Issues from 2020
Issue #300, Special Double-Issue
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A special double-issue for BCS #300! Featuring two bonus novelettes, a bonus novella, and new cover art: “Arvandil” by Flavio Bolla.

The Hummingbird Temple

On the off-chance she might survive the night, she reached into one of the jade bowls and grabbed the elegantly shaped skull of a Royal Purple hummingbird. She slipped it into her pocket as a memento. Almost a decade of her life had been devoted to this model temple, since she first asked for hummingbirds for her fourteenth birthday, and now this skull was the only thing she had to show for it.

Kuikin glanced at Vertir. The Dynast dying was pretty much the definition of the worst thing it could be.
Uzumaki of the Lake

Kenji, once an itinerant priest, was now the abbot of his own small temple, albeit established on my own estates. Yet it was popular among the farmers, which had led Kenji, like myself, into being responsible for more than we ever imagined... or wanted.

I knew from long experience that yūrei could take on shapes not their own in the course of settling unfinished earthly business.
Bound by Sorrow

Dinga’s words faded into darkness, which suffused the camp. A discomfiting emptiness gnawed at him, one he’d arranged his entire life to avoid. Running from the hollowness of guilt, avoidance had become a way of life. He needed to reconnect with his forgotten lineage. And keep a promise.

“All I understand is that she wanted me to make this journey. Needed me to make it.”
To Balance the Weight of Khalem

He lifts the onion to the lantern’s lone light, and in it, I suddenly see: the goldwork towers and walls of the Old City; the broken bridge, jagged after a recent bombing yet still shining; rows of humble houses etched in ebullient metal; the curve and sway of the historical museum. I reach out my hand, and he drops the city into it. It feels warm in my palm.

Belowdecks on my berth, I eat everything in the ration packet, but I am not full.
Never a Butterfly, Nor a Moth With Moon-Painted Wings

The Ksmala do not deny us our butterflies. To them the brightscale wings are those of a celestial messenger, not the God and mystic that we see. But they did not often buy our embroidery unless we muted our butterfly rainbows. Because the Ksmala praised the virtue of industriousness, we had begun to sew black ants and golden-brown bees in neat soldier-rows at the edges of tablecloths and the corners of napkins.

Don't forget, daughter-mine. Embroider these things on your heart as well.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Uzumaki of the Lake

Podcast: Download (Duration: 29:10 — 20.03MB)
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I knew from long experience that yūrei could take on shapes not their own in the course of settling unfinished earthly business.
From the Archives:
The Crystal Stair, Pt. I
A gifted concubine must flee her emperor, but not without her infant son.
Issue #299 – Science-Fantasy Month 5
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Special double-issue for BCS Science-Fantasy Month 5, featuring three bonus stories and science-fantasy cover art “Investigate” by Andis Reinbergs.

The Sniper and I

They detached themself from the gun. The nerve cables retracted, including the one from my brainport, which tugged free with a tiny blossom of static. The sniper laid their weapon in its cocoon-like carry case, wiggled backward from the window, then came smoothly upright. They were small without the rifle.

One nerve cable was still in place, snaking from the gun into their skull.
Truth as a Prize

The Game had a new player, so Naomi found herself once more frozen in her place, one ghost among the many owned by the Game. Another chance. Another chance for some fool to die and take a place amongst the ghosts, but another chance for Naomi to guide a player to victory. Impossible to have one without the other.

The Game had a new player, so Naomi found herself once more frozen in her place, one ghost among the many owned by the Game.
Where the World Ends Without Us

Dozens of ghostly figures lit the fields around her--anchors like herself but far bigger, their bodies engorged on the grains’ anger and power, their massive fangs and claws ready to rip apart anyone who defiled the environment. And six years ago they had attacked this very house, to kill the day-fellow family hiding inside.

And now she was to be judged for her predecessor’s crimes?
Only the Messenger

“No,” Ennesta says. She walks toward me on her hind legs, unsteadily, other limbs wiggling awkwardly, and it occurs to me that not only is this the first time I’ve seen her navigate in gravity, it also looks like the first time she’s ever tried it. Or at least the first time in her current form. “I just haven’t told you things.”

I’d give three tentacles to be that lucky, just once.
Song of the Water Bear

We make our line at the farthest edge of the lifefrond, placing ourselves between it and the approaching creatures. I can taste salt-fear in the water around me. These are not rollers, the long whiplike creatures that slither through the water, eating our eggs and biting off our arms and tails. These are nothing we have seen before.

The new creatures find the lifefrond before any of our eggs have hatched.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Sniper and I

Podcast: Download (Duration: 25:23 — 17.44MB)
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One nerve cable was still in place, snaking from the gun into their skull.
From the Archives:
Blood Grains Speak Through Memories
Even though the chilled spring day promised nothing but beauty, the grains in Frere-Jones's body shivered to her sadness as she looked at the nearby dirt road.
Issue #298 – Science-Fantasy Month 5
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Special double-issue for BCS Science-Fantasy Month 5, featuring two bonus stories and science-fantasy cover art “Investigate” by Andis Reinbergs.

The Mermaid Astronaut

Essarala learned of the traders from her cousins' gossip, and she lingered near the interpreters, watching and wishing. She longed to explore their ship and ask them to take her with them to the stars. But the more she listened, the more she learned, and one thing became obvious: their ship might carry water for its crew to drink, but it didn't contain water for a mer to live in.

This particular mermaid had named herself Essarala, which means seeks the stars in the language of tide and foam.
The Spoils

“Step forward, Clare Askett,” said the butcher, so she did so. Before the ceremony she had inquired about the possibility of receiving her gift in private and had been told that was not an option. It didn’t help that it was her lot to receive such an unpleasant object. A toenail, no less. It had a laughable element to it. Would anyone snigger, or make a comment, as she approached?

Some carried their cuts from the corpse of the Olme home with bare hands, choosing to follow tradition.
My Sister’s Wings Are Red

I sloshed the nectar around in my mug and slurped it up as quickly as I could. The sickly-sweetness made my proboscis ache and my stomach churn. I dumped the chicken onto a roasting pan with some garlic and onions and opened the oven to get it cooking. “My soufflé!” Priscilla gasped and lunged for the door, but it was too late.

So I headed to the Chrysalis House. The moment I stepped out of the kitchens, the heady tang of pheromones hit me like a blunt axe.
The Glassblower of Galilei

I have not been present at a hatching, other than, I suppose, my own. For a moment I watch the cracks grow and light begin to seep through, but I have been instructed to leave and my master’s task awaits. I will be miles and hours away, back at the workshop with Master Damon, before my sister emerges.

I will be miles and hours away, back at the workshop with Master Damon, before my sister emerges.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Mermaid Astronaut

Podcast: Download (Duration: 42:03 — 28.88MB)
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This particular mermaid had named herself Essarala, which means seeks the stars in the language of tide and foam.
From the Archives:
The Breath of War
She would have run, but her legs betrayed her—a contraction, locking her in place, as frozen as the baby within her womb.
Issue #297
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The Ordeal

Even if the Grand Duke could not be swayed by testimony, surely he would not ignore evidence such as that! Waller expected that he would have to explain the theory of fingerprinting before the full import of the evidence would be understood, but surely the Grand Duke would soon see that justice had not been served by executing Herr Fenster!

"But if it is so simple, then surely an investigation would quickly establish whether there was sufficient evidence to convict the man."
John Simnel’s First Goshawk

And this is how you break a boy: tell him he is king. Simple, but not easy. You must watch him, hawk-like, to see how he slips beneath your lies. You must seem to believe it enough that the boy believes, too. You must crown him and put him at the front of an army. If you fail, there is always another handsome hazel-eyed boy somewhere in the world. Anyone might do.

Though in the muffled dark of my room I wonder if I might instead go mad.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
John Simnel’s First Goshawk

Podcast: Download (Duration: 17:23 — 11.94MB)
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Though in the muffled dark of my room I wonder if I might instead go mad.
From the Archives:
Two Pretenders
The alternative to boredom is remembrance. And that, he avoids at all costs.
Issue #296
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Featuring new cover art: “Ice Road III” by Rytis Sabaliauskas.

Forgive Me, My Love, for the Ice and the Sea

I stopped counting my steps across the ice after three hundred. I couldn’t distract myself from the thought of that gap closing between me and the ship. Between me and you. Issheth, always steps ahead of me, tireless, trying in vain to close her own gap. Frenzied. I kept my eyes on her back. At my belt I had the long knife I used for cutting ballast.

I made my way to Issheth, my boots crunching on the deck frost. Her eyes shone wet in the sunlight. Maybe it was the glare. Maybe it was not.
The Moneylender’s Angel

I'd hoped never to be in proximity to a sacrifice or its effects, ever again, but the necklace's mere presence changed things. It burst the bubble in which we lived from week to week, ignoring the past and not thinking about the future. It had to be dealt with.

Secrets were stealing back into our relationship already.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Forgive Me, My Love, for the Ice and the Sea

Podcast: Download (Duration: 41:44 — 28.66MB)
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I made my way to Issheth, my boots crunching on the deck frost. Her eyes shone wet in the sunlight. Maybe it was the glare. Maybe it was not.
From the Archives:
Worth of Crows
It should be spring, the crows' dead eyes protest. It should be spring.
Issue #295
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Every Tiny Tooth and Claw (or: Letters from the First Month of the New Directorate)

I hope you haven't been too worried! What an odd letter Yudit's advisor must have written. I don't know what they were thinking, we're all quite well. Here's what happened: on 3 Cider, the past Directorate was consolidated. Now instead of seven elected Directors, we'll have three permanent ones. This will be much more efficient and will benefit every citizen. Certainly I can't think of anyone who is not happy about this opportunity!

I don't want to make all our letters about shrews, love, but... I've attached a table I'd like to see filled out with different properties of the shrews and their venom. Thank you!
The Candle Queen

They bring me to the Underground Palace. The current reigning Candle Queen is there. She is sixty-seven. She has served her purpose. They lift the Candle Crown from her elderly neck and place it onto mine, with a strap to secure it under my chin. Three large candles sit on the plate, and it is heavy, but this is what I have trained for. They sew me into the dress I will wear for the next fifty years, and there is singing that fills the chamber like bells.

The Candle Queen must always carry the sacred candles on her head; otherwise the world will end.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Every Tiny Tooth and Claw (or

Podcast: Download (Duration: 25:17 — 17.37MB)
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I don't want to make all our letters about shrews, love, but... I've attached a table I'd like to see filled out with different properties of the shrews and their venom. Thank you!
From the Archives:
The Oracle and the Sea
Every month when the soldiers bring her supply of flour and milk, they also bring waterproofed parcels of manuscript paper and cool bricks of ink.
Issue #294
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Featuring new cover art: “Ice Road II” by Rytis Sabaliauskas.

These Wondrous Sweets

Could I trade in that favor for Tiger’s help? I carefully blew a caramel bubble and made sure that it was inflated enough to serve as the tiger’s body. All the while keeping the image of the Pale Tigress in mind, I pinched a wide mouth and two ears, then pulled four strong legs for it. With a quick bite, the thin sugar pipe that I blew through became its long tail.

I carefully blew a caramel bubble and made sure that it was inflated enough to serve as the tiger’s body.
Claudette Dulac and the Devil of the North

There were no tracks in the snow. If it weren’t for the ice melting in my fur collar and the dogs shivering on the line, you’dve called me a liar. What creature had the Devil been? Couldn’t have possibly been a wolf. Or a bear, after all—I’d hunted bears, and that Devil was surely somethin’ worse. And why had it cleared out so fast? I’d been prime prey, and it’d had me pinned.

If it weren’t for the ice melting in my fur collar and the dogs shivering on the line, you’dve called me a liar.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
These Wondrous Sweets

Podcast: Download (Duration: 51:27 — 35.33MB)
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I carefully blew a caramel bubble and made sure that it was inflated enough to serve as the tiger’s body.
From the Archives:
On the Transmontane Run with the Aerial Mail Express
Why in perdition were the pirates after the blimp on the return trip, after the payroll'd been delivered?
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