Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams



Nov. 2014 (Issue 54)

We have original science fiction by Sunny Moraine (“What Glistens Back”) and Annalee Newitz (“Drones Don’t Kill People”), along with SF reprints by Susan C. Petrey (“Spidersong”) and Roz Kaveney (“Instructions”). Plus, we have original fantasy by Kat Howard (“A Flock of Grief”) and Matthew Hughes (“Enter Saunterance”), and fantasy reprints by Georghe Săsărman (“Sah-Hara”) and Jennifer Stevenson (“Solstice”). All that, and of course we also have our usual assortment of author and artist spotlights, along with feature interviews with authors Nick Harkaway and Charles Stross. For our ebook readers, we also have our usual ebook-exclusive novella reprint: “New Light on the Drake Equation” by Ian R. MacLeod. We also have an excerpt from Mira Grant’s latest offering, SYMBIONT; and a taste of THE THREE BODY PROBLEM by Liu Cixin (translated by Ken Liu).

Nov. 2014 (Issue 54)


Editorial, November 2014

Make sure to read the Editorial for all our news and updates, as well as a run-down of this month’s terrific content.

Science Fiction

What Glistens Back

Come back. You hear the call as the lander breaks up around you. You’re aware of the entirely arbitrary concepts of up and down before you realize what’s happening, and then they’re a lot less arbitrary. Down is not so much a direction as a function of possibility, of what might happen to you, of what is happening now. You finally get down as an idea.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Sunny Moraine

I’ve actually been trying to write this story for a while. I started with my fear of flying—which I’ve always thought is a bit of a misnomer, because I’m fine with flying. What I’m actually afraid of is the constant potential of falling. But I believe in trying to write about what scares you, so I tried to turn the idea of free fall into a story.



Lord Knowshire could scarcely contain his emotion. Before him, only a few miles away, gleaming bright in the sunlight, were the red walls of Sah-Harah. In that moment, he forgot the tragic vicissitudes of his journey, forgot the unhappy fate of his companions and the faithlessness of his guides, forgot all but the marvelous sight that lay at last before his eyes. For years he had dreamed of it, repeating the passages from Abu-Abbas engraved in his memory and comparing the Coptic inscriptions of Abydos with the papyrus, two millennia older, discovered in the nameless tomb at Deir-el-Bahari and never fully understood till now.

Science Fiction


Brenneker, the lyre spider, lived inside a lute, a medieval instrument resembling a pear-shaped guitar. The lute was an inexpensive copy of one made by an old master and had rose-wood walls and a spruce sounding board. Her home was sparsely furnished, a vast expanse of unfinished wood, a few sound pegs reaching from floor to ceiling like Greek columns, and in one corner, near the small F-shape sound holes, the fantasy of iron-silk thread that was Brenneker’s web.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Susan C. Petrey

“Spidersong” by Susan C. Petrey first appeared in THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION in September of 1980, just two months before the author’s death. Of Susan’s stories published in that magazine, it is the only one which does not take place in the universe of her gentle healing vampires, the Varkela. It is also the most reprinted of her stories, though it has not been in print for decades.


A Flock of Grief

The woman’s dress was perfectly correct. Indeed, it, and she, would have been utterly unremarkable, were it not for the bird perched upon her shoulder, black-feathered, eyes with the seasick luminosity of moonstones. “Vulgar,” Sofie said to me under her breath. “Why go out in society at all, if you are going to appear like that? No one wishes to have a party disturbed by such reminders of grief and mortality.”

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Kat Howard

Societies have their rituals for grief. We have wakes and we have funerals and we have our lists of expected—and acceptable—behaviors. We have unofficial rituals as well—when someone famous dies, we go back and we read their stories or watch their movies or listen to their music. Grief is a big thing.

Artist Showcase

Artist Showcase: Jeremy Wilson

All of the “golden age” illustrators like Pyle, Wyeth, and Cornwell have a major impact on me. I grew up around art. My father is an acclaimed gallery artist. I gained a lot from him concerning technique. Both he and I are also heavily influenced by John Singer Sargent. I have most recently been surrounded by some amazing editorial illustrators. Sterling Hundley has had a major influence on both my life and work.

Science Fiction


Let me put it one way—telling the Mysteries for you like beads, simply and straightforwardly—bicycle gears, pink foam, budget sheets, the itch of stars, presumption in a limousine, the dance of plasma, prizes, revisions, giggles, memories, Instruction, and necessary reticences. Have you understood yet?

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Roz Kaveney

I’d been working on a big space-opera called “The Lacing.” The editor who was interested in it—Richard Evans—died and I was more and more involved in political activism; I also ceased to believe that I was, or could be, a writer of SF rather than fantasy. So I bundled up every single good SF idea I had ever had—except for the ones which were allocated to “The Lacing,” in case I ever went back to it—and thought of a story in which I could use them all.


Enter Saunterance

Back in Obron’s workroom, Kaslo told the wizard his theory that the reason their enemy had sent a fire elemental against them was because he wanted the fiery spirit to seize the noubles the op had originally acquired from the murderous thaumaturge, Asrat Gozon. “Fire cannot harm them,” he finished.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Matthew Hughes

In this setting, the terms “magic” and “scientific” could only combine in an oxymoron. Magic is about the power of will, but for that power to be applied it has to be controlled and focused. There are techniques for that, many of them very difficult, which have to be learned and practiced. So it’s definitely more of an art than a science; talent comes into it, but so does study and practice


Interview: Nick Harkaway

Nick Harkaway is the author of THE GONE-AWAY WORLD and ANGELMAKER. His latest book, TIGERMAN, presents an unusual take on the idea of a costumed superhero. This interview first appeared on’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, which is hosted by David Barr Kirtley.

Science Fiction

Drones Don’t Kill People

I was always already a killer. There was no hazy time in my memory before I knew how to target a person’s heart or brain for clean execution. I did not develop a morbid fascination with death over time; I did not spend my childhood mutilating animals; I was not abused by a violent parent; I did not suffer social injustice until finally I broke down and turned to professional violence. From the moment I was conscious, I could kill and I did.



This story is about a small-time rocker full of ambition and careful big plans. She lives for the day when she can come up like thunder on the rest of the herd, so she’s a little stunned to find herself fighting with her boyfriend on the night of the big gig, slamming out of his van and marching across a frosty prairie outside Madison, Wisconsin, her guitar in her hand and her hot, angry breath making her scarf all scummy with ice crumbs as she curses him and her stupidity at coming so far in his company.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Jennifer Stevenson

I spent my first twenty-five years as a musician in a family of musicians. The funny thing is, none of them were into rock’n’roll. Classical, Dixieland, Chicago jazz, early polyphonic choral music, even screech’n’fart, as we fondly called stuff like Charles Ives and Arnold Schoenberg. As a child I was told that rock’n’roll is a gateway drug to heroin, so I didn’t discover it until I went to college. But music is music, eh? Kind of my point in this story


Interview: Charles Stross

Today we’ve got an interview with award-winning science fiction author Charles Stross. His latest book, THE RHESUS CHART, is the fifth volume in The Laundry Files, a series that blends spy thrillers, Lovecraftian horror, and workplace humor. This interview first appeared on’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, which is hosted by David Barr Kirtley.