Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams



Flash Fiction

Science Fiction

Four Years Minus Twelve Days

You knew from the beginning. You knew because the world knew about the intricate and fascinating life-cycle of the Svarrs, and it had been documented and discussed everywhere throughout the media endlessly. And you knew because Vo made sure you understood, before you married them. Four years is the bonding-period you get with a Svarr. Not quite four years, to be exact. Four years minus twelve days.


Our Exquisite Delights

Almost everyone has, at some point in their lives, encountered a door that was not there before. A little girl sits up in bed, staring at the two identical closets in her bedroom. She feels certain there had been only one when she fell asleep. A salaryman on the subway blinks through his pre-coffee daze. The train is still in motion, but the doors have opened to an empty subway station he’s never seen before. The other passengers, eyes glued to their phones, don’t seem to notice.

Science Fiction

One Pinch, Two Pinch

The Countess pinches space-stuff between her fingers, touching the cold curve that dips luxuriously around Jupiter. She imagines two marbles rolling across the fabric of space, skirting the indentations that gravity produces. This visualization helps her to pinch space precisely. One pinch, two pinch. She counts, pummeled by space dust, wishing she had never fallen into that black hole.


Every Little Change

On the morning of her thirty-fifth birthday, Francesca awakes to the sound of a blip in the apartment kitchen. It’s 9:30 on a Saturday; good thing she has no responsibilities to drag her out of bed any earlier. No kids, no pets; not even any creative writing essays to grade. She putters around finding her slippers and pulling her tangled hair into a ponytail so that Jason has time to make a pot of coffee. Not that he drinks—or eats—anymore. But he’ll pretend, for her sake.

Science Fiction

Subject: More Monsters Will Not Make Us Safer

Dear Senator: I am writing with concern about the recent legislative decision (SB-AR-15) to place monsters outside our schools. As a lifelong resident of Arkansas and these United States, I certainly understand the need to protect our children from active shooters, firenadoes, and reverse lightning storms. And I will be the first to admit that the saw-spined basilisk could send such fear into the heart of an approaching shooter he might turn to stone, that frost giants could easily put a stop to the near-daily threat of firenadoes.


Guidelines for Using the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library

1. Unlike when visiting Fairyland, you need not worry about the perils of eating or drinking while inside the library. This is because food and drink are strictly prohibited within the stacks. The peril that results from violating this prohibition will be of a mundane sort, most likely the loss of your access privileges. 2. Navigating Widener Library is notoriously difficult. Just remember: to reach the east stacks, go beyond the sun. To reach the west stacks, go beyond the moon.

Science Fiction


You died with cataracts in your eyes. Too much time above the surface. Too much radiation. They were an inevitable consequence. They were a price that you were only too willing to pay. So many of our desires come back to sight, to the ability to see clearly. Cataracts are a physical manifestation. Objects viewed through that cloudy, compromised lens are soft about the edges, discoloured. With cataracts, it is harder to look at the light. With cataracts it is harder to see in the darkness.


The House of Linear Change

In this house, it is very easy to change. Yesterday, the cat was a cat, but today it is a dark shadow under the kitchen sink. Yesterday, my father was alive, but today he’s on the floor, eyes open but unseeing, laying in a small pool of his own blood. In my hand, there is a bloodstained knife. Yesterday, it was a wand. Today, it has forgotten the name of all spells, except one. Kill. It is very easy for a thing to change. I know this because I am a thing, too.


Between the Stones and the Stars

His rival appraises him with a measured stare, but he is used to such scrutiny, insults half-whispered through gritted teeth. He stands his ground, here among the windswept ruins of broken pillars and half-buried busts, before the vine-choked temple in the thin mountain air. He stands his ground, and the woman studying him smirks. He has not come all this way to be defeated by that. His rival leans against a sunken marble building, curls spilling down her back and muscles rippling under her sleeves. She’s beautiful in the winter sun, brown and freckled, with reddish hair and the thick, fine furs of the northern kingdoms.

Science Fiction

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.