Issues
Issue #358
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Different Kinds of Thorn

She's been busy building a life in the city, building strength and respect in the guard, growing a circle of friends and lovers. Next to that, her family has seemed almost imaginary, their old familiar problems far away. It hasn't occurred to her until now that anything could truly change in the village. But if it has changed, and changed dangerously, then she must do what she can to understand the threat and meet it. If the Apple Orchard King is the threat, then this is an opportunity.

She has offered a dangerous thing, but oh, it is a sweet one too. To lie with a dryad, queen of the wood, would be an experience unlike any other.
Forte

Giro and Cecilia have seen each other four more times. Each night they can get away, they meet atop the Phoenix Gate and Cecilia asks Giro to show her some fantastic new sight of the city. One night they see a play at the Theatro Satyrico; when the two actors in the comic love triangle face off with swords, Giro and Cecilia critique the fencing loudly enough to enrage the rest of the audience. Another night they sneak out of the city to the Sauvian Vineyards and stumble home drunk on a dozen different vintages. Yet another night, they enter a tavern separately wearing carnival masks and, in the sanctity of a darkened chamber, remove one another's clothes—hardly speaking, as though they're making love atop a delicate ice cap where a single loose word might shatter the stars.

"There's nothing they can do to keep us apart. Not by the laws of Cisterna."
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Different Kinds of Thorn

Podcast: Download (Duration: 37:24 — 25.68MB)
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She has offered a dangerous thing, but oh, it is a sweet one too. To lie with a dryad, queen of the wood, would be an experience unlike any other.
From the Archives:
The Crow Knight
“The birds?” Ser Wynn looked around, but the only bird she saw was her own.
Issue #357
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The Nostalgia Panes

“Tendo,” Seneca said, “we used to perform on street corners and church steps. We got constables for our trouble. Hounds. Spilled blood. When has less risk ever factored into our installations? I’d set up in the prin-sec’s office if I could, but I’ll settle for her nephew’s private property. Using the nostalgia lawn as a backdrop is the point.”

After that day on the Stackshead Bridge, they hadn’t given up politics completely, but they hadn’t done installations, either.
These Hands Only Make Last Meals

On the ride home, we compare what we think we know. One girl says an officer let something slip. Another says she saw it happen. Where we agree is that a brother tried to desert. He was in the yard with his Sister when she turned her back to pick a flower. In that instant he engaged his engines and took flight. Naslia heard he made it halfway to the horizon before an anti-air gun shot him down.

Two days later, one of my Brother's squadron is killed.
Audio Vault:
Two Bodies in Basting Stitch

Podcast: Download (Duration: 42:28 — 29.16MB)
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Introduced by the author, in an interview conducted and engineered by M.K. Hobson, discussing the story’s inspirations in complicity with institutional systems and activism risking that status for beliefs or people you believe in.
From the Archives:
The Oracle and the Sea
Every month when the soldiers bring her supply of flour and milk, they also bring waterproofed parcels of manuscript paper and cool bricks of ink.
Issue #356
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The Splinters of Our Bond

Loads of horrible people do one nice thing, though. Perhaps he wanted something out of the gift, or perhaps it was his one good day. People are mixed. We all like to think of the villains in songs stalking around kicking kittens all day long, but surely they run out of kittens or miss their aim. Or surely they have one moment of picking up a kitten and stroking it before making their brother's life a living hell. I had to trust my brother. He was a good man. But then there was another body.

I didn't know the next body. Considerately, Royir left a note.
I Will Sing Your White Bones Home

We cannot go landwise. Too vulnerable for a start, and the finless watch their beaches like crabs, scuttling this way and that, their eyes pinched and ugly. They have set a line of posts on the edge of the world, deep in the sands. Each spike bears the head of one of our risen. We do not care. The risen have gone to the Great Water where they will fish and fight for all eternity.

He was speared by a finless, and we watched his head rot at the edge of the sea.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
I Will Sing Your White Bones Home

Podcast: Download (Duration: 26:40 — 18.32MB)
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He was speared by a finless, and we watched his head rot at the edge of the sea.
From the Archives:
The Mama Mmiri
I longed for someone with whom I could engage in our papaya-pipe-gun battles in the surrounding forests.
Issue #355
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Featuring new cover art: “Empire City Vista” by Andy Lee.

The Mountains of Another World, Where Eagles May Fly Free

Traitor-kin indeed. At what range could the Imperator's sorcerers snatch away his man-shape? He imagines himself shriveling into the lowliest of creatures: an eel, a snake, an eyeless worm, to be delivered to the Imperator's justice and crushed before her marble throne. Inside him, he is sure, there is no proud and beautiful bird to stretch its wings and join his three precious eagles in the sky. Time is the greatest sorcerer, and eventually it will force him into a new shape: a sea-bloated corpse, a sun-leathered mummy. Let him only make it across the sea, first. Let him see his birds take wing over newer, kinder lands.

Time is the greatest sorcerer, and eventually it will force him into a new shape: a sea-bloated corpse.
Anything You Lose Comes Round in Another Form

The beach had narrowed to a sliver, but there was still space to sit and watch the fisherman skiffs. Fewer and fewer returned with troughs full of silverfins these days. It had been sixty moons since I had last tended to the sea. I hadn’t done it since the day Deniz was born. I had no intention of ending up like my mother, and I wasn’t going to let Deniz waste his life, either. If the sea expanded, so be it. Let it be angry—I had my son.

I said it because I loved her, but I didn’t understand why duty was more important than her life.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Mountains of Another World, Where Eagles May Fly Free

Podcast: Download (Duration: 27:40 — 19MB)
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Time is the greatest sorcerer, and eventually it will force him into a new shape: a sea-bloated corpse.
From the Archives:
The Warriors, The Mothers, The Drowned
Ana thought the land of the dead would be empty, but it is full to bursting.
Issue #354
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Valor Bones

Leti sat down in the mud alongside the monster-thing. Her fingers grazed the book's cover; she remembered the attic. Daka's cold and callused body. And across town, the terrifying illness that had taken root. Her body trembled once, deeply. The monster-thing watched with great interest. Leti turned the page and started to read.

The monster-thing watched with great interest. Leti turned the page and started to read.
The Heart in Her Hands

I look back down the table at Eris. She is staring thoughtfully at the ceiling with bright eyes, and then her gaze drifts down—over me, whom she seems not even to notice—and settles on the Queen, with an expression simultaneously fired with curiosity and cold with regard. I have seen that expression many times before, when she first holds up the organ of a newly dissected animal with her forceps, or when she discovers that prodding the exposed brain of a mouse can make its leg twitch. That is how she is looking at the Queen.

I have seen that expression many times before, when she first holds up the organ of a newly dissected animal with her forceps.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Valor Bones

Podcast: Download (Duration: 41:24 — 28.43MB)
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The monster-thing watched with great interest. Leti turned the page and started to read.
From the Archives:
The Uncarved Heart
I used to dream of the heart our masters would give me.
Issue #353
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Eshat’s Temple

“Just as soon as our House’s wondrous vistas of possibility opened up before me, dear one, I found my spirit inexplicably enervated. Legendary tomes that beckoned to me since my first blush of adolescence have lost their luster, revealing themselves as desiccated, retrograde texts best returned to the dusts of time. Blessed scrolls have proven reactionary and un-illuminating; rarefied incunabula, fusty and yawn-inducing. Most distressingly, even the Translator’s Almanac, that transcendent tool that has helped me steer so many during their moments of need, has provided no solace.”

“The freedom filling up the cup of my life seems each day to displace farther and farther the air of contentment I once mistakenly beheld as an emptiness.”
Ten Fruits and Other Memories of Rialynas

When I recovered, I tried to peel a berenton myself. The skin of the fruit seemed to harden wherever my fingers landed, showed sharp scales everywhere I moved my thumb, made a bloody mess of my hand. When at last I wrestled the flesh out, it tasted of nothing at all. The flavor of a berenton is determined entirely by its surroundings. Alas, in Rialynas I came to find that I was the same.

I always wanted the best of as many worlds as I could get my hands on, though I only ever managed two.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Ten Fruits and Other Memories of Rialynas

Podcast: Download (Duration: 15:05 — 10.36MB)
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I always wanted the best of as many worlds as I could get my hands on, though I only ever managed two.
From the Archives:
The Fall of the Mundaneum
There was a letter addressed to him and beneath it a chaos of paper, the slips and sheets and scraps in no obvious order.
Issue #352
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Featuring the 750th story published in BCS! “Merry in Time” by Kathleen Jennings.

Merry in Time

"Ah, true roses are tricky," she said, a little sourly. But then she shook back her hair. "Or so I've heard. I've never been...at least, before this—” and she gestured to the boughs that never quite forced them to duck, “you didn’t look at— I mean, you wouldn’t have— That is, I wasn’t the sort to be given any flowers."

"That's hardly fair," he complained. "Must it be roses?"
Venturing

When I shirk my chores to go venturing, Momma Londie’s always mad as all, and Dad Bray tuts and clucks when he sees me come home all muddy and with burrs in my hair, and he takes up the whomping stick and looks all hardeyed as a father ought to, but then there’s us gone down to the root cellar, him hitting the wall with the stick and me squeaking an Ow every once and somewhen to fool Momma Londie. He don’t whomp me so long as I got a good story for him.

My name’s Zilda Trueshake and I’m big for twelve, or so Dad Bray is always like to tell.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Venturing

Podcast: Download (Duration: 32:31 — 22.34MB)
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My name’s Zilda Trueshake and I’m big for twelve, or so Dad Bray is always like to tell.
From the Archives:
Bandit and the Seventy Raccoon War
At midnight the witch began to bless the cannons. Jacsen told the boy to stay put and slipped out among the tents.
Issue #351
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Featuring new cover art: “Sandica” by Dominique van Velsen.

The Angel Azrael Encounters the Revelation Pilgrims and Other Curiosities

“Old bones like those back in the shop just have a little smouldering spark of power left in them,” Azrael said. “Bibles, though, they’re like lightning bolts. Ain’t many that can handle them without getting destroyed. And I ain’t seen any protective wards on you nephilim like on these pilgrims.”

Of course, as an angel he couldn’t help but look for signs to interpret, whether he wanted to or not.
A Nickel For The Burlap Man

The trestle bridge caught fire in 1911. Crisped from existence, right as a locomotive crossed. The train dropped. The ravine caught it. There’s that banjo tune from back then, something about bone and coal and iron and souls. Sad song about a sad day and fairly accurate. It has a verse about the corn, too.

The trestle bridge caught fire in 1911. The train dropped. The ravine caught it.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
A Nickel For The Burlap Man

Podcast: Download (Duration: 10:50 — 7.45MB)
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The trestle bridge caught fire in 1911. The train dropped. The ravine caught it.
Audio Vault:
The Angel Azrael Delivers Small Mercies

Podcast: Download (Duration: 36:14 — 24.88MB)
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Introduced by the author, explaining the genesis of the Angel Azrael character, his horror-influenced Weird Western world, and the personal bibles in that world.
From the Archives:
Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride
So when Mister Hadj said that a stone in the road told him where we'd find Parson Lucifer, I didn’t doubt it.
Issue #350 – Science-Fantasy Month 6
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Our 350th Issue! A special double-issue for BCS Science-Fantasy Month 6, featuring three bonus stories and science-fantasy cover art “Ancient Ones” by Jose Borges.

At the Foot of the Dragon Stair

Thanh Lan wanted the order back. She wanted her home back. She wanted to be sitting in the kitchens again, listening to Mei go on and on. She wanted to have those barbed, frustrating conversations with Abbess Linh about the order's mission. And she knew she wasn't ever going to get any of that, but she could get something else: the satisfaction of saving the life of the order who had saved her own life.

Thanh Lan walked to the door, legs shaking.
A Record of Our Meeting with the Grand Faerie Lord of Vast Space and Its Great Mysteries, Revised

I led Pilot Uma on the circuitous route through the spaceport that I had taken the morning Nina and I came upon the Grand Faerie Lord. [Addition: There were more direct routes. However, from reading my great grandmother’s records, I theorized that our search for the Faerie was based not so much on the location, but on the path one followed.] [Revision: I was correct.]

I returned to the path in the spaceport gardens where I had first found the Grand Faerie Lord.
It Never Was

Trist reared back. “No!” She might be trapped by the ancient rules of the hunt, but she would not have them say she had asked for it. “I didn’t call you. There’s nothing I’m so desperate to be free of that I’d take the chance of faltering during a ride.”

The wild hunt finally slowed enough for Trist to pick out the riders and their metal mounts.
Empty Appendages

Three times he has seen it now, a spindle-limbed silhouette. In its general shape, it resembles his own appendage—it has two arms, two legs and one head—but there is something deeply unnatural about the way it moves. Each time Harwen pursued it, the creature vanished into the scrub. He fears it is an omen; a signal that his calm existence cannot last forever.

Harwen faces toward himself and suppresses a shudder.
To People Who’d Never Known Good

Without realizing it, I grabbed at Mama’s sleeve, the way I used to when I was younger and our shuttle hit some unmapped debris or popped a fuse unexpectedly. It was the kind of reflexive gesture that didn’t mean much, but the stare Mama sent over her shoulder as she shook me off was severe and unmistakable.

The Prospect Pig gave a prolonged chuckle, and he fixed on me for a while in particular.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
At the Foot of the Dragon Stair

Podcast: Download (Duration: 39:25 — 27.07MB)
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Thanh Lan walked to the door, legs shaking.
Audio Vault:
Gennesaret

Podcast: Download (Duration: 36:54 — 25.34MB)
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Introduced by the author, in an interview conducted and engineered by M.K. Hobson, discussing the story’s inspirations from inter-generational political attitudes in families of immigrants and patriarchal culture and how its use of science-fantasy elements shaped its presentation.
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.
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