Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams

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Fantasy Podcasts

Fantasy

A Man Walks Into a Bar: In Which More Than Four Decades After My Father’s Reluctant Night of Darts on West 54th Street I Finally Understand What Needs to Be Done

My father was so honest, people often spoke of him in cliches. For example—you know the way someone will sometimes say so-and-so was so honest they’d walk five miles to return an extra nickel they’d been given in their change? Nobody means anybody actually did that kind of thing when they say it, of course—you and I both know they’re only exaggerating for effect. Except in the case of my father. My Dad had really done that. Around the neighborhood, he was seen as so calm and understanding when compared to other fathers, other husbands . . . some of the grownups jokingly referred to him as Saint Barney.

Fantasy

Mad Honey

The three wolves in the sun-smeared wood did not turn and run when Aran approached with his musket in hand. Wolves were supposed to run from men with guns. This was the way of the world. Sweat and necessity made his musket slide against his palms. He gripped tighter, not wanting to startle the beasts by bringing the musket to bear too quickly. Two of the beasts stood over the third, which reclined on its side in the patchy grass. He could count their rib-bones through their thin hides. His own hungry bones hummed in sympathy. But the world turned on toward frost and frozen ground, and necessity stilled the tremor in his chest.

Fantasy

The Noon Witch Goes to Sound Planet

The Noon Witch is not a cat person. She likes the color purple, hates police procedurals, loves breakfast foods, thinks scented bath products and anchovy pizza are gross. Hates platform shoes. Hates walnuts in brownies. Used to like the electropop group all the girls at school like, until they used too much synth on their latest album, so now she hates them too. The Noon Witch isn’t an overcritical person. She’s just at that difficult age when you’re desperate to figure out who you are, so you lean too much on your likes and dislikes to try to cobble together what you think should be your personality.

Fantasy

The Dirty Golden Yellow House

On the first floor of a Colonial-style house constructed last century out of planks of old growth cedar, a monster is dragging a woman’s husband from room to room. The specific path this monster takes will be evident the next morning from the gashes in the wood floors and the splattering of the husband’s innards upon the plaster walls. Blood on the ceiling. The woman herself is hiding in the upstairs bedroom in her closet, face buried in the nylon hems of her patterned dresses, hands to her ears, a washcloth between her teeth so she can bite down hard on something that isn’t her tongue.

Fantasy

Her Five Farewells

When the Asphodel Queen decides she’ll die to save our people from her ex-husband’s tyranny, she commands me to build her a coffin, the very first in our world’s history. Her ageless face of ivory and emerald is water on a windless day; her stillness betrays nothing of her decision. As the Senate screams in sorrow, I am held by her imperial glare, the enormity of my task sinking in like sunlight on skin. “Me, Your Majesty? I’m but a humble craftsman.” Her voice rises above the growing din, as panic races through data-vines and across the crystal-network.

Fantasy

The Clockmaker and His Daughter

Gaza looked down at the city of Nyss, surveying his creation. He thought it was perfect. Well, almost. In the city centre stood several griots spinning a tale to a captive audience, their camels and brightly-coloured caravans sheltering in the shade of palm trees. The griots should be dusty—after all they had travelled some distance, spent several months weathering the harsh terrain of the desert. As it was they looked too pristine.

Fantasy

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.

Fantasy

Picnic, with Monster

Freedom means walking through the park on a cloudy Tuesday afternoon, instead of being locked up in the hospital or a group home. Caleb was released from the hospital this morning, not because he’s well—he knows he’ll never be what the doctors call well—but because they had nothing left to offer him. He dutifully took their pills when he was locked up, because otherwise, they just get a court order to force you. No freedom in hospitals.

Fantasy

The Cheesemaker and the Undying King

Tana was in a humid cave checking the rind on a round of Tomme when the messenger arrived to tell her that the war was lost and her wife was to be hanged. She took her time rewrapping the cheese before she responded. Still too soft. Another week, she estimated. The rind was a beautiful blue-black shade that would catch a maid’s eye in the market. Ruining a fine wheel wouldn’t save Renae. And she knew what the boy was going to say as soon as she heard his nervous footsteps.

Fantasy

The Fairy Godmother Advice Column

Dear Fairy Godmother: I work as the housekeeper for a collective of seven men. It’s a non-normative living situation, but it works for me. (I am estranged from my family, due to my stepmother being crazy.) Lately, however, I’ve been harassed by a woman trying to sell me apples. She is constantly offering me free samples and acting hurt when I don’t buy. My employers have forbidden me from letting anyone into their home, and I value their trust. But I also know there are a lot of prejudices about old women who wander around forests selling apples, and I don’t want to play into that.