Issues
2013, 2014, 2015 Hugo Award Finalist for Best Semiprozine
Issue #192February 04, 2016

Featuring new cover art–“Plains of Another World” by Leon Tukker–and our 400th story! A special novelette by K.J. Parker about storytelling and storytellers: “Told By An Idiot.”


Told By An Idiot

I accepted that master Allardyce had the potential to write the greatest play ever; a play so good that if God were to summon Mankind before the bar of Heaven and demand to know one good reason why He shouldn't send a second flood and drown the lot of us, all we'd have to do is hand Him the manuscript and there'd be no case to answer. I knew that, in order to write this play, master Allardyce needed to drink himself stupid, get beaten up twice a week, and generally mash himself down into a cheese, like the cider-makers do, before he could ferment and distil his very essence into words on a page. But I have a business to run, and I need crowd-pleasers. Master Allardyce's monument-more-enduring-than-bronze would just have to wait until I retired. Accordingly, I gave him no peace.

The Three Dancers of Gizari

It dawned on me that he enjoyed watching me squirm; a proud competent woman but to him just Nahemiah’s commoner puppet. “Ten thousand!” I spat out the words intentionally in the heaviest Tavalland accent that the theater had eradicated in me twelve years before. “Ten thousand thalers for your measly sculpture that the Opera rejected!”

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Three Dancers of Gizari
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Except that I learned that if they spoke truth, it was not to me.
From the Archives:
Great, Golden Wings
Lady Percivalia sat motionless for as long as she could so that she could savor the thrill.
Issue #191January 21, 2016

In Skander, for a Boy

I was sure this boy did know a back way to the kitchens. That was his Skander, and his experience: covert, insinuating, conditional. Not mine. “This is my way, my king’s way,” in through the front door to ask straightforwardly for what I wanted. They would see Rulf at my back, and all his ships behind him; they would not refuse me. In and out.

Blessed are Those Who Have Seen and Do Not Believe

I chuckled, cracked open my pistol’s cylinder, and loaded it with the wooden ammunition. “Don’t worry, my dear,” I said, and tucked the gun in my waistband. “There’s plenty of time before sunrise.”

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Blessed are Those Who Have Seen and Do Not Believe
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Despite my profession, I have never considered myself to be a holy man.
From the Archives:
To the Gods of Time and Engines, a Gift
The silent commands were with her all the time now, haunting and familiar.
Issue #190January 07, 2016

Longsleeves

Never before had she run with such speed or such fear, caroming off trees, tearing through brush, ripping loose the roots that hooked her feet, until she caught up to Hundeil. Both were wheezing with exhaustion when they reached the gnarled behemoth of a tree that proved to be Olderra's dwelling. Its bark parted like curtains to admit them.

The Mama Mmiri

It had been a fortnight since Ugo's burial, and the vacuum I felt within me grew ever larger. I jumped out of bed most nights with screams that made mama down two cupfuls of Mazi Ike's supposedly heart-mellowing concoction every day, and I couldn't continue huddling under the avocado tree beside Ugo's grave every other night weeping.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Mama Mmiri
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I longed for someone with whom I could engage in our papaya-pipe-gun battles in the surrounding forests.
From the Archives:
A Marble for the Drowning River
I was afraid to say anything, but my mouth said, “please don’t kill her” without making any sound.
Issue #189December 24, 2015

A Killer of Dead Men

Otranto didn't hesitate. On some level, he realized, he had been anticipating this moment, or one like it, for a very long time. "The punishment for failure should be death by my own hand."

So Strange the Trees

Alquen waited there, sitting in the lee of a tall elm, for three hours, barely aware of time passing. He wore his finest clothes: a blue silk shirt with only two threadbare places, black tunic and breeches covered with a burgundy cloak. He felt ridiculous and handsome at the same time.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
A Killer of Dead Men
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Otranto knew better than to ask why any man must die.
From the Archives:
The Calendar of Saints
I accept mortal commissions; I’ve killed before.
Issue #188December 10, 2015

Featuring new cover art for the winter season of our Northern Hemisphere readers: “Huashan Temple” by Xiao Ran.


Eyes Beyond the Fire

When no eyes were on her, Lys frayed a rope with her knife—choosing one which would not harm the sails but would send an iron pulley tumbling into the sea. When Tamlen angrily ordered a replacement brought from the cargo hold, Lys was first to volunteer and on her way before anyone could deny her.

The Rest Will Blur Together

I am Melika. And that is all, now. My grandfather—I believe he was my grandfather—said that our memories make us who we are. I hope that he was wrong, for if he spoke the truth, then I am no one.

From the Archives:
The Drowned Man
The drowned man brushed past Corwyn in his hurry to get away from her sister.
Issue #187November 24, 2015

The Delusive Cartographer

Crane needed no further invitation. The pain in his back was forgotten now that he was finally here, finally close. He charted a foot over from the cell's sliver window and down to the floor. He’d doubted, in the darkest hours of the night. He’d doubted the whole thing. But the groove was exactly where the cartographer had described it.

Spider’s Ink

To catch a bug, you must burn him out. That had been our experience with Macti spies and rebels. Under the authority of the Wayfaring House we came with black fire and warned all that if the Spider known as Heriz was not returned, we would decree the island corrupted and purify by shot and flame. It had worked in Jani, Uurun, and it would work here.

Audio Vault:
In the Age of Iron and Ashes
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Introduced by the author.
From the Archives:
Bakemono, or The Thing That Changes
I realized in that moment that even my name is a lie.
Issue #186November 12, 2015

Holy Water, Holy Blood

Bonifacio looked at me puzzled for a moment, but then said: “Here is a vial, then. If you wish more, let me know. I will have Frazetti bring you ten thick candles that will last till morning. He will check on you during the night, but without waking you. Will your dog bite him?”

The Guardian’s Head

Until a year later my master found the sculpted head I had made of him, and he flew into a rage. He was angry despite the quality of the sculpture, I thought then, already knowing enough to know that I had done it well, that the face was a likeness and the intent had been passionate. He was angry, I understood later, because of the quality.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Bloodless
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But she wouldn't let him make it through the gate; the inside guards were there to deal with travelers. Kamalija was here to deal with monsters.
From the Archives:
After Compline, Silence Falls
Even if one of the brothers were sneaking into the pantry after vespers, I cannot fathom why he would want to strip a cat of her flesh. They may be old footprints--I’m not certain--but they are all I have, and so I follow them.
Issue #185October 29, 2015

A fantastically monstrous issue for Halloween!


Demons Enough

The leech crouched in the broken hole where the window had been. Its glamour made it hard to discern details. Thorfinn had seen leeches in daylight, knew the ragged, filthy reality. His gaze flickered involuntarily up to the dark hollows of its eyes. It was an effort to tear away again from the hypnotic stare.

Bloodless

The strange moment broke, and suddenly the stranger in her circle was an enemy again, and Kamalija struck out with her knife. He had already ducked back, and the blade dragged then stopped at the line where they'd poured her blood, as if the air was made of clay. She couldn't force it any further, and she watched his back as he bounded into the forest.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Unearthly Landscape by a Lady
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I could not imagine that my charge could conceive something so strange, so unpleasant.
From the Archives:
Father’s Kill
I lock both Father and the night away.
Issue #184October 15, 2015

A Careful Fire

They turned their backs to Mabella. Her stomach twisted as it did when she pilfered too many sweets from the kitchens. She wanted to say something and nothing. She wanted to run, but her feet throbbed. Instead she turned and walked from the winged women's cackling silence.

Unearthly Landscape by a Lady

I found myself examining the impeccable rooms and gardens in these photographs, fearing that they, too, betrayed another world. I am ashamed to say that I was happy to have shut the door on such rooms, on Flora herself. But I could not erase the memory of the man with the Gatling gun, and the five-armed green creatures lying on the ground below him.

Reprinted in Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, 2016, ed. Rich Horton

Audio Fiction Podcast:
A Careful Fire
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She bursts each night when he leaves her. She does not wash the juice from her skin but hides the blue stains beneath her clothes.
From the Archives:
We, As One, Trailing Embers
With eyes closed, there is a singular heartbeat, a solitary pulse, and when we stretch, there is no we.