Issues from 2020
Issue #309
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Featuring two giveaways for copies of Marie Brennan’s new book Driftwood, set in the same world as her Driftwood stories in BCS.

The Many Lives of an Abiku

Sometimes the walls developed faces. One moment they were the uninspired blandness of old wood, coated with soot from the coal pot, and the next there was a face staring at me, bulging out of the wood. Sometimes the faces stared unblinking. Sometimes they tittered. Once or twice the faces morphed, twenty or so of them, fusing into one hideous gargantuan aberration of a face. Strangely, strangely I did not scream.

“You are an abiku, a spirt child,” he said. “You have come to your mother three times before and have died before your seventh year."
Satin and Velvet

Toward the end, Samara wasn't eating. Thin, with dark rings around her eyes, bony wrists, bruises and cuts everywhere, she would limp down from the tower to see me. "He won't teach me as long as it's around," she said, her voice weak. I looked up at the velvet gast. Its hollow form had taken to holding a platter draped in dark cloth with bright pieces of fruit on it. They made me hungry, and I wasn't even starving.

I know from Samara that it's useless wishing a gast away. You have to change yourself.
From the Archives:
Nneamaka’s Ghost
Of all the strong men that populate our village, why did Nneamaka's ghost choose me?
Issue #308
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It Is Not From Heaven

“Son of man," the fish said, "set thy face against Gog of the land of Magog, the chief priest of Meshech and Tubal.” The names were unfamiliar to Shemaiah, and the story was hard to understand; after a moment, he realized that the very language the fish was speaking wasn’t quite the one he knew. The words were Ivri, but they were the old Ivri, the one the ancestors had spoken before the books and scholars were burned.

“The fish knows the lost stories,” Shemaiah said. “The stories from before the burning.”
The Black-Eyed Goddess of Apple Trees and Farmers’ Wives

Really, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Shamans drag away poor farm girls from the outlying provinces all the time (particularly in seasons of great calamity, as everyone insists we are in now). Even then their lives stray little from their previously charted course. They trade mud thatch and straw for cedar wood and oil, reborn as sworn sisters, plodding away the rest of their days with too many early rises.

My favorite story as a child was the one about the farmer who slits open his wife’s belly and plants an apple tree amongst her insides.
From the Archives:
The Gods Come to Sredna
Like the log stockades of Sredna, it would hold a ceratopsid until she decided to leave.
Issue #307
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Featuring new cover art: Grassy Ocean by Alexander Ostrowski.

Buttercream and Broken Wings

The old woman had no human mourners, so Willowbright stayed; if not to mourn, then to mark her passing at least. By the time the widow's grave had been covered over and the gravediggers sat atop the new wound in the earth to pass a cup between them, the moon had pressed its thumbprint deep into the sky. Willowbright wrapped her arms around her hollow stomach.

The old woman had no human mourners, so Willowbright stayed; if not to mourn, then to mark her passing at least.
Seven Dreams of a Valley

I urged the men to pack their belongings and abandon the village. But the boy who had become a man laughed and said that he had never met anyone who, when a fire began to burn, advised to walk towards it instead of running away. So, as we lay in the quiet of the lake, I sang them a song of endurance, taught to me by the warriors of the desert, to whom I would unfailingly go every year carrying letters from their families, smudged in tears.

On the fourth night... ...I was at a wedding.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Seven Dreams of a Valley

Podcast: Download (Duration: 24:06 — 16.56MB)
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On the fourth night... ...I was at a wedding.
From the Archives:
The Night Bazaar for Women Becoming Reptiles
One, two, three eggs into her mouth, one sharp bite, and the clear, viscous glair ran down her throat.
Issue #306
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Kill the Witchman

I can recall something about this boy—a memory that dances at the outer edge of my thoughts. This is a sign that it is time to redose. Above all else, I must not allow myself to remember. I pat myself down until I find a hard leather canteen in the inside pocket of my jacket. I pull the canteen out and sniff it. Yes, this is the broth. I take a small sip and wash it down with water.

I do not know when or why I began chasing this boy, but I trust in the self that came before and the self that will come after.
The Augur and the Girl Left at His Door

The augur taught the girl to read letters and numbers but not the signs of the flesh. One day, when she was as tall as a fencepost, he came back from the tea fields to see her with his augury book. The anatomical sketches spread out upon the splintered table, the pages yellow and thin as butterfly’s wings. The augur lashed out with such haste it was as though his body had forgotten its age. “This is not for you,” he said, snatching the heavy book. “There is no happiness in some knowledges.”

The augur could read on her skin that she would be cared for by an old man who was not her kin.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Augur and the Girl Left at His Door

Podcast: Download (Duration: 27:14 — 18.7MB)
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The augur could read on her skin that she would be cared for by an old man who was not her kin.
From the Archives:
Seasons Set in Skin
Horimachi's own tattoos were from before the war, when black ink was made of soot instead of faery blood.
Issue #305
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The Widow

I hear you are yourself of low birth, Monsieur de la Martinière, and so may understand what it’s like to experience, for the first time, not even luxury but safety. You might understand how just the taste of it fills you up as if for the first time and you can never again be content with the same old hungry fear. So mayhap, Monsieur, you have been right all along, though not quite in the way you suppose.

I hear you are yourself of low birth, Monsieur de la Martinière, and so may understand what it’s like to experience, for the first time, not even luxury but safety.
Breath Of The Sahara

I began to carefully watch my path when going to visit Esohe in the well. I visited only once per day, with little food that would last her. I would nestle her to myself to shield her of the scarce yet poisonous air and tell her of the latest happenings in the village, not sure if she could hear. I read to her, scoured for all the books I could find, and would read aloud. But in my alone time, I read records on the lives of Zephyrs, searched for what could make them last longer. There was no other way; only the sanctum.

The lemon oil I had sprinkled in the well could scarcely dwarf the underlying stench. But Esohe said she could barely smell a whiff; she was gradually losing that too.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Widow

Podcast: Download (Duration: 39:08 — 26.87MB)
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I hear you are yourself of low birth, Monsieur de la Martinière, and so may understand what it’s like to experience, for the first time, not even luxury but safety.
From the Archives:
Playing for Amarante
The man with my face opens his eyes.
Issue #304
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Featuring new cover art: “Sea Shore” by Anton Ninov.

Clever Jack, Heavy with Stories

He walked around the chapel, once, twice, three times widdershins. He caught himself and found he had crossed over. The castle walls and towers were all gone, and the stone chapel was a lonely boulder with a great cleft leading into darkness. The forest all around was twisted, tall and thick as the curled hair of a sleeping giant, full of shadows deeper than should have been under the summer sun. The grass was bright as emeralds, richer hued than fine Holland cloth. It was trampled by the hooves of many horses, and their trail led away into the west.

“He’s gone now,” Jack told her, “taken by the king of the elves or some other dark thing, because you shamed him into foolishness.”
The Honey of the World and the Queen of Crows

The ghost of the Archbishop I had murdered began following me halfway through the trip. You see, he couldn’t cross the nunnery’s walls, but now he had caught me outside, alone. His head was broken in a strange angle, and his hands were cold as ice as they tugged at my skirts. Thankfully he was scared of the holy symbols even in death, and my habit was enough to keep him at bay.

The clock is huge, its heavy frame carved with crow feathers and bees, and I dare not look at it too long for fear the hands will start moving again.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Honey of the World and the Queen of Crows

Podcast: Download (Duration: 25:43 — 17.66MB)
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The clock is huge, its heavy frame carved with crow feathers and bees, and I dare not look at it too long for fear the hands will start moving again.
From the Archives:
Boat in Shadows, Crossing
"Child of fish and ghost," said Bue. "What could be quicker?"
Issue #303
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February Moon

My children have spent so much time living with terrible realities that I’m afraid they no longer take the world’s dangers seriously. I wish for them to simply be children, and for myself to be burdened with nothing more than a mother’s routine fears for their safety. Gretchen should not lie awake at night listening for monsters, and Peter is certainly too young to be the man of the house. Yet here we are. Hugging him is like hugging a warm corpse, and when I release him, he trudges into the cedar line without a farewell.

My children have spent so much time living with terrible realities that I’m afraid they no longer take the world’s dangers seriously.
Fox Red, Life Red, Teeth Like Snow

Hungry wolves eat pieces of the world, and the most ambitious hunters go after pieces of the heavens. Hryggda has heard it told. Wolves have been hunting the sun since her autumn waning, but she has escaped, hidden herself in a den to sleep until spring like a bear. And now, it seems, the forest's hunters aim to eat the moon.

No troll’s life is so shaped by her body.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Fox Red, Life Red, Teeth Like Snow

Podcast: Download (Duration: 17:09 — 11.78MB)
Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | Google Podcasts | RSS | More

No troll’s life is so shaped by her body.
From the Archives:
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.
Issue #302
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Who Goes Against a Waste of Waters

Every day, we walk the graveyard grounds, back and forth, in search of this cursed grass. Mother used to say the graveyard is as big as a continent that only gets bigger; that we have to cross oceans of sand and swamp only to find new ghost-grass. This year it rained only twice, and Who Tames Lions and I walk farther and farther as our sheep grow weaker and weaker.

We are the only ones left to herd the ghost-sheep.
Lonely Children Lost at Sea

From somewhere far below, a shout rises over the sea's roar, and with a glance at Theodore that I was never meant to see, Gina gathers her skirt and hurries ahead. The water churns, turbulent and unrelenting, as we trace her steps to the shore. We rush forth, our duty as inescapable as the tides, to deliver the island's next generation of lost children from one cruel fate to another.

She drifts in at high tide, as those of us who came before and those who will come long after we are gone.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Who Goes Against a Waste of Waters

Podcast: Download (Duration: 19:28 — 13.37MB)
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We are the only ones left to herd the ghost-sheep.
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 #301
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Her Cage of Root and Bone

We do not discuss, Nell and I. In the early years of my imprisonment, I raged at her during her midwinter visits, but I soon learned that my prison only grew stronger with every fight: roots deepening when I screamed curses on her name, leaves withering when she laughed at my weakness. I stopped fighting the year I realized I could not discern bone from wood when I sliced myself open and peered inside.

We do not discuss, Nell and I.
As The Shore To The Tides, So Blood Calls To Blood

In my pocket, my brother's letter seethed as if a hornet's nest was trapped in its folds. Was the captain another of Ostred's creatures, sent to find me? Or was the godsblood ink warning me—like it had with the messenger—about the captain's final reward if I came aboard his ship? I wasn't sure, but either way I didn't like it. There was only one thing I should do.

Tiago noticed the set of Jaime's jaw and realized his brother's anger was but a low-banked ember on the verge of blazing to life.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Her Cage of Root and Bone

Podcast: Download (Duration: 26:13 — 18.01MB)
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We do not discuss, Nell and I.
From the Archives:
The Deepest Notes of the Harp and Drum
I killed my sister with my own two hands.
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