Science Fiction & Fantasy



Dec. 2013 (Issue 43)

This month, we have original science fiction by Hao Jingfang (“Invisible Planets,” translated by Ken Liu) and Gregory Benford (“Leaving Night”), along with SF reprints by Maureen F. McHugh (“Dead Fads”) and David Barr Kirtley (“Power Armor: A Love Story”). Plus, we have original fantasy by James Patrick Kelly (“Miss Nobody Never Was”) and Siobhan Carroll (“The Correspondence Between the Governess and the Attic”), and fantasy reprints by William Browning Spencer (“The Foster Child”) and Kit Reed (“Yard Sale”). All that, and of course we also have our usual assortment of author and artist spotlights, along with feature interviews with Jay Lake and Margaret Atwood. For our ebook readers, we also have the novella “The Ballad of Bowsprit Bear’s Stead” by Damien Broderick and a novel excerpt of Twinmaker by Sean Williams.

In This Issue: Dec. 2013 (Issue 43)


Editorial, December 2013

Welcome to issue forty-three of Lightspeed! We’ve got another great issue for you this month; read the editorial to see what we have on tap.

Science Fiction

Invisible Planets

Chichi Raha is a fascinating place, its flowers and lakes unforgettable to all visitors. There, you cannot see a single inch of exposed soil because the land is covered by vegetation: the anua grass, as fine as silk thread; the kuqin tree, tall enough to scrape the clouds; and many varieties of unnameable, unimaginably strange fruits, exuding seductive aromas.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Hao Jingfang

I went for a walk recently through an unfamiliar neighborhood, and I thought of Amiyachi and Aihuowu. Even just a short distance away people live very differently than I do, and despite being neighbors we don’t know anything of each other. Was there an experience like that for you, before you wrote about Amiyachi and Aihuowu or after? Do you think that there are summer and winter people, or neighbors who live on different time?


Yard Sale

“Mark them ONE DOLLAR OR BEST OFFER.” I want everything out. Out, so we can leave this place and lock the door behind us. Between us, Mare and I have pushed or dragged most of the big stuff onto the grass in front of the house and now we are tagging the little stuff, everything the Praying Hands hasn’t already taken. It was hard getting it out the door, but we managed. It was hard getting out the door ourselves, but it won’t be hard much longer. We are on the road to freedom.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Kit Reed

I’m happy to put things out on the street, give them away, whatever, because they’re only things. My mother came from a large family that lived in a great big house, and no matter where we lived, she always spoke of that as “home.” She and her sisters fought bitterly for possession of certain treasured objects.

Science Fiction

Power Armor: A Love Story

It was quite a party. The women wore gowns. The men wore tuxedos. Anthony Blair wore power armor.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: David Barr Kirtley

One book I read as a kid claimed that when knights traveled east to attack Jerusalem during the Crusades, they sometimes got so hot that their sweat filled up their armor, drowning them. That was still fresh in my mind, so when John suggested I write a power armor story, I got the idea of a critical flaw in someone’s otherwise invincible armor that would cause the suit to fill with fluid, drowning them.


Miss Nobody Never Was

Everybody thinks that bartenders steal. You know what? They’re right. Maybe there’s an upright bartender someplace where it’s all parking lots and cornfields and traffic lights flashing yellow, but I doubt it.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: James Patrick Kelly

I am very aware of the story clock that ticks in the background of all fiction. The shorter the story, the faster the clock ticks.

Artist Showcase

Artist Showcase: Halil Ural

Halil Ural was born in Turkey in 1983. He grew up with the pop culture and cartoons of the ’80s and ’90s and has been passionate about drawing since childhood. He studied at the Istanbul High School of Fine Arts, where he concentrated on drawing and painting, and the Marmara Faculty of Fine Arts, from which he graduated in 2006 with a degree in graphic design. He currently works in the medium of digital painting as a freelance science fiction/fantasy illustrator and concept artist for book publishers, game developers, and advertising firms. His website is

Science Fiction

Dead Fads

The dead have fads. I work in Deadtown, at a bar mostly frequented by the Dead. They call me PD for Pre-Dead. The Dead tip for shit because they just aren’t all that interested. That’s what I think. Cory, one of my regulars, says it isn’t like that. The Dead are interested fine, he said. They’re just poor.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Maureen McHugh

I wrote “Dead Fads” because a friend was thinking of doing an anthology based around the idea that there was a technology that could resurrect the recently dead but that it left them “tainted.”


The Correspondence Between the Governess and the Attic

The changeling hides in the window seat. On one side of her is glass, gauzy with rain. On the other, a thick curtain. November whistles through the crack in the window frame, but she dares not move. In this house she is a creeping, persecuted thing. Best if they don’t see her. She opens the book. Reading, she knows, is dangerous: none of the books in the house are hers, nothing is hers, and the family will hold this small act against her. But reading is a better escape than none at all.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Siobhan Carroll

When I encountered JANE EYRE again in graduate school, I was in for a bit of a shock. This was not the dull, safe story I remembered. It was a novel out of Victorian nightmare, clawing against the constraints of its historical period. And this time it was clearly, to my eyes, a fantasy novel: It features a young Orphan With A Destiny adventuring across a landscape infused with fairy-tale imagery.


Interview: Jay Lake

I grew up overseas in the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s. This was before satellite TV, VCRs, and media globalization. This meant we relied almost entirely on books for entertainment, even while my age cohort was growing up as the second television generation. Because of living in odd places with limited resources, the reading material was often eclectic. I wound up with the reading habits and history of an SF fan ten or twenty years my senior, and virtually no television or movie viewing history at all.

Science Fiction

Leaving Night

Very quietly, in the dark of night, people began disappearing. Later research showed that they vanished while in their deepest sleep. The few available videos of sleeping people revealed that the air around them shimmered for a few seconds amid a soft humming sound. The bodies seemed to shrink to nothing. They were simply gone, leaving clothes behind. Seldom did the event even wake mates asleep beside them.


The Foster Child

I came, the hope of my tribe, to the City of Absolutes, in the year of the zero plus two big and a nine. I sought Lena, the girl I had dreamed of as my fingers grew back and I drifted in the waters of Nagoda.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: William Browning Spencer

A great deal of what I like about this story is what isn’t there. It is meant to be mystical and elegiac, which is life, as I understand it. I don’t know how Lena lost her place in the strange world that begins this story, but I know that poetry sustains that world, and it will die if it doesn’t regain its Muse, its inspiration.


Interview: Margaret Atwood

I think utopia and dystopia are essentially flipsides of the same form, and that every utopia has a dystopia concealed within it. And every dystopia has got a utopia concealed within it, otherwise you wouldn’t have anything to judge the “bad” by.