Sofia Samatar, “Walkdog”

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    Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and FantasyThis morning I’m very happy to write that we have something new on the site: a story, “Walkdog” by Sofia Samatar. You may know Sofia from her fabulous (yes, I am biased) debut novel A Stranger in Olondria or from her knock out short stories such as “Honey Bear” in Clarkesworld or “How to Get Back to the Forest” in Lightspeed.

    “Walkdog” comes from Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy, published by the excellent people at Twelfth Planet Press. The book features new stories from Garth Nix, William Alexander, Karen Healey, E. C. Myers, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Ken Liu, Vylar Kaftan, Sean Williams, Amal El-Mohtar, Jim C. Hines, Faith Mudge, John Chu, Alena McNamara, Tim Susman, Gabriela Lee, Dirk Flinthart, Holly Kench, Sean Eads, and Shveta Thakrar.

    I’ve been dipping into Kaleidoscope ever since Shveta gave my wife a copy at Readercon (thanks Shveta!) and it’s a very good, wide-ranging anthology.

    Not sure if it’s your thing? Read “Walkdog” (ouch! fabulous story) or go to Strange Horizons and read “The Truth About Owls” by Amal El-Mohtar (podcast).

    Twelfth Planet are smart and they’re building a great list. Read “Walkdog“, pick up in Kaleidoscope, and get onboard.


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    Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasyby Sofia Samatar

    (Originally published in Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy)

    This paper is in response to the assignment “Know Your Environment”. In this paper I will discuss an animal called Walkdog which is native to my local environment which is South Orange, New Jersey. First I will describe the animal (“Brief Description”), then I will write about it’s origin and habits (“Research”), then I will conclude with why I chose to write about this animal and why its important (“Conclusion”). Thesis statement: Even though not much has been written about it, Walkdog is an important part of North American wildlife.

    1. Brief Description

    What is Walkdog? Well Mrs. Patterson you probably know better than me. However, I am writing this paper and not you, because I need the grade as you know very well, so here is what I know.

    Walkdog contrary to it’s name is not a dog. It is more like a beaver or large rat. It lives mostly in sewers but also creeks and rivers. It is nocturnel and believed to eat fish and also, excuse me, excrament1. Walkdog when walking is said to be about 5 feet long, including the tail, but when it stands up it looks taller than a man. Its fur is black and oily. Its a great swimmer and can stay underwater for 3 days without coming up for air.

    Other names for Walkdog: Grimdog, Grimwolf, The Dog that Walks Men, The Dog that Walks Hisself, Jumpy Leg, Conjure Dog, Canewolf.

    Some people also call it Growldog, but this is stupid because Walkdog doesn’t growl. It has no voicebox.2

    2. Research

    One thing you will notice when you start researching Walkdog is that not much has been written about it at all. It gets mentioned in a sentence here and there but you won’t find a book about it or even a Wikipedia page which is weird, don’t you think? Its like its hiding from everything with some kind of magic. Probably the person who knows most about Walkdog is your nephew, Andrew Bookman, the most hopeless dork in this school you’ll excuse me for saying, because you know its a fact and facts as you say are the Building Blocks of Research.3

    From Andy I learned that the origins of Walkdog are, as he put it, “obscure”. There are three main theories on the origins of Walkdog:

    1. indigenous animal related to otter
    2. came over from Europe or Asia with immigrants
    3. came over from Africa on slave ship4

    In other words, the origins of Walkdog are the origins of just about everybody. This is why I describe it as a native animal. I mean I consider myself a New Jersey native, what else would I be, even though I’m African and German and Spanish and God knows what else.5

    Now for the habits of Walkdog. These habits are not what you would call nice. Walkdog steals kids (another name for it is The Child Thief). It does not steal them to eat, as stated above, it eats fish and excrament mainly, but it steals them at night and then it takes them for walks.

    It takes them for walks. It just takes them around with it. I want you to think about what that’s like. Imagine your a normal kid asleep in your normal bed. Don’t imagine yourself as Andy Bookman, because that kid is not normal at all, but imagine you’re somebody regular like me. Me, Yolanda Price. I would say I’m pretty normal. I’m not popular, in fact I generally have to keep my head down, just smile at the right times and keep my mouth shut, because I am almost on the edge of nerd, I only manage to do all right because I can sing. If you have a cool talent like that and are not stupid you’ll be okay. I’m not saying that singing could of saved Andrew Bookman. Your nephew I am sorry to say was a grade-A world class nerd and singing probably would of just made things worse for him. Do you know he told everybody that after graduation he was going to go eat strawberries in Denmark? Who says that? Strawberries and new potatoes and the grave of Hans Christian Andersen. People called him The Little Mermaid for weeks. Bubble-Butt, your too ugly to get into another country. Did you notice? Were you afraid that defending him would make things worse? If so you were probably right. It was best to just ignore it. There are places that once you step in, you can’t get out.

    So, you’re me, Yolanda, lying in bed. There’s a tap at the window. Tap tap tap. Annoying. You think its a tree branch on the glass. You get up and open the window, even if its winter you would open it to break off the branch and get rid of that awful tapping. So you open the window, lets say its winter like now, February, the worst time of year, with no holidays in sight except Valentines Day a.k.a. National Torture Day, and not being able to sleep is just the last straw, so you open the window and theres a small black shape looking at you from the yard. You stand there, because what is it? Too big for a cat or even a racoon. And then it rears up. It hauls itself up and its tall, its snuffling at the window, and its eyes are small red lights and it says in this voice that comes from no voicebox, this voice in your head, it says Come on girl lets get walking.

    Where are we going?

    Down to the creek.

    I don’t want to.

    It laughs: Eee, eee, eee.6

    I don’t want to. But your already putting your knee on the sill. Walkdog reaches its paws up and catches you as you fall out. It smells like drains. It puts you down on the ground and crouches on all fours. Bam, just like that, its small again. It sets off walking over the snow, and you follow. Your sliding down the slope at the end of the yard. Now you’re on Varsity Ave. It’s all dark out. I don’t know if you’re crying. Would you cry? Some of the stars are gold, the same color as the streetlights.

    Now you are going to walk for a long time.

    You might walk as far as the Wolf-Boy, Carlton O’Neill. Just trying to get back home again. I know for a fact you could walk to Indiana easy, like in the song “Indiana Morning” by Blueswoman Maisie Oates.7

    Walking and walking. You’d see a lot. Maybe you’d like it since you are such a fan of Research. You could do all the Research you wanted, walking up and down the country. I think you’d be cold though. You’d sleep in ditches and drains. Curled up against Walkdog for warmth. Walkdog’s voice in you murmuring, Time to get up.

    3. Conclusion

    In this conclusion I will write about why I chose Walkdog for this assignment and why its important.

    I chose Walkdog because I heard about it from Andy. What happened is two boys who you definitely know so I won’t repeat their names slammed into Andy in the hall and sent his papers flying. This happened on a daily basis. Every day. You have to ask yourself why Andy was always carrying stuff in his arms when he also wore a backpack. Why not keep everything in the backpack and then when people banged into him he would fall but his stuff would not be all over the hallway. Theres a sign above your desk that says “Nobody is Unteachable”, but Mrs. Patterson I beg to disagree. In this matter Andy was 100% Unteachable. So there his papers went as usual and these two boys enjoyed kicking them and leaving footprints on them. One of the papers slid over to me and almost touched my foot. I didn’t pick it up, because unlike Andy I am Teachable, but I glanced down at it. There was a drawing of something black and blobby with red eyes and underneath it it said Walkdog.

    You could say that that was when I got the idea for this assignment even though you had not given it to us yet. I got curious about Walkdog. It seemed like such a weird thing to draw, even for Andy. I asked my parents about it at dinner and they’d never heard of it. Sounds like an urban legend, my mom said later, when I told her about my Research. Mm-hm, said Dad. Mom did remember when Carlton O’Neill got found in the reservation. That poor man, she said, God bless him. She said that’s probably where Walkdog got started, and poor wandering Carlton is the only Walkdog there ever was. I asked how she would explain the song “Indiana Morning” which was recorded back in 1955. Oh that’s just a metaphor she said, and I said, a metaphor for what? She looked uncertain. Alcoholism?8

    When you gave us this assignment I went to the Union Market and found Andy at his parent’s booth and asked him about his picture that said Walkdog, and whether it was something that would be good for a paper on “Know Your Environment”, and he said it would be awesome. Andy was always saying things were awesome, and he meant it. He beamed at me from under the leaves of a plant being sold in the stall next to his. He didn’t even think that I might of come out there to mess with him or make fun of him even though that was the most likely scenario. Mrs. Patterson, Andy was special. I know you know that. I know you saw him getting picked on every day. When he raised his hand in class all it took was for somebody to shout Bookman! and the whole class would burst out in these awful little giggles. They didn’t even have to use his nasty nickname. Imagine how it would feel if just your name made other people laugh. You never batted an eye, you just said Yes, Andy? like it was all normal and like I said before it was probably the right thing to do. And then Andy would say whatever he was going to say, always something smart, while people made fart noises and snickered or whatever. You know Mrs. Patterson, this school is actually hell. I don’t know why everyone acted shocked when Andy got beat up the way he did. Special assembly and Principal Reed on the stage with his voice all wobbly. He said we must realize we are becoming men and women. He’s right about that. But that doesn’t mean we’re changing. It just means we’re bigger now, big enough to put somebody in the hospital.9

    It’s true. People act like highschool students are kids and need to be taken care of all the time but we are actually adults. If this was the Middle Ages we’d all be married or in wars and you, Mrs. Patterson, you’d be considered a very old lady. And the truth is, you are a very old lady. The day after Andy got beat you looked so frail. You had that old lady’s look of being lost in the world. The truth is, Mrs. Patterson, that a lot of us kids are married and a lot of us are in wars. Andy was both.10

    Now when I think about why I chose Walkdog, I think I really chose Andy. I think I chose him even before I knew it. That black, bulky shape on the paper was just an excuse. I wish I could end my paper there and say that getting to know Andy was getting to know my environment. You might give me an A for a paper like that, or you might give me an F, but I wouldn’t care because I would be going over to Andy’s after school, or I would have invited him over to my house, and on National Torture Day we would have watched dumb horror movies in my basement and laughed. My head on his shoulder oh God Mrs. Patterson where do you think he is? Is he still alive? Is he with Walkdog? Is that it? Is he walking around? Is he going to appear in thirtysome years in the forest like Carlton O’Neill and are people going to start calling him another Wolf-Boy? I went to look for Carlton, you know, after Andy disappeared, but I couldn’t find him, he’s not at his mother’s house anymore. I found his mother and she blew a ton of cigarette smoke in my face and said He gone for a walk and shut the door on me. Is that where Andy is? Just gone for a walk? If I’d known I never would have gone back to his house for the conjure mat like he asked me. Yes, I went back for it. He told me where to find the spare key and I went into his house and got the mat from his room. His stupid action figures staring at me in their creepy way. The mat was on top of the filing cabinet. It felt prickly and weird in my hand. I put it in a plastic bag that used to have my lunch in it and stuck it in my purse and went back to the hospital. Maybe I should of known something was wrong, but I just wanted to make Andy happy for once, and I could tell the flowers I’d brought him weren’t doing anything. He just sat in the bed and stared at nothing. White bandages over his nose, white light everywhere. He looked really drained there, drained and small. I didn’t know how to touch him, he looked so hurt. I was crying but he didn’t seem to notice. He just said in this muffled voice: Get me the conjure mat. Okay, I said, still crying. Andy’s parents were outside. Are you a friend? his mom asked, and I said, I’m his girlfriend.

    Some girlfriend, right?

    I never went anywhere with him. Never went in his front door. Never, ever walked home with him from school.

    I should have walked home with him. I should have. I should have walked him home.

    So now you know why I couldn’t finish my solo at the service they held in his honor. Praying for news of the missing Andrew Bookman. The choir kept going and I just stopped. I saw you out there in a pew, looking at me, so sad. I couldn’t keep going. My voice was just gone, cut off, there was nothing but air, like I was all full of dust, like I didn’t have a voicebox.

    Mrs. Patterson this is my thesis statement: Even though not much has been written about it, Walkdog is an important part of North American wildlife. I hope you can see why Walkdog is important. I hope you can help me. The fact is I think your nephew conjured up Walkdog using the conjure mat. I think he felt so alone, so abandoned by everybody, including you and me, that he did something drastic, he summoned up Walkdog and Walkdog came. I want you to tell me if I’m right. Did you know that conjuring grandmother? What was she like? Did she leave you anything? Did she tell you the counterspell?

    I want you to tell me that yes, you know a spell, or you have your own conjure mat. I want you to tell me how to find Andy. I need him. Mrs. Patterson this hound dog is walking me and he’s walking me hard. Everywhere I go I hear his footstep and his splash.

    If you can’t give me a spell then I want you to tell me that Walkdog is not a devil or anything scary but that its a helper and a friend. I want you to tell me that Andy’s not scared right now and not alone. He’s just walking. He’s doing Research, which is another kind of Nerd Heaven. Maybe he’s walked to Indiana by now. Maybe he’ll get to Denmark. Maybe he’ll swim with Walkdog who can stay underwater for three days. I see this boy in the waves, he’s holding onto Walkdog’s small black ears and heading out to where its strawberry season. I always see him in his hospital gown, the way he was the last time, the way I imagine he got up one night, his conjure mat in his hand, and walked through the hospital in the ghostly light and opened the doors and there was Walkdog waiting, black and low to the ground. Come on lets get walking. I want you to tell me that Andy’s not going to come back all skinny and beat-up like Carlton O’Neill. I want you to tell me that he’s not cold. Somebody’s always with him. He’s got protection. No one will ever hurt him again.11


    1.  The reason Walkdog is supposed to eat excrament is simply common sense, because what kind of fish is it eating in the sewer? Also we can assume that Walkdog has a seriously powerful gut and high-level immune system because eating random fish out of Jersey creeks will kill you. If Walkdog can eat bugged-out radioactive fish it would probably consider excrament a healthy snack.
    2.  Marjorie Wilson, “Sounds of the Jersey Night”, in Voices of Nature, ed. Steven Wilkins, Rutgers University Press, 1980, p. 115. “Then there is the Walkdog, a creature without a voicebox, known only by its footstep and its splash.”
    3. Facts about Andrew: fat (nickname: “Bubble-Butt”), glasses, always reading (and his last name is Bookman!), started calling himself “Andy” when he started highschool, which anybody should of known that was a stupid thing to do, he should of just stuck with Andrew, even Drew would be cooler, but no, he had to be Andy. Also, his aunt is a teacher (you) which does not help anybody I am sorry to tell you. The cloud of nerd gas surrounding Andy is so strong it could make your eyes water. People only go near him to mess with him. As a teacher you probably know this unless you are unbelieveably clueless.
    4. Source: private conversation with Andrew Bookman. Andy’s personal favorite of these theories was #3. Mostly because of the name “Canewolf” which must mean sugarcane which is something we don’t have a lot of here in Jersey. Andy’s grandmother, who I guess was possibly a relative of yours, died and left him what he says is a mat made of Walkdog hair. His grandma called it her “conjure mat”. This mat supposedly came from the Caribbean somewhere which Andy also says supports his theory. He kind of lost me at that point—he talks really fast when he gets going, and his face, which is already oily, starts getting oilier than ever, I mean really impossibly shiny, which is distracting—but it was something about slave routes and stopping points and getting from Angola or somewhere to Charleston. I don’t know. Poor Andy. He had on a white button-down shirt. Big sweat stains under the arms. It was like he didn’t want to be normal.
    5.  This note is not exactly related to the above, I just want to clarify the previous note in which I named my source as a private conversation with Andrew Bookman, but I also said earlier that people only go near him to mess with him. I want to be clear that I myself never messed with your nephew in any way, also I did not go near him at school because to be frank I did not want to get contaminated by his nerd gas. I went to Union Market on the weekend because as you must know that is where Andy goes every Saturday to run a coin swap booth with his parents.
      Andy’s parents are also terrible nerds, his dad in combat boots, his mom in a red wig, both of them obsessed with antique coins. Their super nice which just makes it worse. I guess you know that though. You certainly didn’t stop by their booth while I was there.
    6. This is the sound of the Walkdog laugh as you hear it in your head. Carlton O’Neill who was abducted by Walkdog when he was nine years old and let go again for some reason when he was thirty-six described the sound for the Star Ledger. “It sounded like a kid locked up and crying or a train whistle far away.” “’Wolf-Boy’ Found in Livingston Reservation”, The Star Ledger, August 14 2005, p. 1. Carlton O’Neill was skinny and a mess when he was found. He said he’d been to Canada and the farthest tip of Argentina. All on foot. They gave him a pen to write down who he was and when he remembered how to write his name he fainted.
      Andy who was a Walkdog fanatic had this newspaper article tacked to his bulletin board. He also had Carlton O’Neill’s signature on an index card. He had actually tracked the guy down and gotten his autograph. Carlton lived with his mother in East Orange at that point. I don’t know where he is now.
    7. Indiana morning, I’m as low as I can be.
      Indiana morning, I’m as low as I can be.
      Went to walk my hound dog, but now he’s walking me.

      This song is from the album Indiana Morning by Blueswoman Maisie Oates. I heard it at Andy’s house which is also where I read the article about Carlton O’Neill, and also I may as well say since its part of my Research that I saw and touched the “conjure mat” Andy inherited from his grandma. I am wondering if you know anything about this mat? Have you ever seen it? Its gray and hairy and about as big around as those things you put on the table under hot dishes. I said I thought it would be black and Andy said he doesn’t know why its gray, he thinks maybe since its cut off the Walkdog its lacking essential oils. That was in his room which is like Nerd Heaven, full of action figures and model planes. You can’t touch anything or Andy starts freaking out. Obviously I would not be caught dead going in the front door at Andy’s house. I went in the back. He opened a window.

    8. This is Mom’s explanation for most bad things. It is based on personal experience because my grandfather (her dad) drank himself to death. In my opinion this is the reason she married a security guard (my dad) who works at the same bank where Mom is a teller. Security is her thing. This is my parent’s week: Bank, Bank, Bank, Bank, Bank, Groceries, Church. After graduation I am going to Rutgers and my mom assumes I will major in Accounting. Accounting is a good secure choice. I want to major in Music. The only person I have told this to (besides you) is Andy Bookman. It was after we listened to “Indiana Morning”. He said I should do Music if I want, maybe I should even go to an arts school instead of Rutgers. I never thought of that, I said. I felt like such an idiot. But Andy didn’t laugh. He looked calm and thoughtful. Its hard to get started, he said. Its hard to get going by yourself. He was looking at my boots, which I’d left by the window. Snow melting off them on the floor.
    9. They cornered him down by the creek. Behind the fucking police station. I am sorry, I don’t care that I’m swearing in my paper. Why did he have to walk that way? Why couldn’t he have gone down South Orange Ave. like everyone else? Why didn’t I invite him to my house? Do you think Andy Bookman has gotten invited anywhere since seventh grade? They cornered him down by the creek. They yanked off his backpack and threw it in the water. They broke his nose. They broke three of his ribs. They stepped on his wrist and broke that too. They kicked him all over, those same two boys that I won’t repear their names. Nice boys that everybody knows. All they got was suspended because they’re sorry. Right behind the police station. Where were the police? Where was fucking Walkdog when Andy needed him? I went to the hospital after and Andy’s father was crying in the hall.
    10. His bed was so saggy. He’d probably slept there since he was six years old. It seemed too small. He had the best smile, a perfect dimple on either side. Long eyelashes that brushed my cheek. I don’t want to ruin anything, I said, and he said what? and I said I don’t want to mess up your trip to Denmark. I was already hoping he’d cancel and stay with me because even if I had my own money my parents would never let me to go Europe with a boy, not even a boy like Andy who was so sweet, its not secure, even though there is no place more secure than Andy’s arms. He laughed and kissed me. Your not ruining anything. I love you. Model plane wings turning, shadows on the wall. Snow outside and the windows all blue. He hugged me and I just sank. There are places that once you step in, you can’t get out.
    11. To complete my Research here is the rest of the song “Indiana Morning”.If you got a dollar, why don’t you give me half.
      If you got a dollar, come on and give me half.
      The stories I could tell you, they’d make a preacher laugh.

      When I had a good man, the sun shone every day.
      When I had that good man, the sun shone every day.
      Now I need this whiskey to take the pain away.

      Budworm in the cotton, beetle in the corn.
      Budworm in the cotton, beetle in the corn.
      Feel like I been walking since the day that I was born.

      Hear that hound dog. Day that I was born.

    Google’s Going To Do Whut?

    Just read this on BoingBoing about Google tightening the screws on indie musicians. Patreon, Indiegogo, or Kickstarter going well for you? Google/Youtube are going to squash that right away. This is one of the reasons we started this site — once companies such as Amazon (ebooks) or Youtube (music) get near monopoly status, they just apply the screws. Here’s to keeping alternatives alive!

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    December 2014 bestsellers


    Elysium cover - click to view full sizeAt some point I’ll have to do a 2014 bestseller list, but that takes more time than I have right now: January, the surprisingly busy month! Ginn Hale’s books would be real contenders to be the bestselling ebooks of the whole year as they are flying out of here. Uncanny Magazine continues to build its readership and it was great to see Jennifer Marie Brisset’s novel Elysium hit, love that cover! We are also very happy to note that we sold more ebooks and subscriptions in 2014 than in 2013, thank you! One of the reasons Weightless exists is so that publishers and readers will have more choices available to them and we very much appreciate you making Weightless one of yours! Check out the bestselling ebooks and subscriptions for December 2014 below. Please do come back to see what we’re up to and do tell your friends. Just because 99%* of the internet is owed by two companies doesn’t mean we can’t have fun running our own spot over here. Happy new year!

    December 2014 Bestsellers

    1. Ginn Hale, Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book Two
    2. Ginn Hale, Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book One
    3. Uncanny Magazine Issue 1 Jennifer Marie Brisset, Elysium: a novel
    4. Bastion Science Fiction Magazine – Issue 9
      Clarkesworld Magazine – Issue 99
    5. The Paul Di Filippo MEGAPACK

    December 2014 Bestselling Subscriptions

    1. Clarkesworld
    2. Apex Magazine
    3. New York Review of Science Fiction
    4. Galaxy’s Edge
    5. Uncanny Magazine

    Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book One Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book Two Preorder Uncanny Magazine Issue 1 Bastion Science Fiction Magazine – Issue 9, December 2014 The Paul Di Filippo MEGAPACK ™ Completely pasted in from last month’s bestseller post: some more mags that might catch your interest: Lackington’s Issue 4 (Fall 2014) On Spec Magazine – Summer 2014 #97 vol 26 no 5 Shimmer Magazine – Issue 22 Bastion Science Fiction Magazine – Issue 9, December 2014 Luna Station Quarterly – Issue 20 INTERZONE 255 NOV-DEC 2014 Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet No. 31 * Probably an exaggeration.

    Happy 2015!

    Happy new year! Thank you for buying books from this outpost of the DRM-free future. I’m writing this on December 31, 2014 and can guarantee that January’s issues of magazines will be a little delayed — some in part because they haven’t been sent to us by the publishers, but most because I will be up late dancing and might not be near a computer in the morning. Happy new year!


    OnSpec Holiday Sale!

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    We’re doing something a little different this week: instead of just one weekly one-day sale on Thursday (since Thursday’s Christmas and we’ll be busy devouring chocolate), how about six one-day sales every day but Thursday, starting today and ending on the 26th?

    Every day this week, come on by and get a different back issue of On Spec Magazine on sale for just 99 cents!

    November 2014 Bestsellers


    November shot by — surely there were less than thirty days? Can’t tell, it’s all a blur. 2014 seems to have never dropped down from top speed. I’m glad to say Weightless was moving at the same velocity, especially with a new Ginn Hale book landing: that is a readership! Uncanny Magazine launched and started gaining readers. You can read the first issue online here and subscribe here.

    I suppose the next bestseller list will be for 2014! (Although December is kind of nuts — I don’t know if we should include Gift Certificates on the list — so maybe I’ll include December, too. I’m imagining in early January I’ll have all kinds of free time to build lists about this that and the other: subscriptions, magazines, books, I don’t know what.) Books, books, books. What would I like more of? Time to read more books!

    November 2014 Bestsellers

    1. Ginn Hale, Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book One
    2. Ginn Hale, Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book Two Preorder
    3. Uncanny Magazine Issue 1
    4. Bastion Science Fiction Magazine – Issue 8, November 2014
    5. Clarkesworld Magazine – Issue 98
      Delia Sherman, Young Woman in a Garden: Stories

    November 2014 Bestselling Subscriptions

    1. Apex Magazine
    2. New York Review of Science Fiction
    3. Uncanny Magazine
    4. Galaxy’s Edge
    5. Clarkesworld

    Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book One Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book Two Preorder Bastion Science Fiction Magazine – Issue 8, November 2014 Uncanny Magazine Issue 1 Young Woman in a Garden: Stories


    Clarkesworld Magazine – Issue 98 Galaxy’s Edge Magazine – Issue 11: November 2014 Apex Magazine Issue 67 Uncanny Magazine Issue 1

    And some other mags that might catch your interest:

    Lackington’s Issue 4 (Fall 2014) On Spec Magazine – Summer 2014 #97 vol 26 no 5 Shimmer Magazine – Issue 22 Bastion Science Fiction Magazine – Issue 9, December 2014 Luna Station Quarterly – Issue 20 INTERZONE 255 NOV-DEC 2014 Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet No. 31

    Go West! (You’ll be glad you did)


    Since Blind Eye Books are so popular on Weightless, we asked Nicole Kimberling, Blind Eye Books’s publisher, to give us an update on her fall convention schedule:

    Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book OneThis year Blind Eye Books’ fall convention schedule took us to three of the west coast’s most interesting alternative conventions: Yaoi-Con, GeekGirlCon, and Bent-Con. In addition to being interesting from the LGBT speculative fiction angle, each of these three events has it’s own particular focus.

    Yaoi-Con is a Bay Area (NorCal) anime and manga event that has drawn around 1000 people annually for more than a decade. It focuses on Boy’s Love manga, anime and games. Strictly an 18+ event, Yaoi-Con is not for folks who strongly value propriety but neither is it sleazy. Because many of the con-goers are just barely 18, liquor is often gladly bypassed for vat-sized mochaccinos and darkside skittles. Attended mainly by younger women, Yaoi-Con has the feel of a three-day slumber party and sugar-fueled giggle-fest. In particular the con’s signature event, The Bishounen Auction where buyers (which can be single or groups of up to four) bid for the right to take cosplaying hot guys out on a Saturday night dance date, brings back fond memories of being an 18 year old fantasy-prone dork. And though I am, myself, a lesbian I can’t help but be charmed every year by the sheer boy-craziness of the entire event.

    IrregularsBoy-craziness was also a hot topic at GeekGirlCon as evidenced by the well-attended panel called, “Zombies, Butts, and Teen Female Sexual Agency,” which highlighted the Bob’s Burger’s character, Tina Belcher.

    (If you’re not familiar with Tina Belcher, AJ Dent writes an excellent description of her on the GeekGirlCon blog here.)

    GeekGirlCon (see photo 1 below) could be described as WisCon’s westside little sister: the strong feminist vibe is still there but there are more cute t-shirts for sale and one entire floor devoted to gaming of all kinds. This year attendance was capped at 5000 and all badges sold out on the first day. This is one con where I was struck by the presence of whole cosplaying geek families from tiny little two-foot tall daleks to wise-women dispensing engineering knowledge in the DIY Science Zone.

    Taking place in the Washington State Convention center in Seattle, GeekGirlCon is definitely an event where a large percentage of the population goes back to the hotel and takes naps (though I’m sure there were some wild room parties that I didn’t locate on account of napping.)

    Highfell GrimoiresLast on this year’s list is Bent-Con (see photos 2&3 below). As with Yaoi-Con, sleeping is low on the list of priorities for attendees of Bent-Con. Like The Price is Right, Bent-Con takes place in sunny Burbank, California. Originally convened to showcase queer comics, the event has expanded to include spec fic books, games and films focusing on QUILTBAG characters. While not as naughty as Yaoi-Con, Bent-Con is the place to go to see and meet real (probably gay and mostly over 21) men and women in skimpy costumes. Attended by a couple thousand people, and growing every year, Bent-Con has a wonderfully inclusive social scene featuring a Saturday night mermaid party (with mermen too!) as well as film screenings. While GeekGirlCon begins at 10 am, Bent-Con takes a more leisurely approach to mornings, starting at noon, but stretches on into the night, with official programming ending at the witching hour. It’s a hotel con with a good bar scene where you can expect to spot amazing costumes, make new friends and pick up great merchandise.

    Blind Eye Books will be returning to all three cons next year and we hope to see you there!

    Geek Girl Con

    Bent Con 1 Bent Con 2

    Photos by Nicole Kimberling.


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    THE VAMPIRE responds to “Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof at the Potluck” in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet No. 30.

    as dictated by THE VAMPIRE to THE NOVELIST

    24998-cover-200x242VAMPIRE: It is true, of course, that VAMPIRES attend potlucks, present, as we also are, in train stations, the staging areas of distribution warehouses, priories, shopping malls (especially shopping malls), dentist’s offices (less often), garrets and garret-imaginaries or garret-subsidiaries, great and venerable libraries, coliseums, arcade parlors, bakeries, theaters and discotheques. VAMPIRES can be said to be nowhere, especially, even as we are simultaneously everywhere, particularly, and Friday in the park with middle management nearby (fluffing their anxious wings) is no exception.

    VAMPIRES dictate gory sentences about potlucks to NOVELISTS, disdaining any direct act of writing. VAMPIRES make company nervous by announcing a savory dish brought in INDIVIDUAL RAMEKINS . . . a plush color. The grapes in Pan’s Labyrinth didn’t even look that good. Baroque eddies of fruit and flowers, VAMPIRES believe, are best suited to picnic tables.

    VAMPIRES, like VEGANS, would prefer not to.

    (THE NOVELIST would like a yam chipotle enchilada.)

    The function of THE VAMPIRE at the corporate or collegial potluck is of a hieroglyph with tie pin. This chicken is so dry. Hello, I’ve heard so much about you. Will there be a round of Guitar Hero following the disappearance of the innocents? The hoagie is to be eaten with knife and fork, from the center moving swiftly outward in a V in either direction. At my home, you know . . . in Rialto . . . with the pair of wet-eyed cocker spaniels, Abelard and Heloise, and the lead pipe . . . I don’t have a job title as of yet, as my position is considered experimental . . .

    VAMPIRES consider themselves unpopular but necessary, with the interruptive force of a hammer! Into the egg salads on leaves of endive!

    It is considered impolite to compete directly with VAMPIRES, especially since our leisure time is without blemish. We have a perfect attendance record. The napkins were arranged in artful sequences, and it was time . . . for Twister . . .

    A.B. Robinson lives in Western Massachusetts. Her poetry can be found in TINGE as well as Industial Lunch, which she currently co-edits. Her first chapbook, Dario Argento is not my Boyfriend, was selected as a jubilat contest winner. Five of her poems appear in Lady Churchill’s Wristlet No. 30, which is available DRM-free as a single issue or as a subscription.

    Author Interview: Erica L. Satifka

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    Andrea Pawley interviews Erica L. Satifka whose most recent publications appear in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and Shimmer.

    24998-cover-200x242Q: When did you first know you wanted to write science fiction?

    Satifka: I came to genre reading (and writing) late. As someone who grew up pre-Internet in a shitty small town, I was restricted to reading what was in the school library, which had some SF (mostly Bradbury and Vonnegut), but not much. I did watch a lot of SF, mostly anthology shows like The Outer Limits. My college advisor said my stories were good but would be better if I didn’t insist on writing science fiction. It was a surprise to me that I was even writing science fiction! In college, I also gained access to a wider variety of books and there was also the arrival of a few online fiction markets (Strange Horizons is the only one that’s still around, I believe). I guess mostly I just want to write crazy stories, and crazy stories are usually going to be labeled as some kind of science fiction.

    Q: Almost two dozen of your short stories have been published since 2005. How has your writing changed?

    Satifka: I’m not sure I completely knew what I was doing in 2005. My introduction to genre was so late and spotty that I had a lot of disparate influences. Many of my earliest stories were basically style imitations of Vonnegut or Philip K. Dick. Now that I’m more widely read, I think I’ve developed a bit more of a personal style. Or I’m just getting better at copying people.

    shimmer-magazine-issue-21-cover-200x319Q: What technological advance do you most hope to see in the next fifty years?

    Satifka: Sounds boring, but eradication of various diseases. I really don’t think we should be launching people into space until we figure out how to stop people from contracting polio. I’d like to see a world where nobody dies from infectious disease because I think it’s insane that we’re still dealing with things like polio and measles in the year 2014. Then, space.

    Q: What do you care most about when you write a story?

    Satifka: Finishing it. Most of my short stories are written in one or two sessions, because if they run any longer than that, I get bored and start working on the next thing. I think this helps maintain a certain consistency of voice, which is also important to me. Short stories, more than novels, are really about the idea and I like to go really deep inside the concept to find the most resonant take on the idea.

    Q: What’s it like to be part of the Codex Writers’ Group?

    Satifka: I think it’s a wonderful community. It’s a lot of what you’d get at a place like Clarion, but it’s free! I’ve also met many writers through there who became real-life friends. I honestly think I’ve learned more about genre writing and marketing on Codex than I have in any academic setting. I really recommend that anyone who’s reached the minimum entry requirements (one pro-published story or attendance at a writers’ workshop) join Codex. If nothing else, it shows you that even people who have published way more than you or I have the same insecurities and self-doubt.

    Q: You live in Portland now, but you’ve lived in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Does being on the West Coast versus the East Coast make a difference to your writing?

    Satifka: The East Coast is full of lovely people, but it’s not the best place for creative people. On the East Coast, your job is your life, and writing (or art or music) is just a hobby. Even though I produced some good work in Baltimore, and it’s where I became a writer again, I felt like too much of my identity was being steamrolled under my “real job.” (Pittsburgh isn’t really the East Coast, more the Midwest and is completely different from both coasts.) Portland is much more “work to live” and people don’t wrap themselves up in their day jobs as much. I almost never get asked “what do you do?” out here, and if you are asked that, it’s just as likely that the asker is inquiring about your creative outlet. This matters for my writing because it allows me to mentally put it front and center.

    Q: Do you have any upcoming projects you can share?

    Erica L. SatifkaSatifka: I’m putting the finishing touches on a novel. It’s about a young schizophrenic woman who battles against an alien invasion of Earth taking place in a small-town big box store, and it should be done very, very soon. I also have another novel project in very early stages. Of course, my main focus is still short stories and while my output has slowed slightly due to novel work I’m still on pace to write one new short story every month. I’ll also be teaching an adult extension class on Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy at Portland Community College in January 2015.

    Erica L. Satifka’s fiction has appeared in Shimmer, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and Clarkesworld Magazine, among others. She lives in beautiful Portland, Oregon, with her husband Rob and too many cats. Visit her online at

    September 2014 Bestsellers


    I was brought low by a cold and then was offline for a bit doing non internet(!) family things so I’m still catching up on, well, everything. So here’s a quick look at what rose to the top during a very busy* month. Everything rose up a little more than the month before, which is great to see: I especially like seeing some of the newer or smaller magazines picking up more readers. More variety in my my view being better all round. I am very curious to know if there are any readers out there who bought all 5 of the bestselling titles. Drop us a line or leave a comment if you did!

    September 2014 Bestsellers

    1. The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2014 Rich Horton et al.
    2. Sprawl Alisa Krasnostein (ed) et al.
    3. Couch Benjamin Parzybok
    4. Locus September 2014 (#644) Liza Groen Trombi et al.
    5. The Devil Lancer, Astrid Amara

    September 2014 Bestselling Subscriptions

    1. Clarkesworld
    2. Galaxy’s Edge
    3. Interzone
      Beneath Ceaseless Skies
    4. New York Review of Science Fiction
    5. Apex Magazine

    * Seems every month is getting a little busier than before: which is fantastic news, thank you!

    BCS 6th Anniversary Ebook Sale

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    It’s BCS anniversary sale time again! See below for details from editor Scott H. Andrews. - Michael To celebrate the sixth anniversary of BCS and our new ebook anthology The Best of BCS, Year Five, we’re having another ebook sale! beneath-ceaseless-skies-issue-157-sixth-anniversary-double-issue-coverBuy a BCS ebook subscription or the new Best of BCS Year Five, and you’ll get a coupon code inside the book for 30% off all BCS anthologies and back issues.

    That includes all our previous anthologies, Best of BCS Year One, Year Two, Year Three, Year Four, and our steampunk anthology Ceaseless Steam. It includes back issues of BCS at Weightless Books: all 155 issues of BCS going back to #1 in 2008, including one not available at any other retailer or on our website. It includes the 25-issue bundles of back issues. It also includes all BCS subscriptions; you can use the coupon to renew your subscription no matter when it’s set to expire.

    The Best of BCS, Year Five has seventeen stories for only $3.99, including ones by Richard Parks, Gemma Files, Seth Dickinson, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, and more. It includes three stories that made the Locus Recommended Reading list, one that was a finalist for the British Science Fiction Association Awards and the Parsec Award, and one that won the World Fantasy Award.

    BCS ebook subscriptions are only $15.99 for a whole year/26 issues (that’s less than 30 cents a story!). Subscribers can get issues delivered directly to their Kindle or smart phone (any device with an email address), and they get the issues early, a week before the website.

    the-best-of-beneath-ceaseless-skies-online-magazine-year-five-coverSubscribers will get our Sixth Anniversary Double-Issue, featuring Richard Parks, K.J. Parker, and Aliette de Bodard, a week before the website, including two stories which won’t be released on the website until two weeks later.

    The ebook subscriptions and anthologies are also a great way to support BCS–all proceeds go to pay our artists and authors.

    August 2014 Bestsellers


    Bastion Science Fiction Magazine – Issue 5, August 2014 cover - click to view full sizeThe Weightless Weekly Sales were huge last month but there were some other big titles, too, so for August I made a Top 10 (actually 12) as well as magazines (Lightspeed is still destroying science fiction, but . . . see below!) and subscriptions.

    Hey, lookit Bastion’s at #1! Congratulations!

    August 2014 Bestselling Magazines

    1. Bastion Science Fiction Magazine – Issue 5, August 2014
    2. Lightspeed Magazine Issue 49: Women Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue
    3. Lightspeed Magazine Issue 50
    4. Locus #643, August 2014
    5. Interzone 253

    August 2014 Bestselling Books

    1. Laurie J. Marks, Fire Logic
    2. Nina Allan, Spin
      Astrid Amara, The Devil Lancer
    3. Eric Brown, Rites of Passage
    4. Melissa Scott & Amy Griswold, Death by Silver
    5. Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others

    Nice to see new additions to the site On Spec and Bastion Science Fiction Magazine building up their readerships. Clarkesworld just announced a new translation project that I’m looking forward to seeing funded on Kickstarter:

    August 2014 Bestselling Subscriptions

    1. Clarkesworld
    2. Beneath Ceaseless Skies
    3. On Spec
    4. New York Review of Science Fiction
    5. Galaxy’s Edge
      Apex Magazine
      Bastion Science Fiction Magazine

    Locus August 2014 (#643) Lightspeed Magazine Issue 49 – Women Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue Clarkesworld Magazine – Issue 95 Lightspeed Magazine Issue 50 Fire Logic

    Plasma Frequency Editor Interview: Richard Flores IV

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    plasma-frequency-magazine-issue-13-coverAndrea Pawley interviews Richard Flores IV, editor-in-chief of Plasma Frequency, a bimonthly magazine of speculative fiction which just started their third year of publication:

    Q: Plasma Frequency publishes a wide range of speculative fiction stories including science fiction, fantasy and horror. How do you know when you get a submission thats perfect for Plasma Frequency?

    Flores: Deciding what stories go into an issue of Plasma Frequency is a lot harder than I ever imagined. First, a story has to go through two other editors before it comes to me for a final decision. Either of those other two editors can reject the story for a variety of reasons. So once a story gets to me for the final decision, they are usually all very good stories. At this point, I am looking for something different, something that takes me by surprise. It could be a twist that captivates me. It could be a new spin on an old idea. It could be something Ive never seen before. All these things lead me to select those stories. They have to stand out from the rest of the really good stories. It usually isnt easy to pick.

    Q: What inspired you to start Plasma Frequency?

    Flores: There is no shortage of very good fiction out here.And a lot of it gets rejected simply because there isnt enough space for every story. So I wanted to offer one more home to stories. And it was important to me that authors were paid for their work. So that inspired me. But researching how the magazine market worked fascinated me, and that was what finally pushed me over the edge to actually start the magazine.

    Q: As a child, who was your favorite science fiction or fantasy author?

    Flores: I actually wasnt a fan until much later in life. In high school, I hated to read. I was tired of being forced to read these books that didnt interest me. But I was forced to read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Since that time, I have always held a spot for his work as one of my favorite artists, because it was his work that introduced me to the joy of reading science fiction.

    Richard Flores IVQ: Whats the most unexpected thing youve encountered as editor of Plasma Frequency?

    Flores: Rude authors. Hands down I never saw that coming. When we started Plasma Frequency, we were a personal rejection only market. We didnt use any form letters. And we got some very nasty replies back from authors. Some were even very threatening. It wasnt that our rejection letters were rude, we only offered them the reason for rejection. I had one reader quit because of it. And now, even though we have switched to using a lot of form rejections, we will still get one or two rude replies every now and again. It surprises me that authors will act like that.

    Q: You make good use of an army of dedicated volunteers. What makes for a good volunteer?

    Flores: They have to be committed. It can be very tough to ask someone to set aside some of their time to work hard for a magazine that they dont get any money from. So they have to be very loyal to seeing good fiction get published. The volunteers I have really do want to see Plasma Frequency succeed, and it shows in the amount of work they put in. They are also very understanding that Plasma Frequency doesnt make any money at this point. Sales and subscriptions dont yet pay for the issues, let alone the other business costs. And the volunteers we have are like-minded to me, they arent in this to make money, they just want to see good stories find a home.

    Q: Your third year of publication starts this month with the September/October issue. What changes will Year Three of Plasma Frequency hold?

    Flores: We do have something new coming down the pipeline. I am not sure when we will start this up, but it will be more behind the scenes helping the authors. We are working out a program where selected stories that have great potential but need more work can join a one-on-one critique session with our proofreading editor. He will then be able to work with the author to make changes. That is the idea anyway. We are currently ironing out all the details. It wont be released until further down in Year Three, hopefully early 2015.

    Plasma Frequency is a magazine of speculative fiction that offers short stories in science fiction, fantasy, horror and all other aspects of the genre. Plasma Frequency is available DRM-free in single issues or as a 12-month subscription.

    Net Neutrality: Some Further Reading


    Boy, those things sure are distracting.

    Boy, these things are distracting.

    You may have noticed that red popup about “internet slow lanes” featuring the spinning ball of death. Maybe you clicked it and got taken to the petition. Maybe you signed it and/or maybe you were curious to learn more and that’s why you’re reading this now. If so, thank you.

    It didn’t feel right featuring that (in my opinion misleading and at best reductive) banner (also at Small Beer Press along with who knows how many other sites across the internet) without offering some background and perspective. Here goes.

    Net Neutrality, for those who’ve been accessing the internet from under a rock for the last year or so, is the noble and idealistic crusade to prevent the corporations that provide the vast majority of us with internet access from exercising that power too greedily or unfairly. The most prominent example of this in recent news has been Comcast’s battle with Netflix earlier this year. Back in January, the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down a 2010 FCC ruling that made at least some effort to codify and enforce net neutrality. With those restrictions lifted, Comcast started throttling Netflix traffic, causing Netflix subscribers to experience slow and interrupted streaming content, eventually forcing Netflix to pay Comcast more for extra bandwidth. Netflix subscribers have not yet seen a rate increase as a result, but likely that’s a matter of time. Here, then, is what the organizations behind today’s “Battle for the Net” mean by “slow lanes”. They’re talking about the economic stratification of the internet: fast access to content for some, faster for the rich, slower for everybody else.

    My objection to this wording (aside from it being alarmist and hyperbolic, which I acknowledge the international media’s rhetorical arms race to meaninglessness makes necessary to incite anyone to take any action, even the most inconsequential) is that the internet has been economically stratified since its inception. “The future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed,” as William Gibson has been saying since at least 1993. To access the internet, you need to be able to afford a computer built by one corporation and a monthly subscription paid to another, or have the audacity and wherewithal to acquire these things illegally. That’s not going to change.

    There is, however, the looming possibility that it’s going to (a) get worse or (b) get a little better. That’s why we’re talking about it now, and what the petition purports to address.

    In May, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed a new set of rules to replace those struck down by the courts in January. He then opened the proposal to a period of public comment, which is set to end on September 15th, in five days. Net neutrality activists don’t like this proposal much at all. The details of why and what they’d prefer involve 100+ pages of incomprehensible (at least to me) legalese–so this is pretty much where I get off. But the gist seems to be that the much shorter wording in Wheeler’s version leaves open to interpretation by corporations and their lawyers exactly what exercising their power too greedily or unfairly means, whereas the 100+ page version preferred by the Battle for the Net people lays it out that much more explicitly.

    When I clicked that banner link and wound up at the petition, I balked. I love the principle of net neutrality, but I’m skeptical about pretty much everything else pertaining to it. So I went and read all those articles I’m linking to above and then some, and I came to the conclusion that despite the misleading wording and too-little, too-late feel of this particular iteration of the debate, it was indeed important and meaningful that as many non-corporate persons as possible voice an opinion about this in the hopes it just might sway the people in power away from the far less numerous but far, far more deafeningly loud voices of the corporate persons and their lobbying money.

    So I went and signed the petition, and as you see. I hope you’ll read it all too and come to the same conclusion. Failing that, maybe you’ll just trust that I did and sign anyway?

    Thanks for reading.

    July 2014 Bestsellers


    July was a fantastic month at Weightless: thank you! DRM-free ebooks for one and all, and ftw! August has kicked off very well especially with the addition of so many Infinity Plus titles — for instance Neil Williamson’s The EphemeraRobert Freeman Wexler Circus of the Grand Designand Anna Tambour’s Monterra’s Deliciosa and Other Tales and. (Yes, that title is correct!)

    The Weekly Sales were huge last month but there were some other big titles, too, so I made a Top 10 (actually 12) as well as magazines (Lightspeed is still destroying science fiction!) and subscriptions:

    1. Clockwork Phoenix 2: More Tales of Beauty and Strangeness cover - click to view full sizeClockwork Phoenix 2: More Tales of Beauty and Strangeness, Mike Allan, ed.
    2. The Devil Lancer by Astrid Amara
    3. Rasputin’s Bastards by David Nickel
    4. The Cthulhu Mythos Megapack by H. P. Lovecraft ,et al.
    5. The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2010, Paula Guran, ed.
    6. The Poison Oracle, Peter Dickinson
    7. Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism by David Nickel
      The Summer is Ended and We Are Not Yet Saved by Joey Comeau
    8. The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2014, Rich Horton, ed.
    9. A Rope of Thorns: Volume Two of the Hexslinger Series by Gemma Files
      Inner City by Karen Heuler
    10. Bearded Woman: Stories by Teresa Milbrodt

    July 2014 Bestselling Magazines

    1. Lightspeed Magazine Issue 49: Women Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue
    2. Bastion Science Fiction Magazine – Issue 3, July 2014
    3. Locus July 2014 (#642)
    4. New York Review of Science Fiction #309
      New York Review of Science Fiction #310
    5. Clarkesworld Magazine – Issue 40

    On August 13th the price of the Beneath Ceaseless Skies ebook subscription is increasing. It’s currently $13.99 for 1 year/26 issues (56 stories) and will be going up to $15.99. Subscribe (or renew) now before the 13th to get the current price.

    July 2014 Bestselling Subscriptions

    1. Clarkesworld
    2. New York Review of Science Fiction
    3. Galaxy’s Edge
      Beneath Ceaseless Skies
    4. Lightspeed
      Apex Magazine
    5. Bastion Science Fiction Magazine

    Clarkesworld Magazine – Issue 40 cover The Devil Lancer cover Lightspeed Magazine Issue 49 – Women Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue cover - click to view full size