Review: Lightspeed, Issue 126 (November 2020)


Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 126, November 2020 by John Joseph Adams

My The StoryGraph rating: 3.5 of 5 stars (View all my reviews on The StoryGraph)
My Goodreads rating: 4 of 5 stars (View all my reviews on Goodreads)


Cover of Lightspeed Issue 126 November 2020 with character in headgear and mask with heads up display crossing forearms in an x in front

[Cover art by Roman3d / Adobe Stock Image with character in headgear and mask with head-up display crossing forearms in an X in front. Text: Lightspeed Science Fiction & Fantasy, Issue 126, November 2020, Edited by John Joseph Adams.]

There’s a humorous tone to some of the stories in the latest issue of Lightspeed Magazine I don’t think I’m really in the right place emotionally right now to completely appreciate, which might explain why my favorite story in this issue is probably “Burn the Ships” by Alberto Yáñez.  It’s dark, but also deeply satisfying by the end. The writer blends within the worldbuilding the trappings of various genres and historical periods, which is as intriguing as the plot.

“The Lachrymist” by Kat Howard and “Le Cygne Baiseur” by Molly Tanzer are also relatively dark, atmospheric, and potentially challenging, and the ambiguities by the end of these stories left me with a lot to think about.

“Seven Ways to Fall in Love with an Astronaut” by Dominica Phetteplace is full of great science fiction as the persona narrator proceeds with her list. The ending feels like a necessary update and complication to how Ray Bradbury’s short stories about colonizers on Mars sometimes ended ( “we are the Martians now.”)

As I said, I’m not sure I was in the mood for the humor of “Schrödinger’s Catastrophe” by Gene Doucette (in two parts), “Three Speeches about Billy Grainger” by Jake Kerr, and “Magnificent Maurice, or the Flowers of immortality” by Rati Mehrotra, but these stories are all three of them charming and fun. The mashup of folk stories and science fiction, along with a dash of fantasy and horror, in the latter was especially enjoyable, and I think readers who love cats will particularly love this story. I can also see how “Schrödinger’s Catastrophe” might be the highlight for many readers.

An excerpt from the upcoming novel The Conductors by Nicole Glover convinced me to add the book to my wishlist immediately (it comes out next March.) The excerpt dropped me right into the action and wonder, with compelling characters and an alternate magical history of the United States that doesn’t shy away from the horrors of the past, but can explore this time period and the resilience of Black people in America in what promises to be a captivating and timely way.

Nonfiction in the issue includes excellent book and media reviews by LaShawn M. Wanak and Lisa Nohealani Morton, respectively (why haven’t I watched the TV series Vagrant Queen yet?!) There’s a great interview with Usman T. Malik which adds another upcoming book to my wishlist: Midnight Doorways: Fables from Pakistan. And I always love the author spotlights in Lightspeed, this time with Gene Doucette, Kat Howard, and Rati Mehrotra.