Issues from 2013
Five-Time Hugo Award Finalist for Best Semiprozine
Issue #137December 26, 2013

Stitched Wings

Mother stepped close enough to plant a fleeting kiss. By habit, Madeline did not cringe from the fog of falsehoods that clothed Mother. Indeed, her very clothing was false. Mother could play the part of a proper lady better than any actress on stage, but she was neither. She was a scientist and a thief, and Madeline was not sure where one ended and the other began.

Whistler’s Grove

Arrel seizes my arm, shocking a yelp out of me. His talon-like grip hauls me upright. Tam’s question was answered, not Arrel’s. Celina’s life was taken, not mine. A bargain can still be made with the Whistler. Only now do I realize that this was planned all along.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Walking Still
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The Shiner Man’s covered wagon walked across the desert on six metal legs.
From the Archives:
Cold Iron and Green Vines
Most people didn't bother replacing teeth; they all went wicker-and-cogwork as young as they could.
Issue #136December 12, 2013

Enter to win a signed Patrick Rothfuss hardcover.

Featuring new cover art: “Ruins” by Stefan Meisl.


Kurtana

She didn't see what happened in the girl, what changed, but something did.  Tsani relaxed, losing a tension that Sagraille hadn't noticed was there until it wasn't. She glided forward to kneel at the table, though calling the waterfall of silk and almost-exposed skin she displayed kneeling was probably insulting. It was more beautiful than that. A painting from the medium of motion. The girl even cast a shadow with elegance.

Walking Still

"Fifteen secret herbs and spices, mixed by dangerous dee-vices! Distilled and brewed and served up cold, it fixes the sick and renews the old! No malady can long withstand it, ‘cause that’s how Professor Bismuth planned it! So come on gents and don’t delay, buy your-self a jug today!"

From the Archives:
Beyond the Shrinking World
Ahead, maybe a mile from us across the waters, a veil of absolute dark towered. The air before it shimmered, the Tower's Placement Stones keeping the Out at bay.
Issue #135November 28, 2013

The Parsec Award-finalist BCS Audio Fiction Podcast is on a brief hiatus. In the meantime, check out our past episodes.


Moreau’s Daughter

Lily stretched her aching legs to the opposite end of the tub. The sheen of water accentuated her scars—thin, precise lines tracing the insides of both arms and legs. She worked her limbs daily to prevent their stiffening and contorting, but even with diligent chi practice the pain was never completely absent, only sleeping. Lily thought it far more likely that scar tissue would catch her up before her reputation ever did.

"...to double down on the question: Just what makes a monster?" —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Your Figure Will Assume Beautiful Outlines

I don't know if Da heard him, but the next time he was working my defense, he jabbed me right over my taped nose. While I tried to wipe the water from my eyes, he followed up with a couple of hooks that knocked me sideways into the ropes. I wanted to embrace him, but the bell hadn't gone yet, so I bounced up and under his guard and pummeled him in the ribs until it did.

From the Archives:
Dancing the Warrior, Pt. I
Her clothing hid the rest of the bruises, though, and Sen was determined not to let any pain show.
Issue #134November 14, 2013

A Death for the Ageless

We all looked up at the high, piping voice; none of us had heard the ladder rattle. Mieni hopped over the edge of the roof, adjusting the lines of her suit. Many koboldim wore children's clothes, but Mieni had made a point of wearing a ladies' suit tailored to her diminutive frame. "Kobold, not goblin. I do insist on the distinction."

Forsaken Beneath the Stars

The sack swung in his hand as he walked away. “I would take her with me to the guts of the earth. I sought death in the battlefield, and saw it in all but my fate. I was spared a warrior’s clean end. Now, the campaigns are ashes and lies. If you cannot help me find peace for Baysha, I will find someone to end me.”

"A grim story of revenge and damnation... It’s a complicated story, taking an effort from readers to unravel the past events on which everything depends." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Adventure of the Pyramid of Bacconyus
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The three cousins walked through a tunnel low enough that their head leaves brushed and bent on the ceiling.
From the Archives:
Shatterach Gates
It roars, shuddering the stone, and I imagine three thousand corpse voices in shrieking harmony.
Issue #133October 31, 2013

Grim monstrous ghostly special issue for Halloween!


Pheth’s Aviary

Deep in the bowels of the queen's palace, the kitchen was aflurry with demons preparing for tonight's feast, and Pheth hated every minute of it. He averted his eyes as Buldumech chopped off the heads of bleating imps, drained their blood, and sliced their green flesh into edible portions. He cringed as Mardero dropped squirming slugs into a boiling broth of leek and radish. And he nearly lost his gorge when Alath removed a tray of steaming cow eye sweets from the oven.

Not the Worst of Sins

Staring up at the stars, I hear the footsteps with plenty time to spare. Two sets, trying to sneak around behind, in the dark beyond the glow of my dying fire. Graham Masters shimmers into view and opens his mouth to warn me, but I just nod and slip my pistol from its holster. So many times, desperate people will try their luck on a hapless traveller. It ain’t the first time for me. Won’t be the last.

"...a pretty devastating conclusion." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
A Feast for Dust
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Jenkins tipped his hat to her prediction, sending up a brief sketch of a prayer himself—perhaps useful, perhaps not, depending on who might be listening—that the next few days wouldn't disprove it.
From the Archives:
The Mansion of Bones
I know it was wrong of me to savor the look of fear on Kenji's face, but some temptations are not to be resisted.
Issue #132October 17, 2013

A Feast for Dust

These few words—or just the sound of 'em, Jenkins didn't wonder—were enough to turn outlaw Bart Haugh, a man with more sins on his soul than Judas, sheet-white. He turned towards their speaker, slow as river weed current-caught, perhaps unaware he was even doing so; blanched yet further when he saw who stood there, making all the tiny, charm-crinkled lines on his face stand out like scars.

"The strong and eccentric narrative voice and dialogue carry this one through the course of a tale told rather obliquely. Recommended." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

The Adventure of the Pyramid of Bacconyus

There had better be treasure in there, or he would be very disappointed. Perhaps it was just that he liked to drink stronger wine than was traditional, but he had never been willing to spend the rest of his life in the village, in the shade of the fat tree that had birthed all his cousins, harvesting berries and fruit and fermenting them, and then forgoing all drink and swelling to harden into a sessile giant, content never to move his limbs except with the breeze...

"Interesting characters in the tree-people... even the wine-obsessed Hickshaw, the sharpest of the lot. Entertaining and humorous adventure." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Walls of Skin, Soft as Paper
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Tomai took his wife’s fragile hand in his own. He felt like if he held it even as if it were a child’s, the bones would snap like pine dowels.
From the Archives:
Hangman
I'd had a name, a long time ago. But no one but me remembered it.
Issue #131, Fifth Anniversary Double-IssueOctober 03, 2013

Featuring new/old cover art “Endless Skies” by Rick Sardhina and five stories, in celebration of our fifth anniversary!

Enter to win a signed copy of Chris Willrich’s novel The Scroll of Years.


Cherry Blossoms on the River of Souls

The monk nodded. “You’re not seeking music; you’re seeking an answer. I wondered if you understood that. Very well then, I will help you find Akiko. Yet whatever happens, afterwards you will leave this place. You don’t belong here. Do I have your word?” Hiroshi hesitated, but he saw no good alternative.

"An excellent tale inspired by Japanese Buddhist mythology, of reincarnation, karma, and promises. The author’s seemingly effortless mastery of this material is what makes it work so well. Recommended." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

2013 Locus Recommended Reading List

Walls of Skin, Soft as Paper

Tomai took his wife’s fragile hand in his own. He felt like if he held it even as if it were a child’s, the bones would snap like pine dowels. She began to shake, and Tomai put an arm around her shoulders.

"The final image is quite striking, a sketch of love made with admirable economy of line. There is, in this world, little to love, but the denizens only love all the more what they have." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

The Coffinmaker’s Love

"That's a very noble thing, Miss Parrish. I commend you." The strange woman smiled. It was a small, half-secret smile that hinted at private approval and a vast but encouraging amusement. Lavinia flushed, and went on before she grew tongue-tied.

"A love story that readers may find heartbreaking. I particularly like the image of the coffin as marriage bed." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Blow ‘Em Down

Back in my tent, it was time to give that horn a good once-over and lube up the valves. Paps had a store of rotor oil when they left, but like I said, forty years. I'd been using rendered fat from the sacrifices. Got one of the holy Levites to bring me a cup of it every few weeks.

On the Origin of Song

Though these actions were not illegal, they were deemed deviant, and so Lecteur-Marèchale Davisson, Chanteur-Marèchale Redwyn, and I set off in pursuit. Darune disappeared beyond the Shore into the Desert. However, he left deep footprints in which we observed rich printed text. The marshals and I immediately made plaster casts rubbed with charcoal and copied in triplicate, all of which have been delivered to you with this letter.

"A poignant account of a repressed people in search of liberation." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

2013 Locus Recommended Reading List

Reprinted in Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, 2014, ed. Rich Horton

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Black Veil
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As Constant Sterry slipped exhausted from his saddle, the last he saw was that same figure approaching, outstretched hands sheathed in thin black gloves with lacework as fine as any to be found.
From the Archives:
The Sword of Loving Kindness, Pt. I
Gaunt and Bone must resist a magic sword bending them toward propriety and decorum.
Issue #130September 19, 2013

The Black Veil

"For six months, the devil of disease has probed my belly and filled it with hot coals," said Constant Sterry, as he swam half in fever. "But for six years, the devil of deceit has turned public sympathy toward those witches--until even the ministers and governors, who had been the first to urge the proceedings on, have all but condemned we who they asked to sit in judgment."

"I like the parallel between the five condemned witches and the five devils who afflict Skerry, and the way the author retains a certain amount of ambiguity to fog the situation... Recommended." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Now Ix, He Was a Lover

"No," Ela said. "Wait. Stop!"  She’d not been idle in deception. She fumbled in the ragged pockets of her robe.  Thread.  Golden thread. To sew up a shirt. The pretty one he was never around to wear. How long have I hated you? she thought as he struck her. Is it because you aren’t here or because you are?

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Goblin King’s Concubine
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"Then leave this place forever!" Maugreth cried. "Forget this goblin in his caves. Leave the monsters to their own."
From the Archives:
Child of Sunlight, Woman of Blood
In a narrow cave of a hot green earth that circled a red sun, I faced off against a woman who would command the world.
Issue #129September 05, 2013

On the Weaponization of Flora and Fauna

I thought for a moment that Plinio was merely adding emphasis to his avowal of pristine territory, but then I, too, noticed that the lakeshore opposite the birds was shifting.  The flock organized itself quickly and took flight.  I frowned.  "Lygia, our instruments.  With last night's commotion and the lake's peculiar behavior, I fear we have gone off course somehow."

"A light, ironic touch in this tale of exploration in strange lands." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

"I’ve read and enjoyed individual stories by both authors... and I like what they’ve written together even more." —Fletcher Vredenburgh, Black Gate magazine online reviews

The Goblin King’s Concubine

Maugreth was roused by the concubine in the darkness before dawn. He threw off the chitinous coverlet of mushroom velvet and sat up. He was still half-asleep. The sound of a distant horn rolled through the forest, echoed by another note from nearer at hand. "Eh? What is it? What?" he grunted, groping for his sword.

"...unexpected character and plot developments in “The Goblin King’s Concubine” that I loved." —Fletcher Vredenburgh, Black Gate magazine online reviews

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Ill-Met at Midnight
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The target was thrashing hard enough that the smooth handles of the garrote were biting into Otranto's palms.
From the Archives:
The Moral Education of a Mad Bastard
I nodded--whatever they had in mind would be better than being forced to return to the labor camp.