Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams




Author Spotlight: Ian McDonald

In “Tonight We Fly,” Chester grumbles about technology keeping people from noticing superheroes. Will you tell us more about the conflict between superhero and technology?

Technology is what makes us super. Every single one of us. Smartphones put us not just in contact with other people anywhere, anywhen, and give us the ability to socially interact, but also give us access to almost any piece of human knowledge. That’s a superpower. We can’t fly, but we have machines that can, and serve you a cocktail while you’re hurtling across the sky. Superhero stories are always about an aristocracy (like vampire stories)—an elite with special abilities and agency: Technology is the great leveller. All of us can have something like that power. As Syndrome says in The Incredibles, “When everyone’s super, no one is.

What gets more in the way of superheroes: technology or politics?

Politics every time. The real world can’t tolerate superpowers. And in a sense, superpowers are powerless against politics. Millions of people deciding how they want to live; making laws, economics. There aren’t any super-powered solutions to that, and that’s Chester’s epiphany . . . that he was ultimately powerless to change Northern Ireland politics. Hitting things hard ultimately isn’t a solution to anything. Heroes and villains like to keep things simple.

Captain Miracle and Dr. Nightshade meet up to relive their younger days. What is the relationship between villain and superhero?

Always close. Bromantic. After all, no one knows a hero like her or his nemesis, and vice versa. And they both share the phenomenon of being super—it’s a lonely curse, superness. Every decent hero has fought the temptation to be a villain, every villain has made the decision to be what they are. And ultimately, what kind of sane person would want to rule the world? Why do we never see the supervillain’s civil service? They certainly need one to run an evil empire.

What inspired “Tonight We Fly”?

It was a short film, originally, that I wrote back in 2001(ish), but it seemed perfect for adaptation to a story when Lou Anders asked for stories for his original Masked anthology. I’ve always like stories about super-people not being super—what happens when they lose their jobs, or get old, or retire: when they hang the cloak up and the flying days are done. Because, once you fly, you never, ever forget that.

What did you enjoy most about writing “Tonight We Fly”?

The sense of the mundane—Captain Miracle lives in a little house in a street off Belfast’s Ormeau Road, and its implied that Dr. Nightshade used his ill-gotten gains to buy a little beach bar in Spain. Heroes and villains have to think of financial security.

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Amber Barkley

Amber BarkleyAmber Barkley is a recent graduate of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. She was born in Idaho and grew up in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Her favorite animals are cats and horses, and she considers it a great injustice that she is allergic to both—though that doesn’t stop her from being around them whenever she has the chance. Amber writes high fantasy with a dark twist, and is currently working on her first novel.