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The Longest Road in the Universe: A Collection of Fantastical Tales

The Ruin of Beltany Ring: A Collection of Pagan Poems and Tales


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"D is for Duel/One Who Dies as a God Dies"

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Her name is Alejandra Maria Yaotl, and she is desperate to squat here, in this ribbon of grass between armies, to defecate. But her knees do not permit squatting, and she knows the desperation is only a great, killing mass in her bowels making demands of the failing body it consumes from the inside out, a little more every day. So she walks; strands of white hair blowing about her eyes, bent spine unable to straighten, papery hand gripping the rough wooden knob of a cane. The punishing sun shines down on a spill of engine oil, a pool of chlorophyll, a gob of intestine crushed into the soil. Behind, there is a shuttle with a weeping grandson at the helm who begged her to stay home and die in peace. Ahead, there are the towering gates of a city-state that teaches its people how to perform it, a grand theatre of violence caked in the blood of its sacrificial victims, the place where she will die one way or another.

An elderly woman dying of colon cancer challenges a cruel, transhuman demigod to a battle of wits for the sake of her people in "D is for Duel/One Who Dies as a God Dies." Available now in the D is for Dinosaur anthology.


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I briefly wondered where they would place me and decided I’d rather not know. Most criminals rehabilitated this way were re-integrated as terraformers or asteroid miners. An artificial mind and body could go a long way in those environments. I’m sure the authorities thought it was a kinder fate than execution, but their logic escaped me. I’d probably wind up on a city-by-city tour of the quadrant speaking out against my own people. They’d leave my purchase tattoos intact so everyone could see the record of my indenture, and my face was already well known. I was the bond slave the news channels loved to hate. I was a big news day. The public wasn’t allowed to watch the surgery as the families of my victims were, but swarms of journalists would be outside the facility right now, chattering like locusts over a field of ripe corn.

A former indentured servant and freedom fighter sentenced to the death of the mind spends her last hours in the company of a virtual shaman.

Originally published in The Stolen Island Review in 2003.

The Longest Road in the Universe

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Three broken people; a monk bearing a terrible scar, a warrior facing a terrible sorrow, a woman hiding a terrible past face a relentless army so hard to defeat it might as well be invincible. Genetically-altered residents of a volcanic desert struggle to preserve their intangible culture as nanomachines transform the world around them. A population of slaves engineered to love its masters comes to grips with their sudden absence, while one man travels to the center of the galaxy to find out where they have gone. Supermassive black holes at the end of the universe contemplate the cacophony before and the quiet ahead; mourning, eulogizing, and creating something altogether new. These and other stories await you in The Longest Road in the Universe: A Collection of Fantastical Tales by Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award shortlisted and Pushcart Prize nominated author C.S. MacCath.

The Stories

  1. Black the Wound, Bright the Scar (C is for Change)
    • Pushcart Nominated
  2. The Daemons of Tairdean Town
  3. Casting Sin
  4. Akhila, Divided
    • Received Honorable Mention in The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Sixth Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois
  5. For Want of an Ash Fall (N is for Nanomachine)
    • Shortlisted for the Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award
    • Nominated for the Pushcart Prize
  6. Sing the Crumbling City
  7. The Longest Road in the Universe
  8. Grandmother Mælkevejen's Belly
  9. T Is for Three (At the End of All Things)

Advance Praise for The Longest Road in the Universe:

Beautifully written, elegant and elegiac, based on a genuine originality of thought.
--Liz Williams, author of The Detective Inspector Chen Novels


I recently had the pleasure of reading C.S. MacCath's short story collection, The Longest Road in the Universe. I had previously enjoyed the titular story as well as "Akhila, Divided" and I looked forward to exploring the other tales in the collection.

Many of the stories are science fiction but that scientific foundation is woven elegantly into the lives of a diverse cast of characters, all of whom are undergoing remarkable transformations. As an example: Jens, the main character in "The Longest Road in the Universe", is on a physical journey, but the story is really a reflection of the emotional and spiritual path he travels. Every aspect, whether internal to the character or external, is influenced by the science underpinning the story.

Her characters are truly different. Several make decisions that seem unfathomable (yet inevitable, upon reflection) but despite their differences (or perhaps because of them) I always felt connected with them. Their sufferings and joys carried with me past the reading itself. And the world building, in each story, is incredible.

There is a definite style across all the stories -- regardless of genre. C.S. MacCath's prose is delightful... the individual lines, poetic. It is impossible to pick out my favorite, but I think the following (from "Daemons of Tairdean Town") serves as an effective example: "...before the pastor knew it, every person in his care was purple and fragrant and raving." With careful word choice, she builds imagery and delivers scenes full of emotion. C.S. MacCath's stories are meant to be read slowly and savored.

This is a wonderful collection of unusual and engaging stories, highly recommended.
--Brent Knowles, creative director of Dragon Age and author of The Lazy Designer


This collection of short stories has a rich texture and a profound appreciation for human courage and decency, even when its characters aren't entirely human. From avenging sentient bombs to former slaves struggling to remember their ancestors' humanity, it's a vivid, epic and touching journey.
--Alex Bledsoe, author of The Hum and the Shiver


The Longest Road in the Universe is packed full of lush worlds, lyrical prose, three-dimensional characters and honest emotions. It is an immersive experience best enjoyed with a cup of tea in hand and a storm outside, but even lacking those things every science fiction fan should make time to read this collection. It is, in short, amazing.
--Rhonda Parrish, editor of the Alphabet Anthologies and Magical Menageries


Brace yourself, reader – before you in these pages lie delightful, terrifying, uncompromising monsters, ready to claw wounds into flesh and soul. Drawing deeply from mythology to weave tales of hard-earned spiritual enlightenment, C.S. MacCath demonstrates an uncanny talent that crosses all genre boundaries. Whether she’s spinning the story of a witch who can speak to everyone’s demon double, a space traveler who sells pieces of his body in exchange for history's revelations, or a shape-shifting, guilt-wracked human bomb, MacCath brings their struggles and triumphs to fierce and formidable life.
--Mike Allen, Nebula Award and Shirley Jackson Award finalist

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Random Quote

The insufferable arrogance of human beings to think that Nature was made solely for their benefit, as if it was conceivable that the sun had been set afire merely to ripen men's apples and head their cabbages.

États et empires de la lune, 1656

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