Friday, May 22, 2009

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Beneath Ceaseless Skies publishes "literary adventure fantasy": stories with a secondary-world setting and some traditional or classic fantasy feel, but written with a literary flair.

We want stories set in what Tolkien called a "secondary world": some other world that is different from our own primary world in some way. It could be different in terms of zoology (non-human creatures), ecology (climate), or physical laws (the presence of magic). It could be set on Earth but an Earth different from our primary world in terms of time (the historical past) or history (alternate history). It could have a "pre-tech" level of technology, or steampunk technology, or magic as technology, or anything else that's not advanced or modern technology. However, the setting should contain some element that is in some way fantastical.

The inhabitants of this secondary world should have developed their own culture in response to the uniqueness of their world. The characters should fit this culture, and the qualities of the secondary world should have some bearing on the plot.

We are not interested in urban fantasy or other types of stories set in the "real world," even if they contain fantasy elements.

We strongly prefer stories that have some plot. It can be external, in the character's surroundings, or it can be internal to the character, or it can be both. We are not interested in stories that meander between external events or internal emotions with no causality and therefore do not have any trace of a conventional-type plot.

We prefer stories that focus on the characters. We strongly prefer characters who yearn for something, external or internal, and feel driven to attain it. Our favorite characters are "round characters": ones who grow and change over the course of a story instead of remaining the same.

We love modern literary devices like tight points-of-view, non-linear narratives, unreliable narrators, and ambiguous endings, so long as they fit that particular story. Our favorite literary device is round characters, who grow or change over the course of the story.

We prefer styles that are literary but readable. We love gorgeous, poetic prose, but in genre fiction it's vital that the style be clear enough so the reader can understand what's happening. Our favorite prose styles are lush but still clear.

We have a preference for limited points-of-view, either first-person or third-person, because we find it harder for a story to get deep inside a character's head from an omniscient point-of-view. We find present tense often pretentious and second-person point-of-view always annoying.

We know grammar rules, such as which types of clauses should have commas between them and which types should not. We respect the author's freedom to bend the rules as suits their story. However, be forewarned that repeated ignorance of grammatical principles for no apparent artistic reason will make a manuscript look unprofessional to us.

We prefer stories that are as original as possible, particularly in the setting. We are unlikely to enjoy stories featuring elements we have seen repeatedly, such as elves or barbarian swordsmen or a quest to save the world from an evil overlord, unless they present that element in a unique new way.

We prefer that graphic sex and violence not escalate beyond the level of an R-rated movie. We also insist that sex and sadistic violence not be acted upon children.

We usually find that fairy tale-style or myth-style narratives don't provide a gritty or immediate enough perspective to make us feel the texture of the secondary world or the direness of the protagonist's struggle. Any fairy tale-type or myth-type story probably isn't right for us.

We aren't interested in science fiction; it's just not what we prefer to read. Any story with advanced technology or esoteric scientific concepts isn't right for us.

We do think there's common ground between fantasy and so-called "science fantasy," as some readers consider Dune because it focuses on secondary-world setting and culture rather than on advanced technology. For a detailed explanation of what science fantasy elements we are and aren't interested in, read this thread on the BCS Forums.

In addition to fantasy, we also enjoy stories set in other types of secondary world that likewise don't have modern technology, including steampunk, smoke & sorcery, weird West, sixguns & sorcery, etc. Feel free to send us anything that you think might fit.

We don't mind humorous stories, but we have a very dry sense of humor. We love wry satire, but we rarely enjoy slapstick or puns. We aren't planning to publish much humor, but if you have a dry satire that hits us just right . . .

Length and Policies

We prefer stories under 10,000 words. We will consider stories over that length, but the longer a story is, the better it must be to hold our attention.

We are not interested in reprints (stories that have previously appeared anywhere in print or online, including on a personal website or blog).

We do not accept multiple submissions (more than one story submitted at a time). Please wait until you have received a reply to your submission before sending another.

We DO accept simultaneous submissions (stories that are currently under submission to another market), but ONLY if you state in your cover letter that your submission is simultaneous, and ONLY if you notify us IMMEDIATELY when another market accepts your story. We accept simultaneous submissions as a favor to writers because we know that response times can be long, but if people abuse this policy, we will rescind it.

Acceptances, Payment, and Rights

All accepted manuscripts will be line-edited for grammar, punctuation, and clarity. The author will have the opportunity to review and discuss all of these edits. However, we do insist on a high proficiency of grammar and clarity in our magazine. Payment will be made after receipt of the final, line-edited manuscript.

For standard acceptances, we pay 5 cents US per word, which is professional rate as defined by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). For this payment, we purchase the following rights:

First World Serial Rights
First World Electronic Rights
An Option to buy Non-Exclusive World Anthology Rights
An Exclusive Period to buy Limited-Time Exclusive Audio Rights

This means that our payment buys the rights to publish your story on the Beneath Ceaseless Skies website, as well as the option, at our choice, to pay you again at the reprint rate specified in the original contract (usually 2 cents per word) to reprint your story in any future anthology of stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies and distribute that anthology anywhere in the world. It also gives us a time period during which we have the exclusive option, at our choice, to buy limited-time audio rights to your story, at the rate specified in the original contract (usually 1 cent per word), and podcast your story from the Beneath Ceaseless Skies website.

You can't publish that story as a first-run or "new" story anywhere else in the world, and you can't have it appear anywhere else, in print or online or as audio, before or for ninety days after we publish it. But after that you can have it reprinted online and/or in a reprint magazine and/or in any reprint anthology, like one of the many Year's Best collections.

You also can't sell the audio rights to anyone else for ninety days after we publish the story. And if during those ninety days we buy the audio rights from you, you can't have the story appear in audio form anywhere else before or for ninety days after we podcast it. But after that you can resell the audio rights, including to one of the many fiction podcast websites.

We also hope that you will let us keep the story in our online archives after ninety days.

How to Submit

Format your manuscript in Standard Manuscript Format. If you don't know what that is, look it up. If you deviate from this in more than a few ways, your story will look unprofessional to us before we've read the first word.

Include your name, address, and email on the first page, and a running header with your last name, the title, and page number at the top of every subsequent page.

We do prefer a short cover letter with every submission. Type it into the body of your email. Mention the title of your story in case the attachment gets lost. List the best one or two fiction sales you have and/or mention any writing workshops you have attended. TELL US if this is a simultaneous submission. DO NOT give a synopsis or summary of your story; we'll learn what it's about when we read it.

Attach your manuscript to an email as either a *.DOC MS Word document file or a *.RTF rich-text-format file. If you can't get either of these to work, you may paste the text of your manuscript into the body of your email. DO NOT send a *.DOCX file (the default format that Word 2007 uses); we can't open those files.

Send your email to (replacing [AT] with @). Use the subject line Submission: (the title of your story).

IMPORTANT: your subject line MUST include the word "Submission" or our spam filter will delete your email.

Our Process and Response Times

You should receive our email auto-reply within 24 hours after sending your submission.

If you don't, check your spam filter to be sure it didn't get caught there. Then make sure your subject line starts with Submission so our filter won't delete your email and send your story again. If you still don't receive the auto-reply 24 hours after that, query using the email form on our Contact page. We will get back to you as soon as we can.

Our response times are currently averaging 3-5 weeks, occasionally as long as 6-7 weeks. To keep writers informed on our reading progress, we will post periodic Slush Updates in the Submissions Status section of our online forums. If we announce that we've replied to all submissions emailed before a certain date, but you sent yours before that date (and received our auto-reply confirming that it arrived), feel free to query us using the email form on our Contact page.

Please do not query if we haven't announced that we've replied to all submissions up to the date you sent yours. Any time that we spend answering extra queries is time we can't spend reading submissions or posting Slush Updates.

All rejections and acceptances will be notified by email.

1 comment:

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