Issues from 2022
Issue #362
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Featuring new cover art: “Hilltop” by returning BCS cover artist Dominique van Velsen.

Their Eyes the Shape of Orchids

Something in your mother's acceptance of my cruel words makes me see how, for a moment, I am the pathetic one. I’ve seen those eyes before. I’ve seen them on the faces of Surna girls who come to me to do the dampening and I know they’re carrying unwanted Innachor children inside them. In her eyes, I see for a moment how even the lucky ones who are pretty and pass and marry into Innachor upper ranks—sometimes, even those with a good life and caring husbands—are still every bit of Surna fate.

That much, your mother and I have in common.
The Shapeshifter’s Lover

Oh, she knew it was foolish, but she was still so much a girl—trying on womanhood as one might try on shoes. Her ragdolls still rested on her pillow, arms akimbo. During summer storms she would clutch them to her face and soothe herself to sleep, dreaming of princes and kisses soft as moth wings. The crow's kisses were not as she imagined. They were far better.

Dori had said into the Lorist’s old ear, “The crow came to me. He flew up to my windowsill and sang. He left his.”
Audio Vault:
What the River Brings, and What It Takes Away

Podcast: Download (Duration: 21:07 — 14.5MB)
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With an introduction from the author, explaining their beliefs on the story’s theme of individual freedom and autonomy.
From the Archives:
What the River Brings, and What It Takes Away
The fawn is still in its mother's belly. Sapo kneels by the doe and feels for the outlines of the little one with her fingers. A gasp escapes her when it moves under the dead doe's skin.
Issue #361
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A Once and Future Reckoning

The “dragon” was not what Artur had expected. It had rubbery skin and too many teeth, like the nightmarish offspring of a toad and a wolf. And it was fast. Far faster than an ancient creature should be. He’d barely managed to get his sword free before its fetid breath was upon him.

The “dragon” was not what Artur had expected.
Uncounted Leaves of Ends of Camelot

The sap and time flow up, and Arthur pushes to follow, wills Merlin to guide him up the spreading branches to an end where Camelot stands past his death. He passes up through many interlacing threads of possibility. Sometimes wine is sour in his mouth as he learns of Gwen and Lancelot, sometimes he brings Morgause to court and lavishes every advantage on the boy who grows into his pale reflection, sometimes he does the deed he is here to atone for the thought of and sets Morgause and Morgan hard against him. No matter what the windings of the track, he sees the fire and the bloody clash of steel at Camlaan crimson on the far horizon.

Arthur is compressed, a grain of sand borne in the channels of the sap that fills and quickens the great oaken body of the wizard.
From the Archives:
The Five Days of Justice Merriwell
I see again my brothers’ grins beneath their iron helmets as my father released the holy fire upon the heretics.
Issue #360
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River of Sons

The German Imperial Army had been marching through Brussels for twenty-nine hours when the mandarin duck flew into Imke Tison’s apartment, landed beside her breakfast, and tapped an SOS on the china with a webbed foot. Imke offered the duck, her former mentor Monsieur Pilo, whom she hadn’t seen since the invasion began, chalk and slate. He snatched her cigarette instead.

Imke offered the duck, her former mentor Monsieur Pilo, whom she hadn’t seen since the invasion began, chalk and slate. He snatched her cigarette instead.
How to Be a True Woman While Piloting a Steam-Engine Balloon

Amelia is the best pilot the Territorial Revolutionists have. That's not boasting, it’s just true. They don't have many pilots, and none of them have as much experience as she does. She may be only twenty-two, but her pa taught her to fly at eleven, when she could barely see over the console, and she still flies his old steam-engine balloon, which may not be the newest model but is nevertheless steadfast.

Amelia is the best pilot the Territorial Revolutionists have. That's not boasting, it’s just true.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
How to Be a True Woman While Piloting a Steam-Engine Balloon

Podcast: Download (Duration: 33:27 — 22.97MB)
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Amelia is the best pilot the Territorial Revolutionists have. That's not boasting, it’s just true.
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?
Issue #359
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Featuring new cover art: “Port City,” by returning BCS artist Olexii Shuhurov.

Into The Thunder

Olva knows what Syenok's asking. "Sorry, Sy. But whoever's in there, they're definitely still alive." And with that, Syenok has no choice. The outrider code has saved her too many times for her to abandon it when someone else is in need. Which means she and Olva will have to confront this thunderclaw.

Syenok curses. With the lack of warning the caravan must have had, it's unlikely anyone fleeing made it far.
Witchbreaker

Suddenly I don't want to know how much time we missed. I don't want to know by how long I missed being there to fight whatever’s killed my wife and daughter. Not knowing is better. Because, what's worse? Coming back to what you thought would be home and finding out they've been dead for years? Or finding out you missed it by an hour or two, one that only felt like seconds to you in a witch's embrace?

I don't want to know by how long I missed being there to fight whatever’s killed my wife and daughter.
From the Archives:
Sinking Among Lilies
With the clawmarks as a warning, I'd slept in my clothes.
Issue #358
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Different Kinds of Thorn

She's been busy building a life in the city, building strength and respect in the guard, growing a circle of friends and lovers. Next to that, her family has seemed almost imaginary, their old familiar problems far away. It hasn't occurred to her until now that anything could truly change in the village. But if it has changed, and changed dangerously, then she must do what she can to understand the threat and meet it. If the Apple Orchard King is the threat, then this is an opportunity.

She has offered a dangerous thing, but oh, it is a sweet one too. To lie with a dryad, queen of the wood, would be an experience unlike any other.
Forte

Giro and Cecilia have seen each other four more times. Each night they can get away, they meet atop the Phoenix Gate and Cecilia asks Giro to show her some fantastic new sight of the city. One night they see a play at the Theatro Satyrico; when the two actors in the comic love triangle face off with swords, Giro and Cecilia critique the fencing loudly enough to enrage the rest of the audience. Another night they sneak out of the city to the Sauvian Vineyards and stumble home drunk on a dozen different vintages. Yet another night, they enter a tavern separately wearing carnival masks and, in the sanctity of a darkened chamber, remove one another's clothes—hardly speaking, as though they're making love atop a delicate ice cap where a single loose word might shatter the stars.

"There's nothing they can do to keep us apart. Not by the laws of Cisterna."
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Different Kinds of Thorn

Podcast: Download (Duration: 37:24 — 25.68MB)
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She has offered a dangerous thing, but oh, it is a sweet one too. To lie with a dryad, queen of the wood, would be an experience unlike any other.
From the Archives:
The Crow Knight
“The birds?” Ser Wynn looked around, but the only bird she saw was her own.
Issue #357
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The Nostalgia Panes

“Tendo,” Seneca said, “we used to perform on street corners and church steps. We got constables for our trouble. Hounds. Spilled blood. When has less risk ever factored into our installations? I’d set up in the prin-sec’s office if I could, but I’ll settle for her nephew’s private property. Using the nostalgia lawn as a backdrop is the point.”

After that day on the Stackshead Bridge, they hadn’t given up politics completely, but they hadn’t done installations, either.
These Hands Only Make Last Meals

On the ride home, we compare what we think we know. One girl says an officer let something slip. Another says she saw it happen. Where we agree is that a brother tried to desert. He was in the yard with his Sister when she turned her back to pick a flower. In that instant he engaged his engines and took flight. Naslia heard he made it halfway to the horizon before an anti-air gun shot him down.

Two days later, one of my Brother's squadron is killed.
Audio Vault:
Two Bodies in Basting Stitch

Podcast: Download (Duration: 42:28 — 29.16MB)
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Introduced by the author, in an interview conducted and engineered by M.K. Hobson, discussing the story’s inspirations in complicity with institutional systems and activism risking that status for beliefs or people you believe in.
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 #356
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The Splinters of Our Bond

Loads of horrible people do one nice thing, though. Perhaps he wanted something out of the gift, or perhaps it was his one good day. People are mixed. We all like to think of the villains in songs stalking around kicking kittens all day long, but surely they run out of kittens or miss their aim. Or surely they have one moment of picking up a kitten and stroking it before making their brother's life a living hell. I had to trust my brother. He was a good man. But then there was another body.

I didn't know the next body. Considerately, Royir left a note.
I Will Sing Your White Bones Home

We cannot go landwise. Too vulnerable for a start, and the finless watch their beaches like crabs, scuttling this way and that, their eyes pinched and ugly. They have set a line of posts on the edge of the world, deep in the sands. Each spike bears the head of one of our risen. We do not care. The risen have gone to the Great Water where they will fish and fight for all eternity.

He was speared by a finless, and we watched his head rot at the edge of the sea.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
I Will Sing Your White Bones Home

Podcast: Download (Duration: 26:40 — 18.32MB)
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He was speared by a finless, and we watched his head rot at the edge of the sea.
From the Archives:
The Mama Mmiri
I longed for someone with whom I could engage in our papaya-pipe-gun battles in the surrounding forests.
Issue #355
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Featuring new cover art: “Empire City Vista” by Andy Lee.

The Mountains of Another World, Where Eagles May Fly Free

Traitor-kin indeed. At what range could the Imperator's sorcerers snatch away his man-shape? He imagines himself shriveling into the lowliest of creatures: an eel, a snake, an eyeless worm, to be delivered to the Imperator's justice and crushed before her marble throne. Inside him, he is sure, there is no proud and beautiful bird to stretch its wings and join his three precious eagles in the sky. Time is the greatest sorcerer, and eventually it will force him into a new shape: a sea-bloated corpse, a sun-leathered mummy. Let him only make it across the sea, first. Let him see his birds take wing over newer, kinder lands.

Time is the greatest sorcerer, and eventually it will force him into a new shape: a sea-bloated corpse.
Anything You Lose Comes Round in Another Form

The beach had narrowed to a sliver, but there was still space to sit and watch the fisherman skiffs. Fewer and fewer returned with troughs full of silverfins these days. It had been sixty moons since I had last tended to the sea. I hadn’t done it since the day Deniz was born. I had no intention of ending up like my mother, and I wasn’t going to let Deniz waste his life, either. If the sea expanded, so be it. Let it be angry—I had my son.

I said it because I loved her, but I didn’t understand why duty was more important than her life.

"confronts readers with the cost of sacrifice, challenging what some might consider selfishness in order to make a deeper point about unfairness and loss. ...a powerful and beautiful story." —Locus

Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Mountains of Another World, Where Eagles May Fly Free

Podcast: Download (Duration: 27:40 — 19MB)
Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | RSS | More

Time is the greatest sorcerer, and eventually it will force him into a new shape: a sea-bloated corpse.
From the Archives:
The Warriors, The Mothers, The Drowned
Ana thought the land of the dead would be empty, but it is full to bursting.
Issue #354
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Valor Bones

Leti sat down in the mud alongside the monster-thing. Her fingers grazed the book's cover; she remembered the attic. Daka's cold and callused body. And across town, the terrifying illness that had taken root. Her body trembled once, deeply. The monster-thing watched with great interest. Leti turned the page and started to read.

The monster-thing watched with great interest. Leti turned the page and started to read.
The Heart in Her Hands

I look back down the table at Eris. She is staring thoughtfully at the ceiling with bright eyes, and then her gaze drifts down—over me, whom she seems not even to notice—and settles on the Queen, with an expression simultaneously fired with curiosity and cold with regard. I have seen that expression many times before, when she first holds up the organ of a newly dissected animal with her forceps, or when she discovers that prodding the exposed brain of a mouse can make its leg twitch. That is how she is looking at the Queen.

I have seen that expression many times before, when she first holds up the organ of a newly dissected animal with her forceps.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Valor Bones

Podcast: Download (Duration: 41:24 — 28.43MB)
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The monster-thing watched with great interest. Leti turned the page and started to read.
From the Archives:
The Uncarved Heart
I used to dream of the heart our masters would give me.
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