Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, #16, December 2004/January 2005

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"Through the Window Merrilee Dances" by Lee Battersby
"CDX" by Tracina Jackson-Adams
"Cable and the High Seas" by Mikal Trimm
"Soulfood" by Paul E. Martens
"Samhain — Lessons From the Dead" by Lesleigh Force
"A Small Blue Planet For The Pleasantly Insane" by Douglas A. Van Belle
"Position Vacant: Santa Claus" by Valerie Toh
"Delta Void and the Stray God" by Tansy Rayner Roberts

ImageBefore we dive into the review of this particular issue, I want to talk about the magazine known as Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine itself, because I love the concept, and I happen to be in a commercial airplane as I write this. While actually produced by the Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Co-op in Belmont, Western Australia, the idea is that it's the magazine found in the seat-back pouches on all commercial intergalactic flights of the various space-liners owned by the distinctly customer-unfocused Andromeda Spaceways Corporation. Ah, if only the airline I'm flying today provided such interesting material to thumb through during my flight. Then again, that would likely result in dirty looks from my editor as I failed to finish my review when I said I would, so maybe it's for the best.

Anyway, on with the review of issue 16 . . .

A princess, a king trying to get her married, a wise advisor, political maneuvers, and a stable boy: Lee Battersby gives us the classic fairy tale tropes in "Through the Window Marilee Dances." And, yet, this isn't a fairy tale. For even as grim as the original Grimms' tales were, what with the cannibalism, self-mutilation, and other such cheeriness, fairy tales leave you with the dream that the world can be an all right place, that, in the end, you too can live happily ever after with your prince or princess. This story leaves you with no such illusions. While it's not a story I would recommend to anyone hovering on the edge of a major depression, I have to admit to a certain perverse fondness for it.

"CDX" by Tracina Jackson-Adams was written for that part of us that swears that our computer ate our term paper out of spite or that pets the roof of our car and coos, "Good girl," when she starts on a particularly cold morning. After being dumped for a Brazillian supermodel, the narrator is given a robotic dog to cheer her up. While I was a bit concerned at the beginning of this story, I believe this comes from having watched too many episodes of Star Trek where they focus on the emotions surrounding robots with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Jackson-Adams, however, is able to wield the subject with a much lighter touch, giving us a light and enjoyable read with some ideas to mull over later if you choose.

The third story of the issue is "Cable and the High Seas" by Mikal Trimm. This is the third of the author's stories about the adventures of an alternate-universe hopping eternal boy, Cable, and his foil, an exceedingly ugly dog of many names, but I was able to follow the story well enough without having read the previous ones. In this episode, Cable decides he wants to give being a pirate a try, but the boat he picks has a disappointing lack of pirateness. Occasionally, the jokes are just a touch more manic than they really need to be, but overall I would say that it's still quite enjoyable.

The Community of Planets has a test to determine whether humans are worthy of membership: a representative will eat one of us. "Soulfood" by Paul E Martens is a quirky look at the social awkwardness that arises around the representative. If you are looking for a serious exploration of the effects of cannibalistic intergalactic civilization upon humanity, this is not it, and to be honest we are all happy about that. However, if you are looking for a few good chuckles, then "Soulfood" should hit the spot.

"Samhain — Lessons From the Dead" is the world's introduction to the fiction of Lesleigh Force. It's the story of a bully's successful attempt to raise the spirit of a deceased friend on Halloween. The editors of ASIM chose well in slotting this story in the middle of the magazine, where its more somber darkness serves well as a palette cleanser before I started in on the novella coming up next. This leads to a bit of a problem for the story itself, as how unsympathetic the characters are is magnified by how much liked the characters in the stories surrounding it are. That said, it is a well-written piece that stands well on its own, and I do look forward to seeing more from this author in the future.

The idea behind "A Small Blue Planet for the Pleasantly Insane" is not a new one: an alien anthropologist comes to Earth in order to secretly study humans in their natural environment and subsequently misinterprets everything in funny yet thought-provoking ways. This is a fact that author Douglas A Van Belle freely acknowledges through various "Hitchhiker's Guide" and "Conehead" references in this novella. Yet, Van Belle manages to weave the characters and comedy into a mix that is fresh and enjoyable throughout.

A recruitment agency is looking for the next Kris Kringle in Valerie Toh's "Position Vacant: Santa Claus." As I'm sure you can guess, this is a Christmas story and is best read during the Christmas season. Still, while I don't want to give the ending away, the concept behind the story is cute, and the story itself is well done and worth pulling out again in December.

Gods, girls, and decimalization come together in the issue's last story: "Delta Void and the Stray God" by Tansy Rayner Roberts. What can you say about a story where one of the main characters tromps about the wilderness with only her chainmail bikini, a fluffy pillow, and roasting marshmallows, and the other, well, is a party all by herself? Deep? Meaningful? A shocking insight into the nature of human existence and the meaningless thereof? Um, no. This is a fun story: pure, unadulterated escapism. And, as such, it succeeds marvelously.