Beneath Ceaseless Skies' #101 hit the inbox the other day bringing two new stories and new banner art. The cover painting, entitled "Bandits Assault a Stagecoach" is by Ignacio Bazan Lazcano. It's an exciting steampunk Western picture illustrating exactly what its title says.
The first story, "The Heart of the Rail" by Mark Teppo is an intriguing story of trains, railroad company men and the sacrifices made in the name of bottom lines and progress. Like so many of the magazine stories I'm reading these days it feels like a window opening onto a vastly greater fictional world beyond the confines of its opening and closing paragraphs. It's not that they read like excerpts from a novel in progress, it's that their authors have created such original worlds and I'm really curious what else is going on out there.
"The Tale of the Aggrieved Astrologer" by Jack Nicholls is his first professional sale. It's, like a last issue's "In the Palace of the Jade Lion", a work of Chinese-inspired fantasy. In the little author blurb at the end of the story it says Nicholls is hopeful he won't get typecast as "that Chinese fantasy sex-comedy guy" and there are indeed sexual elements. They aren't overwhelming if explicit. Aside from them, it's a funny story of an aging, impotent, running to fat court magician trying to stay one step ahead of a younger, handsomer astrologer who has successfully caught the emperor's eye.
Once again "Beyond Ceaseless Skies" has brought an enjoyable pair of stories to the interweb. Take the half hour or two and enjoy.