Review: Lightspeed Magazine 48, ed. John Joseph Adams

Lightspeed coverThough this is the first issue of Lightspeed I’ve read, there’s no question in my mind that it’s easily the equal, in terms of content, of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction although, to be fair, not all of the stories here are originals.

I’ve listened to the podcast, too, but it’s a treat to read the stories on my Kindle, and get all the additional content, such as interviews with the authors, essays, novel extracts and art. The magazine has several departments: science fiction, fantasy, articles, a gallery, and novel extracts. Several of the stories are reprints.

I’d like to single out for special praise Rachel Pollack’s Burning Beard and Nancy Kress’s novella, Shiva in Shadow, as they are both wonderful. Pollack’s political reworking of the biblical tale of Joseph challenges received Hebrew wisdom and even playfully suggests that Joseph, like Freud, planned a book called “The Interpretation of Dreams.” Kress’s tale involves three explorers heading for a black hole at the centre of the cosmos, and weaves a complex tapestry of science, spirituality and adventure.

Seth Dickinson’s A Tank Only Fears Four Things is, arguably, an anti-war story. It posits a brain adaptation in which the emotion of fear is eliminated, and the price there is to pay for that. A powerful tale which had a strong impact on me.

Sandra McDonald’s Selfie is about a father and daughter. The daughter sends an avatar of herself on an annual holiday with her father, and something dreadful happens which raises smart questions about the nature of relationship.

Nisi Shawl’s reprinted tale Deep End is set aboard a prison ship headed for a planet in which the convicts are uploaded into new bodies. Clever and strange.

Another reprint, Zero Temptation by Sean Williams puts a new spin on the expression “tourist trap”. While the concept appealed, the story is slight and failed to engage me.

Matthew Hughes’s seriously fun Kalso Chronicles tale, The Ba of Phalloon, is full of wild ideas and cracking adventure, though I didn’t realize until late on that it was part of a series (not to self: find more of these stories!).

At first I thought Rajan Khanna’s weird western, Second Hand was a Wild Cards (per George R.R. Martin) story, but then I realized it wasn’t. I shall soon be reviewing Mr. Adams weird western anthology, Dead Man’s Hand from which this tale is taken. If the rest of the stories are as terrific as this one, there’s much to look forward to.

Fred Van Lente’s Willful Weapon takes a new spin on the steampunk genre, with Irish immigrants in the form of the sidhe (pronounced “shee,” I believe) arriving in the new world and facing much the same sort of challenges as poor immigrants of the past, though with magic systems and spells taking the place of the law of the land in this fabulous fantasia.

The author interviews are excellent, giving us insights into the writing process which will enrich the experience of casual readers and no doubt inspire burgeoning fiction writers. And the transcriptions from the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, interviewing Jeff VanerMeer and scientist Michio Kaku (who has some fascinating things to say about the latest in brain science) also make for truly engaging reading.

Pharika, God of Affliction by Peter Mohrbacher

Pharika, God of Affliction by Peter Mohrbacher

Although I enjoyed the profile and sample artworks from Peter Mohrbacher, you’d really need to see the images on the web to do them justice, rather than the monochrome versions of my Kindle Touch.

Finally, I give my unstinting support to Sofia Samatar in her essay taking issue with reactionary statements in relation to the all-white casting of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah film. Here’s an except from a moronic statement made by the script co-writer, Ari Handel: “the story is functions at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn’t matter.”


John Dodds Article by John Dodds

John Dodds is the author of The Kendrick Chronicles crime novels (Bone Machines and Kali’s Kiss ) and, under a pseudonym, JT Macleod, has written a collection of historical/paranormal/erotic/romance stories calledWarriors and Wenches, as well as the first novel in YA steampunk superhero series which he is shopping around agents.

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  1. Lightspeed is a consistently strong magazine, as is Clarkesworld. The only other magazine I read with some degree of consistency is Asimov’s and I find no drop off in quality of content in the e-magazines than I do with this venerable print one.

    I’ve discovered some new favorite short story authors over the last few years thanks to the choices John Joseph Adams makes for inclusion in Lightspeed.

  2. I read slush for Lightspeed and it’s really interesting to see their process and their taste pallet. Agreed with Carl, LS and Clarkesworld are some of the few I regularly check up on, though occasionally I will delve into Asimov’s and F&SF, the latter because I love their small paperback style.

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