2013, 2014 Hugo Award Finalist for Best Semiprozine
— September 18, 2014
I hear the swish of snow falling off branches outside our thick-needled shelter and think, for a strange moment, that the illness is over, that animals will come near us—but no, it’s Oruguaq standing at the narrow opening, with a dead fox slung over her shoulder almost blending into her furs, winter-hidden. She looks like she’s trying not to laugh.
Oh, Earth. Oh, Kansas. Oh, soil. The Holy Lord Himself had had bad soil too, I reckoned. I didn’t know much about far-off Lumbini, Holy Land of His Magnificent Birth, but I had heard preachers tell of its hard, clay-like soil and shrubby flora and pathetic little patches of grass. The Lord Up Above may have been born an Earthly prince, but His kingdom sure sounded dry to me.
(Duration: 50:18 — 34.54MB)
The Lord Buddha spoke to me that night. He said to take my hatchet, dust it off, and get to those towns and saloons out there. Those damnable pits of damnation.
(Duration: 31:25 — 21.57MB)
Introduced by the author.
I stared at him, feeling the dirt of travel and the coarse fabric of the borrowed peasant’s wools against my skin.
— September 04, 2014
As a candy dog I lazed between two street-kitchen buckets. Through the legs of passers-by I glimpsed my real self resting at my stall. Next, I animated the sugar-horse. Nong had convinced an herbalist to hang my horse figurine under his ‘running horse’ lamp. I had worried about the flame but needed this vantage point covered, and so dangled the horse a hopefully safe distance under the lantern’s base.
The body couldn't have been there long; washers and cooks had been coming in, and there were deliveries. Sometimes waitstaff came in early, to pick up a little extra cash working in the kitchen. Or she could have been killed after closing the night before, and just dumped in the morning, or... or anything, really.
(Duration: 37:06 — 25.48MB)
My soul sunk beneath the platform planks and into a sturdy ox figurine with wisps of cooled caramel for its horns.
(Duration: 44:20 — 30.45MB)
Introduced by author Marie Brennan.
He slices through the thong on the cover of the fish basket. Hundreds of sunken eyes stare accusingly up at him.
— August 21, 2014
The tunnel went straight down for a spell, then began to twist and turn. The walls were scored with the marks of pick axes everywhere, and rocks and piles of dirt lined the sides of the tunnel. Further tunnels began to branch off the main one. Only the main tunnel was lit by torches, though, and the group carrying Azrael remained on that path. He received his answer when they came across the bones.
The spider's poison was already taking hold. Rahami's heart raced. Breathing became as difficult as pumping air through damaged bellows. Be calm. Be calm. Her consciousness seeped through Morshimon's skin, into his spine. Breathe, she thought. Breathe with this man. See with this man.
(Duration: 13:49 — 9.5MB)
I hesitate, but only for a second. Surely Rose would forgive me.
(Duration: 30:08 — 20.69MB)
Introduced by audiobook narrator John Meagher.
I had never met this man, this gnarled old usurper who lounged on furniture emblazoned with my ancestors' crest.
— August 07, 2014
Featuring new cover art: “Pillars” by Tomas Honz.
The man hesitates a moment, looking me over. I will eat the core if that is what he demands. I have come too far not to keep going; have yielded what little I was born with except my honor. If I stop now, I will retain nothing.
My left eye has always been weak, where I will lose it fighting to defend the fortress against my sister’s return. My sister has always been the better fencer—she will be faster than I, sure and swift, her blade striking before I can even unsheathe my own sword. She will fall short, though, misjudge the distance, and though I will lose the eye, I will not die as she intended.
(Duration: 31:50 — 21.86MB)
I could not answer her. I had no memory of doing anything besides preparing the topaz.
(Duration: 51:23 — 35.29MB)
Introduced by the author.
It's not mutton burning, of course; it's all my uncle's counselors, champions, and guests trapped under the rubble of the fortress.
— July 24, 2014
Her words made no sense, but neither did the lost hours. I shivered in the warmth of the day. Beyond the window, in the square, I saw a familiar figure in a tattered cloak. Even from a floor up, the smell that greeted me was unpleasant: unwashed hair, perhaps rotting leather. Suddenly, I wanted to escape from my studio and the chill that hung over it.
When I woke, I found the bullet between my wound and the makeshift bandage. The flesh was already closing where my body had spit it out. I pulled off the bandage and cursed a colorful tirade at Shadow, although I knew it wasn't his fault. People with the magic can't help it sometimes. Things just happen around them, though they might not want it to.
(Duration: 37:32 — 25.77MB)
Introduced by the author.
The collective growl of the spinning weighted ropes mimicked the song that had invaded our sleep.
— July 10, 2014
The crow kept watching me. Wherever I went, I could look up and see its eyes upon me. I didn’t realize that until I saw it out in the moon garden. It hopped up on the edge of the center urn and reached out, not with its beak, but with a foot. It took a purple berry in its talons and squeezed until juice oozed out over its claws.
Dajan nodded, then trudged after Esu who had set off in a new direction. It was always this way with the gods. Nothing held fast. Nothing held still. They were the wind and he was the grain of sand blown heedless in their wake. He licked his lips. It tasted of salt, but he smiled anyway. He had tricked this boy-god once. There was more to be gained from him.
"Neat mythic stuff. I really like Esu, whose godhood is evident, particularly in his psychopomp role. The sense of time/eternity here is also well done. Recommended." —Lois Tilton, Locus online
(Duration: 36:19 — 24.94MB)
Introduced by Hugo Award-winning editor Lou Anders.
By the end of each night I had nearly adjusted, only to be wrenched back to my natural form at the first whisper of dawn.
A special double-issue, in celebration of our 150th issue! With a giveaway for a signed hardback of Brandon Sanderson’s Hugo-winning novella The Emperor’s Soul.
Now, please bear in mind that this was a new thing. I had been trapped in what looked like a pitiful little statue for the better part of five hundred years, and in all that time no one saw my prison for what it was. Driana did. She knew someone alive was trapped there, and she was curious. Frankly I was curious about her as well.
Inky grabbed his pick off the ground and put his weight behind the next swing, shearing off a piece of coal the size of a small apple. He almost laughed with a combination of relief and joy, tossing the lump into his cart. "See?" Spec said, laying a hand across his shoulders, "You're getting it already...."
There's no reason for anyone to visit our empty scrubland. Civilization, comfort, memory: these must all be on the opposite bank. On this side lies only madness. Nature itself here is unnatural. Ants sometimes fly in the air. The prince says that of course ants fly. On the other side of the river, he claims, his golden carriage was pulled by swarms of winged ants. I remember none of this.
The wizard’s house had drifted with herds of cumulus for a hundred years over the low sky of the Shallows. When I looked down from the windows, it had always been onto a patchwork of rolling hills, farms, and small streams. Now that had ended, and the land fell away in dizzying cliffs. I had lived my entire life on a mountaintop and never known it.
"...well-done and fitted with fantastic stuff, particularly the treatment of time, which makes it more original, but also the magical teaching scrolls, the wizard’s flying house, the scenery, and the jealous embodied wind who serves the wizard, hoping to earn his love. Recommended." —Lois Tilton, Locus online
(Duration: 14:05 — 9.68MB)
I scan the opposite shore of the wide river for any sign of human activity, for the people who sent the boat.
Somewhat to his own surprise, Xu Jian awoke the next morning on the hard ground—chilled, weak, but alive.
— June 12, 2014
I bowed my obedience, but inside my hopes blossomed like a rare evening flower. He had let slip a clue: the day for which I was born. Never had I known why he had chosen me as servant, above other boys. And so I spent the day as instructed, bathing in scalding water and fasting on bitter tea. What could it mean that I was born for this?
But where could he be going? She had to find out. He almost never left since the second accident. And what about that locket had enraged him? It could be a trap, one of his loyalty tests; he could be waiting just outside to spring on her the moment she disobeyed him, but the risk was worth it. He made threats and turned nasty on occasion, sure enough, but he needed her more than she needed him now, so no chance he would do anything irreparable to punish her.
(Duration: 37:04 — 25.46MB)
Their bodies returned to the tar pit, the fierce source of his power; and this was the work of my hated lord and master.
I clambered to my feet and embraced my father, sobbing my sorrow and regret against his shoulder.
— May 29, 2014
Featuring new cover art: “Kaybor Gate” by Alex Ries.
Besides the hat, however, the thing wore no real clothes, so the circular stamp reading VULCAN IRON WORKS—WILKES-BARRE, PENNA. was perfectly visible on its boiler-like torso next to a W.C.T.U. badge. Below, a chain-link skirt preserved some amount of modesty, swaying and rattling awkwardly around its legs with every awkward step. Its thick metal arms were jointed and riveted, and it gripped a formidable hatchet in its clenched and rigid hands.
Unlike street performances Senjam had witnessed, the charmer did not wave his pungi from side to side as he blew. Neither did the cobra sway. With eyes fixed on the old man, its only movement was an occasional flicking of the tongue. As Senjam watched, the charmer’s left hand blurred out and seized the snake behind the head. He thrust the creature into a wicker basket and placed a lid over it, all the while continuing to play with his other hand.
"one very fine heroic fiction tale" --Fletcher Vredenburgh, Black Gate magazine online reviews
(Duration: 23:33 — 21.56MB)
From three blocks away, Tom Brown could hear the big bass drum from the Women's Christian Temperance Union band as they thundered down Second Avenue.
The Shiner Man’s covered wagon walked across the desert on six metal legs.