Issues from 2012
Issue #93
The Ivy-Smothered Palisade

A flare of illumination washed the chamber in flickering shadow and gleam. I'd gone through another door, into a different room, longer and wider than the one I knew. Runes were scratched on every visible inch of walls, ceiling and floor. Repeated phrases: Death feeds life. Life breeds death. Death breathes. Tall and heavy armoires slithering with gold filigree lined both sides of this horrid space, most with their doors open, spilling out once-beautiful gowns now molded and rotting, reminding me of molted skins.

Oh, Eyan, so often I've reflected on this moment and been so ashamed, that instead of trying to do something, anything, to help, I cowered and crawled away.

"I enjoyed Mike Allen's "The Ivy-Smothered Palisade," another very dark story" —Rich Horton, Locus

"Allen creates a very convincing world and strong and memorable characters" — Tangent online

Pridecraft

I was sagging, listing in pain, by the time I could see Rattle and the crew. They were waiting on the Eight-B platform, near the engine console. The Eight-B line had a rust-and-people smell that mingled into a peculiar musk. I imagined the stench of Hail's blood and body beneath the usual platform scents. From Rattle's face, I knew she didn't have to.

There hadn't been a killing in years, though. We'd forgotten.

"A strangely interesting scenario, well-imagined and well-written. " Recommended —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Bearslayer and the Black Knight
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 18:06 — 12.43MB)
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No one decided anyone's fate that day. The champions were too evenly matched.
From the Archives:
Thieves of Silence
Terror overcame even the blindness, and Zel ran.
Issue #92

Featuring New Cover Art: “Remember,” by Zsofia Tuska

Bearslayer and the Black Knight

They clashed in Bear Forest, and the trees sighed around them. Unarmed, dressed only in shadow, they explored each other with sore fingers and hungry eyes. The enchantments of battle cast aside, they were two men of flesh and bone—no taller than any others and no stronger.

No one decided anyone's fate that day. The champions were too evenly matched.

"illustrates the contrast between the image of the heroes and their humanity. I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more of this author." Recommended —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Sinking Among Lilies

The science of anathema arrayed itself in my thoughts unbidden. I counted the marks--five in each swipe. They reached as high as a man, avoiding the iron fittings on the window frames. Whatever it was, it was as big as me. Something that size wasn't a fair match for ignorant villagers with nothing but a book written by an ex-priest.

With the clawmarks as a warning, I'd slept in my clothes.

"Well-written and well-imagined and dark to excellent effect. Skerry's stories continue to really make a mark." —Rich Horton, Locus

"A dark twist on the aphorism that knowledge is power, for good or ill. A nicely-woven web of betrayal. " —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
A Place to Stand
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 44:14 — 30.37MB)
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She had dreamed of being a weaver, and a fisher, and a soldier, and many different wives, but the life of a seeker of knowledge had never come to her yet.
From the Archives:
To Slay with a Thousand Kisses
Her tongue was a grave-worm tunneling into me, befouling me.
Issue #91, Science-Fantasy Month

Special Issue for BCS Science-Fantasy Month, with science-fantasy cover art “Gone” by Mats Minnhagen.

The Book of Locked Doors

Vayag entered Subway Station 14, trying to ignore the book's continued whispering. The station was cleaner than it ever had been during her childhood. Say what you would about the Meroi, but they were excellent administrators. There were no beggars—but neither were there sellers of fruit, players of drums and tellers of fortunes with cards of azalea and crane. Vayag and her sister had come to stations just like this one, buying sour-sweet candies on the way home from school. Now when she looked at the station, all she saw were doors opening and closing, opening and closing, in mechanical defeat.

She cursed herself for freezing up and ruminating when the proper response was to react.

"as always with Lee’s work, the attraction is in the prose. Where it’s realistic is in the matter of the resistance and the moral dilemmas it creates" —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Juggernaut

I closed my eyes and lay my head on my folded arms. I wanted to say yes to Casimar, and not only because I needed her protection. Every word of her argument was true; if Juggernaut denied itself the safety of belonging to Casimar Altan, if it let itself fall into the hands of Tourkis, the Dragons’ power in the Tourkis System would be absolute. Like the fuel-starved orbit of Akshayavat, it would be nearly impossible to escape.

I fell silent, overcome by hatred for Kaysura Soner and all the power-fattened Dragons like her.
Author Interview: Yoon Ha Lee

In a special author interview for BCS Science-Fantasy Month, BCS Assistant Editor Kate Marshall talks with Yoon Ha Lee about “The Book of Locked Doors,” magic and technology being in opposition, an occupied people as neither passive victims nor virtuous heroes, and carved keyholes and giant bird-gods.

Yoon Ha Lee on "The Book of Locked Doors"
Author Interview: Megan Arkenberg

In a special author interview for BCS Science-Fantasy Month, BCS Assistant Editor Kate Marshall talks with Megan Arkenberg about “Juggernaut,” the machinery of subgenre, why an oppressed underclass is allowed economic power, and the unique perspective of a character outside the power struggle.

Megan Arkenberg on "Juggernaut"
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Book of Locked Doors
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 43:11 — 29.66MB)
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She cursed herself for freezing up and ruminating when the proper response was to react.
From the Archives:
The Motor, the Mirror, the Mind
Whether we see visions in mirrors or hear voices in warbling electrical static, we must always interpret, extrapolate, confabulate.
Issue #90, Science-Fantasy Month

Special Issue for BCS Science-Fantasy Month, with science-fantasy cover art “Gone” by Mats Minnhagen.

The Mote-Dancer and the Firelife

The Spinies pressed flutes to their chest-maws and trilled a maniacal improvisation, something like Chinese opera filtered through jazz and spliced with a catfight. Not what I'd call music to die for, but my opinion didn't count much. Customs had generously allowed me to keep my pistol, after draining its battery to red. I had maybe three shots. Worse yet, if I killed someone, that was the end of my journey to sanity. I’d be deported or executed.

Nicolai was three years dead when I lighted to EZ Aquarii to forget him. Naturally he came along too.

Reprinted in Space Opera, ed. Rich Horton

Scry

Esthe had no acid and no knife, but she had a little light from the keycards. She bit her tongue hard and spat blood into her hand. Within it she scried, not for the first time, that Karnon Nameless Dae was not a human man. He was neininki; alien. Like all neininki, a lie would cost him his life. Having promised to kill all who sheltered the prince, he would never spare her life.

She had never imagined that she—the greatest scryer of her generation—could be lied to and tricked by her own husband.

"A nice tale of conquest, revenge, and love. I like the way the authors work along the fine line separating precognition from predestination" Recommended —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Author Interview: Chris Willrich

In a special author interview for BCS Science-Fantasy Month, BCS Assistant Editor Kate Marshall talks with Chris Willrich about “The Mote-Dancer and the Firelife,” Quixotes and Sanchos, sword & sorcery and sword & planet, and how artificial augmentation in humans might impact how we would interact with alien species.

Chris Willrich on "The Mote-Dancer and the Firelife"
Author Interview: Anne Ivy

In a special author interview for BCS Science-Fantasy Month, BCS Assistant Editor Kate Marshall talks with Anne Ivy about “Scry,” alienness and hegemony, how Oedipus’s parents caused their prophesied end, and how a character who can see the future can still have free will.

Anne Ivy on "Scry"
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Mote-Dancer and the Firelife
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 43:46 — 30.06MB)
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Nicolai was three years dead when I lighted to EZ Aquarii to forget him. Naturally he came along too.
From the Archives:
The Secret of Pogopolis
Carneby is a pessimist and insists on measuring time by The City's perigees.
Issue #89
A Place to Stand

The title of the book was Principles of Light-Bearing, and Sharide was engrossed in it by the second page. It described how light was the underpinning of the world. She had dreamed of being a weaver, and a fisher, and a soldier, and many different wives, but the life of a seeker of knowledge had never come to her yet. When next she slept, she decided, she would try to find a life wherein she had read this book, and other books, and understood them.

She had dreamed of being a weaver, and a fisher, and a soldier, and many different wives, but the life of a seeker of knowledge had never come to her yet.
Shadows Under Hexmouth Street

Yengec lingered over his spiced yams and rice, reading Hjel’s journal. Paramentals, not cauldron-borne like homunculi but spontaneously generated from the city itself. Paramentals—every polisomancer whispered of them. They haunted cities. Not quite ghosts, but spirits just the same.

“You’re not human.” Yengec could barely keep his voice steady. “You’re one of them. A paramental.”

"mystery in a squalid, sinister atmosphere, full of slime and decay. Well done dark fantasy." Recommended —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Shadows Under Hexmouth Street
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 36:24 — 24.99MB)
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“You’re not human.” Yengec could barely keep his voice steady. “You’re one of them. A paramental.”
Issue #88
The Empire of Nothingness

Aspley turned slowly. He had been washed ashore on the island, and in a daze, a delirium, had stumbled from the beach and into this building. He had no idea where he was or how he had come to be there. No explanations to soothe the rushing of his frantic mind. But then his intellect cut in. Reason, lovely, lovely reason, told him, in all its wisdom, that wherever he was it was preferable to where he had been, preferable, dear god, yes, to the horror of sucking seawater into his lungs.

Aspley sat down at the edge of the pool, trailed his fingers in the cool water. Who are you? What are you doing here?

"What the expedition actually finds is something quite unanticipated" —Lois Tilton, Locus online

The Proof of Bravery

I saw my men, who had been the cream of the III Corps, gladly charge well-fed, well-shod Cossacks with nothing but the bayonet and stock of the musket frozen in their hands, barefoot and starving. I admired them for their courage. I envied it. Because I had lost what I most cared for: the calculus of risk, and in its disregard, of bravery. That month of frimaire, I learned that nothing could end my life. I was no longer human.

I had lost what I most cared for: the calculus of risk, and in its disregard, of bravery.

"the real story here is the portrait of Ney as a lover of the rational, and, by extension, his emperor" —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Last Gorgon
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 35:56 — 24.68MB)
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I lift the Gorgon’s head and remember my mother as she lay dying in her bed.
Issue #87
The Last Gorgon

Something moves at the end of the corridor. I raise the gun and stop when I see the small figure, the same soft wings but smaller; coiled serpent hair tight about the head. Little more than a girl. The creature’s offspring. What she was protecting.

I lift the Gorgon’s head and remember my mother as she lay dying in her bed.
The Castle That Jack Built

He had heard rumors, when he was working for the bears, that their prince had fallen in love with a human girl, and that she had been the one to betray him. The prince, the young man who should have been a bear, was the reason why the castle must never fail, the reason why Jack must never speak.

He knew there was more to the story he’d told Greta. Not just later, not just the forgotten ending.

Finalist, 2013 World Fantasy Award, Short Story

"A highly fantastic piece, rich with storyness and strong echoes of fairytale." Recommended —Lois Tilton, Locus online

"a beautifully written and original fairy-tale like piece about a scarecrow of sorts who remembers being a human, an architect, and in his journeys begins to discover himself." —Rich Horton

Reprinted in Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, 2013, ed. Rich Horton

Author Interview: Saladin Ahmed on Throne of the Crescent Moon
Saladin Ahmed on his BCS story "Where Virtue Lives" and his new novel Throne of the Crescent Moon.
Saladin Ahmed on his BCS story "Where Virtue Lives" and his new novel Throne of the Crescent Moon.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Lady of the Lake
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 30:16 — 20.79MB)
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My fingers sought the memory of a scarf around my throat, then slid down to Sun Lin's thin shoulder.
Issue #86
Calibrated Allies

And to my shock, they did apologize—some of them not bothering to feign sincerity, but it was clear to them that the turn of the tide was against them, and they must pretend I was not a slave but a person for just a bit, just long enough to satisfy the sensibilities of the others. I made note of which these were, to be careful of them from then on.

One does not get sent, an island boy who grew up in slavery, to the glorious fatherland's glorious university without some awareness of identifying enemies.
The Lady of the Lake

This task had not been set to us but to him. How long might one live if they denied a god? Susanoo could not drown me in these waters, nor could a blade pierce my heart, but he commanded all of Yomi, and what tortures he might devise there I did not wish to know.

My fingers sought the memory of a scarf around my throat, then slid down to Sun Lin's thin shoulder.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Her Field-General, and Their Wounds
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 44:24 — 30.49MB)
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Baru Cormorant sorts her existence left and right, so that she can forget the proper things by turning.
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