I have enjoyed several recent issues of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, but this was a rare issue with stories that didn’t quite work for me. The stories in issue #205 are about women coming to better understand and make use of their powerful abilities. There were unfortunately some craft and plot decisions that distracted me from the storytelling, but other readers may not have the same reaction I did.
“Salt and Sorcery” by Raphael Ordoñez is full of vivid and colorful world-building; I had a good grasp of the setting in my imagination. It’s really lovely and reminded me a little of the 1973 French-Czechoslovakian animated film Fantastic Planet. The protagonist is also unique and has interesting features that are important later in the story. I found the protagonist’s journey unsatisfying, however, and perhaps even a little cliched: an escape from exploitation that eventually leads to a motherhood of sorts. Along the way there are some really interesting developments, but, again, I generally found those related to the world-building the most fascinating, and those related to the characters less so.
“A Deeper Green” by Samantha Murray depicts a fascinating society on a difficult world. I had trouble imagining this world, though, because I felt there were not enough details to give me a sense of place. The details about the protagonist’s gift that benefits her society were much stronger, in my opinion. There was a pattern of run-on sentences in the piece that I found distracting; it’s possible that this was intentional, but I stumbled over these frequent sentence structures as I was reading, which kept pulling me out of the story. I also found transitions to be a little rough; scenes often changed because characters walked from one place to another, or were waking up or recovering from unconsciousness.
Other readers might not find these elements problematic at all, and the ideas at work in these story are generally fascinating and thought-provoking.