Issues
Issue #352
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Featuring the 750th story published in BCS! “Merry in Time” by Kathleen Jennings.

Merry in Time

"Ah, true roses are tricky," she said, a little sourly. But then she shook back her hair. "Or so I've heard. I've never been...at least, before this—” and she gestured to the boughs that never quite forced them to duck, “you didn’t look at— I mean, you wouldn’t have— That is, I wasn’t the sort to be given any flowers."

"That's hardly fair," he complained. "Must it be roses?"
Venturing

When I shirk my chores to go venturing, Momma Londie’s always mad as all, and Dad Bray tuts and clucks when he sees me come home all muddy and with burrs in my hair, and he takes up the whomping stick and looks all hardeyed as a father ought to, but then there’s us gone down to the root cellar, him hitting the wall with the stick and me squeaking an Ow every once and somewhen to fool Momma Londie. He don’t whomp me so long as I got a good story for him.

My name’s Zilda Trueshake and I’m big for twelve, or so Dad Bray is always like to tell.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Venturing

Podcast: Download (Duration: 32:31 — 22.34MB)
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My name’s Zilda Trueshake and I’m big for twelve, or so Dad Bray is always like to tell.
From the Archives:
Bandit and the Seventy Raccoon War
At midnight the witch began to bless the cannons. Jacsen told the boy to stay put and slipped out among the tents.
Issue #351
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Featuring new cover art: “Sandica” by Dominique van Velsen.

The Angel Azrael Encounters the Revelation Pilgrims and Other Curiosities

“Old bones like those back in the shop just have a little smouldering spark of power left in them,” Azrael said. “Bibles, though, they’re like lightning bolts. Ain’t many that can handle them without getting destroyed. And I ain’t seen any protective wards on you nephilim like on these pilgrims.”

Of course, as an angel he couldn’t help but look for signs to interpret, whether he wanted to or not.
A Nickel For The Burlap Man

The trestle bridge caught fire in 1911. Crisped from existence, right as a locomotive crossed. The train dropped. The ravine caught it. There’s that banjo tune from back then, something about bone and coal and iron and souls. Sad song about a sad day and fairly accurate. It has a verse about the corn, too.

The trestle bridge caught fire in 1911. The train dropped. The ravine caught it.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
A Nickel For The Burlap Man

Podcast: Download (Duration: 10:50 — 7.45MB)
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The trestle bridge caught fire in 1911. The train dropped. The ravine caught it.
Audio Vault:
The Angel Azrael Delivers Small Mercies

Podcast: Download (Duration: 36:14 — 24.88MB)
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Introduced by the author, explaining the genesis of the Angel Azrael character, his horror-influenced Weird Western world, and the personal bibles in that world.
From the Archives:
Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride
So when Mister Hadj said that a stone in the road told him where we'd find Parson Lucifer, I didn’t doubt it.
Issue #350 – Science-Fantasy Month 6
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Our 350th Issue! A special double-issue for BCS Science-Fantasy Month 6, featuring three bonus stories and science-fantasy cover art “Ancient Ones” by Jose Borges.

At the Foot of the Dragon Stair

Thanh Lan wanted the order back. She wanted her home back. She wanted to be sitting in the kitchens again, listening to Mei go on and on. She wanted to have those barbed, frustrating conversations with Abbess Linh about the order's mission. And she knew she wasn't ever going to get any of that, but she could get something else: the satisfaction of saving the life of the order who had saved her own life.

Thanh Lan walked to the door, legs shaking.
A Record of Our Meeting with the Grand Faerie Lord of Vast Space and Its Great Mysteries, Revised

I led Pilot Uma on the circuitous route through the spaceport that I had taken the morning Nina and I came upon the Grand Faerie Lord. [Addition: There were more direct routes. However, from reading my great grandmother’s records, I theorized that our search for the Faerie was based not so much on the location, but on the path one followed.] [Revision: I was correct.]

I returned to the path in the spaceport gardens where I had first found the Grand Faerie Lord.
It Never Was

Trist reared back. “No!” She might be trapped by the ancient rules of the hunt, but she would not have them say she had asked for it. “I didn’t call you. There’s nothing I’m so desperate to be free of that I’d take the chance of faltering during a ride.”

The wild hunt finally slowed enough for Trist to pick out the riders and their metal mounts.
Empty Appendages

Three times he has seen it now, a spindle-limbed silhouette. In its general shape, it resembles his own appendage—it has two arms, two legs and one head—but there is something deeply unnatural about the way it moves. Each time Harwen pursued it, the creature vanished into the scrub. He fears it is an omen; a signal that his calm existence cannot last forever.

Harwen faces toward himself and suppresses a shudder.
To People Who’d Never Known Good

Without realizing it, I grabbed at Mama’s sleeve, the way I used to when I was younger and our shuttle hit some unmapped debris or popped a fuse unexpectedly. It was the kind of reflexive gesture that didn’t mean much, but the stare Mama sent over her shoulder as she shook me off was severe and unmistakable.

The Prospect Pig gave a prolonged chuckle, and he fixed on me for a while in particular.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
At the Foot of the Dragon Stair

Podcast: Download (Duration: 39:25 — 27.07MB)
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Thanh Lan walked to the door, legs shaking.
Audio Vault:
Gennesaret

Podcast: Download (Duration: 36:54 — 25.34MB)
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Introduced by the author, in an interview conducted and engineered by M.K. Hobson, discussing the story’s inspirations from inter-generational political attitudes in families of immigrants and patriarchal culture and how its use of science-fantasy elements shaped its presentation.
From the Archives:
Scry
She had never imagined that she—the greatest scryer of her generation—could be lied to and tricked by her own husband.
Issue #349 – Science-Fantasy Month 6
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Special double-issue for BCS Science-Fantasy Month 6, featuring a bonus story, a bonus novella, and new science-fantasy cover art “Ancient Ones” by Jose Borges.

Bonsai Starships

Today Kei tended the three that had been given to her care in her first year. If she did well—if the bonsai starships matured into acceptable usefulness—she would be initiated; she would join the shrine's priesthood.

The third bonsai swayed to the bleak tides of distant and colliding black hole inspirals.
Blood Grains Scream in Memories

That dying anchor said some mysterious ‘he’ was looking for her. Chakatie tried to think of who that could be. When she’d been an anchor in charge of her own land, she’d thought she’d been even-handed. But traveling with the day-fellows had revealed to her the painful reality of being on the receiving end of the grains’ anger and punishments—pains she’d once inflicted on far too many people to count.

Chakatie had figured that’s what the grains would demand.
Rich Growth

But now, as I age and see the beginning of personal withering, I find I want to know that this patch will be tended once I lie down and die. So I’ve saved enough for a child of my own. Thirty gemflowers. There must surely be somebody out there who will exchange their own treasure for such a fortune.

Let this growth be the start of a stalk that reaches the roof of the dome and spreads its seeds across the high jeweled panels.
Burying the Seeds of Spider Gods

“We are not afraid,” said one man with greying hair—I remembered him as a younger man, wielding an axe that had severed my legs from my body. “But the seasons have grown harsh. There is not much food.” The silence that followed served as grim confirmation.

I looked down at the seeds. In my head the voices of my caretakers suddenly rang. 
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Bonsai Starships

Podcast: Download (Duration: 30:27 — 20.91MB)
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The third bonsai swayed to the bleak tides of distant and colliding black hole inspirals.
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 #348
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Clay

Emmanuel 7.18 finds himself a glorified errand-boy, hauling the local riverbed clay up from the basement where it is kept cool and wet in sealed containers. It's more physical labor than he’s used to while on his Debt, but he finds he doesn’t mind. It reminds him of being home—when he’s home with his batch-sibs, he’s the default heavy lifter. He has two good arms and no gash in his chest.

“That’s a kiln?” Emmanuel 7.18 asks. “Do you... Do you make... prosthetics?”
Godmaker

The godmaker smiled pleasantly and made his way home quickly as he could. He shut the doors of his shop and lay in his bed, telling himself again and again about the power of coincidence. Belief did strange things to the mind, made patterns appear where there were none, made three incidents seem a certainty. He was a craftsman, nothing more. He sold icons and idols, nothing more. “I cannot make gods,” he said, though there was nobody to hear him.

There was silence in the workshop, and for a terrible moment, he was afraid he would receive an answer.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Godmaker

Podcast: Download (Duration: 33:02 — 22.69MB)
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There was silence in the workshop, and for a terrible moment, he was afraid he would receive an answer.
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 #347
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Chrysalis

It was not for the knife to judge. Today it had fulfilled its purpose. Tomorrow, next year, a century from now, it would do the same, until it too was broken.

Hidden in its cocoon, the obsidian butterfly waited to become.
Three Songs to Fill Up the Shadow

“That would be a fine thing, to hear that fiddle played as it should be,” the ferryman said, mostly to hisself. He cast an eye over the dark expanse of river, dotted with white ice cakes. “You sure, jacks? A trip like this, it rarely takes you where you’re planning.”

There’s other ways to start this one, but this time, we'll start with the ferryman.
Audio Vault:
The Three Feats of Agani

Podcast: Download (Duration: 35:37 — 24.46MB)
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Introduced by the author, posing questions as to who stories belong to and whether they matter.
From the Archives:
Unrest
We are borne up by fate like leaves on the wind, and sometimes carried home.
Issue #346
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Featuring new cover art: “Walking Away” by Viktor Mukhin.

Redfin Spine

The words came out like he'd tumbled them over and over, sharp rocks in the sand, until the edges wore down and he found them comfortable. He stood back by the rudder's long arm, tense and unsure, as far as he could get from me and his weapons. In his way he feared me almost as much as I feared him.

I thought I saw a smile flicker past in the dark, quick as one of his sharktooth arrows.
To Embody a Wildfire Starting

He stayed awake for three days, using pencil and paint and volcanic pigment and anything else he had to hand, to render what he'd seen in journalistic detail. In lieu of signature, he scribbled the demi-asuric precept at the base, we shall embody a wildfire starting, and shortly afterwards a dissident mole in the Hegemony central command arranged for it to appear in an official pamphlet. It spread, like a wildfire starting. He was arrested four days later.

He stayed awake for three days, using pencil and paint and volcanic pigment and anything else he had to hand, to render what he'd seen.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Redfin Spine

Podcast: Download (Duration: 23:34 — 16.19MB)
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I thought I saw a smile flicker past in the dark, quick as one of his sharktooth arrows.
From the Archives:
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.
Issue #345
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Letters from a Travelling Man

It wasn’t noon when we arrived—I could easily have gone on—but I’m completely exhausted and I’m hoping that a night’s rest will restore me. With any luck, I’ll be on the move bright and early, and the islands will be looking very different. We’ll see.

I’m doing it wrong, I can tell.

I’ll write again,

Horviss.

Probably I’m just tired, but at the moment I confess I really don’t know why you thought I should do this.
The Age of Swirling Mist

All I thought of, in the evening when they left, was of all the people Diwn was on his way to see, and though I could not imagine it, not clearly, the bustle of others like myself and Father, close together, talking and singing and making life and worlds. Me, I sat idly in the dead leaves fallen on top of one another slowly crumbling into dirt. I thought of what I had, and I had Father, and I had wicker, and I had birds, I had swimming, I had carving. Newly, I had that old Gurthern. These things were not enough.

What simple tenderness the three of us shared was flown to bits, sent up into the air with the dirt that burst in springs up from our friend’s filthy feet.
From the Archives:
Else This, Nothing Ever Grows
To be held by a bear—this made me feel as though I might belong.
Issue #344
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Featuring new cover art: “Temple Ruins” by Ari Suonpää.

The Fox’s Daughter

I had been asking myself the same question since I looked at Kenji’s map. If Kimiko was at fault and the act was malicious, would I, in order to protect the villagers under my care, be forced to deal with her and thus make a mortal enemy of someone as powerful as Lady Kuzunoha? Someone I still considered a friend? I wasn’t as sure of the answer as I wanted to be, but I still had a faint hope, and I clung to it tightly.

When the messenger arrived at my Kamakura estate, I knew he wasn’t human, and that meant trouble.
Fall to Rise

Toro used the brief truce to catalogue his resources. He wore a short sword, with which he was moderately capable, but his real weaponry was all concealed. While the knives were his tool of preference, he had others, including a couple of rare items he'd been saving for a suitable eventuality. He'd have traded them for a flask of water. The room was hot and airless, his throat was bone dry, and these trials had been known to drag on for hours.

The room was hot and airless, his throat was bone dry, and these trials had been known to drag on for hours.
Audio Vault:
As Tight As Any Knot

Podcast: Download (Duration: 40:44 — 27.97MB)
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Introduced by Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, the two authors behind the M.A. Carrick pen name, in an interview conducted and engineered by M.K. Hobson.
From the Archives:
The Calendar of Saints
I accept mortal commissions; I’ve killed before.
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