Horror & Dark Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017



Produced by Skyboat Media, and under the direction of Grammy and Audie award-winning narrator and producer Stefan Rudnicki, our podcast features audiobook-style recordings of four of the eight stories we publish each month in Lightspeed, released more or less on a weekly basis. To subscribe (free!) to the podcast, you'll either need our podcast RSS feed and put that into your favorite podcast client, or you can just subscribe via iTunes. All of our podcasts from Lightspeed: Year One are also available as an audiobook from Audible.com and Downpour.com.




Mr. Try Again

Six-year-old Violet Wellington was the only child to come out of the swamp. The boys were gone forever. She sat on the side of a muddied dirt road, digging her nails raw against the gravel; her jeans and pink t-shirt were damp but clean. She had a scrape over her left eyebrow and her hair smelled of mildew. Unharmed, otherwise. Dogs and professionals and volunteers spent days trying to find the other bodies. Violet couldn’t help. She wouldn’t draw pictures, she wouldn’t answer questions, she wouldn’t be cajoled with sugar.


Seven Steps to Beauty for a Girl Named Avarice

She’s born in a pine-wood cottage, birches tangled over its roof, snow burying the log pile. When she’s still young, her father disappears in a war of musket-shot and horses screaming into the gunpowder dark. Her mother scrapes a living by stealing flowers from the gardens of the fine half-timbered houses round the fountain and hocking them in the market. Mornings, the girl accompanies her mother, the armfuls of pilfered calla lilies leaving pollen-smears on her skin. Afternoons, the girl returns to the cottage to sweep the front step with a crooked willow-broom.


Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women

Mill—a charmer and a rake of no respectable talent whatever—insinuated himself into the home of the widow Annie Holcomb and her seventeen-year-old daughter, Alice. But Mrs. Holcomb turned him out, once she realized he’d been gallanting Alice as much as her. Mill spent the next four nights chanting obscene tirades under her window and left a dead rat in the mail slot on the fifth. Night patrols chased him off park benches; friends robbed him. Sleepless and humiliated, he broke into the house and strangled Mrs. Holcomb with her tin necklace, and when it snapped, with a pajama cord.


The Owner’s Guide to Home Repair, Page 238: What to Do About Water Odor

Turn the crystal knob on your kitchen faucet and shut off the water. Step back. Wave the air in front of you, cough, snort, pinch your nose, do whatever you must to clear the repulsive smell clogging your nostrils as if you’ve just inhaled rotten meat. Think of the dead crab you found when you were ten years old, its body washed to shore in Rhode Island, and you brought it home and kept it all summmer long in an empty pickle jar on your dresser, even as the crab’s shell turned a sick, dark grey and erupted with crawling pink worms that scavenged the flesh, until one day in August when you opened the jar.


A Head in a Box, or, Implications of Consciousness after Decapitation

This is not about the movie. The movie that launched her career, where she played the pretty wife of a headstrong cop. Pretty, blonde, smart, convincing. Unhappy. The dutiful wife, killed, dismembered, beheaded. Just like the only other woman in the film, the fatal object of sin manifest. How ironic was it that The Actress first made such a strong cinematic impression with her portrayal of a character whose severed head does indeed end up in a packing crate in the middle of a field so that The Actor—her boyfriend at the time—can have a crisis of conscience?


Will You Meet Me There, Out Beyond the Bend?

She stands on the side of the road in the dewy high grass and waits. She wanders among the tangled weeds heavy with crickets, and waits. She drifts among the gathering fireflies blinking their yellow-green light into the darkening forest. And waits, and waits, and waits. They will come, she knows. They will come and see her and take her away from this dreadful place. They will clothe her and feed her and wrap her in a warm blanket, and everything will be perfect again. She knows it’s only a matter of time.


Which Super Little Dead Girl™ Are You? Take Our Quiz and Find Out!

Everyone knows and loves the Super Little Dead Girls™! These feisty girls are all gutsy, gallant, and gung-ho about fighting monsters and undead menaces, but they’ve got their distinct personalities, too. Take our quiz to find out which Super Little Dead Girl™ is your super alter-ego! (1.) On a Friday night, where could a potential murderer or evil spirit most likely find you?


The Summer Mask

I met you in the summer when the butterflies began to dance. You were missing your nose, your right eye, and the top of your lips. Some of your teeth. It made conversation a sort of whistle. The war had taken half of your face. It had burned your skull into spotted pink and black, like the underbelly of some amphibious creature. Before the war you were classically beautiful, with classic emerald eyes and a classic strong jaw and classic full lips, but none of these descriptions do you justice. I want to say you were perfect, but it was the imperfections that made you so.


The Zodiac Walks on the Moon

This is the murderer of the two teenagers last Christmass on Lake Herman Road and the girl a few weeks ago in Vallejo. I phoned a lady dispatcher at the Vallejo Police Department, but she didn’t take me seriously. So as not to risk that now, I shall reveal the following details not available to the public:
1. The brand name of the ammunition for the Christmass killing was Super X. I fired ten shots, leaving the boy on his back with his feet to the car and the girl on her right side and her feet to the west.


We Are Turning on a Spindle

After years of searching, he found the castle on a remote forgotten world in an abandoned corner of the unknown universe. Castles littered the cosmos like dead stars, relics of the ancients. Each one of these monuments to Ozymandias divulged the secrets of its womb with labyrinthine corridors or arresting garrets, grown mausolean with the passing of ages. A bloated sun swelled over a third of the enflamed sky, casting vegetation and ruins alike in ominous red.