Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams



Fantasy Fiction

Welcome to Oxhead

You should know that we thought our parents were normal, ordinary, super basic. But they weren’t, at all. Let’s start with the way we found out, what some call “how it ended” and others call “the start of it all.” The grid went down. It covered Oxhead and Oxhead Woods and The Annex at Oxhead, the gated communities within the one large gate. It was sudden. One father dropped to the bottom of a shower stall.

So, You Married Your Arch Nemesis . . . Again

Welcome back, listeners! It’s me, Eli McCarthy, your go-to podcast host for allllll the juiciest super drama. I’m thrilled to be coming to you live from the maximum-security containment wing of Site 92, where I have the pleasure of interviewing Sixten Graves, known by most of you as Sol Undertaker. For those of you living under a rock [chuckles], Sol Undertaker placed themself voluntarily in prison here.


The east is red when Xiaohong leaves the two-room apartment that has been allocated to her and her parents—two rooms carved out of a once-grand courtyard home, now divided between five families by order of the local Party authorities. The manor has been forced into a new identity, with makeshift kitchens elbowing their way into […]

Hungry as the Mirror Bright

She was born a low and needful thing. Hatched down in the tannin dark, dead leaf pillowed, gnashing her mouth in the loam. Burrowing deep where shed buttons and broken boot laces lay. Alone and babbling, prowling for worm-meat and snail-slick in the wet ground rot. Fattened on maggot and grub, she hardened white and lay sarcophagal. Then a second birth, splitting free and strange in new skin.

The Sun in Exile

I was born the year they put the sun on trial for treason. It was so hot that year the streets boiled like black soup and the air rippled like music and the polar bears all roared together, just once, loud enough that a child in Paraguay turned her head suddenly north and began to weep. Tomatoes simmered on the vine and the wind was full of the smells of them cooking, then of their skins peeling, turning black.

An Old Man Cometh and He Is Overgrown

To Cogadhi Steorran, Gentle Summoner: I understand you are the ward of Udo Steorran, Stark Summoner of the Realm. It is of Steorran’s well-being of which I humbly write to you and request your presence in the town of Berkhammer. Steorran recently lost his spouse, Tillie, to which I offer my greatest condolences. You see, it seems Steorran has summoned souls—against our wishes—to this quiet town.

The Rustle of Growing Things

In the morning, he’s leaving. “All right,” Ana says. Lying, continues: “I understand.” The flat is hollowed out in anticipation of absence. Concrete floors swept cool and bare; dry sink, husk-like cupboards. His boots wait at the threshold, still gray with dust from his last stint in the mountains with the guerrillas. His rifle leans against the doorframe.

The Turnip, or, How the Whole World Was Brought to Peace

I have heard it on the rumors that when the tale-spinner’s guild gathers in their secret places, a full half of them are sworn to never tell the truth, and the other half to never tell a lie, even if it mean their life. Being one of that trade myself, I can tell you that that’s more or less the shape of it, and I tell you so you know that this tale is true, just as it was told to me, for I am one of the ones sworn to the truth.

Broken Record

What Jaden remembered of the wreck was screaming and water drops hanging in the air and the thin white mast at a diagonal and then breathing cold water deep into his chest, shrieky regret about too much stuff at once, and now he was here. A desert island. It was the kind people in single-panel cartoons are always living on. The only difference for Jaden was that there was no tall coconut tree drooping over him, casting a puddle of shadow for him to move with all day.

The Crowning of the Lord Tazenket, Vulture God of the Eye, Part II

It is three days before she dreams a strange prophecy. The Daganites believe prophecy is shrouded in mystery. In truth, it is logical—bound by choice and statistics and a million small things they don’t pay attention to, but that gods do. Mortals love secret and ritual and when they come to her temple with their hundred small choices they don’t look at her. Eyes cast down, watering from the smoke, foreheads pressed to the ground.