Science Fiction & Fantasy


May 2013 (Issue 36)

This month, we have original science fiction by Maria Dahvana Headley (“The Traditional”) and M. Bennardo (“Water Finds Its Level”), along with SF reprints by Maureen F. McHugh (“Interview: On Any Given Day”) and Sean Williams (“The Missing Metatarsals”). Plus, we have original fantasy by Damien Walters Grintalis (“Always, They Whisper”) and Dennis Danvers (“Leaving the Dead”), and fantasy reprints by Holly Black (“The Aarne-Thompson Classification Revue”) and Richard Parks (“The Man Who Carved Skulls”). For our ebook readers, our ebook-exclusive novella is “The Garden” by Eleanor Arnason, and of course we have our usual assortment of author and artist spotlights, along with feature interviews with Gregory Maguire and Karen Russell.

In This Issue: May 2013 (Issue 36)


Editorial, May 2013

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

Science Fiction

The Traditional

By your first anniversary, the world’s stopped making paper, and so you can’t give your boyfriend the traditional gift. You never would have anyway, regardless of circumstances. You’re not that kind of girl. You pride yourself on your original sin. It’s the hot you trade in.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Maria Dahvana Headley

It’s the worms. Giant tunnelling worms are not my terror. Tiny parasitic worms are my terror. I grew up in Idaho, surrounded by sled dogs. Worms, man. Worms. Tiny worms that get bigger as they eat you from the inside? Oh, holy. There’s something about how worms are, the way they can subdivide. Chop them up, and back they come. That’s some classic nasty.


The Man Who Carved Skulls

“I married your mother for her skull. It’s no secret.” Jarak put aside his rasps and gouges for the moment, resting his eyes and mind from the precise, exacting work his trade demanded. He didn’t mind his son’s persistent questions at such times. Akan was at an age when he should be curious and, if curiosity was a duty, Akan was a dedicated boy. It wasn’t as though Purlo the Baker, whose skull rested patiently on Jarak’s workbench, was in a hurry.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Richard Parks

Most cultures want to memorialize, if not actually venerate, those who have died, and we do it mostly with cemeteries. But in an agrarian society with a limited amount of arable land like the one in my story, wasting so much valuable farmland on a graveyard makes no sense. I considered all the cultures that preserve their dead in such a way as to keep them visible and, in a way, part of the living community, and combined that with a society with an almost instinctive need to make the best use of space and resources. In that context, the role of the skull-carver made perfect sense.


The Missing Metatarsals

His head swiveled to track me as we walked in lockstep through security. A birth defect called Möbius syndrome inherited from distant Nepalese ancestors left him with underdeveloped VI and VII cranial nerves, so he can’t blink, bite, or form expressions without the help of a series of tiny implants. My girlfriend Billie is a muscle artist, and she’s tweaked the inspector’s presets a couple of times, giving him conscious control of his face, but that’s not the same as the real thing. Not the same at all.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Sean Williams

I decided to explore the idea by means of a detective story rather than a horror story for several reasons: one, because that seemed both to fit the idea and to offer a means of unpacking the larger story in a surprising way; two, because I’ve never written one of those in the short form before, and I do like a challenge (see below); and three, the notion of a recurring duo investigating crimes involving matter transmitters was very appealing.


Always, They Whisper

She was not a monster, nor did Perseus cut off her head. The whole Athena and shield bit? Bullshit. Perseus was a self-absorbed fool who barely had the strength to lift a sword over his shoulder, let alone swing it hard enough to sever sinew and bone. As far as the rest of her story, the snakes and stone might be true, but not in the way you think. It’s always easy to paint a villain; harder to scrape below the gilt to find the real.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Damien Walters Grintalis

I was reading yet another article about sexual assault and the comments were dreadful. There is so much stigma, so much blame, and it all gets shifted onto the victim’s shoulders. They become scapegoats and villains, bearing all the culpability so the real villain can retain an air of false respectability. She shouldn’t have teased him, she shouldn’t have done this or worn that. Ugh. It’s an ugly truth that’s everywhere. Always. In turn, that external blame becomes internal. Why did we go out? Why did we wear that? My fault, my fault, my fault—an ever-present litany of wrongly-placed blame.

Artist Showcase

Artist Showcase: Giuliano Brocani

Giuliano Brocani is a designer and illustrator living in Italy. His portfolio and blog are at You can follow him on Twitter @notpill.

Science Fiction

Water Finds Its Level

When people asked where I met Roger, I always told the truth. “We met in the Collision,” I’d say. Then they’d give me that look that people used to give you when you told them you met somebody online. The look that said you must be reckless or naive or desperate, and that no good would come of it.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: M. Bennardo

If I can pinpoint any “beginning” for this story, it would be the disembodied voices. It was an idea that came to me years ago, when I was first living alone in an apartment and would sometimes hear my neighbors through the walls. I think at one point I actually heard something that sounded like a dropped casserole dish. But at the time, I figured it would be a ghost story, so clearly there was a dramatic mutation that took place that turned it into a romance instead.


The Aarne-Thompson Classification Revue

There is a werewolf girl in the city. She sits by the phone on a Saturday night, waiting for it to ring. She paints her nails purple.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Holly Black

I started telling the story in present tense almost from the beginning because present tense can be really distancing in interesting ways for me. It allows a character to exist in a perpetual now, looking neither backwards nor forwards. And for a character like Nadia, who is trying incredibly hard to not think backwards or forwards, it really fits.


Interview: Karen Russell

Karen Russell is the author of the story collection St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and the novel Swamplandia!, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and one of the New York Times’ Top 5 Fiction Books of 2011. Her new story collection, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, was released by Knopf in February 2013.

Science Fiction

Interview: On Any Given Day

I had this virus, and it was inside me, and it could have been causing all these weird kinds of cancers…. All sorts of weird stuff I’d never heard of, like hairy cell leukemia, and cancerous lesions in parts of your bones, and cancer in your pancreas. But I wasn’t sick. I mean, I didn’t feel sick. And now, even after all the antivirals, now I worry about it all the time. Now I’m always thinking I’m sick. It’s like something was stolen from me that I never knew I had.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Maureen McHugh

It was fun writing a story in interview format. I love NPR and I love This American Life and Radio Lab and Off-Ramp. I would very much love to produce a story for This American Life except a) I’m not a journalist and don’t really like the work of going out and getting a story because it involves aggressively talking to people I don’t know and b) have absolutely no producing skills and don’t really want to learn them. So being a writer I could do the next best thing, which is fake one. I wouldn’t do it twice, because it’s a kind of gimmick. It has an energy when done once that it doesn’t have when repeated.


Leaving the Dead

Darwin thought he might be more alive than other people. Not a whole lot, but ever increasingly, until finally, in a checkout line at Target, he was the last person left alive but his checker. Gabriella, her nametag said, and she was drifting off. Good for her he was the sort of person who reads nametags. Good for them both.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Dennis Danvers

The story arose out of the knowledge that we’re all dying all the time, though we like to remain scrupulously unaware of it. To know it, like Darwin, ironically is to be more alive, not less. That idea met up with zombies, a trope I’ve never liked. In my experience, the dead remain dead. It’s the single most distinctive feature of death—its permanence. I think of “Leaving the Dead” as an anti-zombie story. One thing you can count on in this tale is that no one is the living dead. Dead is dead.


Interview: Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire is the author of The Wicked Years, a four-book cycle including Wicked, Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz—all New York Times bestsellers. Wicked: The Musical is soon to celebrate its tenth anniversary on Broadway, and is one of the top dozen longest-running shows in Broadway history. Maguire has written five other novels for adults and two dozen books for children, and has written and performed pieces for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and Selected Shorts. His novel Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister was an ABC film starring Stockard Channing.