Issues
Five-Time Hugo Award Finalist for Best Semiprozine
Issue #245 – Science-Fantasy Month 4February 15, 2018

Special double-issue for BCS Science-Fantasy Month 4, featuring two bonus stories and science-fantasy cover art “Ugg” by Florent Llamas.


Penitents

All of a sudden there’s an enormous black cube filling up the sky above them. No thunderclap, no sound at all, it just appears. The cube is like nothing she’s ever seen, an enormous black box composed of a thousand shifting slivers breaking and melding, rippling, almost liquid. Blinking red sensors swarm around its edges like flies. Vertigo swamps her, and she retches.

Red Dreams

Shiny metal bloomed out and out from her touch and the red rust disappeared. Her heart sped and it felt good. Not from fear, but... satisfaction? Tarnish sought the right word like in a prayer and it came to her. Euphoria. She jerked her hand back, but the next instant she wanted more. She needed more, that little bit hadn’t been enough.

The Last Human Child

She needed to be among her own kind again. But not ones like those who had programmed her. No, she needed to live with a peaceful group of survivors, a human community left untainted by the rebels, untouched by the Spliced. Perhaps somewhere out in the wilderness, there might be people with no connectivity. Off the grid. Humans who had not seen the broadcast of Dahlia's feast.

Such Were the Faces of the Living Creatures

"What the damn hell, child?" She points at the shadows alongside the track, which are turning silver-liquid and flowing down the hillsides towards us. Standing up and looking at us. Something odd about these bandits, odd about their skin, which crawls with a life of its own as they move about along the train cars, stretches of skin being pulled off in big, looping Lorentz tangles.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Penitents
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The cube is like nothing she’s ever seen, an enormous black box composed of a thousand shifting slivers breaking and melding, rippling, almost liquid.
From the Archives:
Songdogs
Agnieska swore, reaching for the hooks, determined to use them this time.
Issue #244 – Science-Fantasy Month 4February 01, 2018

Special double-issue for BCS Science-Fantasy Month 4, featuring a bonus story and science-fantasy cover art “Ugg” by Florent Llamas.


The Starship and the Temple Cat

Properly, the cat's name was Seventy-Eighth Temple Cat of the High Bells, along with a number of ceremonial titles that needn't concern us. But the people who had called her that no longer lived in the station's ruins. Every day as she made her rounds in what had been the boundaries of the temple, she saw and smelled the artifacts they had left behind, from bloodstains to scorch marks, from decaying books to singed spacesuits, and yowled her grief.

El is a Spaceship Melody

“It's more than that. It's a symphony.” When LeSony'ra had reported for national service, it was as a conscientious objector. She wanted to produce a happier future through music, which positioned her at odds with most of the other cadets. A position she was now long used to.

Where the Anchor Lies

She joined the fragments of its mind, and it soothed her even more than she remembered. The Cataract's ghost said, <I know where the Vanguard rests. Some of its pieces lie among my own, but most of it waits beyond. Near my rudder, a trickle of water carries dissolved fragments of the Vanguard's engine. Follow the streamlet, and you may find its heart.>

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Starship and the Temple Cat
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She had been a young cat when the Fleet Lords burned the City of High Bells.
From the Archives:
The Breath of War
She would have run, but her legs betrayed her—a contraction, locking her in place, as frozen as the baby within her womb.
Issue #243January 18, 2018

Benefactors of Silence

Bile rises. I anticipate her words. “This song meant everything to us. It reminded us of how we survived the wars in our little underground shelter as the Dvenri troops exterminated those of our people who did not hide in underground enclaves. As your people, your glorious Yroi Empire, then exterminated mine.”

Nneamaka’s Ghost

Her words make me shudder like a puppy introduced to an unfamiliar environment. When I recover, I don't answer. Instead, I scuttle to the nook between the head of my bed and the mud wall opposite the window and ransack the wicker cupboard there for my incense, muttering to myself, "Amadioha the great god, there's two of them. Nnanna's ghost too?"

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Benefactors of Silence
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Malaguena refuses to play most of the pieces dedicated to the other moons, but this sonata, composed for the Swan Moon, accompanies our evenings.
From the Archives:
By Appointment to the Throne
Getting up early enough to open a kitchen hurts.
Issue #242January 04, 2018

Suite for Accompanied Cello

 I was famous for my skill with time, in my solo work, but soloists who feared that their rhythm was not the best were reluctant to engage me as accompanist. This competition for the Prix du Halispell was my first accompaniment job in years, other than with Armand at home, and three days ago I would never have expected that it would be for the daughter of Lorenzo Caramin.

An Aria for the Bloodlords

She sailed through the arpeggios, touching each briefly. The sound of her won me so completely that it took my brain a moment to detect her crime. Improvisation! Undeniably lovely—yet completely and utterly taboo! I’d already put my score past the censors, spending weeks of my time and more money than I had. One did not go around altering approved notes—not unless one hoped to draw the Ministers.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Suite for Accompanied Cello
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I won on my first attempt when I was fourteen; so long ago it seems meaningless.
From the Archives:
Playing for Amarante
The man with my face opens his eyes.
Issue #241December 21, 2017

Trette’s Bones

When Trette was thirty, she gave her skull to the Ossuary, which was exactly the sort of thing she would do. I’m not angry—no, yes, I’m angry about it, but I want to tell it all, how it went. I don’t know who I want to tell, who I’m writing this for. For memory, I guess. For ghosts. So: let the ghosts hear.

Forever Night

Yet even with that dim illumination, the blackness surrounding them was oppressive. The air was damp, rotted; it lay greasily against his skin. With every breath, he felt grime collecting in his lungs. As he followed Elseir, her skin bluish-white in the strange light, he wondered if she felt it as he did. Yet he could read nothing in her thin features but a tremendous powerful intent.

From the Archives:
The Grace of Turning Back
Semira watched Aniver hold audience with the Queen of the Dead, nerving herself to cross the river to them.
Issue #240December 07, 2017

Featuring new cover art: “Fortress” by Dimitrije Miljus.


Low Bridge! Or The Dark Obstructions

"Aesthetic attraction!" This was Edna again, whose outbursts were now starting to make me wish that I were anywhere else but sitting next to her in the line of Bunyan's fire. Belatedly, I laid a restraining hand lightly on her arm, but she shook me off and forged heedlessly ahead. "But if you are convinced that spiritualism is so much rot, then why write your ghost stories?"

The Wind’s Departure

I try again to read the tone of her voice. Sylva can form herself of vapor or rain or the force of a storm, but she is always shifting, liquid, and invisible when she wishes. She can hold my face with fingers of wind, but she has no face of her own to touch. I cannot read pain on her features, but I think I hear it in her voice.

From the Archives:
The Dreams of Wan Li
Everyone moved to the sides of the halls as she passed—not because they feared her touch, but because she moved with such grace.
Issue #239November 21, 2017

The Mouth of the Oyster

Sometimes we treated our anger as a polished jewel, too precious to be set aside. I retained mine for many long seconds before seeing it as a burden and letting it slip, unmourned, into the peace of the fine day. The last of it expressed itself with a grumpy, “For a man who makes eyes, you certainly have much to learn about the blind.”

Woe and Other Remedies

On rang the bells, and the guests, as if released from fetters, dispersed to take their seats. And here we are, Gama III thought.  The table was full, the moment at hand. Anticipation moved as a wild fondle from seat to seat, bowel to bowel, quivers begetting moans and hoarse whispers, emotion stretching jaws with violence.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Mouth of the Oyster
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And with that I gave up so many things, so many golden sunrises and so many lingering sunsets.
From the Archives:
The Limitless Perspective of Master Peek, or, the Luminescence of Debauchery
For the sake of the beautiful Dogaressa, I took up my father’s battered old pipe and punty.
Issue #238November 09, 2017

Featuring “The Şiret Mask” by Marie Brennan, the 500th story to appear in BCS!


The Şiret Mask

"Then I shall teach him otherwise," I said, folding my fan with a decisive snap. "Wish me luck. And if you see the conte before I return, then both of you stay right here, or I may never find you again." With that, I dove once more into the crowd.

His Wife and Serpent Mistress

In the gallery, the lawyers turned and hushed his mistress at once. Both Arla and the Marquis had been speaking, yes, but of the two of them, she was the one with scales. The lawyers regarded those scales with disdain. He stopped smiling at once. The lawyers’ behavior was not a new reaction to Arla, true, but the Marquis had the privilege to forget about the insults she suffered. Remembering them annoyed him afresh.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Şiret Mask
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Dangling from a rope two hundred feet above the rooftops of Râu Tare, I find myself questioning the decisions that have led me to this point.
From the Archives:
The Jewels of Montforte, Pt. I
Absinthe felt embarrassed. There was a part of him that wanted to fit in with this sort, these landed gentry.
Issue #237October 26, 2017

The Influence of the Iron Range

The town bandstand has medallions of iron recently emblazoned to it; in the last twelve years since the Hayes election, all respectable towns have added them to the places where politicians might speak. But those are only enough for the local offices. The mayor, the city council. Any redcap or jenny-greenteeth might slip into one of those positions, were the local election commissioners unwary; might find a way around the medallions.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

My prayers are automatic, the movements worn into my fingers. With each Hail Mary and Lord’s Prayer, I can feel my shoulders tense. I haven’t had confession since I left the convent. Haven’t taken communion. I say my prayers, but when my mouth shapes the words, they come out tarnished. There’s nothing holy in this path on which I’ve set myself. I remember his teeth.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Every Black Tree
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Serah avoids his eyes. "I've been pregnant a long time," she says after a while. "The baby won't come."
From the Archives:
More Full of Weeping Than You Can Understand
As with Papa, she knew Thomas was gone and felt no regret, for she had changed equally.