Beneath Ceaseless Skies Editor Interview: Scott H. Andrews

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue 123 Cover

Weightless Books interviews Scott H. Andrews, publisher and editor-in-chief of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a literary adventure fantasy zine.

Q: What are you hoping the reader takes away from Beneath Ceaseless Skies?

A: I hope that the reader, once they finish a BCS story, realizes that at some point during or after that read of what was hopefully an entertaining or awe-inspiring fantasy story, they were also made to think about what it means to be human.  The human condition; to think on that universal question of what it means to be who we are.

Some stories I think do that while you’re reading them.  By the nature of their characters or theme, you can’t help but ponder such questions in the moment.  Other stories I think feel more purely entertainment while you’re reading, but later you realize that there actually was an undercurrent of something more personal and profound woven in beneath the entertainment.

Q: As an editor, how do you know when you have a story that’s right for Beneath Ceaseless Skies?

A: A big part of it for me is the richness of the fantasy setting.  Lush and awe-inspiring worlds are a personal favorite of mine and a hallmark of the magazine.  In short fiction, of course, it’s harder to develop and display such a world than in a longer work.  But an interesting world, and a writer who has made skillful choices about what of the world to show in the limited space of a short story, always engage me.

Yet alongside that I also need to feel a character who resonates with me.  Maybe it’s their personality or attitude.  Maybe it’s what they’re striving for or trying to avoid, or trying to solve or come to terms with or understand.  Maybe it’s a tone or quirk in the voice that the author has crafted for that character’s narrative.  The world is important to me, but without a person whose story is taking place in that world, then for me it doesn’t feel alive.

 Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue 113 CoverQ: Can you offer a new favorite and an old one from Beneath Ceaseless Skies?

A: A recent favorite would be “Boat in Shadows, Crossing” by Tori Truslow, from this past January.  It’s a lush and interesting setting, a rich and droll voice, and I think it speaks very well to many aspects of what it means to be human.

It’s hard to single out just a couple from over two hundred stories, but a few past favorites include “Thieves of Silence” by Holly Phillips, a story of seduction by belonging, and “The Isthmus Variation” by Kris Millering, which features personal dynamics among a company of players performing a fascinating live-action tableau that has a hidden purpose.

Q: Do you have any advice for someone thinking about starting an zine?

A: Starting a zine, and then keeping it going, is a colossal time commitment.  The last decade of F/SF short fiction is littered with zines that lasted only a couple issues because the editors didn’t realize what they were getting into; for example, didn’t understand that they would be deluged with hundreds of submissions a month.

For any aspiring editors out there who aren’t dissuaded by that :) , my main piece of advice would be to treat everything thoroughly professionally.  Be prompt in replying to people and unfailingly polite.  Be organized, so things won’t slip through the cracks.  Plan well for how you’re going to handle things (like that deluge of hundreds of submissions a month) both now and in the future.

Q: You’re a writer, too. How has that fact influenced your interactions with people who submit stories to Beneath Ceaseless Skies?

A: My experiences as a short fiction writer are a huge influence on my interactions with writers who submit to BCS and who I buy from.

The most prominent example is that every rejection we send is personalized with comments.  I know of no other magazine that does that.  It takes a lot of extra time, but I know that many up-and-coming short fiction writers are eager for a few thoughtful comments on why their story didn’t work for one particular magazine.  We often hear from writers that they used the comments from our personalized rejection when they revised the story and it later sold to Realms of Fantasy or F&SF or another equally top-level magazine.

Scott H. Andrews in Dog-Faced Bascinet

I also think my experience as a writer makes me better able to interface with BCS writers on revisions or rewrites.  I know what that process is like from the writer’s side of things, and that I think helps me to work within their vision for the story while tweaking it in the ways that I think it needs in order to fit with BCS.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a 2012 Hugo Award Finalist for Best Semiprozine, is available for DRM-free purchase from Weightless Books. Scott H. Andrews is shown at right in a dog-faced bascinet.

 

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