Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams





The Ministry of Saturn

The town was not called Byzantium. The Ministry named it during the first meeting. “It’s not a colony,” Thomas James would have said if he could, but the office was hot and bright, the sun in the windows, in his eyes. He felt like he was surrounded by faceless figures even though there were only two other people in the room. The town they were talking about was located between worlds. The entrance was in the remains of Ooldea, out on the edge of The Nullarbor Plain.

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

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.


The Chosen Six

Dear Maryam: I had a dream last night. I guess it was our ancestors talking to me. Getting a clear view of them was tough—the only thing I saw was an amorphous image. I heard their voices, though, telling me to come for breakfast. I envisaged roasted beef marinated in a sauce with green vegetables as toppings, just the way Mama prepares it. Soon there was an aroma levitating like a UFO, calling out to me, enchanting me to its stronghold. I woke up wishing you were here.

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


“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 . . .”


His Guns Could Not Protect Him

I punched my brother because he was an idiot, because he couldn’t see what I saw, how hard mom held onto the dish rag when she came out onto the deck to tell us dad had been in an accident, which is why the first thing out of his idiot mouth was “So can we go to Pizza Hut for dinner instead?” And her face had already been enough to tell me dad was in real danger, but the fact that she didn’t scold me for punching Rem made my skin prickle up like when a snowball hits the back of your head.

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.