Update, Sept. 1, 2019: The BCS Patreon met its main goal–the monthly support that we need to pay the new higher SFWA ‘pro’ rate, 8c/wd–and on Sept. 1, 2019, our pay rate increased to 8c/wd. Thank you to our patrons on the BCS Patreon for making this possible!
What We Want
Beneath Ceaseless Skies publishes “literary adventure fantasy”: stories with a secondary-world setting and some fantasy feel, but written with a literary approach.
Secondary-World Setting: 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 modern-day primary world in terms of time (the pre-modern historical past of our real-world Earth, up to ~1930s) or history (alternate history from our Earth’s 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, and the qualities of the setting should have some bearing on the rest of the story.
We are NOT interested in urban fantasy or other types of stories set in our modern, contemporary “real world,” even if they contain fantasy elements, or in stories that move between the real world and a fantasy world.
Characters: We prefer stories that focus on the characters. We strongly prefer characters who yearn for something, external or internal.
Narrative Style: 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 that the reader can understand what’s happening. Our favorite styles are lush yet clear.
We tend to prefer limited or ‘close’ executions of point-of-view, as opposed to external or ‘distant’ executions of point-of-view. We find it harder to empathize with a character if the story’s execution of point-of-view feels more from outside the character or distant from them rather than close to them or inside their head.
Originality: We prefer stories that feel as fresh 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 an opening scene in a fantasy tavern, unless the story presents that element in a unique new way.
Extreme Content: 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.
Fairy Tales / Fables: We enjoy character-centered takes on fairy tales, fables, or myths, but we usually find the traditional fairy tale-style or fable-style narrative more distant or external than works for us; not immediate enough a perspective to make us feel the texture of the secondary world or the acuteness of the protagonist’s situation. A story with a traditional fairy tale-type or fable-type narrative voice probably isn’t right for us.
Urban / Contemporary Fantasy: We aren’t interested in urban fantasy or other types of stories set in the “real world,” even if they contain fantasy elements, or in stories that move between the real world and a fantasy world. It’s just not what we prefer to read. Any story with a modern or contemporary setting, more recent than approximately 1930s Earth, isn’t right for us.
Stories Featuring Famous Personages from History, Legend, or Myth: Stories that feature famous people from Earth history or Earth legends or myth (Abraham Lincoln, King Arthur, Zeus) rarely feel fully stand-alone to us unless the story’s take on that famous person is unusual and different (Jack London living on the moon). A story featuring a traditional take on a famous personage probably isn’t right for us.
Science Fiction: We aren’t interested in science fiction; it’s not what we prefer to read. A story with advanced realistic technology isn’t right for us.
Steampunk / Weird West / Sixguns & Sorcery / Etc.: In addition to classic settings of pre-tech fantasy, we also enjoy stories set in other types of secondary world that likewise don’t have modern technology, including steampunk, Weird West, etc. Feel free to send us anything that you think might fit.
Poetry: We don’t publish poetry; only prose fiction.
Humor and Satire: 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 haven’t published much humor, but if you have a dry satire that hits us just right....
♦ ♦ ♦
Length and Policies
Length: We strongly prefer under
10,000 11,000 12,000 14,000 15,000 words. We will consider stories over that length, but the longer a story is, the better it must be.
(This new, higher length was unlocked as a stretch goal from the BCS 250th Issue Subscription Drive. Thank you!)
Novel Excerpts or Serials: We are NOT interested in novel excerpts or serials–we only want self-standing stories.
Reprints: We publish only originals (stories that have never previously appeared anywhere in print or online). We do NOT consider reprints (stories that have previously appeared anywhere in print or online, including on a personal website or blog, or self-published on Kindle, or as Patreon or Kickstarter rewards).
(We buy First Serial rights–the right to be the first place to ever publish that story. If the story has already appeared in print or online, or been given to readers in exchange for a donation or patronage, the story has already been published and BCS can’t be the first place to ever publish it.)
Stories produced using AI (artificial intelligence): We are not interested in stories for which the “traditional elements of authorship,” as the U.S. Copyright Office describes it, were done by AI. Spell-check, grammar-check, and AI prompts that you then wrote your own story from are fine, but we are not interested in any story where AI apps or generators wrote or drafted any portion of its text.
(We want stories written through the author’s unique sensibilities and passions. AI mines the sensibilities and passions of others, using training data that may have biases and be infringing on others’ copyrights, and the current legality of copyrighting AI-written work is uncertain enough that we can’t sign a contract to acquire publication rights to it.)
Multiple Submissions (more than one story submitted at a time): We do NOT accept these. Please wait until you have received a reply to your submission before sending another.
Simultaneous Submissions (a story that is currently under submission to another market): We DO accept these, 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 from short fiction magazines in the field can be long, but if people abuse this policy, we will rescind it.)
New Writers: BCS welcomes submissions from new and unpublished writers. Many of our authors are new or emerging writers; often their sale to BCS was their first pro-rate short fiction sale or their third pro sale and qualified them to join SFWA. All our rejection letters include personalized comments, which many new and neo-pro writers tell us they find helpful in revising their stories to submit elsewhere and in developing their writing in general.
(If you would prefer that we not give personalized comments in our reply to you, we are happy to do that. Please specify that in your cover letter.)
All Writers: BCS welcomes submissions from all writers, of all locations, nationalities, ethnicities, backgrounds, faiths, genders, orientations, identities, and experiences. We’re looking for great stories, by anyone and everyone. Please submit!
♦ ♦ ♦
Acceptances, Payment, and Rights
Editing: 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. Payment will be made after receipt of the final, line-edited manuscript.
Payment: For standard acceptances, BCS pays
6 cents US per word 8 cents US per word, effective Sept. 1, 2019, which was funded by supporters on the BCS Patreon.
Rights: For this payment, we purchase the following rights:
First World Serial Rights
First World Electronic Rights
Non-Exclusive World Audio Rights
Non-Exclusive World Anthology Reprint Rights
(This means that our payment buys the rights to publish your story on the Beneath Ceaseless Skies website and in our ebooks, and to publish an audio podcast of it if we choose your story for our podcast, and the right to reprint it in any anthology of stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies if we choose your story for one of our anthologies, and distribute that anthology anywhere in the world.)
(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 180 days after we publish or podcast it. But after that you can have it reprinted online and/or in a reprint magazine and/or in a reprint anthology, like one of the many Year’s Best collections, and you can resell non-exclusive audio rights, like to one of the many fiction podcast zines.)
We also hope that you will let us keep the story in our online archives after 180 days.
We are and always have been a SFWA-qualifying professional market, so any sale to us since BCS #1 in 2008 should be able to qualify the author for membership in the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), as allowed by SFWA’s requirements for membership.
♦ ♦ ♦
How to Submit
Format: Format your manuscript in Standard Manuscript Format or as close to it as you can get (12 pt, a proportional font like Courier or Times New Roman, double-spaced, no blank line between paragraphs). We request this format because it’s the smoothest to read in our word-processing software and we’re reading dozens of submissions per day. If you deviate from this format in more than a few ways, it will look to us like you don’t respect us enough to honor our preferences.
Include your name and email on the first page (but feel free to not include your mailing address, to keep that private) and a running header with your last name, the title, and page number at the top of every subsequent page.
Cover Letter: 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. If you have prior fiction sales, you can list the best one or two; if you’ve been to any writing workshops, you can mention them. 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.
(If you would prefer that we not give personalized comments in our reply to you, please specify that in your cover letter. We are happy to not give comments if that is what you would prefer.)
Manuscript File: Attach your manuscript to an email as either a *.DOC MS Word document file or a *.RTF rich-text-format file (NOT *.DOCX). If you can’t get either of these formats 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 and later use); we can’t open those files. DO NOT post your file to a third-party storage site such as Google Drive and email us the link; we do not download attachments from third-party sites.
Send your email to . 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
Auto-Reply Email: 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 you spelled “ceaseless” correctly :) 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.
Response Time: Our response times average 1-3 weeks, occasionally as long as 5-7 weeks.
Slush Updates: To keep writers informed on our reading progress, we post periodic Slush Updates on our News page, under the category Slush Updates, saying what date up to which we have currently read all submissions.
Querying: If we post a Slush Update saying that we’ve replied to all submissions sent before a certain date, and you sent yours before that date, please query us using the email form on our Contact page. We really mean this; it’s not necessary to wait.
Please do not query if we haven’t announced that we’ve replied to all submissions up to the date you sent yours.
All rejections and acceptances will be notified by email.
Unsolicited Rewrites: We DO NOT accept unsolicited rewrites of stories that we’ve already rejected.
As discussed in this comment thread, we intend the personalized comments in our rejections as explanation of why that story didn’t work for us, and we hope that insight into what we’re looking for will be of help to the author with their next submission. They are not an invitation to resubmit the same story, even if it has been revised.
♦ ♦ ♦
We only buy a few pieces of artwork a year, so we don’t take submissions of artwork. But we are interested in names of artists and links to their portfolios, so that when we are ready to buy art, we can check out their work.
If you’re an artist and would like us to put your name on our list to check out the next time we’re looking for artwork, please take a look at our past Cover Art, to see what sort of artwork we like (usually landscapes or vistas of fantastical-looking places). Then feel free to send us your information using our Contact page, and include links to a couple of your pieces that you feel might show the sort of vibe we’re looking for.
♦ ♦ ♦
If you have any questions or comments about these Submission guidelines, feel free to contact us via our Contact page or to post a comment on our News page.
These Guidelines last updated 03/15/23: giving our policy on stories crafted using AI (artificial intelligence).