Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams





The Dirty Golden Yellow House

On the first floor of a Colonial-style house constructed last century out of planks of old growth cedar, a monster is dragging a woman’s husband from room to room. The specific path this monster takes will be evident the next morning from the gashes in the wood floors and the splattering of the husband’s innards upon the plaster walls. Blood on the ceiling. The woman herself is hiding in the upstairs bedroom in her closet, face buried in the nylon hems of her patterned dresses, hands to her ears, a washcloth between her teeth so she can bite down hard on something that isn’t her tongue.

Science Fiction

The Daydreamer by Proxy

Dear Geneertech Employee #__________: Hello! We’re glad that you’re considering serving as the host of a Geneertech Corporation Daydreamer by Proxy. We know that this is not an easy decision to make. This document will provide answers to some of the questions asked frequently by prospective hosts. Over one hundred twenty Geneertech employees have chosen to host Daydreamers in the past three years, and all of them have gone on to have remarkably productive careers within the company. Seventy-three percent of hosts have received one or more promotions within two years of hosting.


Three Tales from the Blue Library

They were a pair of fools, husband and wife, and none of their labors prospered. Their mint grew ragged, their chives sprouted thorns, and their child swelled and shrank with the weather. Nobody knew what this child’s sickness was. In winter he filled up with poisonous gas, his limbs grew too stiff to move, and his parents had to drag him about in a wagon. In summer he withered and red streaks appeared on his skin. His desperate parents devoted their every instant to keeping him alive. They tried hot baths, ice baths, sunshine, darkness, vegetables, sweetbreads, gruels, exercise.

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.”


Apolépisi: A De-Scaling

I find Aleda’s scale, sticky with ichor, tucked between the tentacles of our pink anemone bed. I tweeze it out from the undulating appendages with my thumb and index finger and flounder against my escalating heart rate. Aleda’s swishing back and forth, getting ready for work near the mouth of our cave. It’s time for her to catch the current to the school where she teaches merlets the whisper of the sea. “I love those ‘mussel heads’,” she’ll say when she returns and rests her hands on my shoulder later tonight. I’ll swivel around and squeeze her so close a longing will bloom in my chest.

Science Fiction

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.


The Three Books and What They Tell

The first book is always a new and shiny hardback. It smells freshly cut and bound, with satisfyingly thick cotton pages, beautifully type-faced, each word aglow with the unshifting present. It has a fixed number of pages, though exactly what that number is no one has quite figured out. The second book usually settles itself into a worn out, dog-eared paperback. The number of its pages fluctuate—the quality and material of the pages are inconsistent as if the book is made of several editions. Some pages seem ripped out, others are no longer there, and the typeface changes intermittently throughout.

Science Fiction

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.


Her Five Farewells

When the Asphodel Queen decides she’ll die to save our people from her ex-husband’s tyranny, she commands me to build her a coffin, the very first in our world’s history. Her ageless face of ivory and emerald is water on a windless day; her stillness betrays nothing of her decision. As the Senate screams in sorrow, I am held by her imperial glare, the enormity of my task sinking in like sunlight on skin. “Me, Your Majesty? I’m but a humble craftsman.” Her voice rises above the growing din, as panic races through data-vines and across the crystal-network.

Science Fiction


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.