Review: Lightspeed Issue 120 (May 2020)


Lightspeed Magazine: Issue 120, May 2020 edited by John Joseph Adams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Cover of Lightspeed Magazine issue 120 May 2020 with painting of town in valley surrounded by mountains with two people in the sky and circle portals showing different futuristic times arranged in a spiral

You don’t care about my reading goals, but here I go anyway: I’m trying to dramatically increase how much I read, so the first week of every month I’m going to read nothing but new issues of all the periodicals I subscribe to that are stacking up. Having decided this during the last week of May, I’m going to catch up on all of May’s issues this week before I jump into June’s issues next week.

Two of my favorite magazines are Nightmare and Lightspeed from publisher/editor John Joseph Adams. I love these magazines so much that for my past two birthdays I have gifted myself lifetime subscriptions to both. So, falling behind is no longer an option! I will read them every month (and catch up on all their back issues, too!)

Lightspeed’s May 2020 issue includes stories by some of my favorite authors, and some new favorites.

Charlie Jane Anders smashes together genres and crafts characters that leap off the page. “Rager in Space” is a story about two party girls heading into space who just might save all of humanity. What I love about Anders’ characters is her sympathy toward them even while she complicates them and their relationships and the situations they find themselves. These are individuals, not stereotypes, and they always seem so real to me despite the science fiction or fantasy trappings of their worlds. The characters in this story are no exception.

Carmen Maria Machado’s stories always evoke such potent magic through the transgressions of characters. In “I Bury Myself”, the narrator does just that, and what follows is a personal and introspective but cosmic examination of the nature of death and life.  

The little girl and her reactions and dialogue in “We Are Where the Nightmares Go” by C. Robert Cargill are delightful, in the vein of heroes from other portal fantasies, but in this story Cargill goes for something darker and more complicated by the end.

“The Time Traveler’s Advice to the Lovelorn” by Adam-Troy Castro mixes science fiction elements with fantasy to great something almost like a fairy tale, albeit with more dimensional characters. I entirely missed the ending; ten minutes later it finally dawned on me what had actually happened. It was a silly lapse, but I was all the more delighted when the lightbulb went on.

“The Fenghuang” by Millie Ho and “Melting Like Metal” by Ada Hoffmann feature characters confronting atypical bodies and minds in vivid realistic or fantastic worlds. There’s a beautiful love story in “The Fenghuang” and fierce battle and persistence in “Melting Like Metal” that engrossed me.

Both “One Hundred Sentences About the City of the Future: A Jeremiad” by Alex Irvine and “Destinations of Love” by Alexander Weinstein play with form and subvert typical narratives in imaginative and compelling ways. All of the writers in this issue are pushing speculative fiction in diverse directions that make me so happy and leave me awestruck.

When I finish a story, I immediately jump to the author interview, if included. These interviews are always informative and eye-opening. There’s also an interview with Stephen Graham Jones, who I have been hearing so much about lately. I’m eager to read his novels. LaShawn M. Wanak’s book reviews are thoughtful and make me want to pick up the books yesterday. Jeremiah Tolbert and Matthew Tolbert’s overview of Dungeons & Dragons and review of Dungeons and Dragons Young Adventure’s Guide Series is wonderful.

Galen Dara’s cover artwork is gorgeous, as always. Here, it adapts and interprets “The Time Traveler’s Advice to the Lovelorn” in a captivating way. You just have to pick up and read an issue with artwork like this on the cover.

View all my reviews on Goodreads