Issues
2013, 2014 Hugo Award Finalist for Best Semiprozine
Issue #160November 13, 2014
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A Guest of the Cockroach Club

Ugh, the Cockroach Club! They would pick a spot like this for their headquarters, as far as possible from Pennsylvania Avenue. They would like to make a United States senator walk for miles through muck and worse on a freezing February night. And they wouldn't mind the foreign and sinister stink of the place—oh no! They would only make it worse.

The Streetking

Found her down by the Kaltan corner next, and switched well. And better the next meeting. Wondered what her parents thought, her losing bits of shine like that, 'til I realized she was lifting them. I tried to tell her care, but she was paces ahead. "I take them in the gardens," she laughs like a trinket, "and the groomsmen search through the beds after, and the ladies shout around the hedges. 'Where's my necklace? Where's my anklet?'”

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Streetking
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 21:02 — 14.44MB)
I knew the streets. I were a quick strike and a wary eye, but this...
Audio Vault:
Ill-Met at Midnight
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 39:01 — 26.79MB)
Introduced by narrator John Meagher.
From the Archives:
Fleurs du Mal
She stroked the globe of one of the sickly plants. The fronds inside followed the motion of her fingers.
Issue #159October 30, 2014
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Enter to win a free copy of The Mammoth Book of Warriors and Wizardry, a new anthology featuring four BCS stories and nine other BCS authors.


Drawn Up From Deep Places

Midst-caught, Parry thought he saw those eyes change—their pupils slide sidelong, opening like a cuttlefish's, even as her hips slipped, knees gone triple-jointed, twining 'round his legs like two fishtail tentacles. While the inside of her grew scaled and stringent, scraping him tip to root, leaving her mark forever.

The Burned Man

When you are young you think that you will live forever and that no harm will ever come to you. Your friends will stay friends and your lovers lovers, and the most dangerous thing is spotting a wrinkle in your looking glass.  Ah, this is not true, my boy! There are worse things than a safe old age.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Rugmaker’s Lovers
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Something sat in the rugmaker's belly, small and solid and chill, and her husband's songs ceased to warm it.
Audio Vault:
The Suffering Gallery
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Introduced by the author.
From the Archives:
In the Gardens of the Night
If the General wants her dead, he must agree to my requests.
Issue #158October 16, 2014
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Featuring a new story by Gregory Norman Bossert, whose previous BCS story “The Telling” in Issue #109 won the World Fantasy Award.


The Leaves Upon Her Falling Light

The boy pushed at the arm that held the mirror and his soft white hand slipped along her smooth brown until his fingers brushed the glass and then he froze with a little gasp, and the girl laughed like birds leaping into the sky and the stag under the trees lifted its head antlers like the high branches and the hound howled, once, like a trumpet.

"There’s a strong mythic tone here... The story is a tragedy, the destruction of an innocent in the course of a struggle between two greater enemies." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

The Rugmaker’s Lovers

The rugmaker's lips twitched of their own accord, itched to speak her mind, to ask the wise woman what right she had to come and make the rugmaker doubt herself now, while when it had mattered, no one had been surer that the rugmaker had done well to send the warrior away.

“If this story, like the one above, can be called tragedy, it’s not in the same sense. The rugmaker’s sin is a personal one, a sin of weakness… The scale is domestic, not dynastic. And some of the characters, at least, manage to find a manner of peace in the end” —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Butterfly House
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The body's exposed intestines writhed with pale-pink caterpillars, Corpsewing larvae, a sight Yinghua found at once repulsive and fascinating.
Audio Vault:
Memories in Bronze, Feathers, and Blood
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Introduced by the author.
From the Archives:
The Telling
The bees' feet had pricked, Mel remembered, and their fur had tickled as they marched across cheek and through lips, teeth, and tongue.
Issue #157, Sixth Anniversary Double-IssueOctober 02, 2014
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Featuring new cover art “Golden Age” by Juan Carlos Barquet, four stories, a bonus second podcast read by guest narrator Kate Baker, and giveaways for Richard Parks and K.J. Parker short story collections.


The Sorrow of Rain

I looked around slowly. I had a talent for spotting ghosts, monsters, foxes, even demons in their disguised forms, but a death spirit? That was something more within Kenji’s purview than my own. “Where?”

"A moving, simple story in a setting that evokes a scene on a painted scroll... Recommended." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Heaven Thunders The Truth

My smile broadened. It was lucky for the old man I don't practice my trade for free, or he'd have spent the rest of the day rolling on the floor clutching his guts. “If one of them was a wizard capable of performing that level of enchantment, he'd be a rich man,” I said. “Stands to reason.”

"...features a magic system with which I’m not otherwise familiar, told in the author’s usual wry and witty narrative voice. The concluding theme turns out to be truth and the utility of a lie, but there are other issues to engage readers. I look forward to more of these. Recommended." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

The Moon Over Red Trees

But tonight she finds herself mouthing a prayer in a language she's almost forgotten, a simple sentence asking Quan Am to relieve the suffering of mortals, and she doesn't quite know which well the words come bubbling out of—a feeling of standing on the edge of a dark abyss that frightens her. What else has she forgotten, when she was here with Raoul?

“readers will suspect (the narrator) of planning revenge, but the story takes a different path. Readers familiar with the author’s recent work will recognize... the same concern with ancestral heritage and the gynocentric family structure.” —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Butterfly House

The first dozen or so corpses Yinghua paused to examine yielded nothing. By then her nostrils were so full of the death-stench that proximity to any particular corpse hardly mattered, and her nausea began to settle, as if her body were reluctantly coming to terms with the situation. She saw the carnage in the abstract—this was not a severed limb or a split skull, it was simply part of a butterfly habitat.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Sorrow of Rain
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 32:09 — 22.08MB)
I considered what he had said now as I regarded the rain spirit. “I believe that there’s something the headman isn’t telling us.”
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Moon Over Red Trees
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 24:48 — 17.04MB)
...where she might well always be the jumped-up little Annamite to other Frenchmen—but what does it matter, if she has Raoul's love?
From the Archives:
The Ghost of Shinoda Forest
Whether I was drunk or sober, Princess Teiko haunted my dreams.
Issue #156September 18, 2014
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Written on the Hides of Foxes

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.

The Good Deaths, Part II

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.

"...a pretty strange premise, the combination of Carrie Nation and Buddha, but if indeed the translation of the self into its next form is bodily as it’s described here, that would be a logical religious outcome." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Good Deaths, Part II
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Podcast: Download (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.
Audio Vault:
The Penitent
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 31:25 — 21.57MB)
Introduced by the author.
From the Archives:
Pilgrims
I stared at him, feeling the dirt of travel and the coarse fabric of the borrowed peasant’s wools against my skin.
Issue #155September 04, 2014
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No Sweeter Art

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.

"A strongly-realized setting here, and an effective Zodiac-based magic system." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

By Appointment to the Throne

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.

"There is a deep, strong backstory behind these events: the history of the Xac people, their political/ethnic factions. Fortunately, the author handles it all well, providing us just enough information to intrigue and inform, yet not too much." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
No Sweeter Art
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Podcast: Download (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.
Audio Vault:
Pale
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Introduced by author Marie Brennan.
From the Archives:
Luck Fish
He slices through the thong on the cover of the fish basket. Hundreds of sunken eyes stare accusingly up at him.
Issue #154August 21, 2014
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The Angel Azrael Delivers Justice to the People of the Dust

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.

Seeing

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.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Five Fruits I Ate in Sandar Land
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 13:49 — 9.5MB)
I hesitate, but only for a second. Surely Rose would forgive me.
Audio Vault:
Precious Meat
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 30:08 — 20.69MB)
Introduced by audiobook narrator John Meagher.
From the Archives:
A Song of Blackness
I had never met this man, this gnarled old usurper who lounged on furniture emblazoned with my ancestors' crest.
Issue #153August 07, 2014
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Featuring new cover art: “Pillars” by Tomas Honz.


Five Fruits I Ate in Sandar Land

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.

Make No Promises

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.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Topaz Marquise
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 31:50 — 21.86MB)
I could not answer her. I had no memory of doing anything besides preparing the topaz.
Audio Vault:
Haxan
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 51:23 — 35.29MB)
Introduced by the author.
From the Archives:
Over a Narrow Sea
It's not mutton burning, of course; it's all my uncle's counselors, champions, and guests trapped under the rubble of the fortress.
Issue #152July 24, 2014
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The Topaz Marquise

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.

What Needs to Burn

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.

Audio Vault:
One Ear Back
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Introduced by the author.
From the Archives:
Red Dirt
The collective growl of the spinning weighted ropes mimicked the song that had invaded our sleep.