Issues from 2011
Five-Time Hugo Award Finalist for Best Semiprozine
Issue #76August 25, 2011

The Witch’s Second

Lillian countered by flinging a particular spelled spice blend about her. I couldn't tell what it was supposed to do, other than make me want roast chicken for luncheon, but Lord Benderskeith fell to his knees. Lillian took advantage of his moment of weakness to reach for some of the fermented entrails. But Lord Benderskeith rallied astonishingly, summoning an ugly little imp to wreak havoc with Lillian's work.

"(an) amusing bit of mannered romantic fantasy" —Lois Tilton, Locus online

The Angel Azrael Rode into the Town of Burnt Church on a Dead Horse

When he was done killing another glass, he dragged the demons' bodies out of the saloon into the street for the buzzards circling overhead. They’d eat anything. There were a few more people standing in the doorways of other buildings now. He couldn’t tell if they were ghosts or not. He didn’t have an eye for that sort of thing.

"A title like that had better deliver. The prose does." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
My Father’s Wounds
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 31:22 — 21.54MB)
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Father guides my hand to the ruin of his belly. My fingers sink into the wound, touching something moist and pulsing—
Issue #75August 11, 2011

My Father’s Wounds

I tear the robe open. Father's belly’s a ruin—but he has been, as he is in all things, strangely exacting. I press in with my fingers, feeling the wound’s edges; mercifully, they don’t go up underneath the ribs. No, he’s slashed his intestines with expert precision—a deadly but slow wound. Plenty of time before swollen guts and poisoned blood will take his life.

Bone Diamond

"Shh," I whisper. I lift my bone shears and disconnect his left clavicle at the articular process, snap it at the foramen. He is screaming but I do not hear it. The smooth shank of bone sucks out of the trembling meat of his back, and I hold it up to the gathering dawn light. There, buried in the center, is a diamond, blazing a deep and furious red at its heart.

"a vivid example of a realm where fear rules more strongly even than greed" —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Ink and Blood
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 35:08 — 24.12MB)
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Her smile made him feel like someone other than pudgy Wilhelm from the paper store.
Issue #74July 28, 2011

In the Gardens of the Night

The General is apoplectic. He would yell, no doubt, and strike me, but he cannot afford to yell, and if he strikes me I might betray him, through my bruises if not my words. I see him realize also, with the shock of a man who is not used to being in this position, that he has no choice. If he wants Nakshedil dead, he must agree to my requests.

"A neatly twisted tale of conspiracies and plots... Recommended" —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Honorable Mention, Year's Best SF 29 (ed. Gardner Dozois)

Ink and Blood

Wilhelm doesn't know what he will say to her if he catches up. He isn't even sure that he will try to speak to her again. All he knows as he makes his way across the busy market square is that he wants to keep her in his sight just a little while longer, because her smile made him feel like someone other than pudgy Wilhelm from the paper store. He knows that once she slips away, life will become boring and ordinary once more.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Walls of Paper, Soft as Skin
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 11:12 — 7.69MB)
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Layers of parchment enclosed the room. Walls yellowed and tearing. Ceiling shedding like a lizard.
Issue #73July 14, 2011

And Her Eyes Sewn Shut with Unicorn Hair

Zéphine hugged herself. “It doesn’t matter. My dance will fail tonight. They will dress me in white and give me the draught of waking sleep so I can neither feel nor move. Then Marie will sew my eyes shut with unicorn hair and slit my arms from wrist to elbow. When the unicorns come they will drink my blood until I die and eat my soul when it escapes between my lips. That’s why I’ve never loved my sister. I’ve always known the last thing I’ll ever see is her sewing my eyes shut.”

"Hodge's details make it striking and different" —Editor/Reviewer Rich Horton

Walls of Paper, Soft as Skin

He only had one shirt. One pair of pants. No shoes. He brushed his hand along one wall. The parchment was soft with age. He closed the door, walked down the hall, down the stairs, and into the street.

"Recommended" —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Issue #72June 30, 2011

Sightwolf

The silver pool I had found, as things often were in the Other Forest, was still as glass, and impossibly clear. I saw his reflection first. Unlike the mother wolf, and the puppies, he was a wolf here as well as in the waking world. His coat was coal-black and silver-tipped, as the dark fourth pup would surely be when he was grown. You are not supposed to be here, he said. You are not.

The Moral Education of a Mad Bastard

I charged off, blind as the proverbial. With the burlap around my head, at any moment I could’ve tripped on a root or run straight into a tree. I let my instincts take over. The space around me revealed itself to me. I could visualize the forest, each root and fallen tree, all the colors strange and smeared. Weaving through the trunks at full tilt, I believed that I might escape after all.

Issue #71June 16, 2011

From the Spices of Sanandira, Pt. II

We have neither heard nor seen sign of the ehrekh since leaving the caravanserai three days ago. Perhaps the gods toy with me on my final voyage home, for my mind is resolute—no matter what dangers might present themselves in Harrahd, I will return home. Or if my Alenha has fled back to our village, I will search for her there.

The Godslayer’s Wife

I loved him with gratitude and pity, and in time, as I saw the hero he was, I came to love him with reverence and envy, too. And all the time I hoped I might also do a great deed—that I might cure a hero of his scars. But my love, and what understanding I can offer, do nothing. Still he writhes, crying out in the night.

"nice insights about life and death and commitment" —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Nine-Tailed Cat
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 14:44 — 10.12MB)
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The cat departs from the moonbeam, flicking its tails.
Issue #70June 02, 2011

From the Spices of Sanandira, Pt. I

All was silence, and Uhammad was alone with the desert and his phial of spice. He held it above his left eye and focused on his strongest memory from their journey.  After pulling back his lower eyelid, he tapped some of the powder into it. It burned worse than the bright red peppers he used to flavor his dishes. He felt weightless. Despite his sudden wish to fight its call, it had all too soon taken hold of his entire being.

The Nine-Tailed Cat

I heft the shovel in my hand. The glint of it doesn’t compare. If I sharpened it, maybe. If I flattened it out with a mallet and ran the edge against a stone until it sparked like death-day firecrackers, then it just might outgleam the cat's ruby torque.

"this short piece is lovely to read. Recommended" —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Honorable Mention, Year's Best SF 29 (ed. Gardner Dozois)

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Cold Iron and Green Vines
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 29:59 — 20.59MB)
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Most people didn't bother replacing teeth; they all went wicker-and-cogwork as young as they could.
Issue #69May 19, 2011

Letters of Fire

Marten hesitated. This life in the Wrights' Division, ground under the heel of the Bull's soldiery, or the pyre... but he was a coward, and the books, the books.... He sagged and took Gerda's hand, nodding. Just till I can escape.

"superb, both in terms of storyline and in the liquid loveliness of her prose" —Tangent Online

"from her fine continuing series" —Editor/Reviewer Rich Horton

Cold Iron and Green Vines

I crumbled to my knees on the front steps of the church as the hinkypunks closed in on Danny O'Neil. In the twilight of the village square, their bodies were like whirling balls of smoke and light, each one's single foot hopping almost too quickly for me to see. They had brought the smell of the bog with them, thick as sludge and duckweed.

"some interestingly original stuff in this setting" —Lois Tilton, Locus online

"beautifully written... lingers in the mind after the read." —Tangent Online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Finest Spectacle Anywhere
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 28:52 — 19.83MB)
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One night, I tried to sneak into the tent. Mistake.
Issue #68May 05, 2011

The Finest Spectacle Anywhere

I was a plant in the crowd to drum up excitement. Boss stayed in the tent all show and gasped during the finale when Elena "fell" and only caught herself by one foot in the very last second. I could hardly keep from laughing at the rubes that panicked and then applauded three times as loud as they would have if it had all been perfect. Elena and the others had Boss's copper bones—what could happen to them that couldn't be mended?

Buzzard’s Final Bow

They ran through the tumbles and bumps, grips and leaps, Buzzard tossing and turning with Razor as she barely noticed, thrashing about to make it look real. And as they tussled on the ground, Buzzard snaking his python choke around Razor’s mighty furred neck, he spied the balcony. All the children were leaning over, pointing and laughing, ignoring Lady Astra, who smiled and nodded, then shoved Konrad hard through the stone rail—

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Fairy Gaol
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 26:23 — 18.12MB)
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I will fashion a dagger worthy of his jeweled throat.