Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams



Apr. 2012 (Issue 23)

Novella: “The Political Officer” by C. C. Finlay

Novel Excerpts: Black Heart by Holly Black and After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress.

Nonfiction: Artist Showcase: Dylan Pierpont, Interview: William Gibson, Interview: Robin Hobb.

Fantasy: Marc Laidlaw (“Forget You”), Eric Gregory (“The Sympathy”), Caitlín R. Kiernan (“The Steam Dancer (1896)”), M. K. Hobson (“Domovoi”).

Science Fiction: Vandana Singh (“Ruminations in an Alien Tongue”), Caroline M. Yoachim (“Mother Ship”), Kim Stanley Robinson (“Our Town”), Karin Lowachee (“Nomad”).

Apr. 2012 (Issue 23)


Editorial, April 2012

Welcome to issue twenty-three of Lightspeed! We’ve got another great issue for you this month, so click-thru to see what we have in store.


Forget You

She came into his life the way his cats crept into his lap. One day he was alone, had been alone for years, his life and his home empty of anyone but himself and a few friends who didn’t visit all that often anyway. And then at some point he realized she had been there for a while, in his house, in his bed, in every part of his life, having accomplished the transition so subtly that he could never say exactly when or how it had occurred.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Marc Laidlaw

The story came entirely from the first image: wondering how cats do that thing where they seem to edit reality and retroactively insert themselves in your lap after you’ve repeatedly tried to keep them out of it.

Science Fiction

Ruminations in an Alien Tongue

Sitting on the sun-warmed step at the end of her workday, Birha laid her hand on the dog’s neck and let her mind drift. Like a gyre-moth finding the center of its desire, her mind inevitably spiraled inward to the defining moment of her life. It must be something to do with growing old, she thought irritably, that all she did was revisit what had happened all those years ago.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Vandana Singh

How do chance and habit and the laws of nature play out on a grand scale? The origins of uncertainty in the macroscopic and microscopic realms are actually quite different, but in this story I’ve messed with that quite deliberately. I’ve also had to think about how we do science in the mundane world, including the unfortunate separation between what C. P. Snow called “the two cultures,” the humanities and the sciences. I wanted to come up with imaginative alternatives—because it is both important and interesting to think about alternatives for things we take for granted.


The Steam Dancer (1896)

Missouri Banks lives in the great smoky city at the edge of the mountains, here where the endless yellow prairie laps gently with grassy waves and locust tides at the exposed bones of the world jutting suddenly up towards the western sky. She was not born here, but came to the city long ago, when she was still only a small child and her father traveled from town to town in one of Edison’s electric wagons selling his herbs and medicinals, his stinking poultices and elixirs.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Caitlín R. Kiernan

That which any given person finds exotic or sexually unconventional, that’s not something that can be nailed down with a straightforward answer. These are things determined by the sum total of our life experiences, formative influences, particular cultures, etc. It so happens that I find cyborgs sexy, though I have no idea why. There’s a reason, or reasons, I’m certain, I just don’t dwell on what they might be. I sit down to write a story like this and I’m following unconscious impulse as much as conscious intention.

Science Fiction


People in modern times don’t like to acknowledge that some of us Radicals are nomad. They interpret that as rogue and dangerous. If you think it’s hard for us now, it was much worse during the turf wars—especially if you weren’t integrated. When Tommy died I became uni—unintegrated—and that usually means nomad. I belonged to no Streak, had no chief and no Fuses to protect me. It wasn’t overnight.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Karin Lowachee

I think [power armor/mecha is] just damn cool to look at. It’s raw power built to smash and blow things up. There’s an aesthetic appeal, too, and a lot of variation on how that can come about—either more brute, more graceful, or more robotic in appearance. The idea that you can add extensions to your own body, in a way, and become an arsenal is probably attractive to people on all sorts of levels. There’s that idea of indestructability.

Artist Showcase

Artist Showcase: Dylan Pierpont

I had wanted to do a steampunk-themed piece for some time before the inspiration finally hit for “The Cartographer.” It’s such a uniquely diverse genre to work with, and there are all sorts of interpretive ways to approach the subject matter. I suppose it depends on my mood, but if I had to choose I’d be part of an airship crew. I’m a huge adrenaline junkie, so I’m game for anything that gets me off the ground and into the stratosphere!


The Sympathy

The apartment was in his name, and the Accord was in hers. It took Lauren less than a minute to step out one door and into the other. She put her suitcase in the floorboard and her laptop bag in the passenger seat. Her container garden fit snugly in the back.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Eric Gregory

I’m really fascinated by the way certain myths transform or cross-pollinate over time—fairies and grey aliens are both little people from Elsewhere who abduct innocent folks for mysterious reasons. And the giant nerd in me really likes the idea that there’s a sort of ur-myth or ur-monster behind those stories, some old truth that different cultures articulate in different ways. So the Sympathy’s another iteration of that whole concept.

Science Fiction

Mother Ship

My mother was a colony ship. For one revolution of the galaxy, a quarter of a billion years, she carried her creators between the stars. At the end of that time, all the creators had died. My mother drifted aimlessly through space. After a hundred million years of traveling alone and empty, her drifting brought her to Earth.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Caroline M. Yoachim

When I was thinking about these colony ships, a couple of the key features were (1) that they were designed to interface with their cargo, and (2) they had enormous lifespans. It seemed natural to me that a complex organic entity that interacted with humans for thousands of years would develop consciousness.


Interview: Robin Hobb

If you read a number of the older books about doing magic, and what people believed you could magically do, there is supposed magic whereby if you take the correct bone of a cat and put it under your tongue, you could become invisible. From there it was a short step to say, “What if, instead of that, it simply conferred this wonderful, huge rush of—not necessarily immortality—but renewed youth and vigor, and you didn’t need anything else except that? How would that work? What would you be willing to give up for that? Would you actually be giving up anything?”



“You’re a murderer and a rapist, and there may be no hope for you,” Winnie says to Ryan on a rainy afternoon at the end of the story. “But if there is, I will find it. I will remake you.”

Science Fiction

Our Town

I found my friend Desmond Kean at the northeast corner of the penthouse viewing terrace, assembling a telescope with which to look at the world below. He took a metal cylinder holding a lens and screwed it into the side of the telescope, then put his eye to the lens, the picture of concentrated absorption. How often I had found him like this in recent months! It made me shiver a little; this new obsession of his, so much more intense than the handmade clocks, or the stuffed birds, or the geometric proofs, seemed to me a serious malady.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Kim Stanley Robinson

The story derives from a single image, a kind of Pygmalion variant. My wife and I traveled in Asia on our way to Switzerland, in 1985, which was the first time I had ever been in the developing world. I wrote the first half of the story on a night train between Bangkok and Kohsamui, and the second half on a night train between Cairo and Luxor.


Interview: William Gibson

Futurists get to a certain age and, as one does, they suddenly recognize their own mortality, and they often decide that what’s going on is that everything is just totally screwed and shabby now, whereas when they were younger everything was better.