Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams





Guidelines for Using the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library

1. Unlike when visiting Fairyland, you need not worry about the perils of eating or drinking while inside the library. This is because food and drink are strictly prohibited within the stacks. The peril that results from violating this prohibition will be of a mundane sort, most likely the loss of your access privileges. 2. Navigating Widener Library is notoriously difficult. Just remember: to reach the east stacks, go beyond the sun. To reach the west stacks, go beyond the moon.

Science Fiction

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.


Real Magic

For the past three years, Aria’s parents had struggled to find her a suitable husband. There was no defect in Aria herself: she was an intelligent girl with a cheerful disposition and strong arms that would do well in any household. She was considered pretty; indeed, her long hair the color of buttered sunshine was the envy of many a girl in town. Nor was her family poor. Aria’s father did quite well as the town’s only blacksmith. In fact, Aria attracted quite a bevy of respectable suitors.

Science Fiction


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.


The House of Linear Change

In this house, it is very easy to change. Yesterday, the cat was a cat, but today it is a dark shadow under the kitchen sink. Yesterday, my father was alive, but today he’s on the floor, eyes open but unseeing, laying in a small pool of his own blood. In my hand, there is a bloodstained knife. Yesterday, it was a wand. Today, it has forgotten the name of all spells, except one. Kill. It is very easy for a thing to change. I know this because I am a thing, too.

Science Fiction

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.


In the Deep Woods; The Light Is Different There

A child will tell you, if asked, and if they are in the mindset to answer questions as they are posed and not as the child’s mind would have them interpreted—for the ears of children seem to work differently than the ears of adults, to be tuned to a different set of sighs and susurrations, not to the clean consonants and simple constructions of the adult vocabulary, and the answers of children are often similarly distorted.

Science Fiction

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?


Between the Stones and the Stars

His rival appraises him with a measured stare, but he is used to such scrutiny, insults half-whispered through gritted teeth. He stands his ground, here among the windswept ruins of broken pillars and half-buried busts, before the vine-choked temple in the thin mountain air. He stands his ground, and the woman studying him smirks. He has not come all this way to be defeated by that. His rival leans against a sunken marble building, curls spilling down her back and muscles rippling under her sleeves. She’s beautiful in the winter sun, brown and freckled, with reddish hair and the thick, fine furs of the northern kingdoms.

Science Fiction

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.”