Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams



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.

Contracting Iris

Iris is deep in an empty ocean, gray-green twilight fading to black everywhere she looks—and she can breathe. She’s a thousand feet above the ground, climbing a fractal cliff suffused with flickering veins of electricity—and she cannot. Iris is flat on her back at home in bed, and her right hand is moving. She lies there, staring straight up, not looking. Dim lozenges of light reach in through the window and play across the ceiling.

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.


“Who loves you?” I ask. My daughter looks away. Doesn’t answer. I lean down and turn her to face me, resting my thumb in the dimple in her chin. It’s the same dimple her mother has. Or had. “You love me, Daddy.” “That’s right, so please listen closely,” I say. She’s only nine, but Anya’s eyes are flat and black and hard to read in the dim light of the cave. “Only you can make our family whole again.” “But. Last time. I saw . . .”

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.

The Day the Earthman Didn’t Show

He was supposed to show up. He did not show up. He was long foretold in prophecy. The prophecy turned out to be bullshit. This was impossible. The people of this world known as Elarimuth had a gift for prophecy unparalleled in all the known universe. They were tied into the chronoflow and as a result experienced both their many eons of past history and the general outline of the future from the very moment of their births. They were, as a minor consequence, born educated, a grand convenience that prevented school funding issues.


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.

Learning Letters

Enid sat on the front porch of Haven’s clinic with a half a dozen books, some paper, and a small chalkboard. Three days a week, when she was in town, she taught reading to Haven’s children who wanted to learn. The last two weeks, Rose was the only kid who came to the lessons. Her household’s daughter, Rose, eight years old, stared at her while wearing a resentful frown that begged to be allowed to do anything else at all in the whole world but this.

From the Largest Crater

AUDIO LOG BF-0003 / 2083-14-09 13:36 / This . . . feels strange. They said that it’s healthy for those of us whose spouses take Return Missions to record our thoughts. Audio journaling, they called it. Zeli, if you saw the way these devices look, you’d have laughed at the very suggestion of it. They said other spouses who’ve done it have found it helpful for “processing difficult emotions.” It just makes me think they want to keep tabs on what I say and do, but that’s my father’s paranoia coming in. They said it helps to finish my recordings with “over” so that I know when I’ve gotten my thoughts out. Doesn’t that seem strange?

The Narrative Implications of Your Untimely Death

Your deathless heart spasms. Once. Twice. You suck in a long, rattling gasp, and twist over the decanting table, great hacking coughs. Someone thumps your back. “Welcome back, boyo,” Media & Talent Production Coordinator Kayn says. “They got some great footage out of your death. Viewership tripled for the episode.” “Damn,” you wheeze. “Any chance I’m out?” Goosebumps pimple across your cold skin. You’re so sick of the Talent Decanting Room. You hope for finales. You hope for your exit stage left. “Nah,” Kayn says. “You’re polling too well with the sixteen to twenty-four demographic. The execs want to keep you in the cast roster.”