Issues from 2014
Six-Time Hugo Award Finalist for Best Semiprozine
Issue #145April 17, 2014

Our Fire, Given Freely

Rider Bray leans forward on her hands, a cat before a bird. “I could kill your gang of sixty in a minute,” she says. “I could snap their bones with my bare hands and run them down as they fled. I could do the same against six hundred. I am invested with the might of so many, Marantic Lind. No number of men lit by one solitary fire can match me.”

"...the potential social disruption when a technological advance, such as firearms, shifts the distribution of force from a small elite to the masses. It’s complicated, however, by the factor of racism and hostility between the two populations" —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Women in Sandstone

The South-East Wind had not blown through those hills since becoming the guardian of the temple for this period, but the South Wind blew there / where the bones drift into gullies like the snow that falls in other lands and I can call through them in a hundred voices, like lizards, like foxes, like men /

"This is fine work, mythic in scope... The winds are all distinctive characters, some soft and some harsh. “Your mouth is hanging open like a bell,” the South-East Wind said. “I wonder, if the wind blows between your teeth, will you clang or chime?” That’s strong imagery. The best piece yet I’ve seen from this author. Recommended." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
At the Edge of the Sea
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Blood is salt, like seawater; the heart moves an ocean in miniature.
From the Archives:
The Death of Roach
I didn’t reply. I knew her words were part of the test.
Issue #144April 03, 2014
Golden Daughter, Stone Wife

“Golems,” the sorcereress says, “are vessels of wishes. When you’re done building one it is as if you’ve given birth. When you take one in it is as if you’ve adopted new kin. You put so much of what you want into them, just as with offspring of the womb. Less blood, less mess. No less love.”

"An intriguing outlook on love, that. Here we have two figures driven by strong desire, yet both are closed, self-possessed and self-contained. A most unlikely match, but the heart has its reasons. The story, likewise, holds its secrets close and yields them slowly" —Lois Tilton, Locus online

At the Edge of the Sea

The next night was much the same. I began to recollect certain old fables about a preadamitic race of ensouled decapods that did battle with the giant eurypterids and ammonites of the whirlpools in the southern straits. Do you see? I thought of the sea-folk only after their first appearance. And yet my labors were their ineluctable summons, as I had known (without knowing) that they would be.

"A tale of transformation. Solitude can do strange things to a mind, but what’s going on here is more than mental. There’s a sense of primal power, of an unlikely sort." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

"...filled with wondrous and rare visions from out of the ocean deeps... I highly recommend." —Fletcher Vredenburgh, Black Gate magazine online reviews

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Golden Daughter, Stone Wife
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Tomorrow she will confront; tomorrow she will demand. In this house she is no one’s lesser.
From the Archives:
Blood, Stone, Water
"And just what do you fathom about my thoughts?"
Issue #143 – Science-Fantasy Month 2March 20, 2014

Special Double-Issue for BCS Science-Fantasy Month 2, featuring a bonus story and a bonus podcast and science-fantasy cover art “Sojourn” by Ferdinand Dumago Ladera!


The Bonedrake’s Penance

"Stop," my mother said, even more gravely. "You're already thinking of counterarguments and edge cases. That is perfectly fine if you are a mathematician or a philosopher. The fortress is not about ensuring justice, or righting wrongs, or even compassion. It is about enduring and remembering all the things that people bring us to safeguard for them, the histories and the artifacts. Justice, for the things they remember—that's something that civilizations have to negotiate for themselves."

"At the center of the story is the secret the bonedrake has kept, her secret grief and secret crime... The real pain, however, comes from the knowledge her mother can’t trust her child any longer, now that she is an adult. A devastating blow, the painful fact of growing up." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Sekhmet Hunts the Dying Gnosis: A Computation

Sekhmet knows the woman’s literal identity—a hybrid soldier, a construct, drawn from a piece of history where the lineage of flesh began to remake itself with machines. She stumbles on this synthesis, troubled by the paradox. The means are Set’s, but the end, the need to be stronger, is hers.

"...a thought-provoking speculative fiction on philosophical themes, positing a dualistic, dichotomistic universe of opposing principles: life/death, male/female, predator/prey. At its center is an eternal conflict between the two divine principles over control of the nature and destiny of life.." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

The Goddess Deception, Pt. 2

The arsenal’s observation scopes terminated in lenses that provided magnification in each of the cardinal directions. The indistinct blurs of six vehicles had crossed the property line, paralleling the road that led down the valley to Myddleham-on-Tyne. “Blast,” I muttered. “Hit the ansible beacon, Plio. Get reinforcements here as fast as you can.”

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The River Does Not Run
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The graceful architecture of this place has haunted her dreams since the first years of her training.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Sekhmet Hunts the Dying Gnosis
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A strange impulse, an alien need: she devours all that she knows, and knows all that she devours.
From the Archives:
The Book of Locked Doors
She cursed herself for freezing up and ruminating when the proper response was to react.
Issue #142 – Science-Fantasy Month 2March 06, 2014

Special Issue for BCS Science-Fantasy Month 2, featuring two bonus stories, science-fantasy cover art “Sojourn” by Ferdinand Dumago Ladera, and a giveaway for a signed George R.R. Martin anthology!


The Breath of War

But you wouldn't know, Rechan thought, chilled. You'd be quite happy, either way. That's what you were carved for, to give your breath to Akanlam's babies, and even if you hadn't been born knowing it, everyone in our society has been telling you that for as long as you can remember. How much responsibility did people have for their carvings? How much of themselves had they put into them; and how much had they taught them?

Finalist, 2014 Nebula Award, Short Story

The River Does Not Run

Now she walks through broken ruins warmed with radiation and the fading light of the sun, through streets strangled by the fallen brickwork of a hundred years' abandonment and train tracks whose split rails are choked with dust. The aqueducts have run dry and flow only with hydrolyzed acid, their walls fanned with slender needles of pale yellow crystal.

"What lifts this piece above the ordinary and makes it fresh is in part the language and the way the author casts magic in terms of physics. The demon, created from “great and secretive mathematics”, glows in the blue of Cherenkov radiation. Recommended." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Stonebones

She did keep the gun pointed at the curtain, because she'd said she would and a Knight must not lie.  She turned it off as soon as she was out of sight, though.  Humming and lighting up was all it could actually do, and Groton had warned her about letting it overheat.

The Goddess Deception, Pt. 1

I pulled a heavy sidearm from my weapons harness, a Navy variable-bore Persuader with deep scrollwork along the barrel and grip, as natural an extension of my mechanical hand as were wrist couplings and steel-jacketed fingers. “I’m a weaponsmith. I’ve got your diplomacy right here.”

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Breath of War
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She would have run, but her legs betrayed her—a contraction, locking her in place, as frozen as the baby within her womb.
From the Archives:
Scry
She had never imagined that she—the greatest scryer of her generation—could be lied to and tricked by her own husband.
Issue #141February 20, 2014

The Days When Papa Takes Me to War

"Well, if it's just soldiers, then that's fine," I tell Papa. I'm relieved. "Dying is what soldiers are for." Underneath me, the carpet of ants shifts slightly, but Mama soothes them with a change in her tone. She starts singing of the new territories they'll open up with their deaths.

"...this tragicomedy of errors is full of neat surprises." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Pilgrims

I began to feel that I had not paid enough attention to romances and mummers’ tales, for my companion did not act in ways of ordinary men.  I thought perhaps I remembered hearing it was unwise to question mages and the creatures that lived by the rules of magic.  Surely there were stories enough of the lives of the early Saints that told of strange rewards for stranger customs, though I was not about to compare myself to those great heroes of the war-torn days.

"But the connection between them is far deeper than she at first imagines. I really like this setting, which has much of the Arthurian spirit yet a completely different theology... Recommended." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Pilgrims
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I stared at him, feeling the dirt of travel and the coarse fabric of the borrowed peasant’s wools against my skin.
From the Archives:
The Empire of Nothingness
Aspley sat down at the edge of the pool, trailed his fingers in the cool water. Who are you? What are you doing here?
Issue #140February 06, 2014

Enter to win a signed Brian McClellan Powder Mage novel!


The Face in the Window

Taniel removed a snuff box from his belt pouch and tapped a line of black powder out on the back of his hand. He snorted it in one breath and felt the world warp and twist beneath his feet, coming into focus clearer than it had been before. The shapes of the city buildings sprang into sharp relief as the powder trance washed over him, the rain brightening as if he'd shone a lantern on it, and the shadow became a girl.

Atonement

They'd called us the Hellhounds of Surnam, the Butchers of Bursa, and a hundred other epithets to make children wail and heroes grow faint. We'd fought Prince Zhar's finest to a draw at Second Aktar and ended the line of the old kings at Kurqand. Depending on who you asked, we were the best soldiers in the world, or beasts in human form.

"The theme is the evil of unquestioning obedience to orders, of letting this serve to justify the worst atrocities. Turghar and his soldiers have a lot to atone for, but it takes distance to allow them to see it. Recommended." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Evensong, Having Been Answered
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The iterations of his death resound about him like the echoes of a minor chord.
From the Archives:
Ink and Blood
Her smile made him feel like someone other than pudgy Wilhelm from the paper store.
Issue #139January 23, 2014

Evensong, Having Been Answered

The iterations of his death resound about him like the echoes of a minor chord.  All seems as it was and should continue to be, here in the moving present Men perceive as Time: the all-consuming anguish, a scullery knife, bleeding out alone with the final notes from his mandolin.

Sweetwater Notion and the Hallelujah Kid

As to the Kid, I figured he was setting up some scheme. I knew he didn’t give a hoot in hell about romance. We had been friends since I arrived on the Moon two years before, and I would have sworn in court a greenback dollar was the only thing that piqued his interest. Turned out I was wrong.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Enginesong
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I missed all the excitement the day the trains walked away.
From the Archives:
The Mathematics of Faith
I cannot accurately describe what it is that the woman’s face causes to happen inside the confines of my skull.
Issue #138January 09, 2014

The Year of Silent Birds

The law says a petitioner can wait to see the sovereign. But in the Year of Thorns, a clever High Steward had ruled that food and drink could not be brought into the petition halls. So most vigils do not last long. But the dead have no need of food and drink. For six days, I waited, unmoving.

"Well-conceived dark fantasy, in which evil lies not in the dead but the ambitions of the living." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Enginesong

I’d been out to see the trains' footprints, which were like someone had stamped a table into the sand.  They led off into the desert, leaving a trail in the scrub almost wide enough to drive a cart along.  I thought I heard a steam whistle calling from out in the chaparral, wailing in the twilight like a coyote.  “Who would make a train with feet?”

"a Neat Idea, and the narrative voice strikes the right notes." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Whistler’s Grove
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The washed-out sky and black indifferent trees blur as I cough out the fire within me.
From the Archives:
Silk and Shadow
I felt scars under her silk that my fingers did not remember.