Beneath Ceaseless Skies magazine began in 2008, when Scott H. Andrews noticed a need for more venues that celebrated secondary world short fiction. (And we’re very glad he did!) When you visit their website (repeatedly,) you’ll learn: “Beneath Ceaseless Skies is an online magazine of “literary adventure fantasy”: fantasy set in secondary-world or historical settings, with a literary focus on the characters. BCS […] was named Runner-Up for the Million Writers Award for Best New Online Magazine of the year, and in six years has published over 335 stories and 140 audio fiction podcasts. BCS has been a finalist for two Hugo Awards, one British Science Fiction Association Award, two Parsec podasting awards, two Aurealis Awards, and four World Fantasy Awards, and stories from BCS have won the Aurealis Award and the World Fantasy Award.”
This month, Scott H. Andrews joins us to talk about pie — from lemon and bourbon pies to chocolate tofu pie –, editing, his favorite food and beverage pairings with BCS stories, and much more.
Scott’s also given us permission to share several of his answers below in text, so you can read AND listen this month.
But don’t miss the rest of the interview (it contains secret ingredients)!
This month’s podcast contains:
- 99 bottles of beer
- A liberal helping of bread
- 10 scoops of editorial notes & secrets
- A smattering of literature and Lois Tilton
- And a fine dusting of BCS history and many short stories you should read immediately
Podcast #007: Beneath Ceaseless Pies: Cooking the Books with Scott H. Andrews
Our thanks this month to John DeNardo, Paul Weimer, and SF Signal for their support and ongoing sense of humor about the experimental flying monkey cooks. We are very sorry about the carpet.
(several excerpts from the interview, below!)
How did Beneath Ceaseless Skies begin? What are the magazine’s goals?
BCS began because, when I got back into fantasy short fiction ten years ago, it was nearly impossible to find stories that had both a classic fantasy feel, such as a lush secondary-world setting, and a literary-style focus on character. I love fantastical other worlds; filled with awe-inspiring strangeness, yet so tactile that you can place yourself in them. I also love characters who are complex or nuanced; who face tough situations and choices, ones as weighty or profound as the ones we all face in our real lives. I wanted short fiction set in fantastical worlds but with a literary portrayal of character; one that says something about the human experience and what it means to be who we are. I call that “literary adventure fantasy.” I would find occasional stories like that in a few magazines, but they were rare. I started BCS to make a dedicated home for this “literary adventure fantasy.”
I’m delighted that we have become known as the go-to magazine for that sort of short fiction. One of my favorite compliments the magazine has received was Lois Tilton of Locus Online saying a few years ago that BCS has “revive(d) secondary-world fantasy as a respectable subgenre of short fiction, raising it from the midden of disdain into which it had been cast by most of the rest of the field.” “Midden” being such a great, pre-tech secondary-world word. 🙂
You are an editor, writer, and teacher. What do those things have in common? What’s different?
I am indeed a short story writer, and a college chemistry lecturer. One common aspect I see on the editing side is the mindset I have from being a teacher. We at BCS give personal comments in every single rejection letter (I don’t know of any other F/SF magazine that does that), and I often give rewrite requests for stories that I feel have a great core seed but aren’t quite fully where I think they could be. That has a lot in common with teaching; that approach of articulating what I’m looking for, what I’m concerned about, and working with the author toward a version of the story that will work for me but still fits their vision for the story.
One huge difference between chemistry lecturing and writing or editing is that fiction of course is subjective. Things that don’t work for me may work perfectly for someone else. Which is no problem at all. Sometimes an author and I can’t find an approach for the story that will work for both them and me. Often they find a good home for it elsewhere, and send me a different story that does end up working great for me.
What is your favorite part about about editing?
I think my favorite part about editing is interacting with the writers. As a short story writer myself, I know what they’re going through. (Especially when it comes to rejection! 🙂 ) I know exactly what it’s like to pour time and work into a story and have it turned aside. I also know what it’s like to take edits or critique comments; to work with someone on something that’s your baby, to be trying to change it in ways that hadn’t occurred to you. I spend a lot of time thinking about writing, about concepts and approaches and how to articulate them. When I’m able to communicate to a writer how or why something doesn’t work for me, and they’re able to understand my issue and come up with a solution that works for me and fits their vision for the story, that’s a wonderful serendipity. It’s also great when I may have passed on a story but the author takes my comments from the personalized rejection and revises it, and it later sells to F&SF or Realms of Fantasy or another great magazine.
What BCS stories come to mind when you are asked to talk about food (Which I’m sure happens often/never)?
Here are links to the ones we mentioned in the podcast:
“By Appointment to the Throne” by Alter S. Reiss (set in the kitchen of an ethnic immigrant restaurant in a post-war fantasy world)
“Pheth’s Aviary” by Matthew Kressel (a minor demon assistant who works in the kitchen of the queen demon’s castle)
“Mr Morrow Becomes Acquainted with the Delicate Art of Squid Keeping” by Geoffrey Maloney; also podcast BCS 057: Mr Morrow Becomes Acquainted with the Delicate Art of Squid Keeping (satire of a Victorian dinner party where live telepathic alien squid are on the menu…)
“The Girl Who Welcomed Death to Svalgearyen” by Barbara A. Barnett; also podcast BCS 107: The Girl Who Welcomed Death to Svalgearyen (when Death comes to your small Slavic town, offer him a cup of hot chocolate)
“The Adventure of the Pyramid of Bacconyus” by Wilson, Caleb Wilson, Caleb; also podcast BCS 115: The Adventure of the Pyramid of Bacconyus (wine-sodden tree beings seek to rob a Lovecraftian cultist temple…)
Sometimes we ask about food and wine pairings with stories — any in particular you’d want to suggest?
I don’t pair wine with food so much as beer with food. I especially love malty ales, like English bitters and ESB–which actually aren’t very bitter at all–or Scottish 80 or 90 shilling. And I love stouts–coffee stouts, tart fruit stouts, dry chocolate stouts, barrel-aged stouts. I’ll have stout with almost anything; at any time of year. But I can see how stout for some readers might fit with stories that are gloomy or cold. We’ve done some great stories over the years that are set in frigid cold. “Worth of Crows” by Seth Dickinson, or “Silent, Still, and Cold” by Kris Dikeman, “The Year of Silent Birds” by Siobhan Carroll, or recently “Alloy Point” by Sam J. Miller. All of those have me reaching for a nice dark stout. Or stories that are dry and dusty and leave me feeling parched, like some of the great Weird West pieces we’ve run: “Hangman” by Erin Cashier, or “The Angel Azrael Rode into the Town of Burnt Church on a Dead Horse” by Peter Darbyshire.
And you brought us a recipe for a pie that contains tofu?!?
For Cooking the Books, my wife and I made a chocolate tofu pie. The basic recipe is modified from Alton Brown, who brings great cooking science and history into his TV shows. His is called “Moo-Less Chocolate Pie“. But we use 60% cacao chips, for a darker drier chocolate taste, and a different crust, much more interesting to us than the stock Oreo crust, taken from this blogger’s cheesecake recipe.
This pie tastes great, even though it has tofu in it, and it’s lactose and gluten free, for people who can’t eat those. It also has a classic look pie to it; like the surface of a lake of chocolate. Wouldn’t we all like to visit a secondary world that has that?
*editor’s note: it tastes GREAT. We apologize to tofu for our doubts.
Beneath Ceaseless (Chocolate) Pie:
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 3 tbsp butter, melted
- 13 ounces chocolate chips (we use 60% cocoa chips)
- 1/3 cup coffee liqueur, or other suitable liqueur
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 pound silken tofu, drained
- 1 tablespoon honey
For the crust, preheat oven to 350F. Pulse the almond flour, cocoa powder, and sugar in a food processor to mix. Drizzle in melted butter until dough begins to clump together. Press evenly into the bottom of a pie pan and bake 10-15 minutes. Remove and let cool.
For the pie, melt the chocolate chips with the liqueur in the microwave according to the directions on the bag. Blend the tofu in a food processor to remove any lumps. Add the chocolate mixture, vanilla, and honey and spin until smooth, about 1 minute. Pour the filling into the crust and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until the filling sets firm.
Scott H. Andrews is a chemistry lecturer, an editor, and a writer. He was co-Fiction Editor of The William and Mary Review for two years. His literary short fiction won a $1000 prize from theBriar Cliff Review; his genre short fiction has appeared in venues such as Ann VanderMeer’s Weird Tales, Space and Time, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, and On Spec. He was a 2013 and 2014 finalist for the World Fantasy Award for his editing and publishing ofBeneath Ceaseless Skies.
Scott lives in Virginia with his wife, two cats, nine guitars, a dozen overflowing bookcases, and hundreds of beer bottles from all over the world.
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