Science Fiction & Fantasy

Beren & Luthien by J.R.R. Tolkien

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Sep. 2010 (Issue 4)

Fiction: “Flower, Mercy, Needle, Chain” by Yoon Ha Lee, “The Long Chase” by Geoffrey A. Landis, “Amid the Words of War” by Cat Rambo, and “Travelers” by Robert Silverberg.

Nonfiction: “Future Weapons” by Jeff Hecht, “Engines for the High Frontier” by G. David Nordley, “Five Reasons Why Aliens Make Better Lovers” by Carol Pinchefsky, and an interview with John Scalzi by Erin Stocks.

In This Issue: Sep. 2010 (Issue 4)

Editorial

Editorial, September 2010

Welcome to issue four of Lightspeed. On tap this month… Fiction: “Flower, Mercy, Needle, Chain” by Yoon Ha Lee, “The Long Chase” by Geoffrey A. Landis, “Amid the Words of War” by Cat Rambo, and “Travelers” by Robert Silverberg. Nonfiction: “Future Weapons” by Jeff Hecht, “Engines for the High Frontier” by G. David Nordley, “Five Reasons Why Aliens Make Better Lovers” by Carol Pinchefsky, and an interview with John Scalzi by Erin Stocks.

Science Fiction

Flower, Mercy, Needle, Chain

The usual fallacy is that, in every universe, many futures splay outward from any given moment. But in some universes, determinism runs backwards: given a universe’s state s at some time t, there are multiple previous states that may have resulted in s. In some universes, all possible pasts funnel toward a single fixed ending, Ω. If you are of millenarian bent, you might call Ω Armageddon. If you are of grammatical bent, you might call it punctuation on a cosmological scale. If you are a philosopher in such a universe, you might call Ω inevitable.

Flower, Mercy, Needle, Chain

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Yoon Ha Lee

I ended up first with Arighan’s Flower, because I figured wiping out whole ancestral lines would be a pretty big threat. I also knew from the beginning that I wanted the gun to be one of a set. … One of my beta readers actually wanted this story to be about five times as long as it is right now, and to follow that kind of structure, detailing Shiron’s adventures with each gun. Quite probably it would have been a good story, but it wouldn’t have been the story I wanted to tell.

Nonfiction

Future Weapons

Ray guns! Death rays! The terms conjure images of the golden era of space adventurers—Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon. But in truth, future weapons have been a crucial aspect of science fiction since H. G. Wells armed his Martian invaders in War of the Worlds with heat rays that ignited everything in their path.

Science Fiction

The Long Chase

2645, January. The war is over. The survivors are being rounded up and converted. In the inner solar system, those of my companions who survived the ferocity of the fighting have already been converted. But here at the very edge of the Oort Cloud, all things go slowly. It will be years, perhaps decades, before the victorious enemy come out here. But with the slow inevitability of gravity, like an outward wave of entropy, they will come.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Geoffrey A. Landis

A few years back I was working on a project to look at the feasibility of interstellar probes. I arrived at this conclusion: the real key to any sort of a probe that could reach nearby stars using propulsion technologies which we could plausibly see in the near future was that the probe itself had to be as small as it could possibly be. That led me to a lot of thinking on the order of how small could you really go. How sophisticated could you actually make a small spaceship?

Nonfiction

Engines for the High Frontier

We want engines to get us into space and take us to the stars. Of course, as many note, we aren’t quite where we want to be yet. But there is hope. At the moment, spaceship engines can be classed into three categories: rockets, sails, and “other,” and each works in their own, individual way. Rockets work by pushing something out the rear; reaction equaling action, you go in the other direction. With sails, something external pushes. And in the “other” category are things like “space drives” and ramjets.

Science Fiction

Amid the Words of War

Every few day-cycles, it receives hate-scented lace in anonymous packages. It opens the bland plastic envelope to pull one out, holding the delicate fragment between two forelimbs. Contemplating it before folding it again to put away in a drawer. Four drawers filled so far; the fifth is halfway there.

Amid the Words of War

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Cat Rambo

“I think empathy is crucial to being human and one of the skills that we don’t teach, but should. I am always, sadly, amazed at our ability to rationalize treating other living beings with discourtesy and our willingness to accept things like the deceptively named term “collateral damage” in warfare.”

Nonfiction

Five Reasons Why Aliens Make Better Lovers

Humans are sexual beings, but though the human urge to merge is rooted in our biological imperative to procreate, nowadays we do it, well, mostly just for fun. And if the aliens we encounter aren’t made of gaseous clouds or bacterial sludge, and provided they have a reasonably similar physiology to ours, it seems pretty safe to assume that they’re probably just like us: total tramps.

Science Fiction

Travelers

“Are we all ready, then?” Nikomastir asks. He has fashioned a crown of golden protopetaloids for himself and gleaming scarlet baubles dangle from his ears: the bright translucent shells of galgalids, strung on slender strands of pure gold. His long pale arms wave in the air as though he is conducting a symphony orchestra. “Our next destination is—” and he makes us wait for the announcement. And wait. And wait.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Robert Silverberg

In “Travelers,” Robert Silverberg has created a future where travel between planets is the entirety of many people’s lives, people no more rooted in place than a zephyr or tornado. Without restrictions like health issues, life span or economics, the humans in this future can enjoy jaunting across galaxies the way twenty-first century oil barons enjoy island-hopping in the Caribbean. It can be a hedonistic lifestyle—or it can be a way to expand one’s horizons, ever-deepening one’s understanding of humanity through exposure to The Other: other people, other cultures, other worlds.

Nonfiction

Interview: John Scalzi

“Before writing Old Man’s War, I went into a bookstore to see what kind of science fiction was selling; I saw more military SF than anything else, so I decided that’s what I should probably write if I wanted to sell a book. This sounds mercenary to some, but more charitably it was market research. I wanted to sell a book, so I was pretty dispassionate about what book that should be. Now, having chosen military science fiction to write, I made sure it was a book I myself would want to read—market research is fine and good but if you’re not writing something you’d actually want to read, then that book’s probably not going to be something anyone else would want to read either.”