going to die doesn’t mean her death can’t be on her own terms.  What follows is a dark and surprisingly moving story of a strong but damaged woman making the most of a difficult situation.  There are multiple layers to what one sees in the future, as well as what one doesn’t see.  This is one of the more powerful stories I’ve read in quite a while.  The authors are working on a novel featuring the warlord, Karnon Dae.  He’s not human, but what exactly he is, well, we’re given hints but never enough to make an exact conclusion about him.  I’m looking forward to the novel.

This story clearly falls into the science-fantasy camp, what with the scrying, even if it does seem to have a scientific basis of some sort..  It’s never stated upon what world the story takes place.  It could be a future earth, but I don’t think so.  Some of the hints about Karnon Dae make me think this is a far future tale.  Whichever, it’s still a top-notch piece of short fiction.

Also included in this issue are interviews with the authors of both of the stories.  The interview with Chris Willrich is only available in the subscription edition.  Speaking of which, although the stories are available for free, you can subscribe to Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  It’s available in both epub and Kindle formats.  The convenience of having it on your ereader more than makes up for the cost.  If you like what BCS publishes, then consider supporting them so they can continue to do what they do.  I consider Beneath Ceaseless Skies to be one of the top fantasy publications, print or electronic, currently in existence.  Subscription information is here