Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams



Science Fiction

The Heaven That They Never Knew

Ginger clings to the skin of Heaven, wrapped in deep, cold vacuum. She’s a speck in the void and her breath trembles inside her helmet. No sound in space. So she breathes. She has to stay grounded, keep her thoughts from shaking and drifting to hostile sensors. Heaven’s skin is a smooth, shimmering membrane enclosing the angelships. Heaven: a bubble the size of a small moon, seeded with egg-like metallic beings that chew and swallow and reap. Locusts with a taste for spirits; nothing holy in those devourers.


She has to pretend she cares about the children, but she doesn’t. When Aiden died, all other children became a kind of enemy, a reminder, a series of fortresses to which she was not allowed entrance but was forced to lay siege day after day—through friends and their children, relatives and their children, strangers on the street and neighborhood kids populating her physical routines: shopping, solitary strolls in the park, moments stolen at her favorite café.


“I’m going to have to stay a week longer,” was the first thing Laura said. No hellos or how-are-yous, just straight to the point. Silence. Or at least, a silence overlaid onto a landscape of background murmurs. Laura was probably calling from the office.

“Matty, did you hear me? I have to extend my trip.”

Matthew looked down at the dark spot on the front of his shirt. He’d read somewhere that applesauce didn’t stain. “I heard you.”

Bad Code

Jacob’s stomach is still fizzy from the rickety elevator, but holding his dad’s hand is keeping him steady. Uncle Rolly answers in his usual sweatpants and bath robe, looks from Jacob’s dad down to Jacob and back again, like confirming they’re them. When they are, he hooks his chin for them to follow him into his musty apartment, with the magazines and computer parts stacked up to the ceiling, all of it teetering but never falling.

Plausible Realities, Improbable Dreams

The multiverse broke last week. Broke is perhaps the wrong word. More accurate would be performed a state-change or found new equilibrium, but tell that to Catalina Chang, who has been popping aspirin like M&Ms ever since last Thursday, 5:54 PM, when the Unspecified Incident in the Lab superimposed all versions of reality together like a flaky scallion pancake. Aspirin still exists. So do coffee and antidepressant commercials, except on alternate Tuesdays, except when they don’t exist at all.

Cale and Stardust Battle the Mud Gobblers of Hudson Valley

Cale squirted a zigzag of avocado paste on his toast as the mud gobbler floated down the river. The mud gobbler was, thankfully, chewing on the other side of the river today. Mud gobbler is what Cale called them, although Stardust preferred dirt whale. “Fucking dirt whale,” Stardust said, walking up to the kitchen window. “I’d like to gut it like a fish!” Stardust’s belly was getting big now, swelling like a whale itself.

On the Ship

On the ship, we sang and danced and drank champagne—yes, even the children. The adults were indulgent with us, shrugging off the ironclad rules I’d grown up with: no sweets before meals, no videos before bed, no caffeine or alcohol ever. None of that applied on the ship. It was as if they knew childhood was all we would ever have. I didn’t like champagne, and neither did Ava. But we sipped from the small crystal goblets, with their fragile stems and tiny bursting bubbles.

Up Falling

We’re at an abandoned Jumpbase somewhere in the Sahara east of Dakar. It used to be a checkpoint, probably some way of checking for diseases for people seeking sanctuary in one of the greatest scientific centers of the world. At least, that’s what Jumplead says. To me, it’s just a half-standing golden box with a massive rectangular entrance in the front that both welcomed us and made us targets for pillagers.

Dissent: A Five-Course Meal (With Suggested Pairings)

AMUSE-BOUCHE: A pungent sourness builds at the back of your throat, slowly at first and then with a crescendo of intensity as you flip through the authorized news streams. A string of smiling state-approved anchors informs you that everything is fine, that things are finally looking up, that there is nothing to worry about for those who have done nothing wrong.

Top Ten Things to See Before the World Burns

With temperatures on Earth continuing to climb, Intercollective governments have set a final evacuation date1 for the end of the Terran year. If the travel lottery pulls your census number, this is your last chance to see the homeworld’s sights! A poll of the Collective suggests that these are the ones that can’t be missed: 1. GRAND CENTRAL OVERSTATION. You can’t miss it—literally. Grand Central Overstation is the pinnacle of Pre-Diasporic construction.