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The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies Online Magazine, Year Six
The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies Online Magazine, Year Six
The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies Online Magazine, Year Six
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The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies Online Magazine, Year Six

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Twenty-two more short stories of literary adventure fantasy from Beneath Ceaseless Skies, the three-time Hugo Award and five-time World Fantasy Award finalist online magazine that Locus online calls “a premiere venue for fantastic fiction, not just online but for all media.”

Authors include Yoon Ha Lee, Helen Marshall, Richard Parks, Gemma Files, Seth Dickinson, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, and Cat Rambo. Includes “No Sweeter Art” by Tony Pi, a finalist for the 2015 Aurora Awards and 2015 Parsec Awards, and “The Breath of War” by Aliette de Bodard, a finalist for the 2014 Nebula Awards.

LanguageEnglish
PublisherFirkin Press
Release dateSep 12, 2015
ISBN9781513076645
The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies Online Magazine, Year Six
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Author

Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard lives and works in Paris, where she has a day job as a System Architect. She studied Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, but moonlights as a writer of speculative fiction. Aliette has won three Nebula Awards, a Locus Award, a British Fantasy Award and four British Science Fiction Association Awards, and was a double Hugo finalist (Best Series and Best Novella). Most recently she published Fireheart Tiger (Tor.com, Nebula Award finalist, British Science Fiction Association finalist), a sapphic romantic fantasy inspired by pre colonial Vietnam, where a diplomat princess must decide the fate of her country, and her own. She is the author of the Dominion of the Fallen trilogy, set in a turn-of-the-century Paris devastated by a magical war–which comprises The House of Shattered Wings (Roc/Gollancz, 2015 British Science Fiction Association Award, Locus Award finalist), The House of Binding Thorns (Ace/Gollancz, 2017 European Science Fiction Society Achievement Award, Locus award finalist), and The House of Sundering Flames. Her short story collection Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight is out from Subterranean Press. She is also the author of The Tea Master and the Detective (2018 Nebula Award winner, 2018 British Fantasy Award winner, 2019 Hugo Award finalist), a murder mystery set on a space station in a Vietnamese Galactic empire, inspired by the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson; and In the Vanishers’ Palace, a dark Beauty and the Beast retelling, where they are both women and the Beast is a dragon. Visit her website www.aliettedebodard.com for free fiction (including further short stories set in the same universe as this one), Vietnamese and French recipes and more.

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    Book preview

    The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies Online Magazine, Year Six - Aliette de Bodard

    Edited by Scott H. Andrews

    Compilation Copyright © 2015 Firkin Press

    Individual Stories Copyright © by the individual authors

    Cover Artwork After the Giants War II Copyright © David Demaret

    All other rights reserved.

    Beneath Ceaseless Skies Online Magazine

    For literary adventure fantasy short stories and audio fiction podcasts, visit our magazine’s website at

    http://beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/

    Find BCS on Facebook and Twitter (@BCSmagazine)

    CONTENTS

    Introduction

    Cherry Blossoms on the River of Souls · Richard Parks

    Crossroads and Gateways · Helen Marshall

    The Black Waters of Lethe · Oliver Buckram

    The Lighthouse Keepers · Nicole M. Taylor

    We, As One, Trailing Embers · E. Catherine Tobler

    At the Edge of the Sea · Raphael Ordoñez

    Our Fire, Given Freely · Seth Dickinson

    Rappaccini’s Crow · Cat Rambo

    On the Origin of Song · Naim Kabir

    No Sweeter Art · Tony Pi

    The Use and the Need · M. Bennardo

    The Adventure of the Pyramid of Bacconyus · Caleb Wilson

    The Good Deaths, Part II · Angela Ambroz

    Golden Daughter, Stone Wife · Benjanun Sriduangkaew

    A Feast for Dust · Gemma Files

    Walls of Skin, Soft as Paper · Adam Callaway

    Pilgrims · Ann Chatham

    Women in Sandstone · Alex Dally MacFarlane

    The Unborn God · Stephen Case

    The River Does Not Run · Rachel Sobel

    The Breath of War · Aliette de Bodard

    TheBonedrake’s Penance · Yoon Ha Lee

    Cover Art: After the Giants War II · David Demaret

    INTRODUCTION

    WELCOME TO The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies Online Magazine, Year Six. This sixth best-of anthology from Beneath Ceaseless Skies contains twenty-two stories, by new and returning BCS authors alike, of complex characters inhabiting awe-inspiring worlds.

    Beneath Ceaseless Skies continues in our quest to publish great literary adventure fantasy: stories set in amazing worlds yet focused on the characters. The sixth year of BCS saw the magazine receive its second nomination for the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine and fourth World Fantasy Award nomination, as well as British Science Fiction Association Award and Parsec Award nominations for Boat in Shadows, Crossing by Tori Truslow.

    Other milestones included the release of our fifth best-of ebook anthology, The Best of BCS Year Five, our 150th issue and 300th story, the launch of our new second podcast The BCS Audio Vault, and a second theme month of science-fantasy stories, following our first one in 2012. Several of our best-reviewed stories of Year Six appeared in this Science-Fantasy Month 2, including the final three stories in this anthology.

    In August 2014 we held our third annual ebook sale and subscription drive, through independent ebook retailer Weightless Books. The BCS ebook subscription, available year-round, offers a full year of the magazine (26 issues) for $15.99 and can deliver each issue automatically to an ereader or smart phone. The ebooks and subscription are a major source of revenue for the magazine. As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, BCS depends on reader support and donations. Buying our subscription or anthologies is a great way to get the stories delivered in a convenient format and support us at the same time. Thank you for buying this anthology; all proceeds go toward paying our authors and artists.

    The seventh year of BCS, already underway, has included a third Hugo nomination, a fifth World Fantasy Award nomination, a Nebula Award nomination for The Breath of War by Aliette de Bodard (included in this anthology), Auroa Award and Parsec Award nominations for No Sweeter Art by Tony Pi (also included in this anthology), the release of our second theme anthology, Ceaseless West: Weird Western Stories from BCS, and the 150th episode of the BCS Audio Fiction Podcast, a special large-cast reading. All this alongside new stories and podcasts by Yoon Ha Lee, Aliette de Bodard, Cat Rambo, Ken Scholes, Rose Lemberg, Carrie Vaughn, and many more.

    My continued gratitude to all who help make BCS possible, particularly Editorial Assistant Nicole Lavigne, for her help reading submissions; all the editors, authors, and narrators who have contributed audio introductions to The BCS Audio Vault; all our donors, large and small; and all our writers and readers and fans, for their interest and support and word-of-mouth about our great stories, podcasts, and anthologies of character-centered secondary-world fantasy. Thank you!

    Scott H. Andrews, Editor in Chief/Publisher

    August 2015

    CHERRY BLOSSOMS ON THE RIVER OF SOULS

    Richard Parks

    THE TALES VARIED as to why the well was outside the village rather than inside. Some say that an earthquake and rockfall destroyed the original town site and the survivors rebuilt the village at a safer distance, leaving the now-dry well where it was. Others say that a saké-addled farmer relieved himself in the well one night, so offending the spirit of the well that it had moved itself and had been dry ever since. Whichever version one believed, the well was where it was, and nearly every evening the boy called Hiroshi came to stare down into the darkness, and listen.

    The well was full of music.

    Hello, Hiroshi said to the unseen musician, as was his habit. There was no answer. Hiroshi was never quite sure what he would have done had the darkness answered him. There was a spirit in the well, of course. His uncle Saito, the priest, said there were living spirits in everything, and Hiroshi believed that. Still, the darkness did not answer him.

    One fine spring evening his uncle Saito walked out of the village to where Hiroshi sat by the well. He had been a soldier and was now a priest, but it was as Hiroshi’s uncle that Saito came to speak with Hiroshi that evening. Greetings, Nephew, he said, and sat down beside the boy.

    Hello, Uncle. Is there something the matter?

    I’m not certain. I would be grateful if you would help me decide, so I must ask: what is your fascination with this well?

    Is Father worried? He’s raised no objections so long as I do not neglect my obligations.

    My brother is a practical man, and you are a dutiful son to him. However, my question was not to my brother.

    Hiroshi blushed. Forgive me, Uncle. I sit here because I like to listen. There is a sound coming from the well, from down in the darkness. It’s almost as if the music is being played just for me; almost as if I’ve heard it before. I don’t understand that, but that’s how it feels.

    Saito sat down beside him and leaned forward just a bit, listening. After a while he pulled back the sleeve of his robe and picked up a pebble. He dropped it over the side.

    What do you hear now, Hiroshi?

    I hear the pebble rattling against stones. . . fading. Now I hear nothing.

    No splash? Not even a small one?

    No.

    Saito nodded. Nor will you ever. This was a well. Now it is not. Now it is just a hole down deep into the underground. The underground is the province of dead things, and dead things should not concern the living. Look around you now. What do you see?

    Hiroshi did as his uncle directed. He saw children his age flying kites in the waning light, running along the ridges of the flooded rice fields, playing games with tops and hoops, laughing.

    It all seems childish, Hiroshi said.

    "Is it inappropriate for children to do childish things? Or the living to do what nature decrees that the living must? This is your world, Hiroshi. There is nothing in that well that should be of concern to you. Will you think about what I have said?"

    I will, Uncle, Hiroshi said, and Saito left him there. His uncle glanced back once but not a second time as he walked away.

    Hiroshi, being an honest boy, did what he had promised to do. He thought about what his uncle said, and he studied carefully, for a moment or two, the activity, now fading with the day, around him.

    I’ve played those games, he said to himself. "Time and again. They do not change—the kites pull on the wind as they always have, as they will for anyone. This song is for