Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, #13, June/July 2004

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"Bully for You" by Peter Andrew Smith
"Elf Esteem" by Steven Cavanagh
"Sambilly's Impractical Noodle Machine" by David Hoffman-Dachelet
"Urban Transit" by Marion Schweda
"Kappas" by Maxine McArthur
"The Truth About Alternate Dimensions" by Robert Marsh
"WD40 versus The Three Laws of Robotics" by Darren Goossens
"The Whole of the Law" by Stephen Dedman

ImageAndromeda Spaceways has brought an impressive amount of new fiction out for such a new zine. I enjoyed reading this issue, though I did wish the copyediting had been a bit tighter. Perhaps other readers don't get poinked out of a story as easily as I do by bobbled punctuation or "laying" when "lying" ought to be used. That aside, the stories range between science fiction and fantasy, humor and darkness, finishing with the intense drive of the Dedman story, the longest in the issue. The writing skills overall are good, endings seldom predictable, and some new talents here emerge for their first time in print. There are a couple of names I want to watch for.

The first story up is quite short, Peter Andrew Smith's "Bully for You." This is probably the most predictable story–the title gives a strong hint–but at least for me, the expected ending is the one I really wanted to read, and so surprise is quite happily exchanged for anticipation. A younger reader might be caught by surprise. The length for this tale about an invading Fleet Lord is exactly right, the tone hitting just the right note of wry humor, and the last line made me laugh out loud.

Steven Cavanagh is one of those new names I expect to see appearing a lot more in print. His "Elf Esteem" is a delightfully written quest tale with quite a twist. There are elves, orcs, and dragons in this story of someone trying to retrieve an important artifact, but not quite the way one expects to see them. Especially from the point-of-view of . . . no, I won't even give that much away. But the end has quite a kick!

From the Tolkienverse to Ochenabia, a place with an Asian feel, in David Hoffman-Dachelet's story, "Sambilly's Impractical Noodle Machine." Sambilly has invented a noodle machine that produces plenty of noodles and saves back-breaking labor, but his Aunt Firstrose, who performs said back-breaking labor every day for her own noodle shop, is hardly gratified. Noodle-throwing is a delicate art, and the economy of the noodle-sellers of Ochenabia is apparently a delicate balance between the two big powers of the Council and the host of smaller shops. The machine, whether it works or not, might not be safe, for various reasons. What happens to Sambilly, the machine, and the people in his life, makes for a lively and engaging tale.

"Urban Transit" is Marion Schweba's first tale. This tale is presented through the first-person narrative of YoYo, who took an instant transfer but reappeared with part of her ear missing. As she goes about fighting her way through the Augean stables of bureaucracy to find it, interesting questions arise on just how a person might tesser without all body parts, and what the consequences would be. I found myself reading more for answers to the side questions than to the main one, which resolves with a smile, but without the sense-of-wonder the central idea seemed to have promised.

Maxine McArthur's "Kappas" are creatures that have appeared in Japanese myth; a enterprising television crew in search of ratings decides to do something with this myth–watched in puzzlement by the elusive kappas. You think you know where you're going with this story, and that the resolution is deserved, but McArthur torpedoes your expectations with merciless precision.

Robert Marsh's first published story is "The Truth About Alternate Dimensions." Gavin and his friend he calls Grandpa Buddy (who is neither a grandfather nor any older than Gavin) are wisecracking around when Grandpa Buddy mentions casually that he's designed and built a ray gun, just because he got sick of people dissing Star Wars' laser images. Marsh's ear for dialogue is superlative, his pacing stylish and tight, and when Gavin reaches to fire the weapon, we know we might go anywhere in this tale. So when he mentions his dimensional doorway, we expect things to happen–and are right. Strong characters mixed with nifty sfnal ideas are why I love this genre, and Marsh has got it right. I look forward to his next.

"WD40 versus The Three Laws of Robotics" is Darren Goossens' entertaining take on robots, intelligence–artificial and otherwise–and what it means to be human. Todd Enderby is a robot, a young man of college age who thinks he was an experiment built by a Dr. Estemann and dumped onto his family, who are now sending him off to Harvey Normal University to become socialized. Todd is earnest, careful, always aware of the rules of robotics, even when he meets a fellow student named Myra. Especially when he meets Myra. When she invites him to meet a bunch of students at the local bar, events start to move. A spark of the fantastic drives the story along to the surprising revelations and Todd's entry into the mysteries of human interaction.

In Stephen Dedman's "The Whole of the Law" the trader Phaecian is heading for Boccaccio, a world where about the only law seems to be "don't shoot anyone in the back," and even that much may or may not be observed by passers-by as there is no central authority. The crew is mixed about whether or not to land, and when the landing computers outside the mysterious Minos complex nearly crash them the justification for landing seems to be fairly slim. But they did contract to pick up passengers. So they land and Mei, the venturesome pilot, goes to do some exploring–and vanishes. The rest of the crew has to find her as well as protect the ship against a saboteur only known as the Hacker. In order to solve all these problems, they have to figure out why the Hacker is not just hacking machines but shooting at people.

It's a fast-paced novella, with good characterizations, an interesting setup, resolving just enough to leave the reader with very intriguing questions that linger in the mind after one finishes the story. The issue thus closes leaving the reader anticipating another entertaining issue.