I've been meaning to write an actual review of the first Beneath Ceaseless Skies issue, but too much happened this week and I kept forgetting. I figured I'd better hurry before issue 2 came out.
The theme of BCS is literary adventure fantasy. If the literary part turns you off, after reading the first issue I can assure you that the adventure part is just as important. Stuff happens in these stories, and the writing is great. In fact, I'm really excited about reading all the upcoming issues, and it's rare that I get excited about short fiction at all (I don't even love writing it, to be honest). If you like Black Gate, you should find a lot to like in BCS. The artwork's great, too.
The first issue consists of two stories (or one and a half if you want to get technical). The second half of Chris Willrich's "The Sword of Loving Kindness" will appear in issue two, but you've only got about a week to wait. It's a fun, lively Gaunt and Bone story. I hadn't encountered the characters before, but now I really want to read the others--this one's hugely inventive and a quick read despite its length. I'm definitely looking forward to the second half. I wasn't always sure who was talking during some of the rapid-fire dialogue, but the descriptions are lovely and the pace never flags.
This issue's second story is David D. Levine's "Sun Magic, Earth Magic." In the hands of an amateur writer, this story would have been horrible horrible horrible--but Levine pulls it off with elegance and subtlety. I didn't expect to like it, to be honest, but I was very pleasantly surprised. You might have trouble reading if it you're claustrophobic.
I'm very impressed with BCS so far. Best of all, it's available online for free.
(Full disclosure here: BCS will be publishing one of my stories, "Sand-Skin Man," in their Jan. 1, 2009 issue--but I would have enjoyed these stories even so. Incidentally, "Sand-Skin Man" takes place in the same world as my weredeer stories, but on a different continent. And without any weredeer.)