Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, #18, April/May 2005

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"Static Song" by Stephen Dedman
"Love at Second Sight" by Tina Connolly
"Sweet Potato Pie" by Lawrence M Schoen
"Fortitude Valley Station, 2:15am" by Dirk Flinthart
"Like Clockwork" by Stuart Barrow
"Murderworld" by Lee Battersby
"The Life and Times of Penguin" by Eugie Foster
"Just To Talk" by Susie Hawes
"Thingies in the Hills" by Eric Turowski

This relay review begins with Matthew M. Foster sprinting out of the blocks:

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine is a queer duck, by any definition of “duck” and by two of “queer.”  First, it is named Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, which is difficult to say quickly after even just a few martinis.  But of greater significance, with each issue, the editor is bounced.  Now I’m not implying the editor rides a pogo stick (does anyone ride a pogo stick anymore?) or is placed on the end of a long elastic band, but rather every other month, the old editor departs for non-editing duties, while a new one takes over.  Is that any way to run a ship?

Apparently, it is.

For issue #18, Ben Payne takes the top job, which he held for the magazine’s premier issue.  Who knows what unspeakable activities absorbed him as others cranked out sixteen issues, but I’m sure criminal behavior and some form of mortal sin were involved.  Why?  Because otherwise, he should have spent his time, nose to the ink-stone, editing.  He’s got a skill.  I can’t comment on the others who sat in his vacated chair, but Payne really needs to do this more often.

You may judge from the preceding paragraph that I liked the issue.  You should also know that I’m a bitter sort who takes obscene pleasure in ripping apart inferior writing and have often read magazines with a lighter in one hand to burn offending pages as soon as I reached their pitiful end.  So, when I like something, that’s significant.  Payne has brought together a varied and captivating group of stories, making an issue which is enjoyable from cover to cover.  But my assignment was only the first four stories, so I’ll just say that the others are worth your time (and money) as well.      

Stephen Dedman starts things off with “Static Song,” a story of time travel and suicide.  In the far future, Dr. Trudeau is called in on the case of a historian with a self-inflicted knife wound.  In a world where weapons of all sorts are rare, this is a strange case, and not one that can be taken care of with a bit of surgery and a nice mind erasure.  It seems Professor Amylyon, who has spent a great deal of time observing the past via “chronoscans,” believes he has an excellent reason for wanting to die.

“Static Song” was an easy story to be pulled into and a kick to follow along.  I like time travel stories, but it’s no secret that the sub-genre has been done to death.  I’ve read the same few plots over and over, but Dedman creates a story I hadn’t seen before.  He also tosses in a few new concepts and a couple of unusual variations on the familiar, all with a pair of characters I wanted to read about.  This is golden age SF for modern times.    

Payne causes us to take a sharp turn with the next selection, Tina Connolly’s “Love at Second Sight,” which has nothing to do with science fiction.  You see, Calvin has a problem: he’s dull.  Horribly and completely dull.  He does get invited to some pretty wild parties, where he sits on the couch, being particularly drab in comparison to everyone else.  When he’s told how “dependable” he is, he finally snaps, and decides to complete a list of extreme party behaviors.  Saying more would give away too much.  “Love at Second Sight” is fast-paced and a lot of fun.  I haven’t a single criticism of what Connolly put on paper, finding wit and a sense of joy in her sentence.  But I do have a complaint.  The story ends too soon.  Yes, I know what is going to happen, but sometimes, I want to ride it to the end, even if that end is in clear sight.  Payne needed to pull a John Campbell routine and return the manuscript, demanding another thousand words or so (do any editors do that any more?).  If the greatest flaw in a piece is that it left me wanting more, it is in pretty good shape.  And there’s always the sequel option…

Lawrence M. Schoen’s “Sweet Potato Pie” laughs at labels and caused me to reread several early sentences, just to make sure that psychedelic drugs weren’t at work (on me, I’m sure Schoen’s mind is in an alternate state of reality).  “Yams is what you use to make lava mind its manners when ol’ Chowder Top starts spewing that molten rock and ash and poison gas, but sweet potatoes will grow you up a mess of zombies when you plant them just right in the sand.”  Now that’s a sentence that demands attention.  Here’s a rural, fantasy, horror, maybe science fiction, cooking story.  As chances are you’ve never read one of those, you should grab this one as quick as you can.  It starts with Zachary gathering up some of the sweet potatoes that rained down from the sky, as they are like to do, in order to make a pie.  Yes, he wants a pie, not a mess of zombies and…  Perhaps I should stop right there.  This is a tale that defies summarizing.  It’s weird and wonderful and will dig into you more with its strangeness than with its deep meaning, but as most stories don’t get ahold at all, that’s just fine.          

Next is Dirk Flinthart’s “Fortitude Valley Station, 2.15am.”  Nick Malloy plays jazz in the train station late at night.  It’s his way of escaping, so he’s less than thrilled when he’s approached by an old man with a problem.  The intruder keeps seeing a girl hit by a train, and he’s heard Malloy is the man to talk to.  Flinthart sketches a real world for his horror fantasy, with complete and interesting characters.  I wasn’t bored with this pleasant story.  However, there is unfairness in modern life.  You can’t write about a person seeing dead people, particularly if those dead  people need help from the living.  It doesn’t matter if you have an interesting way of expressing it.  A film took the tale and made it a part of pop culture, and it needs to be left alone for ten or twenty years.  Once I hit the third page, The Sixth Sense never left my mind.  Flinthart has a nice style that I’d like to see applied to something fresh.

And with that, I pass the reviewing pen to Paul J. Iutzi.

The subgenre of Stuart Barrow’s “Like Clockwork” is a favorite of mine: the mechanized fairytale. Here gears, springs, shafts, and coils interact with the kind of magick that looks proper spelled with an ultimate k. As the title suggests, the hardware is supplied by a clockmaker. The magick is supplied by the clockmaker’s natural enemy in the fey kingdom: the gremlin. It is not a story of profound characterization nor one of labyrinthine plot, which is all for the good as it’s a fairytale. I’m not sure it was the author’s intention, but to me it reads like a creation myth of the marvelous contraption that we’ve all come to know and love (add drops of sarcasm to taste) as the computer. Either way, it’s still a fun story and worth checking out.

When I last reviewed a story by Lee Battersby (“Through the Window Marilee Dances” in issue 16 of ASIM), I admitted to a certain perverse fondness for the story. Well, his story in this issue, a twisted little piece by the name of “Murderworld,” positively made me chortle. Now, I had some doubts at first because, frankly, I’m about as tired of the “murderous reality TV/game shows” concept as I am of reality TV/game shows themselves. However, once the main character started walking around naked, waving hello to the people in heavy armor with heavier weapons, I became as intrigued by what was going on as the various killers in the story did. The story stretched my credulity a bit more than I usually like, but that’s OK. I don’t think this story is best read as a thesis on what would happen if we televised bloodsports, but rather as a waving of the private parts in the direction of both those responsible for television programming and those who say that reality shows will doom us all. As such, it’s an amusing and quite satisfying read.

And here Paul briefly hands the pen to Douglas Hoffman:     

Eugie Foster’s “The Life and Times of Penguin” succeeds in being, by turns, funny, thought-provoking, and poignant. Penguin is a balloon animal, painfully rendered into existence by his beloved, all-knowing Creator, Mr. Clown. Soon after his creation, he’s handed over to his “angel,” a toddler who is hell on wheels when it comes to toys. Penguin, we soon realize, has a lot to learn about life.

A street-talking ducky and a tortured wind-up fairy assist in Penguin’s education. There’s no time in the short life of a balloon to sweat the small stuff, however; right away, Penguin must confront the basic questions of existence. His angel’s playroom gives him ample evidence of the savagery of life. Why would the Creator do such a thing? Is the Creator good, or (as Ducky maintains) cruel and capricious? Why did the Creator make us, if we are only to die so soon?

In this fairly brief story–an existentialist allegory, when you get right down to it–Foster manages to ask these questions, and she has something meaningful to say in return. It’s an impressive achievement. That she pulls it off in an entertaining way, without once sounding preachy, is also noteworthy; and if that weren’t enough, her prose is clean, taut, and relentlessly visual.

And finally, Douglas passes the baton, err, pen right back to Paul to finish off this issue of ASIM.

It’s been a staple of comedy since… well, since there was comedy, really: man says or does stupid thing to a woman and gets in trouble for it. Even with as long as it’s been around, it never really loses its charm—as long as I’m not the guy getting in trouble (and even then it tends to be funny once I’ve managed to get out of trouble somehow). And so, “Just to Talk,” Susie Hawes’s story of a male priest summoning a goddess, has potential from the beginning. Her light and amusing prose more than does justice to the classic subject. It’s light, fluffy, and a delight to read.

Mr. Lucky Ju-Ju and the rest of the pets in Los Cerros have vanished. An alphabet soup of government agencies is stumped. In Eric Turowski’s “Thingies in the Hills,” our only hope is a high school cheerleader with a space alien stepfather whose greatest power is his irritation ray. We are SO doomed.

If you’re a fan of the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the film Clueless, as I am, you’ll instantly recognize the voice the author is using in this piece. It’s the stylish patter of the fictional Californian adolescent female that somehow manages to be both erudite and trenchant without giving any indication that the speaker has any idea what either of those words mean. Now, “Thingies in the Hills” isn’t one of the best pieces I’ve seen in that voice, but I’m only overstating so much when I compare that to saying a piece written in iambic pentameter by someone other than Shakespeare isn’t one of the best things written in iambic pentameter I’ve seen. In other words, it’s still well done, with quite a few chuckle-inspiring phrases. All-in-all, it’s worth checking out.