Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams

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Science Fiction

The Conflagration at the Museum of You

The Exhibit of You is the central attraction of an institution you could call a museum, in a population center you could call a city, beloved by creatures who you could call people. We know that this is annoying sentence structure. If you cannot penetrate it, you might as well stop now. We will not think less of you. It is a necessary sentence structure because the museum is the accomplishment of beings wholly alien to your sensibilities, whose advanced civilization does not resemble our own in any manner that allows direct transfer of operative terms like “museum” or “city.”

The Tragic Fate of the City of O-Rashad

Hark, ye traveller who wanders from the west, to the tragic tale of O-Rashad: Once, the city of O-Rashad stood beautiful above the steppelands, her towers clad in careful alloys, her neon banners streaming plasticine in the steppe-winds, her elevators reaching up into the darkness of the sky. O-Rashad, the city of banners! O-Rashad, whose delicate elevators knew no equal! Mighty were her walls and mightier still her citizens. On the streets of O-Rashad were the people of a hundred nations, in her markets the goods of ten thousand worlds. Even travelers from the furthest nebulae, even aliens in their encounter suits, came to bow before the greatness of the Princess of Cities.

Primordial Soup and Salad

Wallace Englund, captain of the United Space Fleet vessel Caroline, stared out his private office window at the only view he’d had for nearly four years—outer space, in all its dull glory—and wondered why he couldn’t get a decent cheeseburger. Behind him were the last three attempts at a burger made by the ship’s food replicator. The first looked okay until Wallace bit into it and discovered a soft, gelatinous interior that still tasted like a cheeseburger but whose texture made it impossible to ingest. The second was visibly worse: the left side of the burger looked like brown gravy, and not in a good way.

Eminence

Usually, Nathan felt his cares lift a little as he turned the car onto Yuculta Crescent. Today, he had to resist an urge to drive past, even just go home. Nathan passed parked RVs and sports cars as he looked for an empty spot. As he walked back to a modest ochre house, he heard voices: teenagers talking about trading items in some online-game world. Nathan hesitated again. I could still go back to the car, let Grace find out from somebody else. The temptation was almost overwhelming.

The Application of Strawberry Lip Gloss in a Low-Gravity Environment

Gordon noted another entry in her portfolio of regrets. She regretted being reckless early in her career and ending up in med armor so young. She regretted leaving Samela, almost as much as she regretted meeting Samela. Regretted letting Sam steal her ship. And now, she regretted answering that want ad for a shipmate. Her suit suggested a mild pain reliever for the oncoming headache, which she accepted with a blink of her right eye. A whiff of medicinal vapor escaped her collar.

Civilian Assumptions

Like their battleship, Maddox was born for war. They emerged from the nursery with one purpose alone: to expand the Consortium’s borders, a bloody mission that had lasted generations, and would last generations to come. Any civilian raised in the Consortium would know a few things about Maddox: That Maddox goes into battle unafraid. That they believe the Consortium’s cause is a just one. And that they are blindingly in love with their ship. Like all captains, Maddox raised Olivia—that was what they named their ship, a soft name for a dangerous thing—from a seed.

The CRISPR Cookbook: A Guide to Biohacking Your Own Abortion in a Post-Roe World

If you’re reading this—on some godforsaken imageboard, or dog-eared book page, or in encrypted base pairs sequenced off 3D-printed oligos—you’re probably grappling with a pretty tough decision right now. Breathe. I’m not judging you. I know how it goes. You tried your best but nothing’s infallible, or you slipped up one night, or he just straight-up went, your biological clock’s ticking, and hacked your birth control, knowing once it happens you won’t have a choice. The second his sperm enters your egg, he’s done, back to his star-studded career cranking out Science and Cell papers.

The Disappearing Dream Engineer

The first time Reema disappeared was in the middle of an argument with her husband Dean. No, not an argument. Let’s not be euphemistic about it. It was a full-blown battle with words flung like knives during a circus act. It ended with Dean hurling a lava lamp at Reema. That was the moment she vanished. The lamp sailed through a Reema-shaped hole in the air and smashed to pieces against the wall.

SyncALife

As I read Dad’s eulogy, my mind was on the FedEx delivery that’d bring him back to me. “My father was a thoughtful man,” I said. “In his poems and in his life, he sought to understand people’s complexity. He didn’t believe that people were good or bad. He was most interested in gray areas. With generosity, he saw the world’s ugliness and tried shining a kind gloss on it wherever he could.”

Among the Marithei

ergey hummed under his breath as he walked to the Marith temple. His steps retraced a path he knew so well, he could have walked it at night, in the dark, even under assault. Yet the Marith enclave was the most peaceful place he’d ever been—so calm that Sergey didn’t even need to hum to soothe his newborn daughter, fast asleep in her sling, bound tight against his chest. Three days old, and still Katya mostly slept.