Issues from 2015
Five-Time Hugo Award Finalist for Best Semiprozine
Issue #189December 24, 2015

A Killer of Dead Men

Otranto didn't hesitate. On some level, he realized, he had been anticipating this moment, or one like it, for a very long time. "The punishment for failure should be death by my own hand."

So Strange the Trees

Alquen waited there, sitting in the lee of a tall elm, for three hours, barely aware of time passing. He wore his finest clothes: a blue silk shirt with only two threadbare places, black tunic and breeches covered with a burgundy cloak. He felt ridiculous and handsome at the same time.

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A Killer of Dead Men
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Otranto knew better than to ask why any man must die.
From the Archives:
The Calendar of Saints
I accept mortal commissions; I’ve killed before.
Issue #188December 10, 2015

Featuring new cover art for the winter season of our Northern Hemisphere readers: “Huashan Temple” by Xiao Ran.


Eyes Beyond the Fire

When no eyes were on her, Lys frayed a rope with her knife—choosing one which would not harm the sails but would send an iron pulley tumbling into the sea. When Tamlen angrily ordered a replacement brought from the cargo hold, Lys was first to volunteer and on her way before anyone could deny her.

The Rest Will Blur Together

I am Melika. And that is all, now. My grandfather—I believe he was my grandfather—said that our memories make us who we are. I hope that he was wrong, for if he spoke the truth, then I am no one.

From the Archives:
The Drowned Man
The drowned man brushed past Corwyn in his hurry to get away from her sister.
Issue #187November 24, 2015

The Delusive Cartographer

Crane needed no further invitation. The pain in his back was forgotten now that he was finally here, finally close. He charted a foot over from the cell's sliver window and down to the floor. He’d doubted, in the darkest hours of the night. He’d doubted the whole thing. But the groove was exactly where the cartographer had described it.

Spider’s Ink

To catch a bug, you must burn him out. That had been our experience with Macti spies and rebels. Under the authority of the Wayfaring House we came with black fire and warned all that if the Spider known as Heriz was not returned, we would decree the island corrupted and purify by shot and flame. It had worked in Jani, Uurun, and it would work here.

Audio Vault:
In the Age of Iron and Ashes
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Introduced by the author.
From the Archives:
Bakemono, or The Thing That Changes
I realized in that moment that even my name is a lie.
Issue #186November 12, 2015

Holy Water, Holy Blood

Bonifacio looked at me puzzled for a moment, but then said: “Here is a vial, then. If you wish more, let me know. I will have Frazetti bring you ten thick candles that will last till morning. He will check on you during the night, but without waking you. Will your dog bite him?”

The Guardian’s Head

Until a year later my master found the sculpted head I had made of him, and he flew into a rage. He was angry despite the quality of the sculpture, I thought then, already knowing enough to know that I had done it well, that the face was a likeness and the intent had been passionate. He was angry, I understood later, because of the quality.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Bloodless
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But she wouldn't let him make it through the gate; the inside guards were there to deal with travelers. Kamalija was here to deal with monsters.
From the Archives:
After Compline, Silence Falls
Even if one of the brothers were sneaking into the pantry after vespers, I cannot fathom why he would want to strip a cat of her flesh. They may be old footprints--I’m not certain--but they are all I have, and so I follow them.
Issue #185October 29, 2015

A fantastically monstrous issue for Halloween!


Demons Enough

The leech crouched in the broken hole where the window had been. Its glamour made it hard to discern details. Thorfinn had seen leeches in daylight, knew the ragged, filthy reality. His gaze flickered involuntarily up to the dark hollows of its eyes. It was an effort to tear away again from the hypnotic stare.

Bloodless

The strange moment broke, and suddenly the stranger in her circle was an enemy again, and Kamalija struck out with her knife. He had already ducked back, and the blade dragged then stopped at the line where they'd poured her blood, as if the air was made of clay. She couldn't force it any further, and she watched his back as he bounded into the forest.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Unearthly Landscape by a Lady
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I could not imagine that my charge could conceive something so strange, so unpleasant.
From the Archives:
Father’s Kill
I lock both Father and the night away.
Issue #184October 15, 2015

A Careful Fire

They turned their backs to Mabella. Her stomach twisted as it did when she pilfered too many sweets from the kitchens. She wanted to say something and nothing. She wanted to run, but her feet throbbed. Instead she turned and walked from the winged women's cackling silence.

Unearthly Landscape by a Lady

I found myself examining the impeccable rooms and gardens in these photographs, fearing that they, too, betrayed another world. I am ashamed to say that I was happy to have shut the door on such rooms, on Flora herself. But I could not erase the memory of the man with the Gatling gun, and the five-armed green creatures lying on the ground below him.

Reprinted in Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, 2016, ed. Rich Horton

Audio Fiction Podcast:
A Careful Fire
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She bursts each night when he leaves her. She does not wash the juice from her skin but hides the blue stains beneath her clothes.
From the Archives:
We, As One, Trailing Embers
With eyes closed, there is a singular heartbeat, a solitary pulse, and when we stretch, there is no we.
Issue #183, Seventh Anniversary Double-IssueOctober 01, 2015
The Bride Doll

The demon's power would diminish in the light of day. All we had to do was survive the night, but as the cold settled in, I began to wonder if it might not be better to take my sword and my chances with the creature. If we weren't killed immediately, at least maybe we could find some firewood.

Geometries of Belonging

I do not speak again. In Little Hold, we eat a simple meal, the two of us alone. He does not care to select the wine. He drinks my choice without expression and ignores my clumsy pouring of it. Later, he asks if he can hurt me. I consent.

The Four Schools

“Once you remember them in your next life,” he lied, “you can travel to them to say sorry. Many make this kind of pilgrimage, I’ve seen it.” The poison sloshed as she absently shook the flask about.

The Sons of Vincente

On its surface, the sculpture was masterful. But looking deeper, I perceived shapes forced into the marble, curves and planes that did not rise from within. This was not the image of a man, only of his skin, a polished surface without organs, skeleton, or a brain behind the handsome, murdering face.

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The Sons of Vincente
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The other hand held aloft his trophy—the severed head of my mother.
From the Archives:
A Place to Stand
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.
Issue #182September 17, 2015

Enter to win a copy of BCS author Seth Dickinson’s new fantasy novel The Traitor Baru Cormorant!


Murder Goes Hungry

"It's not—" I sighed as we reached the doors of the veterans' wing. "It was a cruel thing for him to do. She has her vows, and too many of us veterans are too scarred to be any sort of decent companion."

Flying the Coop

The hut awkwardly navigated a twist in the road and turned towards the saltworks, disappearing from view except for its misshapen chimney bobbing above the modest rooftops. Its shuffling footsteps faded, and Nadia regretfully returned to the problem of her father's corpse.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Moogh and the Great Trench Kraken
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It was more water than ever should be in one place, something so vast he scarcely could find the words. "Oh," he said. "This is a very large river indeed."
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 #181September 03, 2015

Enter to win a copy of Fran Wilde’s new novel Updraft!


Bent the Wing, Dark the Cloud

In the sky behind, a group of children Calli's age swooped and dove in unison, followed by one of the tower's magisters. Calli heard scraps of song. A lesson about wind shifts. The students' wings cut patches of bright color in the deep blue air. Calli knew each span and spar, even from this distance. She'd tested them all.

Moogh and the Great Trench Kraken

Moogh decided, with regret, that he would have to temporarily abandon his trek due west and instead walk alongside this water for a bit until either he outlasted or outpaced whatever curse made it seem to go on forever. He declared its true name to be the Tricksy River, and decided if he ever found the trickster responsible for it he might justifiably commit some minor violence upon their person.

Author Interview: Fran Wilde

Fran Wilde discusses her new story in BCS #183, "Bent the Wing, Dark the Cloud," her previous BCS story “The Topaz Marquise," and her brand new novel Updraft, set in the same world as "Bent the Wing, Dark the Cloud"; writing epic fantasy at short fiction and novel lengths, the qualities of secondary-world settings, and more.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Bent the Wing, Dark the Cloud
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Liras tried to remain at his workbench and finish the customer's wings, but the pain grew too much.
From the Archives:
My Father’s Wounds
Father guides my hand to the ruin of his belly. My fingers sink into the wound, touching something moist and pulsing—