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Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine: Best of Science Fiction
Posted byPaul Abbamondi
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"Mug" by Edwina Harvey "Trouble Leaves a Scent Trail" by Constance Cooper "Evensong" by T-Rex "The Brass Man" by John Borneman "Acquired Tastes" Stephen Dedman "The Day After the Census" by Lawrence M. Schoen "Absolution" by Barbara Robson "Murderworld" by Lee Battersby "Parity Check" by Dirk Flinthart "A Small Blue Planet for the Pleasantly Insane" by Douglas A. Van Belle "The Beating of Butterfly Wings" by Brandon Alspaugh "Loss Leader" by Simon Haynes "Trade Barrier" by Dave Luckett "The Jerk Who Fell to Earth" by Tom Holt "CDX" by Tracina Jackson-Adams "Are You Ready for the End of the World?" by Danny Adams
“Mug” by Edwina Harvey reminds readers that even while traveling through outer space, a good cup of coffee is vital in order to survive. Johnny Harrier would love to drink a cup of Joe in a timely manner, but unfortunately, to do so, he’ll need to purchase a fairly expensive Andromeda Spaceways souvenir mug to outperform the tiny paper cups that dissolve in minutes from the hot brew. As luck should have it, Johnny meets a mysterious woman in the steerage class compartment who is willing to sell him a mug rather cheaply.
Whether namedropping ASIM throughout “Mug” is meant to be cute or an inside-joke amongst the editors is left unclear. It’s a silly story, fairly enjoyable, but really doesn’t go any further than a man wanting some coffee. Harvey hints at other things—used body parts, illegal contraband, a shrouded slave-driven society—but does little to capitalize on them.
In “Evensong” by the anonymously accomplished T-Rex, Jack Ferguson reflects on the first time he met Tar F’set. This was a period back when he and many other retirees spent their days basking below a giant red star, taking in all the beauty that they could.
The buddy-buddy relationship of Jack, the human, and Tar F’set, the alien, reminded me dearly of the yard sale connoisseurs in Cory Doctorow’s “Craphound.” It’s heartwarming material despite the political drama and mysterious murder gripping the core of the adventure. Hard science has never been this reader’s favorite, so when the duo began waxing on about astrophysics and momentary quiescence, I found my attention wandering. Heavy on the techno-drip and light on the action. Still, there’s a lot to be enjoyed in "Evensong," especially the friendships that blossom from the strangest of places.
A brass man, an alloy different from that of a tin man, patrols a stretch of beach to make sure that no creatures inhabit it in "The Brass Man" by John Borneman. This particular brass man has been taught that since creatures moved, things that move must be creatures. Anything that moves gets shot. He’s also—somehow—quite vain, and spends a good portion of his life keeping his body in top condition. Except the brass man can’t reach that one spot on the small of his back, and he’s worried that it has become unsightly. That is until, after blasting a creature in the distance into a puff of smoke, he gets An Idea.
Borneman’s prose is quite enjoyable, and he presents this lonely bucket of a being in a lighthearted manner that takes hold. Still, “The Brass Man” is a short tale with a veritably predictable ending. It still manages to create a sense of wonder, which leads to a number of unanswerable questions: Who made these men? For what true purpose? And how did they become so conceited? I guess, much like the spot on the brass man’s back, these things don’t really matter in the end.
Ariosto Galileo Shaw works for the Census Department of the United States Unlimited in "The Day After the Census" by Lawrence M. Schoen. His daily tasks vary from looking into households containing too many pets to figuring out the quality of sand in Arizona. Unfortunately, after arriving to work on time as usual on a stereotypically dreary Monday morning, he receives a new assignment. It involves recruiting kids for stellar colonization.
Another quick read, “The Day After the Census” is a snarky look at the concept of a draft that is as twisted as it is joshing. Laden with contemporary ideas that stretch just over the edge of reason, Schoen’s vision of a not-so-faraway future is both realistic and haunting. A deeper look at Shaw’s job and how the USU came to be would’ve been appreciated, but still a satisfying story.
In "Loss Leader" by Simon Haynes, the first colony ship leaves Earth in search of a distant star. The Glory‘s crew—Erin Campsie, Anton Piret, Greg Roth, and Sandon Winters—have been looking forward to this moment with anticipation. A threat surfaces soon after takeoff, one that promises to undermine everything they’ve worked for.
Haynes plays his cynical card heavily here, but it’s for good reasoning. Colonization in science fiction is nothing new to jump around about, but thanks to a realistic objective from a more-than-sinister corporation, its pros and cons are believable. Could, at some point in the future, space colonizing actually happen? Possibly. But not in Haynes’s work, and for that, this short story prevails. Dark, well-written, and careening towards oblivion, "Loss Leader" is an engaging ride from start to finish.
"Trade Barrier" by Dave Luckett opens with a young girl, Rossann, watching shuttles launch off Threshold Station from her favorite hiding spot. Her mother thinks the streets are dangerous at night and doesn’t want her out after dark. As Rossann sneaks out of her hole, a hooded man catches her by the arm. She’s taken home to be yelled at for not completing her schoolwork, and then it’s back out with Ma to perform a musical gig for incoming tourists. It is there that she soon discovers an old breed of sinuous scum is in the middle of reviving itself.
Unfortunately, “Trade Barrier” is more than slow; it’s static. Rossann spends a good chunk of time just sitting around, and much like this reader, waiting for something to happen. She’s a passive character, and despite all the wonderful worldbuilding that Luckett litters his story with, there just isn’t anything for her to work off of. It’s not until much later into the story that the action picks up, but even by then, it’s without any interaction from Rossann. Disappointing, unfocused, and overly long. Not recommended.
George is the first man to step foot on Mars in "The Jerk Who Fell to Earth" by Tom Holt, and, well, he’s disappointed. Meanwhile, elsewhere a hypnotist discovers the mind of a little girl inside that of a middle-aged woman who is trying to quit smoking via new methods. She speaks of King Richard, her village, and a daddy who’s over 2,000 years old despite the somewhat current time period. Soon, these two meet—awkwardly, of course—and mysteries begin to unfold.
Although being somewhat reminiscent of Kage Baker’s work—namely the Company novels—and Holt relying a bit too much on faster-than-light technology to fuel the plot, this is definitely worth the read. It starts out a little slow and unclear, but soon layers are pulled back, histories are revealed, and the relationship between George and Alice Fennel twists until nothing is left but the inevitable outcome. If anything, the hypnotist scenes are well done and offer a strange look into the mind of a peasant girl stuck in the wrong time period. Oh, and it’s very funny stuff.