Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams

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Science Fiction

From the Largest Crater

AUDIO LOG BF-0003 / 2083-14-09 13:36 / This . . . feels strange. They said that it’s healthy for those of us whose spouses take Return Missions to record our thoughts. Audio journaling, they called it. Zeli, if you saw the way these devices look, you’d have laughed at the very suggestion of it. They said other spouses who’ve done it have found it helpful for “processing difficult emotions.” It just makes me think they want to keep tabs on what I say and do, but that’s my father’s paranoia coming in. They said it helps to finish my recordings with “over” so that I know when I’ve gotten my thoughts out. Doesn’t that seem strange?

The Narrative Implications of Your Untimely Death

Your deathless heart spasms. Once. Twice. You suck in a long, rattling gasp, and twist over the decanting table, great hacking coughs. Someone thumps your back. “Welcome back, boyo,” Media & Talent Production Coordinator Kayn says. “They got some great footage out of your death. Viewership tripled for the episode.” “Damn,” you wheeze. “Any chance I’m out?” Goosebumps pimple across your cold skin. You’re so sick of the Talent Decanting Room. You hope for finales. You hope for your exit stage left. “Nah,” Kayn says. “You’re polling too well with the sixteen to twenty-four demographic. The execs want to keep you in the cast roster.”

A Guide to Alien Terms Useful in the Human Diaspora

As you travel the spacelanes, the argot of your fellow beings may at first confuse and disconcert you. This guide is offered to help you acclimate to your new world and the strange beings that people it. All terms will be presented first as definitions, then used in context. Arakua (Origin: Tarukhxi, noun.) The process of “scooping” fuel in the form of hydrogen from the corona of a star, nebula, or gas giant. See also: il’arakua, mild pejorative. Scooping fuel from nearly-empty space; cf. “bottom of the barrel.”

The Last Serving

The story of Chef Buzzati’s sudden and horrifying fall from the heights of fine dining is well known. However, given that the culinary innovations and legal ramifications are still being debated today, a recap may be in order. Elena Buzzati was born to owners of an unremarkable Italian diner in the suburbs of New Jersey in 2024. She grew up surrounded by the scents of roasting meats and the hot gurgle of the deep frier. It sickened her. The headstrong Buzzati declared herself a vegetarian at age six. She had a strong bond with animals and is reported to have spent much of he childhood behind the diner befriending stray squirrels and pigeons.

The Spread of Space and Endless Devastation

This is the fifty-seventh time Ship has tried to stop Zander from entering the cellar. By now, Ship simply watches over the feed as the mission gets underway. Zander and the other members of their crew open the front door and marvel at the lack of dust, the trickle of the entry hall fountain. “It’s as if someone still lives here,” Kala says. As the crew’s historian, she is endlessly looking for ways to insert herself into the past. “Like they just stepped out and will come back any moment.” That’s from Eun-ja, who spends xir off-shifts watching holos.

Deathmatch

The cab slices through the city, one small fish of a humming black shoal, while Henrik watches ads in his rain-flecked window. Today he sees carnal red sociomachines, spine-mounted, that spray pheromones and calculate human interaction. A black-and-yellow swamp whirling through space. A man screaming no at the moment of orgasm. The product is not always clear, but the ads are always effective. He can feel money slivering off his account and slithering into the ether. The cab’s vestigial partition, now a slab of flickering smartglass, shows him that he has invested in a dozen new corporate splinters.

Pledge Day

“Never be ashamed of who you are or where you came from,” Luke’s dad said every so often, and he meant it, but what he really meant was never let anyone talk down about the Founder, and never hide the fact that they were one of the Founder’s earliest Verified Families. Maybe not the richest, not by a long shot, but one of the first to make the choice. He said it more often as the time approached for Luke’s Hiatus, when Luke would probably do what his friends all did: Go sit in the woods for a week or do some fake-ass charity work, pretend it was a sobering and contemplative experience.

Last Stand of the E. 12th St. Pirates

STAND BACK DOORS CLOSING. Dee heard the musical bing-bong of the departure warning between song transitions in her headphones, and watched as the heads of workers in line ahead of her lolled back in the universal why, God gesture of commuters everywhere. There was only one freight car down the wall into the Flood District, and it was shared by all bulk service providers who came bearing gifts: maintenance workers, solar installers, grocery and package delivery, and the like. A bing-bong meant another fifteen-minute wait.

Therefore What the Multiverse Has Joined Together, Let No One Separate

Dear Next, You’ve seen the original picture. If you’re anything like me, you know it by heart. The image that came out of the first (and at the time of this writing, only) discovered white hole was a flower. It was gray and pixelated, but it was beautiful. When it was finished, I was invited to the vault to view the flower. Not because I was anyone important. I mean, I had millions of followers on social media, my content regularly went viral, and I had written a dozen best-selling books. But to the scientific community, I was a personality. An influencer. Not serious. Not like Yxa.

Double Occupancy

“This is a disaster!” “What?” “This is an absolute disaster!”  “Did you say something?” Jessica Martin closed her laptop and put her head in her hands. Her old friend Todd, who was in her big bean chair in the corner, watching a movie on his phone, took out his earbuds. “What is it, dude? It’s not working?” “Oh, it’s working,” she said. She stared angrily at her invention, which stood in the middle of her room, the size and shape of a refrigerator. It was, in fact, her family’s old refrigerator, which she had stripped down and rebuilt. “It is working, Todd. It’s working perfectly. That is the problem.”