Issues
Four-Time Hugo Award Finalist for Best Semiprozine
Issue #198April 28, 2016

‘Or I Wil Harrie Them Out of This Land’

Henry flings the partly sewn upper at James's head. James laughs and ducks, and the thing flaps like a shot-struck fowl, flops to the floor. Henry leaps to his feet so violently that his stool topples over. —Out with you, he shouts, be gone!

Whale-Oil

Old Iris laughed. “Of course not, boy. I take only the bodies of those fish who offer themselves to my beak. But the world is too big now, and too hungry for light. More wanting out there than there are gifts to be given. For that, it will fall.”

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Whale-Oil
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Altair stood at the edge of the bay holding a blue salmon oil lamp with wick and flame made of fallen stars.
From the Archives:
‘His Crowning Glory’: a new tale of the Antique Lands
Jon sat down in the doorway to watch the man go about whatever odd business his God had appointed to him.
Issue #197April 14, 2016

The Sweetest Skill

I needed to stall the Ten Crows Sect’s men. I asked the Golden Water River for leave to shape a water-hound from its substance, and in return I’d offer my candy dog figurine as tribute. It was pleased, and it pulled the caramel into deeper currents while granting me dominion over a vat’s worth of sugar-tinged riverwater.

Rabbit Grass

I haul my basket over to the stand of flowers that look like ladies’ lacy handkerchiefs.  While I’m digging in the soil with my trowel, sure enough, Picket hops over in the funny way Rabbits do and stares at me through the fence.  His ears have perked up again, and I can see him smiling out of the corner of my eye.  Insults and scoldings never keep them down for long.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Sweetest Skill
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My soul animated the river’s gift. I sculpted my liquid body as I would a glob of hot caramel, paying homage to my old beloved dog.
Audio Vault:
No Sweeter Art
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Introduced by audiobook and podcast narrator John Meagher.
From the Archives:
One Ear Back
I was looking into his ankle, then there was a frightening jerk on my tail and I was peering into his long wide face.
Issue #196March 31, 2016

Featuring new cover art: “Forest,” by Geoffrey Icard.


Sea of Dreams

There was nothing Ierois could say; he made his way back to his house and took up the book he had been given. But there was something stale in the words. Over his years on the island, he had been given nine other books, but they had become outworn, nothing in them to distract him.

The Stone Garden

They rose with the light and worked long into the sunrise clearing a space beneath the broken roof, like the hollow an animal makes in the bracken by circling itself to sleep. Unloading the wood-burner from the wagon and coaxing it into place against the chimney breast was harder, and the tear in Gwyn's shoulder tugged like wool caught in a wall.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Sea of Dreams
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Over his years on the island, he had been given nine other books, but they had become outworn, nothing in them to distract him.
From the Archives:
The Black Waters of Lethe
I scan the opposite shore of the wide river for any sign of human activity, for the people who sent the boat.
Issue #195 – Science-Fantasy Month 3March 17, 2016

Special double-issue for BCS Science-Fantasy Month 3, featuring a bonus story, a bonus podcast, and science-fantasy cover art “Research Lab” by Sung Choi.


A Salvaging of Ghosts

In the darkness at the hole in the ship's hull, Thuy isn't blind. Her suit lights up with warnings—temperature, pressure, distortions. That last is what will kill her: the layers of unreality utterly unsuited to human existence, getting stronger and stronger as the current carries her closer to the wreck, crushing her lungs and vital organs like crumpled paper when her suit finally fails. It's what killed Kim Anh on her last dive

The Mountains His Crown

The soldier shrugged. His look was almost sympathetic. They turned back toward the fields. I would have liked to tell them to take the road, to stop trampling our remaining crops, but I knew better than to rile them. The soldier's horse dropped the chewed flower stalk as they disappeared back between the rows.

Blood Grains Speak Through Memories

Even though the chilled spring day promised nothing but beauty, the grains in Frere-Jones's body shivered to her sadness as she looked at the nearby dirt road. The day-fellows along the road were packing their caravan. Evidently her promises of safety weren’t enough for them to chance staying even a few more hours.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
A Salvaging of Ghosts
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Thuy deactivates the suits' propulsion units and watches her daughter's remains, floating beside her.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Mountains His Crown
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With soldiers, with emperors, it could always be worse. After a moment I knelt beside her.
Audio Vault:
The Breath of War
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Introduced by the author.
From the Archives:
The Mote-Dancer and the Firelife
Nicolai was three years dead when I lighted to EZ Aquarii to forget him. Naturally he came along too.
Issue #194 – Science-Fantasy Month 3March 03, 2016

Special double-issue for BCS Science-Fantasy Month 3, featuring a bonus story, a bonus podcast, a science-fantasy episode of the BCS Audio Vault podcast, and science-fantasy cover art “Research Lab” by Sung Choi.


Foxfire, Foxfire

Even in human-shape, I had an excellent sense of smell. I had no difficulty tracking the pilot. She lay on her side in the lee of a chunk of rubble, apparently asleep. The remains of a Brick Ration's wrapper had been tossed to the side. She had downed all of it, which impressed me. But then, I'd heard that piloting was hungry work.

Call and Answer, Plant and Harvest

Today her sleeves are sewn with opals and moonstones and within their glimmer here and there on the left sleeve, glitters another precious stone, set in no particular order, random as the stars. Her skirt and bodice are aluminum fish-scales, armored though she expects no fight. Her only weapon is her own considerable wit.

The Right Bright Courier

A Bright Courier never looks back, never regrets, but when I crested the bank I turned to her. Her scales were gray and shimmering under the golden light of the double moons, her sails reflecting the ether-glow we sailed upon to travel between planets. I'd sacrificed a valve of my heart, a length of my gut, and an impossible desire, all to have her grown for me. From me. It wasn't looking back, that last glance. You can't look back at your present self.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Foxfire, Foxfire
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Nuclear physics was not typically a fox specialty, although my mother had allowed that astrology was all right.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Call and Answer, Plant and Harvest
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 25:27 — 17.48MB)
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The glass-marbled plaza before the gates murmurs with spans of pigeons in the early light.
Audio Vault:
The Book of Locked Doors
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Introduced by the author.
From the Archives:
Scry
She had never imagined that she—the greatest scryer of her generation—could be lied to and tricked by her own husband.
Issue #193February 18, 2016

And the Blessing of the Angels Came Upon Them

Peavey could not fault his grandson Moot’s skill nor the beauty of the boy’s sculpture. No, it was the subject matter that cut into his heart, even now. Moot cherished his beliefs so deeply; if his faith were ever shaken, it would surely devastate him. He was so very much like his grandmother in that regard.

Salt Circles

From this window, we watched the man’s whip rise again and the back hoof of the mare collide with his thin throat in the same instant. The man crumpled down into the festering street as gouts of blood spouted from his neck. No one came to claim his body. Below us in the alley, rats and dogs or rat-sized dogs emerged slowly. They began to sip at the red puddles around him.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
And the Blessing of the Angels Came Upon Them
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Consuming the native crustaceans had given rise to bone cancers and rotting ulcers of the skin, from which death was a cruel relief.
From the Archives:
The Sacrifice Pit
She was beautiful. But it was forbidden, in the eyes of the Tetharan.
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.