Skelos 2 Now Available

Skelos 2 Now Available

Skelos 2-small Skelos 2-back-small

When we folded the print version of Black Gate, I took some solace in the fact that there would be new magazines that came along eventually and picked up the banner of weird fiction and adventure fantasy. And you know what? I was right. In particular, I’ve been very encouraged by the ongoing success of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and the recent launches of the excellent Occult Detective Quarterly and the promising Cirsova.

But the magazine that I think Black Gate readers will be most excited about is Skelos, edited by the triumvirate of Mark Finn, Chris Gruber, and Jeffrey Shanks. In its first two issues, it’s published new fiction by Keith Taylor, Scott Oden, Arianne “Tex” Thompson, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Milton Davis, Robert M. Price, Adrian Cole, and others — including a brand new Dabir & Asim tale from Howard Andrew Jones in the second issue!

The magazine is gorgeously illustrated by professional artists, with full-page art accompanying many of the stories and even the poetry. And the magazine feels substantial in your hands. Issue #2, cover-dated Winter 2017, is 200+ pages in heavy pulp-sized format. It’s the kind of thing you can sink into your chair with for hours, as it transports you to worlds dark and mysterious.

Skelos is exactly the kind of thing I’d be delighted to press into the hands of discerning readers skeptical about modern weird fantasy, to show them just how exciting the field is. Unfortunately, I can’t do that just yet. Skelos is handsomely produced and its editors seem totally committed to getting it out on a regular schedule, but it’s also riddled with editorial errors.

When I flipped open the magazine the day it arrived, the first piece I laid eyes on was Frank Coffman’s poem “The Flood,” which contains this opening line:

Some say it’s seeds were floating on The Flood,
And legends lurk and linger: told, retold.

A poet’s tools are his words. And try as I may, I just can’t force myself to be interested in a poet who doesn’t know the difference between “it’s” and “its.” Skelos has three editors; I know at least one of them has to know the difference. That guy should have read this poem.

After giving up on “The Flood,” I flipped to the front of the magazine to read Mark Finn’s editorial, Hallowed Ground, which turned out to be a really interesting piece on the powerful community aspects of shared-world writing. But to enjoy it I had to consciously overlook the dismal copy-editing, including a missing word in the second sentence, and obvious grammar goofs like this one:

Along these lines, another phenomenon that fascinates me are….

[Phenomenon is singular; that should of course read “other phenomena that fascinate me are…”]

Next I flipped to another poem, “Xyre” by Ashley Dioses, whose shtick seems to be totally obvious rhymes.

Down blackest depths of the abyss,
I fell from light.
Far in despair, I couldn’t dismiss
That I lost sight.

The darkness softly shrouded me,
For it seemed trite
That it’d embrace with certain glee
And wrap so tight.

That was as far as I got.

I know. Now I’m just being cranky. I’m sure plenty of readers have a much higher tolerance for typos, bad grammar, and forced rhyming schemes than I do, and I’m certain they’ll enjoy Skelos just fine. As for me, I set the magazine aside at that point. Perhaps I’ll come back to it later, or try the third issue.

I did ask around and talk to some of the contributors to see what their experience was like. I heard tales of a friendly and accommodating editorial staff, which is heartening. But I also heard about rushed production, and at least one tale of story corrections that were ignored, resulting in going to press with an error-ridden draft. Even the website, where it should be easy to correct small mistakes, has embarrassing blemishes — including misspelling Arianne “Tex” Thompson’s name as “Arianna.”

Publishing a small press magazine is no small accomplishment. And producing something as massive and ambitious as Skelos — and doing it on a regular schedule — is a towering achievement. However, when going to press with Black Gate, there were plenty of times when I had to decide between hitting the schedule, and taking the time to make sure we got it right. I almost always chose the latter.

It seems clear to me that the folks behind Skelos are choosing schedule over polish, and I’m sure more than a few of their impatient Kickstarter supporters are just fine with this. But there’s a cost associated with a rushed schedule. Skelos could be one of the premiere magazines in the field. But in its current state, I’m embarrassed to share it with the folks who could help make that happen.

Here’s the complete table of contents for Issue #2.

Medicine-for-the-Dead-smallerShort Fiction

“The Keeping of Eleanor May” – Angeline Hawkes
“Slayers at the Gate” – Adrian Cole
“Of Mist, and an Heirloom Sword” – Jessica Amanda Salmonson
Medicine For the Dead (excerpt) – Arianne “Tex” Thompson
“Bigger Than God” – Cynthia Ward
“A Binding of Souls” – W. H. Pugmire
“The Skin Man” – Milton Davis
“The Black Lion” – Howard Andrew Jones
“Amarante: A Tale of Old Tharduin” – Scott Oden


The Eleventh Scarlet Hell – Robert M. Price (A Thongor tale illustrated by Val Mayerik)
Reverse the Charges – Jess Nevins


Carmilla – K. A. Opperman
The Line of Late Retreat – Michael Walton
Xyre – Ashley Dioses
The Night Realm – Chad Hensley
Ride of the Witchfinder – Wade German
The Mockingbird – Pat Calhoun
A Revelation Dream – Kenneth Bykerk
The Wood – Frank Coffman
Shade of a Murdered Child – James McNew


Clark Ashton Smith in Carmel – Scott Connors
“The Shadow Kingdom” and the Origins of Gothic Horror in Robert E. Howard’s Heroic Fantasy – Charles Hoffman
The Alexander Romance as Weird Fiction – Benjamin Garstad

Special Features

Skull Session – Editorial by Mark Finn
Warrior Women of History – An illustrated gallery by Samuel Dillon (text by Jeffrey Shanks)
Cracking Skulls with Arianna “Tex” Thompson – An interview by Mark Finn
By Crom! – Rachel Kahn
The Bone Yard – Reviews (Dave Brzeski, Bobby Derie, Mike Hunter, Deuce Richardson, Jake Vander Weide, Keith West


Front cover: Ernst Fuchs
Back cover; Allen Koszowski
Interior: Hieronymus Bosch, Samuel Dillon, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Mike Hunter, Rachel Kahn, Allen Koszowski, Esteban Maroto, Val Mayerik, Hugh Rankin, Stanley Weaver, Jr.

See complete details on the issue here.

Skelos is edited by Mark Finn, Chris Gruber, and Jeffrey Shanks. Issue #2 is 201 pages, priced at $14.95. Copies can be purchased at the Skelos Press website, or through online sellers like and B& No word on digital copies just yet.

Fletcher Vredenburgh reviewed the premiere issue of Skelos here.

See our April Fantasy Magazine Rack here, and all of our recent Magazine coverage here.

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Adrian Simmons

A significant amount of editing at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly is, in spite of our best efforts, subbed out to our readers. We are constantly getting contacted by people pointing out our editing mistakes.

We consider the website to be a “living document” in that regard.

James McGlothlin

When I saw the heading, I thought “Yeah, I love this mag!” Then I read your post. Ouch!

I have to admit that I mainly read the essays, not the fiction. I haven’t found any typos in the essays of either issue 1 or 2. Hopefully they will take this post as a helpful rebuke to get future issues into better shape.


Funny that this post should be published now since I’m reading Skelos #2 right now. Over the last couple of years I’ve bought Weirdbook, Grimdark, Scrolls of Legendry, Skelos (via Kickstarter), and the Audient Void. Of those, Skelos probably comes out on top in terms of proportion of pages that I found of interest. I found a story or two interesting in Weirdbook and Grimdark. I loved the stories in Scrolls of Legendry; the reviews were far less interesting. Audient Void #2 was good but it had a John Fultz story in it. I’m a big fan of Fultz’s work, so it’s hard to say that was a fair assessment. I have Audient Void #3 on my to read list after I’m finished with Skelos #2. Even if the next issue of the Audient Void falls short, I will give them more of a chance because I completely respect the decision to be a print zine in today’s world.

So while I agree with John that I’d love to see the editorial work improve in Skelos, in terms of publishing stories, poetry, and nonfiction that holds my interest, Skelos is the winner of all the zines I’ve read over the last few years. I also think John’s assessment of Ashley Dioses’s poetry to be a bit harsh. I like poetry, but it always takes second place to short stories. Nonetheless, I always look forward to Dioses’s poetry.

Eugene R.

Off hand, I would say that Skelos reminds me of Stuart Schiff’s pioneering magazine of dark fantasy, Whispers (1973-1987).

And, sadly, I think that possessive “its” is disappearing in favor of its more orthographically correct cousin “it’s”. Copyeditors hate me for telling them so, but the “it’s” tide is rising everywhere, including professional publications.


Lol I actually am not a big fan of Xyre. It was an older poem and I eventually scrapped it from my final manuscript. My debut poetry collection, Diary of a Sorceress, will be out next year and I hope Black Gate will be kind enough to review it. I hope you will change your mind in thinking that easy rhymes is my ‘shtick’. I have also noticed that this is first time I’ve seen Black Gate comment on specific poems, whether negatively or not. It would be awesome to read reviews mentioning poems that you thought hold merit in these new weird journals.

Mark Finn

Hey folks,
Jeff and I have looked at this and we are chagrined and embarrassed. What got published was an earlier draft that we had corrected, but not transferred in InDesign, and so the wrong version went to press. It’s our fault entirely, and we take full responsibility for it. We are pulling the issue to re-edit it to reflect our original changes and grammar. Going forward, we are changing up the way we edit. We have also increased our editorial staff by two, and are planning to bring on a third. This will (hopefully) greatly improve our editing process and prevent these rookie mistakes from happening again on our watch.

To everyone who was affected by this: we are sorry that we made you look less than professional. We’ll do our best to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

John, thanks for the cup of black coffee this morning. It was bitter to taste, but I think we needed the wake up.

Mark Finn


From the article: “Even the website, where is should be easy to correct small mistakes, has embarrassing blemishes…”

I believe the author complaining about the typos meant “it,” not “is.”

Tony Den

I bought into Skelos via kickstarter and am happy I did so. The odd grammatical error and typo is something I can live with. It is good however to see this critique as one can only improve via it, something I see Skelos has already taken measures to do, so let’s see them go from strength to strength.

In terms of schedule, I think John makes a compelling point. Working in IT projects is see this often, there is a notorious inverse relationship between quality and deadlines. But reading the comments on kickstarter I can understand Skelos’ apparent rush to get issue 2 out. There was even a false claim the magazine had folded!

Personally I would rather wait and benefit from the better quality. I am sure many other backers may feel the same way if their expectations are managed and they understand the need for delay, although there will always be some who expect perfection yesterday for free.

Jeffrey Shanks

I just wanted to echo Mark’s comments. We dropped the ball here, but we are committed to making sure it never happens again.

> That must have been a hard decision. But I think it’s the right one. Kudos for doing the right thing.

Actually, it wasn’t hard at all. When I read your post this morning and saw the errors you listed I was stunned because they were all errors I had caught and fixed myself. I realized pretty quickly what must have happened with the drafts, so pulling the title from Amazon was one of the first things I did — along with sending an apology to the contributor who had the earlier version of his story published. I feel terrible about this for him and our other contributors and supporters for making such a amateurish blunder. But we will learn from this and move forward.

Thank you for the tough love post, John. You’ve always been a great ally and I hope that our future work will live up to your expectations. I’ll make sure you get a corrected version as soon as it’s available and I hope that you’ll give the issue another chance because there are some great contributors in it that shouldn’t be passed over due to our snafu.
All the best,

James McGlothlin

I’ve loved the first two issues of Skelos. But I’m incredibly happy to see Mark Finn and Jeff Shanks respond so quickly and professionally to this post. I for one will continue to support/buy Skelos!


Glad to see this issue appears to be settled. As a reader/fan I do feel this was an unfair post to some parties and could have used more tact. Try not to use a term like “shtick” when reviewing someone’s work or admit to not even finishing items if comments are made. This came off as a needlessly harsh criticism in spots. Just my opinion of course.

Eugene R.


I never ran across ELDRITCH TALES, and, alas, but a singe issue of Grue (#7, the one with the minotaur on the cover). I would go back for more Grue, I think. Of course, actually getting all of Whispers would be nice, too. Sigh.

– Eugene


I completely agree on Skelos. I was very excited, but I’ve found the general quality, editorial or otherwise, to be lacking. I love the look and feel – they’ve got that down – but yeesh, some of the grammatical errors and the poetry are just terrible. I haven’t cared for many of the stories, as well.
I’ll dig in to issue 2 eventually, but like you, I was quickly turned off.


I’m quite well aware of the difference between “its” and it’s.” I’m a college English and creative writing professor. Somewhere along the line, this type entered into the eventually-published text. I’m sorry for that, and I’m sure the 3 editor lads are sorry as well [note that I used “I’m” and not “im.” If you are a shallow enough reader of poetry (or prose, for that matter) that a single type will spoil the reading of an entire work, then I’m sorry for your lack of literary acumen. If you had commented negatively on specifics re: the content, style, quality of versification, etc. of my poem—THAT would have been legitimate criticism which I would seriously consider, since I do care about the reception (or perceptions) re: my verse, fiction, and scholarly articles.


It will be difficult in the future for me to “force myself to be interested” in a critic who is, apparently, more interested in seeking out publication glitches and typographical or page design errors than actually commenting on the quality (or lack thereof—hey! your entitled to your opinions)of any given work in questions. If you deign to “force yourself” to read my poem, I’d be quite interested in hearing legitimate critical commentary.


Indeed. Quick typing often leads to typos. You’re correct in the correction suggestion. I simply wish you’d have said something substantive and not knee-jerk. Still quite interested in finding if you have any actual opinions. Although refusing to read a piece of literature sort of shuts the door on its significant criticism. Should you care to actually read the piece and comment honestly, I’d be interested in seeing your analysis and finding your reaction. But you’re likely not to do that. I’ve tried to put all the apostrophes in the correct places in this response—I can tell they mean quite a lot to you.


John, I actually do appreciate this sort-of attempt at reconciliation. I really don’t care whether anyone likes or dislikes, loves or hates my work—so long as they have at least read it. I try to take both negative and positive comments as objectively as possible and weigh the merits of either.I’m glad that the SKELOS crew are getting you an emended version of the text. I occasionally do a searchon Google for my name, and your “It’s/Its” comment and etc. showed up. Hence, my response. Your last sentence in the response immediately before this re-re-re-?response shows the same condescending tone as the initial posting. You again are saying—if I’m understanding it correctly—that you likely won’t read the poem and are pretty sure that you wouldn’t like anything about it, even if you did read it. So, I guess I can expect no real critical comment from you (not that—please note—you are under any obligation to read it and respond with genuine comment). Hey! it’s your web site. I might refer you to my recently published poetry in SKELOS 1, SPECTRAL REALMS 5 and 6 [5 total poems in those], THE GATHERING STORM [one published and to contracted], CYAEGHA [just out #19], TREMBLING WITH FEAR [2 online -connected to THE HORROR TREE, upcoming poems that will appear in SCIFAIKUEST and RIDDLED WITH ARROWS, 2 more to be in SPECTRAL REALMS 7—Oh, and lest I forget, my COFFMAN STREET [tribute poems for Robert E. Howard, so-named due to the lovely coincidence of my surname and the lane that runs by the Howard House in Cross Plains, TX.] Oh, and I selected, edited, and annotated ROBERT E. HOWARD: SELECTED POEMS. Doubtless you would quibble with Chaucer who wrote about the young cleric of Oxenford: “And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche.” Those are “misspellings” in modern English–but the “gist” and beyond are certainly there. In levels of language, the spoken tongue is the “real” language, the written is always an approximation of speech and ranges over dialects. Then, down the list are the conventions of writing (like apostrophes to show possessives. I was just hoping you’d read my poem and comment on a less than superficial level.


That would be great, if you decide to read and evaluate and give your reactions. If not, likely you’ll bump into one of mine sans typos somewhere down the line and it won’t be initially offputting.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x