Spacesuits and Sixguns, Issue 1, Winter 2007

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"Chain of Command" by Michael Wiecek
"Hollywood Ending" by Samantha Henderson and Mikal Trimm
"Kids Cost More" by Lon Prater

"Chain of Command" by Michael Wiecek didn’t appeal to me; I found it to be, on the whole, lackluster.  The plot, what little there is of it, occurs in the (presumably) near future; corporate problems are resolved by bringing in a hired gun who goes down the company hierarchy, alternately threatening and bribing, to determine who’s responsible for the company’s cooked books.  Ultimately, the twist ending couldn’t save this story.  Rich, complex, believable characters could have, but these were missing as well.  Clichéd stereotypes abound in the corrupt CEO and computer nerd characters, and even the hired gun protagonist is a typical, cardboard cutout. 

"Chain of Command" offers nothing new or fresh.  Certain Enron employees, the ones who came out the worst in that affair and who secretly yearn to go after a CEO’s private parts with a paper cutter, are the only readers likely to enjoy it, although they will probably also be disappointed.  

On the other hand, "Hollywood Ending" by Samantha Henderson and Mikal Trimm is ghastly, grisly, gruesome, and never lackluster.  It starts with a bone mailed to a small-shot Foley artist in Hollywood.  It could be just some bizarre prank, except that the protagonist recognizes the bone; it belongs to a wannabe actress, the last in a string who he happens to have killed.  What makes her different, and is someone out to avenge her death? 

This could have been another serial killer story, but the writing style is riveting, and the story’s underlying theme—specifically, what it takes to be remembered in Hollywood—makes for a fascinating, if macabre, read. 

Lon Prater’s “Kids Cost More” is even better.  The first-person voice grabs from the opening paragraph, and while the narrator seems irritatingly vague, the reason why is clear by the end—but you forgive the author about four paragraphs in anyway.  This story begins with promise, and it doesn’t disappoint.  That’s what I loved about it; it doesn’t disappoint.  There’s plenty of action, and the narrator is pretty nonchalant about killing, but he is beautifully balanced and comes out likeable.  I empathized more with him as the story went on.   

This is the best story of the premiere issue of Spacesuits & Sixguns.  Not a piece of it is out of place, not a word is wasted, and everything means something. Well worth the read.