Issues from 2015
Five-Time Hugo Award Finalist for Best Semiprozine
Issue #180August 20, 2015

Enter to win one of two signed pre-release copies of BCS author Bradley P. Beaulieu’s new epic fantasy novel Twelve Kings in Sharakhai.


Fire Rises

Not for the first time, Li considered killing Nasrin. The young woman was too trusting; too confident in the persuasive power of her logic. But everything Li had seen of Nasrin told her she wasn't a threat. At best, she was someone else's catspaw. But whose?

"a satisfying mix of magic, Cold War-style espionage, and revenge... more original worldbuilding than a shelf full of doorstoppers. (Austin) has become someone whose name I look forward to seeing" --Fletcher Vredenburgh, Black Gate

Defy the Grey Kings

I was born a slave, like all of you. My master was a hoary old bull known as Ascaro, one of the Bull-King’s champions. Twenty feet high at the shoulders, and even past his prime he was a quick devil, though old trunk muscles were turning into fat.

From the Archives:
Bone Diamond
I crack the first crocodile's left clavicle there in the dawn-lit street, find it empty.
Issue #179August 06, 2015
The Grace of Turning Back

Of course it was impossible. They were shaping impossibility here: a miracle so great it approached blasphemy. And Kahzakutri was not vandalizing this creation. If anything, She was generous. She gave it a core of Herself. The essence of loss, of grief—the urge to undo.

The Exile of the Eldest Son of the Family Ysanne

I realized I was thinking of my brother's guilt as a matter of 'if,' and rebuked myself. This was what I had joined the Quiet to do, to punish wrongdoing in the City and protect its peace. Family loyalty had no place in the ranks. There was no reason to suspect anyone else.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Seasons Set in Skin
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Horimachi's own tattoos were from before the war, when black ink was made of soot instead of faery blood.
From the Archives:
And Her Eyes Sewn Shut with Unicorn Hair
“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.”
Issue #178July 23, 2015

The Scale-Tree

Zeuxis led them up to the highest storey. There he left them while he went back and forth between darkroom and roof with his camera and the parts to his flying machine, carrying them up to the pavement that surrounded the topmost spire.

The Insurrectionist and the Empress Who Reigns Over Time

In a palace shaped like bromeliads Yin Sanhi sat sipping a liquor of fermented cactus essence and sand persimmon. The chamber was papered by scrolls of proverbs on statecraft. The mathematicians and artists meant to send her dancers in pale silk and musicians with wrists like flutes, but she had declined, choosing instead silence and solitude.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Stone Prayers
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Mattar comes to the house of Anaharesh in search of a single word; a word to end a war.
From the Archives:
A Spoonful of Salt
He tasted of salt. Naomi half-expected to see him melting in the places where her mouth had been.
Issue #177July 09, 2015

Seasons Set in Skin

Slipping into the dead girl's body was like meditating inside a stone, cold and still. Yōsei filled her with tendrils of gold and divided life energy between two bodies—one cold and dead, the other hot and familiar. The girl was too plump, too dense, and filled with tiny creatures that decomposed her flesh. These Yōsei banished, drowning them in golden light.

Stone Prayers

It is the nature of empire to calve new words, and Mattar has walked ruined roads and suffocating marketplaces to find them. She knows the word for how a Kilin-kasa woman turns a wax-melon in her hands three times before she asks a price—tsa-tsa-tsa. She knows the name the now-dead Enokoans had for her, diabi-sai, witch-mother. She knows, too, the syllables of the arrows of the Hasha as they fall, tulbuku, on Korondi shields and Korondi flesh.

"I like this secondary world where there are myriads of languages, all with multiple words designating subtle distinctions that speakers ignore at their peril... these details work to enrich the world and the character, who comes alive in all her individual complexity. Recommended." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Court Bindings
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The sparrow had too diminutive a mind to realize it could serve you longer by taking time to eat and sleep.
From the Archives:
Our Fire, Given Freely
I will earn no glory here, Rider Bray wants to shout. I will still be Rider. I will still be a woman with a name that spreads its legs across a horse.
Issue #176June 25, 2015

The Girl with Golden Hair

“You’re a liar,” said the girl with golden hair. “You lie to keep us in check. You lie about the fish people to keep us here, so we won’t try to escape down the river. And you lie about the mountains, so we won’t go there, either. You lie about the blood tax being integral to the wealth of the city. What could you possibly use the blood for?”

Court Bindings

Then there's the sparrow you set to chirping an alert whenever someone approaches your suite from the palace courtyard. After several days, it falls to the ground and is no doubt claimed by some hungry scavenger. It had too diminutive a mind to realize it could serve you longer by taking time to eat and sleep.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Girl with Golden Hair
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“Where are all the people?” she asked. I neighed, unsure. Why would they hide in their caves when two strangers appeared?
Audio Vault:
The Nine-Tailed Cat
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Introduced by the author.
From the Archives:
Pilgrims
I stared at him, feeling the dirt of travel and the coarse fabric of the borrowed peasant’s wools against my skin.
Issue #175June 11, 2015

Featuring new cover art: “Migration” by Julie Dillon.


On Freedom of Agency and the Finding of Lost Hearts

I thought about hitting him and taking what Gilga-Yar was after. But this old man had me curious, and my patron’s lack of forthrightness with me made me want all the more to know what was going on. So I took the shovel and the knife. “What am I doing with these?”

Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds

—all around me, a great ring of warriors, clothed in armor of polished bronze and headgear of enameled tin feathers that rattled in the wind; warriors with curved breasts and also beards, their faces lighter brown in color than my own, their hands wrapped around pennons and spears. Between them prowled small lions, feather-maned and winged, that bared at me thin fangs of sharpened emerald.

Finalist for the 2015 Nebula Award, Novelette

"A rich and rewarding work... This story is an accomplished work of rare insight." —Tangent Online

One of nine highest-rated novelettes of the year on the 2015 Tangent Online Recommended Reading List

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Warriors, The Mothers, The Drowned
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 32:50 — 30.06MB)
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Ana thought the land of the dead would be empty, but it is full to bursting.
From the Archives:
Throwing Stones
By the end of each night I had nearly adjusted, only to be wrenched back to my natural form at the first whisper of dawn.
Issue #174May 28, 2015

Two to Leave

I had not entered the parched lands entirely unprepared. I had an excellent pair of boots—good boots are underrated everywhere—and I was almost glad the ferryman would not accept them in exchange for passage. I had the Apiarist's Gun, made to fit my hand. And as for nourishment, that took care of itself, even here.

"An original melding of several classic fantastic tropes... But the heart of the story is the relationship that develops between the two deadly characters. Delightfully done. Recommended." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

The Warriors, The Mothers, The Drowned

Ana thought the land of the dead would be empty, but it is full to bursting. With gods’ turquoise bones, with small grimacing golems fashioned from maize and bone-thin fellow travelers wandering across the desert on their hands and knees, with temples so black and shimmering that she can’t quite make herself look at them.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Two to Leave
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 28:35 — 19.63MB)
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The Drought Guard had sent twelve-and-twelve of their own after me, which might have held numerological significance if I still cared about such things.
From the Archives:
Crossroads and Gateways
“You would ask me a question, little god?”
Issue #173May 14, 2015

Featuring a special large-cast reading of BCS150: The Punctuality Machine, Or, A Steampunk Libretto by Bill Powell, in celebration of the 150th episode of the BCS Audio Fiction Podcast.


Out of the Rose Hills

Tirene was so relieved not to smell roses upon waking that she almost found it difficult to care whether they would be able to find magic or metaphor to get rid of the shadow lady. This pleasant sensation was dispelled halfway through her breakfast of oat cakes, maple syrup, and berries, when the shadow lady swept into the sunny taproom.

The Punctuality Machine, Or, A Steampunk Libretto

JACQUENETTE: Monsieur Cartwright! Early?

WHITLOCK: (aside) An identical response! Perhaps free will is a mere illusion. On the other hand, she's an automaton.

(JACQUENETTE slaps him.)

JACQUENETTE: How dare you employ such a term for a lady!

WHITLOCK : How dare you eavesdrop on an obvious aside!

"This play was delightful.  From beginning to end I enjoyed every moment of this story... Silly, absurd, but internally consistent and with a likeable protagonist and his likeable love interest.  It’s also available in text, but since it was written as a play I recommend hearing it...  The full cast treatment (podcast) of this story was wonderful." —David Steffen, SF Signal

Finalist, 2016 Parsec Awards, Best Short Story Podcast – Large Cast

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Punctuality Machine, Or, A Steampunk Libretto
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 39:46 — 27.3MB)
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WHITLOCK: (aside) An identical response! Perhaps free will is a mere illusion. On the other hand, she's an automaton.
From the Archives:
The Adventure of the Pyramid of Bacconyus
The three cousins walked through a tunnel low enough that their head leaves brushed and bent on the ceiling.
Issue #172 – Special Weird Western IssueApril 30, 2015

Special Weird Western issue, celebrating the release of our new theme anthology Ceaseless West: Weird Western Stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies.


Splitskin

My love reveled in winter's sunbroken days, when the light spills to the fresh-fallen snow to stab a person in the eyes. Gugán flit from path to stone, a trickster comfortable with his Raven heritage. I, as Eagle, startled at every shift of snow, caught always unawares in the bright sun as he pelted me with clumps of melting cold.

Swallowing Silver

John Halpern knew it should be a heavy weight on his conscience, to wake up and know that he was going to kill a thing that used to be a man. Whether it was or wasn't was a topic of much internal contemplation for him as he walked up the long path to his brother-in-law's house to ask for help. The fact that his brother-in-law was himself a devil-man did not escape him.

The Snake-Oil Salesman and the Prophet’s Head

Leaving Leo alone, with his brother's head. Leo stepped closer to the jar. Cary's white-blond hair floated up from his skull, the tips waving slightly. It looked like strands of spiderweb, or exposed nerves. "You still telling people things they don't want to hear?" He tapped on the glass. As if he might rouse it to speech.

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Swallowing Silver
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 47:40 — 32.73MB)
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John Halpern knew it should be a heavy weight on his conscience, to wake up and know that he was going to kill a thing that used to be a man.
Audio Vault:
Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride
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Introduced by the author.
From the Archives:
The Angel Azrael Delivers Small Mercies
The angel Azrael surveyed the remains of the town. The place was as dead as the horse he sat on.