Lightspeed MagazineLightspeed Magazine - Science Fiction & Fantasy Science Fiction & Fantasy Thu, 28 Apr 2016 23:03:46 +0000 hourly 1 Science Fiction & Fantasy Lightspeed Magazine - Science Fiction & Fantasy Science Fiction & Fantasy Lightspeed Magazine - Science Fiction & Fantasy Interview: Bill McGoldrick Tue, 26 Apr 2016 10:05:41 +0000 The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy 0 Author Spotlight: Ken Scholes Tue, 26 Apr 2016 10:03:16 +0000 Sandra Odell 0 Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise Tue, 26 Apr 2016 10:02:32 +0000 Ken Scholes 0 Author Spotlight: Matthew Bailey Tue, 26 Apr 2016 10:02:13 +0000 Laurel Amberdine 0 The Birth Will Take Place on a Mutually Acceptable Research Vessel Tue, 26 Apr 2016 10:01:03 +0000 Matthew Bailey feels like you’re being honored and feted instead of herded and controlled. Mr. Kagawa, courteous and diplomatic by profession, does his best to make it all seem like a request.]]> 0 When they inform you the birth will take place on a mutually acceptable research vessel, you nod and smile as if it was your choice all along. Because smiling and nodding is what you’ve been doing since the beginning. Because this is bigger than you. Mr. Kagawa, courteous and diplomatic by profession, does his best to make it all seem like a request. His patronizing voice makes your feet itch. You remind yourself that he is under a lot of pressure, and that the eyes of two very different governments are constantly fixed on the space between his shoulder blades . . . until a savage kick to your bladder drives every ounce of understanding right out of your head. Your belly is swollen and stretched beyond what has hitherto been considered an acceptable tolerance level. Your appetite comes and goes with maddening inconsistency. Your back hurts, your hips hurt, your lungs don’t work properly, and despite the best efforts of the vessel’s crew, you are hellishly uncomfortable. Worst of all is the heat. No amount of refrigerated air, pumped into your room both day and night, can compensate.
Kagawa’s alien counterpart, Mr. H, is direct and unsympathetic, like most of his species. He explains that delivering on Earth is unacceptable and irresponsible. This is a scientific first. Scientific firsts result in breakthroughs, and breakthroughs are for the benefit of the Whole, not just for the Individual who achieved them. In other words, you realize, maybe your baby will be human and maybe it won’t be, but you are damn sure going to have to share it.
H, of course, is not his real name, but the name he has chosen to use when in liaison with humans. His real name is not pronounceable, and anyway, Tharkans can choose as many names as they want once they have achieved Individual status. He chose “H,” he once explained, because of its admirable symmetry, and because he prefers the simplicity of a single character to the needless verbosity of a more traditional human name, like “Frank.”
Your mate assures you Mr. H does not know that Frank was your father’s name.
Your mate—not your spouse, because neither planet has any legal precedent for intra-species marriage—is clearly uncomfortable in H’s presence. This is because H is an Individual, a status your mate has not yet achieved. The problem is that your mate is being given a level of attention and importance not usually accorded to non-Individuals. Despite being of the same species, H would obviously prefer to ignore your mate entirely, except you have insisted that, as the father, your mate be involved in any and all decisions. Of course, no decisions are truly yours to make, which means Mr. Kagawa has to pretend deference, while Mr. H has to pretend tolerance, while you and your mate have to pretend as if you don’t notice that it is all a farce. It’s all so terribly awkward and unpleasant, and that’s without getting into the fact that both parties are frustrated with you for putting them in this predicament, and that you did so without authorization (reproduction is a right, you reminded your boss angrily) and that both planets contain their share of xenophobes, fundamentalists, and scandalmongers who aren’t afraid to venture their opinions. Loudly.
And of course, your mother . . .
• • • •
The birth will be Cesarean, you are told. Goddammit! Your outburst prompts shocked expressions from the medical staff, but what the hell? You always planned on giving birth naturally, always dreamed of it. You want to have the experience, and anyway, it’s the only thing that will make all those years of blood and cramping worth it. The doctors—both human and otherwise—are unimpressed. You are giving birth to an entirely new form of life, they explain. We don’t know how your body or the child’s body will respond.]]>
Lightspeed Magazine - Science Fiction & Fantasy
Book Reviews: April 2016 Tue, 19 Apr 2016 10:05:33 +0000 Andrew Liptak Shadow of Empire, by Jay Allan, The Empress Game, by Rhonda Mason, The Dangerous Type, by Loren Rhodes, and The Last Exodus, by Paul Tassi.]]> 0 Author Spotlight: Rudy Rucker Tue, 19 Apr 2016 10:03:14 +0000 Liz Argall meh endings are a cultural default. People think a downer ending is tough, and hard, and realistic, and it’s bravely facing facts. So when you write a happy ending, you have to do it with the right touch, or people might think you’re corny or weak. But if you nail a happy ending, people like it. I almost always give my novels happy endings. People already know that life’s a bummer. So why rub that in their faces? ]]> 0 The Knobby Giraffe Tue, 19 Apr 2016 10:02:28 +0000 Rudy Rucker 0 My name’s Irit Ziv. I have a low-rent apartment in the East Village that I used to share with my girlfriend, Shirley Chen. It’s April now, and Shirley died four months ago. Ever since then, I’ve been visiting Ma and Pa’s flat in Brooklyn Heights a lot.... I’m a grad student at NYU, trying to finish a PhD thesis in the physics department. Physics was probably a bad choice for me, but it’s too late to change. My thesis is about consciousness. I’m riffing on the quantum physics idea that you alter things by observing them. I dream of basing a technology on that.
My research? Well, I’ve been spending a lot of time meditating in an MRI machine in the university labs. I’m lucky to have access to that thing. At first, I was really happy about the numbers and graphs that the MRI prints out. But then, the last time I saw Shirley alive, she said my graphs were worthless.
“Logged my hundredth hour on the MRI today,” I was telling her that night in December. It was snowing, with all Manhattan clean and still. “I feel like I’m approaching a state where I can tweak the cosmos,” I said. “Doing it with my head.”
“You’re beating a dead Schrödinger’s cat,” said Shirley. “Or is it alive?” Being a hard-core physics prof, she wasn’t taking my ideas very seriously.
“Listen, Shirley, after my session today, I did a bunch of coin flips and I scored nine heads in a row.”
“The odds against that are over five hundred to one!” exclaimed Shirley, mocking me with fake enthusiasm. “Final proof that Irit Ziv’s mind has attained direct matter control! Quantum telekinesis!”
“Why do you always tease me?” I asked. “Can’t anyone around here be smart except you?”
“You’re smart, Irit, but you’re up a blind alley. Listen to me. The physics department is not going to approve a pile of self-aggrandizing crap. You’re like a little girl making up stories about herself. I can fly! Watch me jump off the couch!”
“You’re supposed to be my thesis advisor,” I said, suddenly close to tears. Shirley had never spoken quite so harshly to me before. “I’ve been counting on you to win over the committee.”
“I adore you, Irit, but there’s only so far I can go. Everyone knows we’re lovers. If your thesis is crap and I push it—then I look crooked. Or like a fool. You have to give your ideas an academic slant, babe. Make them look respectable.”
“In my introduction, I have a whole history-of-science thing about Leibniz’s Monadology,” I said. “Which for some reason you refuse to read. Everything’s a monad, right? Particles are monads, but so are bricks, dogs, and cities. There’s no preferred level of scale.”
“What would a monad look like if it was actually real?” asked Shirley.
“They’re like, uh, little balls or blobs. They’re shiny and they reflect each other. Like ornaments on a Christmas tree. And thanks to the reflections, the monads are in eternal harmony. They’re computing the world in parallel.”
“The committee’s going to ask what’s inside one of those mirror balls,” said Shirley.
“A parameter,” I said. “The secret code for the world.” I smiled, happy with this idea. “It’s the same parameter inside every monad. The monads are like a zillion parallel computers crunching away on the same program.”
“Not bad,” said Shirley. “Be sure to say it’s a quantum computation. And say it’s all happening in Hilbert space. That’s what quantum physicists like to hear about.”
“Okay, fine,” I said. “And instead of saying the monads reflect each other, I can say they’re quantum entangled. So if you change one monad, you change ’em all. But don’t forget I want to work my way around to direct matter control. If you can connect with the secret code inside even one monad, you’re like a god.”
Shirley paused for a minute, then sighed and shook her head. “That kind of talk is not going to fly, Irit.]]>
Lightspeed Magazine - Science Fiction & Fantasy
Author Spotlight: Peter Watts Tue, 19 Apr 2016 10:02:10 +0000 Sandra Odell 0 Collateral Tue, 19 Apr 2016 10:01:00 +0000 Peter Watts 0 Television Review: The Man in the High Castle (Season 1) and Occupied Tue, 12 Apr 2016 10:05:50 +0000 Christopher East The Man in the High Castle (Season 1), and the Norwegian political thriller Occupied.]]> 0 Author Spotlight: Theodora Goss Tue, 12 Apr 2016 10:03:13 +0000 Jude Griffin 0 Lily, with Clouds Tue, 12 Apr 2016 10:02:26 +0000 Theodora Goss 0 Author Spotlight: Carrie Vaughn Tue, 12 Apr 2016 10:02:09 +0000 Jude Griffin 0 Origin Story Tue, 12 Apr 2016 10:01:59 +0000 Carrie Vaughn 0 Living in Commerce City, odds are you’re going to get caught up in something someday---pinned down in the crossfire of some epic battle between heroes who can fly and villains with ray guns, held captive in a hostage crisis involving an entire football... When my turn came, I got stuck in a bank robbery.
I was waiting in line to make a deposit when a hole opened up in the ceiling. A glowing green laser light traced a perfect circle, and that section of ceiling dropped to the floor, scattering the line of people underneath in a cloud of dust and noise. I was too far back to really see what was happening, just that there was debris and screaming, some of which might have been mine. Then Techhunter rappelled through the hole, wielding a laser pistol and shouting at everyone to get down and lie still. We did.
He was just one guy. No henchmen, no partners. That was Techhunter’s M.O. in the news stories I’d read. He worked alone, with only his machines as backup. This time, he had a swarm of hovering metallic balls zooming down the hole in the ceiling with him. They fanned out around the room and trained tiny cannons on everyone. They probably shot lasers or tranquilizer darts. Surely in a place like Commerce City, with so many vigilantes and criminal gangs battling each other, bank tellers would be trained how to handle situations like this, but the ones here all stepped back from their counters, arms in the air, staring at Techhunter with trembling gazes. As if they didn’t live in Commerce City, where this kind of thing happened on a monthly basis at least.
Techhunter didn’t ask for the manager to open any safes; he just drilled through the locks with his laser pistol, collected cash and emptied a pair of safety deposit boxes into a hard-sided case. He wore wide goggles that hid most of his face, and a headset with all kinds of wires and antennae sticking from it, probably what he used to control all his devices. His suit was made of some slick material, supple as leather but appearing to be much stronger, probably armored. Pants, tall boots, padded shirt, and a fitted trench coat, all in a midnight blue so dark it looked black, except when the light caught it right.
Everyone cowered. Except me. I couldn’t help it, because by that time I’d had a chance to really look at him. The superhero stalker website Rooftop Watch had posted a half dozen or so pictures of Techhunter over the last couple of years, blurry action shots in semi-darkness, and I hadn’t paid much attention because he was just another guy in a mask. Now, seeing him in person, the way he moved, smoothly and urgently; the way he studied the room and pursed his thin, slightly chapped lips—it was all familiar. I should have thought it was just a coincidence, but I was sure. Even under those face-obscuring goggles, I knew him.
Then he looked across the room at the one person not cowering in his presence. Through the goggles, he caught my gaze. His lips parted and he froze, just for a second. He knew me.
Before I could call his name—or think that maybe I shouldn’t call his name, or find any way at all to ask what the hell he was doing here, a masked villain with a super-high-tech armory—the guy next to me reached out. While I’d been staring at Techhunter, this unassuming young businessman with a goatee and a red tie had very slowly and carefully drawn a gun out from inside his jacket. Was he an undercover cop or just paranoid? Didn’t know, didn’t care, because he proceeded to take aim at my old boyfriend.
I grabbed the gun out of his hand and threw it across the room. He wasn’t expecting that, and he stared at me in consternation, stammering out, “What—”
And I was kneeling there, shocked at what I had done, wondering if this made me a bad guy now. Again, Techhunter and I looked at each other, and I started to call out,]]>
Lightspeed Magazine - Science Fiction & Fantasy
Editorial, April 2016 Tue, 05 Apr 2016 10:05:34 +0000 John Joseph Adams 0 Author Spotlight: Nghi Vo Tue, 05 Apr 2016 10:03:12 +0000 Christie Yant 0 Dragon Brides Tue, 05 Apr 2016 10:02:25 +0000 Nghi Vo 0 Dragon brides are notoriously difficult women. We have lived with dragons, after all, those strange and terrible animals with their curiously human eyes, and some of us come back down from the broken mountains with their hisses still in our ears.
Dragon brides are notoriously difficult women. We have lived with dragons, after all, those strange and terrible animals with their curiously human eyes, and some of us come back down from the broken mountains with their hisses still in our ears.
I was taken by the green dragon of Mahr when I was fifteen, and it was a full year before my lord brought me back down. Forty years would pass before I would come to those steep paths again. The first time I was flown, clutched in horny talons with my silk dress fluttering like a banner, and the second time I was carried down half-unconscious, slung like a dead woman over the back of a bay stallion.
This time, I wore the clean white robe of the penitent, and I was on foot. I stared up at the mountains, where men never went save to rescue princesses, and where it was said that women never went at all unless it was on the coppery wings of a dragon.
It was dawn when I started my climb up the mountain, and by midday I was sweaty and hot. I had memories of being only a young girl, and scaling steeper paths and byways to find the tender plants that grew in the crevasses and ridges of the mountain.
I found one of those plants almost as soon as I had the thought, and for a moment I stared at it. It was a shrubby thing, barely a handspan high, but there were a dozen plump little leaves tinged with ruby. I knelt to twist the leaves away, leaving the plant still growing from a crack in the stone.
The leaf flooded my mouth with an astringent green liquid, and I thought about how the spring melt washed grains of dirt down the mountain, and how after decades, the dirt filled the crack until a passing bird dropped a seed into it. I remembered the hiss in my ear telling me that this plant, which humans called hand-in-hand, was safe to eat so long as the leaves were not all gone red.
Of course, the dragon’s voice continued, it’s unlikely you’ll see such a thing in these cold climes. By all rights, it is a plant of warmer lands.
I had never asked the dragon where hand-in-hand came from, I realized, whether it came from the murky feverish lowlands to the west or some place even more distant. It was not the only thing I regretted not asking the dragon, and after a few moments’ rest, I continued on my way.
• • • •
By dawn of the second day, I reached the cave, and I had to haul myself up the last few miles. I lay at the cave opening, breathing hard, and slowly I became aware of the hot, faintly sulfurous smell that touched everything around it. For a moment, I wondered if another dragon had taken up residence, and if I would be met with fire and fang, but then I realize that it was the last of my dragon’s scent.
When I came down from the mountain, of course they had burned my rags, but my hair and my skin had had a tang of brimstone for weeks afterward. I am flesh, and the cave was stone, and stone remembers better than flesh.
After a moment, I walked into the cave, and two turns past the opening, I was as blind as a cave bat in the sun. Foolish woman, I had thought that my feet would remember the dark places as well as they would when I was fifteen, but a barked shin and a stone pillar where I had not remembered one told me that I was wrong.
Grimly, I made myself walk back and forth, and within an hour, I remembered to listen for the shuffling echoes of my feet, and an hour after that, I could walk from one end of the enormously hollow place to the other. The floor was relatively flat, and after a few timorous rounds, I took off my shoes and instantly remembered more than I had a moment ago. Flesh is not stone, but it still remembers some things.
During the course of my rounds, my toes found small bits of gold. There was a square coin with hole in it, of the kind that they make in Kyhm, and half a golden beetle.]]>
Lightspeed Magazine - Science Fiction & Fantasy
Author Spotlight: Patricia Strand Tue, 05 Apr 2016 10:02:08 +0000 Jason Ridler 0 Cause For A Haunting Tue, 05 Apr 2016 10:01:57 +0000 Patricia Strand 0 Interview: Chuck Wendig and Alexandra Bracken (Guide to the New Star Wars Canon) Tue, 22 Mar 2016 10:05:49 +0000 The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy 0 Author Spotlight: Marie Vibbert Tue, 22 Mar 2016 10:03:51 +0000 Laurel Amberdine 0 Michael Doesn’t Hate His Mother Tue, 22 Mar 2016 10:02:23 +0000 Marie Vibbert 0 At rest, coiled up, Michael’s mother is about the size of a riding mower. Michael’s living room is not much bigger than her. With a shudder, she rises. Her little piston feet march, pulling her out of her coil. With a shudder, she rises. Her little piston feet march, pulling her out of her coil. Lifters above the feet kick out like dancers in a line. She snakes into the kitchen. Julie shrieks in horrified delight. Their mother opens the refrigerator.
Julie and Michael watch as she prepares them lunch. She nudges them into chairs at the table. They haven’t eaten at the table in a long time. Maybe she’s getting better. The food isn’t quite right, but they gnaw the uncooked noodles and push the raw meat aside.
Their mother doesn’t want to let them leave the house. When Julie tries to follow Michael out to play, their mother slithers around her, blocking the door. Their mother has struts that elbow out and banks of blades that saw past each other.
Another time, Julie is sitting in the dirt under the tree in the back yard, digging holes with a trowel. Michael wants to see what she’s doing. His mother plucks at his clothes and drags herself outside with him. So he goes back inside. He doesn’t want his mother getting dirty.
He sneaks out the back door while Julie is with it in the front room. He plays with his friends.
It’s late when he comes home. As he passes her, his mother turns suddenly and crushes him against the wall. He is more startled than afraid. His ribs bend against her weight as he gasps. He pushes her back into her place and goes to bed.
In the morning, his mother is still in her spot, but the sawing blades are all swinging. They never stop. At dinnertime, the mother starts breaking dishes. She picks up a dish off the top of the stack in the cupboard. She turns and slams half the dish into the counter, then drops the half in her claw to the floor. Then she picks up the next dish. She keeps going until all the dishes are gone, like it’s a chore or a game. Julie screams and tries to get the unbroken plates away from their mother. She cuts her hand on the broken edges. Michael wraps the cut in toilet paper and masking tape. They don’t have any Band-Aids big enough.
“Mom is mean,” Michael tells child protective services on the phone.
“Everyone thinks their mother is mean,” she says. “You’re just not used to actual, attentive parenting.”
Michael and Julie tend to their mother. Carpet needs to be cleaned out of her teeth. She needs to be oiled and tightened. There are parts that pull loose and parts that seize. Near as Michael can tell, his mother is trying to destroy herself.
She’s loud. She smells funny—like spoiled salad dressing. The whole house carries her reek; even in the hot, pink-fiberglass-lined crawl space, where Michael goes to hide in the comforting heat and dust, he can catch a faint whiff of vinegar and hear her off-rhythm thumps and screeches.
Michael leaves first thing in the morning to get away from her. It’s Saturday. The carpet is all chewed to pieces, rising in a foam of tangled strings around his mother, baring patches of scratched wood floor.
“Can I come with?” Julie asks. She has a hollowness around her eyes, like her skin is getting transparent.
“You’re too little,” Michael says, and feels like a bully. “We’re playing sports. You’ll get in the way.” It’s true, but that’s not why he says it. Their mother might leave the house if no one stays with her.
Michael feels something sharp at the back of his throat, like he has tried to swallow a knife. Julie sits against the wall by the stairs, her knees in front of her, staring at their mother. He wants her to stare at him instead, to stare accusingly. He waits by the door to give her the opportunity, but she doesn’t, so he goes.
Darla lives in the house across the street, and Shaun and Stella live in the house next door to Darla. The four of them play all manner of sports and chasing games in the combined space of the two yards.]]>
Lightspeed Magazine - Science Fiction & Fantasy 30:02
Author Spotlight: Aliette de Bodard Tue, 22 Mar 2016 10:02:22 +0000 Jude Griffin 0 The Waiting Stars Tue, 22 Mar 2016 10:01:42 +0000 Aliette de Bodard 0 Book Reviews: March 2016 Tue, 15 Mar 2016 10:05:02 +0000 Amal El-Mohtar The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar, The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos Hernandez, and a new poetry collection, Marginalia to Stone Bird by Rose Lemberg.]]> 0 Author Spotlight: Seanan McGuire Tue, 15 Mar 2016 10:03:33 +0000 Robyn Lupo 0 Author Spotlight: Craig DeLancey Tue, 15 Mar 2016 10:02:45 +0000 Robyn Lupo 0 Rat-Catcher Tue, 15 Mar 2016 10:02:22 +0000 Seanan McGuire 0 RedKing Tue, 15 Mar 2016 10:01:40 +0000 Craig DeLancey 0 Tain held a pistol toward me. The black gel of the handle pulsed, waiting to be gripped. “Better take this,” she said. I shook my head. “I never use them.” We sat in an unmarked police cruiser, the steering wheel packed away in the dashboard. “Better take this,” she said.
I shook my head. “I never use them.”
We sat in an unmarked police cruiser, the steering wheel packed away in the dashboard. Tain’s face was a pale shimmer in the cool blue light of the car’s entertainment system. “Your file says you are weapons trained.”
“Yeah,” I said, “I got one of those cannons at home, locked in my kitchen drawer.”
Tain turned slightly toward me. She still held the gun out, her fingers wrapped around the barrel. “You gonna get me killed, code monkey?”
I considered telling her it was quaint to think that protection could be secured with a gun. But instead I told her, “I start waving that around, I’m more likely to shoot you than the perp. Just get me to the machines. That’s how I’m going to help you.”
She thought for a moment, then nodded. “Well, at least you’re a man who knows his limitations.” She turned the pistol around, held it a second so that the gun locked to her hand print, and then she tucked it under her belt at the small of her back.
She dimmed the dash lights. I was running a naked brain—standard procedure for a raid—and so the building, the sidewalk, and the road reduced down to the hard objects that our paltry senses could latch onto: a world without explanations, ominously obscure.
We both leaned forward and looked up at the building before us, eighteen stories of concrete. The once-bright walls had faded to the color of mold. A half-hearted rain began, streaking the grime on its narrow windows.
The clock on the dash read 2:30 a.m. No one in sight. Most of the lights in the building were out now.
“You know the drill?” Tain asked me.
“I know this kid we’re arresting probably wrote RedKing,” I told her. “That’s all I need to know.”
Unsatisfied with this answer, she repeated the rap. “Twenty-seven-year-old male. Got his name legally changed to his code handle: Legion. Five prior convictions for 909.” Design, manufacture, and distribution of cognition-aversive and intentionally addictive software. “No record of violence. But he’s still a killer, so consider him dangerous. We go in fast, my people take him down, and you save what you can from his machines.”
“I know my job.”
“Right.” She pushed open her door. I followed her into the rain, heaving my backpack on. I tightened its straps and then snapped them across my chest.
A Korean food truck, covered with twisting dim snakes of active graffiti, idled across the street. Its back door swung open, and cops in black, holding rifles, poured out.
We ran as a group for the entrance to the tower.
• • • •
A few kids stood in the lobby, smoking, and they turned pale and ran for the stairs when we parted the front doors. Their untied sneakers slapped at the concrete floor. We ignored them, but two cops took position in the lobby to ensure no one left. Tain had a set of elevator keys and she took command of both lifts. We squeezed into the elevator on the left, shoulder to shoulder with four other cops in full gear, their rifles aimed at the ceiling. The smell of leather and gun oil overwhelmed everything else while the LED counter flicked off sixteen flights.
A chime announced our arrival. We made a short run down a dim hall and stopped before a door with an ancient patina of scratched and flaking green paint. The cops hit it with a ram and we filed in quick and smooth. I broke to the left, following half the cops through a dingy common room with a TV left on mute, the flickering images casting a meager glow over an open pizza box on an empty couch.
A door by the TV led to a dark room. Two cops rousted the suspect out of bed and zip tied him in seconds. Legion was a pale, thin kid with trembling, sticklike arms. He gazed around in shock. A woman leapt out of the bed and stood in the corner, shouting,]]>
Lightspeed Magazine - Science Fiction & Fantasy 44:16
Movie Review: Deadpool Tue, 08 Mar 2016 11:05:59 +0000 Carrie Vaughn too many superhero media adaptations? Given that the four movie posters at the entrance of my local theater right now are for Captain America: Civil War, Batman v. Superman, Suicide Squad, and X-Men: Apocalypse, one can certainly be forgiven for thinking we might just be a wee bit oversaturated. I for one love this state of affairs.]]> 0 Author Spotlight: Rich Larson Tue, 08 Mar 2016 11:03:03 +0000 Sandra Odell 0 Sparks Fly Tue, 08 Mar 2016 11:02:42 +0000 Rich Larson 0 “There’s a dark side to sloths,” she said, using her straw to plumb the ice at the bottom of her glass, flicking red-blonde hair out of blue-blue eyes. “Sometimes they go to grab a branch, but accidentally grab their own arm, “Because of the mossy fur?” I guessed, also guessing at the best way to put my hand onto hers on the bubbled-glass patio table. I could see her suntanned legs underneath and it put sparks under my skin. Fortunately her phone was in her purse, which was beside her chair, and probably far enough away that I wouldn’t fry it.
“Could be,” she said, deadpan serious. “Or maybe it’s no accident at all. They might just be depressed because they’re the slowest animals in the forest, and they’re covered in smelly algae. Suicidal sloths.”
She gave me a squinty look, maybe because the Sugar Bowl patio was soaking up the last of the late-summer sun and we’d both forgotten our sunglasses.
“I don’t believe you,” I said. “I don’t believe that’s a thing. Is there video evidence?”
“Arthur. Come on. Who would watch something like that? That’s just fucking terrible.”
“Sloth snuff,” I said, putting my hand onto hers, consolingly. It looked clumsy there. And sweaty.
She looked down at our hands and smiled a not-quite-even smile that sent a static tingle up and down my spine. I gave the phone sitting on the top of her purse a check-up glance. So far, so good.
“Sluff,” she said. “We created a genre.”
• • • •
The date was going really well so far. Her name was Christina and she was studying Veterinary Sciences, which was how favorite animals came up, and I was sort of crazy about her.
We met by chance, which is the same as fate. She worked at the Sunterra a few doors down the strip from Lendrum Liquor Depot, where I worked in the back, moving boxes and avoiding phone lines and computerized cash registers. The manager, Erik, knew about my condition, and we’d been friends since elementary school in Mill Woods, so he claimed faulty wiring the one time a shoplifter really pissed me off and I accidentally fried the circuit board.
Christina was the reason I went to Sunterra to get lunch most days, and once in a while I actually made a bit of conversation with her without fouling up the debit machine at the till, and then one day she came to the liquor store. I helped her find a bottle of Apothic wine for her mom, proving her mom’s poor taste in wine. Then we stood there and talked, me holding the bottle like a too-obvious phallic symbol. For once it seemed like everything I was saying was the right thing to say. We agreed on drinks after work like it was the easiest thing in the world.
“She’s cute,” Erik said when he came back from break and heard my news, rolling up his plaid sleeves to resentfully don the work shirt. “I know who you mean. That one cashier with the red hair, right?”
Erik had black hipster glasses and a mountain man beard and a line of poetry tattooed on his forearm. His three loves were basketball, scotch, and the girlfriend who packed him Tupperware lunches. I was always jealous of those. And the girlfriend.
“Are you going to tell her right away?” he asked. “You should probably tell her right away.”
“I don’t want to,” I admitted. I wanted to go on a normal date with a normal person who thought I was normal.
“You’re going to have to tell her you’re a sparkhead, buddy. You’re already way into her. You really think you can keep it locked down?”
• • • •
Flash forward to the date: I still hadn’t told her. I concocted some ways to break it to her while she was away in the bathroom, but when she came back she wanted to order beers, and I figured that could only help. We ordered pints of Steamwhistle and toasted to all the dead sloths. The waiter frowned at his phone as he left, jabbing at a frozen-up screen.
Christina told me about growing up in Calgary w...]]>
Lightspeed Magazine - Science Fiction & Fantasy 25:08
Author Spotlight: Timons Esaias Tue, 08 Mar 2016 11:02:03 +0000 Sandra Odell 0 The Mars Convention Tue, 08 Mar 2016 11:01:39 +0000 Timons Esaias 0 Editorial, March 2016 Tue, 01 Mar 2016 11:05:57 +0000 John Joseph Adams 0 Author Spotlight: Andy Duncan Tue, 01 Mar 2016 11:03:31 +0000 Robyn Lupo 0 The Premature Burials Tue, 01 Mar 2016 11:02:14 +0000 Andy Duncan 0 Author Spotlight: Caroline M. Yoachim Tue, 01 Mar 2016 11:02:02 +0000 Christie Yant 0 Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station | Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0 Tue, 01 Mar 2016 11:01:52 +0000 Caroline M. Yoachim 0 You take a shortcut through the hydroponics bay on your way to work, and notice that the tomato plants are covered in tiny crawling insects that look like miniature beetles. One of the insects skitters up your leg, so you reach down and brush it off. A. You take a shortcut through the hydroponics bay on your way to work, and notice that the tomato plants are covered in tiny crawling insects that look like miniature beetles. One of the insects skitters up your leg, so you reach down and brush it off. It bites your hand. The area around the bite turns purple and swollen.
You run down a long metal hallway to the Medical Clinic, grateful for the artificially generated gravity that defies the laws of physics and yet is surprisingly common in fictional space stations. The sign on the clinic door says “hours since the last patient death:” The number currently posted on the sign is zero. If you enter the clinic anyway, go to C. If you seek medical care elsewhere, go to B.
B. You are in a relay station in orbit halfway between Saturn and Uranus. There is no other medical care available. Proceed to C.
Why are you still reading this? You’re supposed to go to C. Are you sure you won’t go into the clinic? No? Fine. You return to your quarters and search the station’s database to find a cure for the raised purple scabs that are now spreading up your arm. Most of the database entries recommend amputation. The rash looks pretty serious, and you probably ought to go to C, but if you absolutely refuse to go to the clinic, go to Z and die a horrible, painful death.
C. Inside the clinic, a message plays over the loudspeakers: “Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station, please sign your name on the clipboard. Patients will be seen in the order that they arrive. If this is an emergency, we’re sorry—you’re probably screwed. The current wait time is six hours.” The message is on endless repeat, cycling through dozens of different languages.
The clipboard is covered in green mucus, probably from a Saturnian slug-monkey. They are exceedingly rude creatures, always hungry and extremely temperamental. You wipe away the slime with the sleeve of your shirt and enter your information. The clipboard chirps in a cheerful voice, “You are number 283. If you leave the waiting room, you will be moved to the end of the queue. If your physiology is incompatible with long waiting room stays, you may request a mobile tracker and wait in one of our satellite rooms. The current wait for a mobile tracker is four hours.”
If you decide to wait in the waiting room, go to D. If you request a mobile tracker, go to D anyway, because there is no chance you will get one.
D. You hand the clipboard to the patient behind you, a Tarmandian Spacemite from the mining colonies. As you hand it off, you realize the clipboard is printing a receipt. The sound of the printer triggers the spacemite’s predatory response, and it eats the clipboard.
“Attention patients, the clipboard has been lost. Patients will be seen in the order they arrived. Please line up using the number listed on your receipt. If you do not have a receipt, you will need to wait and sign in when a new clipboard is assembled.”
If you wait for the new clipboard, go back to C. If you are smart enough to recognize that going back to C will result in a loop that does not advance the story, proceed to E.
E. Instead of waiting in line, you take advantage of the waiting room chaos to go to the nurses’ station and demand treatment. There are two nurses at the station, a tired-looking human and a Uranian Doodoo. The Doodoo is approximately twice your size, covered in dark brown fur, and speaks a language that only contains the letters, d, t, b, p, and o. If you talk to the human nurse, go to F. If you talk to the big brown Doodoo from Uranus, go to G. Also, stop snickering. The planet is pronounced “urine iss” not “your anus.”
F. The human nurse sees the nasty purple rash on your arm and demands that you quarantine yourself in your quarters. If you accept this advice, go back to B. Have you noticed all the loops in this story?]]>
Lightspeed Magazine - Science Fiction & Fantasy 17:59
Interview: N.K. Jemisin Tue, 23 Feb 2016 11:05:43 +0000 The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy The Fifth Season, is set in a world constantly wracked by natural disasters where sorcerers who can control earthquakes and volcanoes are both feared and valued.]]> 0 Author Spotlight: Karin Tidbeck Tue, 23 Feb 2016 11:03:03 +0000 Sandra Odell 0 Starfish Tue, 23 Feb 2016 11:02:38 +0000 Karin Tidbeck 0 On the third day of the sightseeing trip, among walrus-laden icebergs, they run into slurry. At the fore, Skipper sticks a boat hook into the water. “There are plenty of critters here,” he says. “It’s like playing grab bag. “There are plenty of critters here,” he says. “It’s like playing grab bag. You’ll always catch something on the hook.”
He thrusts the boat hook up and down a couple of times, stirs it in the slush, and pulls it out again. A transparent little rag is impaled on the tip. Skipper shows it to the tourists where they stand lined up in their bright thermal clothing. They gape at him like schoolchildren.
“These,” he says, “are great with fresh cucumber.”
The rag squirms. A couple of the tourists turn grey in the face.
“Anyone want to try for themselves?” Skipper asks.
Half of the tourists raise their hands. The other half turn away in disgust. All of them had fish for lunch, but they hadn’t watched the fish die.
• • • •
The walls of Kim’s cramped cabin are painted with huge portholes that look out on an eerie underwater landscape. On the sandy ocean floor, a fat mermaid covered in barnacles sits on a rock. A monstrous anglerfish floats above her, its lure bathing the mermaid in a greenish shimmer. It’s somehow colder down here than on deck. A damp chill radiates from the walls. Now and then, something bumps against the boat and makes it boom like a drum. The ice scraping on the hull makes a noise like a rock slide. The two nights she has stayed here, Kim has woken up in panic, sure that they must have hit an iceberg. But the ship stays afloat, and chugs farther and farther north. Around them, walrus bulls sing in drawn-out foghorn howls.
This trip is supposedly good for her health. It’ll help her recovery. All she can think is how going elsewhere isn’t enough. The world she had emerged into will still be there when she comes back.
• • • •
On the fourth day, as they drink coffee on deck, the boat slips into an enormous ice cave. Its ribbed vault is slick and blue. In the wall, someone has carved out a landing on which the tourists disembark. The sound of boots on ice is more muffled than Kim had thought it would be.
“Look,” Skipper says, and points at a spot in the wall that seems to glow with its own light. “Do you know what this is? Anyone?”
No one speaks. Skipper scratches at the ice with his finger. It’s surprisingly porous: before long, his nail has punctured the surface and a glowing thing pours into his hand. It looks vaguely like a gelatinous starfish. Its yellow luminescence faintly lights Skipper’s face from below.
“That thing I showed you on the boat,” Skipper makes a stabbing motion with his other hand, “this is another part of their life cycle. They attach themselves to the bottom of the icebergs, you see, and kind of seep up through the ice. If I hadn’t taken this little fellow out, it would have made it all the way up to the top. It’d have taken it, oh, a year or so.”
Kim thinks of a year, two years, pushing up through solid ice, and has to remind herself to breathe.
“And then?” someone asks.
“And then it’s food for the seagulls.”
“That’s it?” Kim says. “There must be a point to it.”
“Of course,” Skipper replies. “It lays eggs in the seagull’s stomach, and the seagull shits out little baby starfish into the ocean.”
The glowing critter twitches in Skipper’s hand. He sticks it to the wall and moves on into the tunnel. The others follow him.
Kim watches as the starfish fails to hang on to the wall and drops to the floor. On an impulse, she picks it up and puts it in her empty thermos mug, then fills it with the ice shavings Skipper left behind. She screws the cap back on and follows the others. After maybe fifty meters, the frozen floor gives way to striped granite polished smooth by millennia of traveling ice. Now that they’re farther from the cave opening, the light fails and the aquamarine greys over into gunmetal. Here and there,]]>
Lightspeed Magazine - Science Fiction & Fantasy
Author Spotlight: Paul McAuley Tue, 23 Feb 2016 11:02:05 +0000 Robyn Lupo 0 Transitional Forms Tue, 23 Feb 2016 11:01:40 +0000 Paul McAuley 0 Book Reviews: February 2016 Tue, 16 Feb 2016 11:05:26 +0000 Sunil Patel All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, Steal the Sky by Megan E. O’Keefe, The Wildings by Nilanjana Roy, and The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig.]]> 0 Author Spotlight: Christopher Barzak Tue, 16 Feb 2016 11:03:26 +0000 Liz Argall 0 Map of Seventeen Tue, 16 Feb 2016 11:02:37 +0000 Christopher Barzak 0 Author Spotlight: Sarah Pinsker Tue, 16 Feb 2016 11:02:28 +0000 Jude Griffin 0 Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea Tue, 16 Feb 2016 11:01:44 +0000 Sarah Pinsker 0 The rock star washed ashore at high tide. Earlier in the day, Bay had seen something bobbing far out in the water. Remnant of a rowboat, perhaps, or something better. She waited until the tide ebbed, checked her traps and tidal pools among the rocks be... All kinds of things washed up if Bay waited long enough: not just glass and plastic, but personal trainers and croupiers, entertainment directors and dance teachers. This was the first time Bay recognized the face of the new arrival. She always checked the face first if there was one, just in case, hoping it wasn’t Deb.
The rock star had an entire lifeboat to herself, complete with motor, though she’d used up the gas. She’d made it in better shape than many; certainly in better shape than those with flotation vests but no boats. They arrived in tatters of uniform. Armless, legless, sometimes headless; ragged shark refuse.
“What was that one?” Deb would have asked, if she were there. She’d never paid attention to physical details, wouldn’t have recognized a dancer’s legs, a chef’s scarred hands and arms.
“Nothing anymore,” Bay would say of a bad one, putting it on her sled.
The rock star still had all her limbs. She had stayed in the boat. She’d found the stashed water and nutrition bars, easy to tell by the wrappers and bottles strewn around her. From her bloated belly and cracked lips, Bay guessed she had run out a day or two before, maybe tried drinking ocean water. Sunburn glowed through her dark skin. She was still alive.
Deb wasn’t there; she couldn’t ask questions. If she had been, Bay would have shown her the calloused fingers of the woman’s left hand and the thumb of her right.
“How do you know she came off the ships?” Deb would have asked. She’d been skeptical that the ships even existed, couldn’t believe that so many people would just pack up and leave their lives. The only proof Bay could have given was these derelict bodies.
• • • •
Inside the Music: Tell us what happened.
Gabby Robbins: A scavenger woman dragged me from the ocean, pumped water from my lungs, spoke air into me. The old films they show on the ships would call that moment romantic, but it wasn’t. I gagged. Only barely managed to roll over to retch in the sand.
She didn’t know what a rock star was. It was only when I washed in half-dead, choking seawater that she learned there were such things in the world. Our first attempts at conversation didn’t go well. We had no language in common. But I warmed my hands by her fire, and when I saw an instrument hanging on its peg, I tuned it and began to play. That was the first language we spoke between us.
• • • •
A truth: I don’t remember anything between falling off the ship and washing up in this place.
There’s a lie embedded in that truth.
Maybe a couple of them.
Another lie I’ve already told: We did have language in common, the scavenger woman and me.
She did put me on her sled, did take me back to her stone-walled cottage on the cliff above the beach. I warmed myself by her woodstove. She didn’t offer me a blanket or anything to replace the thin stage clothes I still wore, so I wrapped my own arms around me and drew my knees in tight, and sat close enough to the stove’s open belly that sparks hit me when the logs collapsed inward.
She heated a small pot of soup on the stovetop and poured it into a single bowl without laying a second one out for me. My stomach growled. I didn’t remember the last time I’d eaten. I eyed her, eyed the bowl, eyed the pot.
“If you’re thinking about whether you could knock me out with the pot and take my food, it’s a bad idea. You’re taller than me, but you’re weaker than you think, and I’m stronger than I look.”
“I wouldn’t! I was just wondering if maybe you’d let me scrape whatever’s left from the pot. Please.”
She nodded after a moment.]]>
Lightspeed Magazine - Science Fiction & Fantasy