Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams





The Rustle of Growing Things

In the morning, he’s leaving. “All right,” Ana says. Lying, continues: “I understand.” The flat is hollowed out in anticipation of absence. Concrete floors swept cool and bare; dry sink, husk-like cupboards. His boots wait at the threshold, still gray with dust from his last stint in the mountains with the guerrillas. His rifle leans against the doorframe.

Science Fiction

Critical Mass

Leo Gregory is losing altitude. He coasts on the thermals of a legacy fading behind him: a documentary here, a retrospective there, some greatest-hits collection down in the corner for the dilettantes. Oh, the work has lost none of its grandeur: his buildings remain timeless, his objets d’art still serve up facets upon layers from each new angle.


The Turnip, or, How the Whole World Was Brought to Peace

I have heard it on the rumors that when the tale-spinner’s guild gathers in their secret places, a full half of them are sworn to never tell the truth, and the other half to never tell a lie, even if it mean their life. Being one of that trade myself, I can tell you that that’s more or less the shape of it, and I tell you so you know that this tale is true, just as it was told to me, for I am one of the ones sworn to the truth.

Science Fiction

Scientists Confirm: There’s a Black Hole in the Center of Your Heart

The black hole in the center of your heart devours everything around you. It always has, but when you were small, your event horizon was, too: you might pull in a teddy bear, your corgi puppy’s love, your grandma’s snickerdoodles. Small fuel for a small hunger. But you didn’t stay small. In school, you pulled other children into your orbit, cool kids and nerds and loners, along with shelves of books, the faded basketballs from the gym, the classroom iguana.


Broken Record

What Jaden remembered of the wreck was screaming and water drops hanging in the air and the thin white mast at a diagonal and then breathing cold water deep into his chest, shrieky regret about too much stuff at once, and now he was here. A desert island. It was the kind people in single-panel cartoons are always living on. The only difference for Jaden was that there was no tall coconut tree drooping over him, casting a puddle of shadow for him to move with all day.

Science Fiction

Zen Solaris and the God-Child

Zen shared his shoebox apartment with a girl named Ratter, who ate vision-pills for breakfast and tattooed her dreams on her skin. She had grown up in the Wastes and was missing her dominant arm from the elbow down. Versatile as flesh and blood, her tattoo gun was a whirring prosthetic she had built herself, configured to strap on at the shoulder. The needlepoint twitched like a fingertip, and she drew her designs with bold, exact marks.


The Crowning of the Lord Tazenket, Vulture God of the Eye, Part II

It is three days before she dreams a strange prophecy. The Daganites believe prophecy is shrouded in mystery. In truth, it is logical—bound by choice and statistics and a million small things they don’t pay attention to, but that gods do. Mortals love secret and ritual and when they come to her temple with their hundred small choices they don’t look at her. Eyes cast down, watering from the smoke, foreheads pressed to the ground.

Science Fiction

One Basket

::if ur thirsty go get a drink:: Alaya glanced up from her chatscreen and across the small apartment to the blinking red light on the family water tap; they’d already used up their daily ration. She licked dry lips. Simone didn’t understand—she lived down in Grand Tunnel, where everyone got an extra liter of drinking water per day just because they were old families sitting on the biggest ice vein left in the asteroid. ::maybe ill just go swimming:: Alaya answered.


Picnic, with Monster

Freedom means walking through the park on a cloudy Tuesday afternoon, instead of being locked up in the hospital or a group home. Caleb was released from the hospital this morning, not because he’s well—he knows he’ll never be what the doctors call well—but because they had nothing left to offer him. He dutifully took their pills when he was locked up, because otherwise, they just get a court order to force you. No freedom in hospitals.

Science Fiction

The Crowning of the Lord Tazenket, Vulture God of the Eye, Part I

She dreams of blood. She always has done. Her gold gown drenched in it, the gold paint on her fingertips muddied by it. Her arms glow in the dream, a hundred paths of light trailing over her collarbones. In this dream, this vision, she is free. Her kind don’t really dream. They—she, she doesn’t think there are others—pull on the strings of fate. They look forward into the future and imagine possibility. She tells herself every time she dreams of blood and freedom: this is a dream.