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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, #15, October/November 2004

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"The Surly Bonds of Earth" by Dave Luckett
"The Alchemical Automaton Blues" by Ian McHugh
"Arabica Beans" by Edo Mor
"The Beating of Butterfly Wings" by Brandon Alspaugh
"Are You Ready For the End of the World?" by Danny Adams
"A Calling On Song" by Mark Rigney
"Giving It Up For the Seraphim" by Paul E. Martens
"Heavy Metal" by Richard Pitchforth
"Absolution" by Barbara Robson
"Reality 2.0" by Ian Creasey

ImageThe co-editors of this publication (technically the editor and the sub-editor) discuss in their opening columns that they like "light, fun stories," and that's a good description of what they have collected here.  Oh, there are a couple of darker stories, but they're the exception, and they don't come anywhere near the level of horror, peaking somewhere along the lines of middling disturbing.  Whimsy is what's on the menu, and it is served piping hot in ten short stories.  Together with some reviews, an interview, a few odd columns (one on Elven Grammar that reminds me of a piece I read a few years ago on Klingon) and some artwork, the mass of over 120 pages is a considerable offering from the Land of ‘roos and dingoes.

"The Surly Bonds of Earth" by Dave Luckett
This is an interesting, somewhat sad, almost ghost story.  I say almost because the story deals with an old man, on his deathbed actually, whose spirit is not at rest.  The doctors tell his daughter that if the conflict that agitates his spirit is not resolved, his soul will not depart and he will most likely become a ghost.  It is an odd choice for the first story of the collection given that its tone is so different from the others, but it is a nice, warm one.

"The Alchemical Automaton Blues" by Ian McHugh
Perhaps it is my slant on the world, but I see this as a thinly veiled condemnation of animal cruelty.  A woman sees her neighbor treating her golem badly, neglecting it, not feeding it.  Some people don't believe golems have feelings, but this woman does, and all the golem does is sit next door and cry, disturbing her own golem as well.  She complains to the authorities, and the neighbors do something even more heinous in response.  Given that I have a neighbor with a dog that they seriously neglect, along with the fact that their last dog essentially died of neglect, this story rang a vivid and resonant chord within me.

"Arabica Beans" by Edo Mor
While this story is well written and creatively conceived, it seems far too long (the longest in the collection in fact) to be sustained by its very simple plot.  A djinni running from an efreet hides in a coffee bean and ends up tangled in a romance.  It's part action/comedy and part love story, but the ending is like a 767 lining up on the runway for landing, visible from miles and miles away.

"The Beating of Butterfly Wings" by Brandon Alspaugh
I believe the title is a reference to the precept of chaos theory that a butterfly beating its wings in Brazil can create monsoons in India, but going in with that foreknowledge did little to clarify this story for me.  A man (presumably Albert Einstein) working in a patent office in Zurich in 1896 comes across a murdered man clutching a pocket watch, and it makes him think weighty mathematical things about the nature of time and the universe.  It is intricate and complexly written, but only about a page long and difficult to make anything of it.

"Are You Ready For the End of the World?" by Danny Adams
Self-centered loser goofball stumbles across a website which claims to be run by aliens that warns of an asteroid coming to smash earth to smithereens.  The aliens, they say, can help our anti-hero build a ship to get off the planet, but he's going to be the only one to survive due to some foible of wormhole physics.  Jerry doesn't see it, but we know right away that there's a catch.  A practical joke?  An alien plot?  We can only guess.  Ultimately that catch, the payoff, is as clever as it is satisfying.

"A Calling On Song" by Mark Rigney
I'm uncertain if this is the best story in the collection or simply the most interesting.  It is certainly the story that I read the most times.  A man in our world approaching middle age desires something more out of his life.  It is this desire, coupled with a task that he has been foretold to do on another world that summons him into this other world.  There he battles dragons, both literal and figurative, and learns something about desires, the best laid plans, and obsolescence.  It is, perhaps, a story of mid-life crisis of fairy-tale proportions, and one that you will find yourself reading several times as well.

"Giving It Up For the Seraphim" by Paul E. Martens
An alien race shows up with the promise of great gifts of technology to bestow upon us, but they want a few things first.  They set up an office, sort of a "tax" collectors office, to collect the things they want, only the things they want do not make sense.  They collect a child's teddy bear, a woman's scarf knitted by her now-deceased daughter, an engagement ring.  These things possess no monetary or material value (though I suppose the diamond ring is worth something), but the aliens want them, and what they want they get.  The demands continue, the collectors collect the items, no one has any idea what the aliens want the things for or what they do with them.  No one knows when they will stop, when the promised gifts will arrive, or what the gifts will be.  Just what the heck is going on?  For a short story I found it filled with many likeable characters and several clever turns.

"Heavy Metal" by Richard Pitchforth
In a sort of tall tale that I can easily envision being passed around in rowdy bars, a drunken hillbilly shoots at aliens, who find the metal (lead) extremely valuable, and so he somehow ends up as the trade ambassador between our species and theirs.  It's goofy fun and pleasant to read.

"Absolution" by Barbara Robson
This is my other contender for best story in the collection, and by far the darkest tale.  Boy meets girl, boy loves girl, boy catches girl fooling around with best friend, boy runs down best friend in the street with his car.  The guilt is destroying him, but the Church offers him absolution from his sins.  It paints reality, a reality not terrifically different from our own, in a very harsh light, filled with angst and guilt and torment and an overarching feeling of helplessness.  By the way, as an interesting cultural note, the only damage to the car when he runs his friend down is to the "roo bar," which is something like a cow catcher on a train, only for kangaroos - a quick glimpse of the Land Down Under.

"Reality 2.0" by Ian Creasey
Extremely short, this story has the sort of base humor typically seen in 1001 light bulb jokes on the Usenet.  Easy to take, but easy to forget as well.