Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams




The Fairy Godmother Advice Column

Dear Fairy Godmother,

I work as the housekeeper for a collective of seven men. It’s a non-normative living situation, but it works for me. (I am estranged from my family, due to my stepmother being crazy.)

Lately, however, I’ve been harassed by a woman trying to sell me apples. She is constantly offering me free samples and acting hurt when I don’t buy.

My employers have forbidden me from letting anyone into their home, and I value their trust. But I also know there are a lot of prejudices about old women who wander around forests selling apples, and I don’t want to play into that. It seems like this woman is disadvantaged and has no societal support. Plus, those apples look delicious. Would it be so wrong to buy just one?

—A Single Apple

Dear ASA,

No, it would not be wrong. Just to get that out of the way.

I want to focus, however, on your living situation. I have to wonder who decided that your stepmother was “crazy” and that therefore you had to take a position as an unpaid housekeeper who doesn’t even get to invite her friends over or to eat enough.

I encourage you to get a neutral third party to examine your life choices.

It’s even possible the apple-seller could be that person. It’s been my experience that many old women—including those who have done things traditionally thought of as “evil”—have a lot of wisdom to offer.

If you are able to gain quick access to an affordable therapist, that would be your best option. If not, maybe next time the apple-seller comes knocking, consider letting her in and listening to what she has to say.

—Your Fairy Godmother

Dear Fairy Godmother,

I was astounded by your answer last week to “Tired of Fireplace Duty.” Are you really encouraging young women to believe that fancy dresses and grandiose parties will solve their problems? “Tired” had good reasons for wanting to change her life—and I commend you for calling out her family’s emotional abuse—but wouldn’t it be better for her to focus on establishing appropriate boundaries with her stepsisters, rather than getting dolled up in the hope of catching a prince?


Dear Disappointed,

A number of readers have written about that column, most far less politely than you. However, I saw no indication in “Tired’s” letter that she was thinking long-term. She simply wanted to go to the ball. I maintain that, based on her new and unexpected resources, she has a right to pursue that goal.

I myself am disappointed in those readers who have suggested that my identity as a fairy godmother has predisposed me to think “true love” is the solution to every problem. I do believe in the power of love, and I won’t apologize for that. But I make sure to balance my impulses by seeking frequent advice from a consultant who is very anti-love (and, in fact, tends to jump to “place an evil spell on them” as the solution to every problem). She often walks me back from my initial knee-jerk response.

Long-term, I agree that “Tired” must find a way to extricate herself from her family. As soon as she gets back from the ball, she should look into finding a support group.

—Your Fairy Godmother

Dear Fairy Godmother,

I made some poor decisions in my youth, for which I take full responsibility. I’m now in therapy. But during those difficult times, I made a bargain with an imp, and he insists that I keep my part of the deal. His pressure is negatively impacting my mental health.

I understand that the obvious answer is to give him what he wants so he’ll leave me alone. But what he wants is my firstborn child.

He says that if I guess his true name, he’ll consider the bargain fulfilled. I don’t know where to start. Do you have any suggestions for me?


Dear Goldie,

I come to this from a place of sympathy and compassion. A long time ago, I made a bargain with a witch. What I found was that after a lot of open communication, which included looking at our history from her point of view, we were able to compromise. She is now a valued consultant on this column and it would look very different without her input. So I’m going to suggest that you sit down with the imp for a frank and open discussion.

I’m very concerned about you and your child. Please follow up if you can.

—Your Fairy Godmother

Dear Fairy Godmother,

I’m a prince who lives next door to an enchanted castle surrounded by a thorny forest. Recently I found my way in.

There’s this gorgeous girl inside. I truly believe she is my soul mate. The problem is, she’s asleep, and apparently I have to kiss her to wake her up.

I’m not sure I’m comfortable doing that. I don’t want to start off our relationship with something that feels vaguely nonconsensual. That’s just not the kind of story I want to tell our grandchildren!

On the other hand, if I don’t kiss her she may sleep forever. Maybe I should kiss her and let her decide if she feels like forgiving me for it. If I don’t, I’m sure some other jerk will come along who doesn’t have my scruples, and then she’ll fall for him and be worse off. Or am I just rationalizing here?

—Woke Princes Don’t Wake Princesses


It’s not vaguely nonconsensual. It’s sexual assault, and your excuses for considering it are, in fact, rationalizations—and rather weak ones at that.

I’m struggling to understand how you’ve “fallen in love” with a woman you’ve never spoken to. Have you ever imagined having grandchildren with women who have real opinions and attitudes that you have to deal with, rather than with a fantasy version of a woman who is conveniently too unconscious to challenge you?

I think if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll find the answer to that question quite illuminating.

My consultant, who is more of a co-writer at this point, believes you should throw yourself into the thorny woods and let them rip you to pieces. I’m not inclined to go that far. But I do think you need to seek therapy.

In the meantime, leave your “soul mate” alone.

—Your Fairy Godmother

Dear Fairy Godmother,

I’m disappointed by the direction your column has taken in recent months. You used to offer people real help—magic slippers, enchanted roses, concrete advice about how to braid and climb hair. Now it’s all “examine your feelings” and “enforce boundaries” and, the coppiest of all cop-outs, “go to therapy.” (Honestly, do you want to put yourself out of a job? Do you think therapists tell their clients to go write to advice columnists?)

Last week, that poor girl was clearly asking for the imp’s name, and you ignored her question so you could go on some tangent about your own marginally-similar experience.

What happened? Have your powers been stolen from you? Or is this “consultant” of yours the reason for the decline in quality?

You have a sincere and devoted following, and many of us have access to sorcerers, witches, and royal treasuries. Maybe it’s time for you to open up to your readers so we can help you.

—Rescuer If You Need One


I appreciate your concern, but I am fine. My magic powers are intact—in fact, just before writing this response, I re-heated my cup of tea with a tap of my wand.

What has changed is my understanding of the best way to use my powers. When I used to swoop in to save the day, who was I really doing it for? Shouldn’t princesses (and princes, but let’s be honest, most of my summoners identify as female royalty), have their own agency? Even if they’re trapped in an impregnable tower or deep in an enchanted sleep, surely there’s a way they could rescue themselves. All they need is the inner strength to do it.

That is what I have been trying to provide.

However, I’ve realized that encouraging independence is not my strength. For this reason, among others, I have decided that it is time for me to pursue other opportunities. This will be my last column.

I am sad to leave behind this chapter of my life, but I have the joy of knowing that my faithful readers are in good hands. My former consultant, who helped me find the strength to move on, will be taking over my role. Please grant her the same trust you have given me. Her advice has changed my life, and if you give her a chance, she will change yours too.

—Your Former Fairy Godmother

Leah Cypess

Leah Cypess is the author of the middle grade series Sisters Ever After. The first book in the series, Thornwood, retells Sleeping Beauty from the POV of Sleeping Beauty’s little sister. The second book, Glass Slippers, tells the story of Cinderella’s third stepsister, and will be released in April 2022. Leah has also written four young adult novels and numerous works of short fiction. She is a two-time Nebula finalist and a World Fantasy Award finalist. You can learn more about her and her books at