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

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, #12, April/May 2004

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"Welcome to Andromeda Spaceways In-flight Duty Free" by Barbara Robson and Stuart Barrow
"If Anyone Should Ask" by Mark W Tiedemann
"Changes" by Stephen Dedman
"Logger" by Jacob Garbe
"Fairytale" by Dirk Flinthart
"Galatea's" by Helen Patrice
"Sister Supernova" by David Kay
"The Girl with the Four-Dimensional Head" by Colin P Davies
"Choices" by Sue Bursztynski
"The Elves Hate You" by Matthew Bey
"Y-Knot" by Bevan McGuiness

"A Dark Lord's Lament (his sorrowful sonnet)" by Barbara Robson
"Size Matters" by Mikal Trimm

Special Features:
"Tea and Biscuits with Sean McMullen" by Edwina Harvey
"Envision 2003" by Heather Gent, Louise Cusack
"Novel Excerpt - Hal Spacejock: Just Desserts" by Simon Haynes

Regular Features:
Reviews by various
Interview of Cory Daniells by Tansy Rayner Roberts Letters

ImageMy second review of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM) was tempered by the knowledge I gained in my review of the last issue. ASIM is a publication that tries not to take itself too seriously, resulting in lighter stories, and the contents vary from issue to issue depending on which editor is in rotation. This type of editorial rotation offers more variety from issue to issue than a standard arrangement, and it can also lead to fluctuations in quality. In my opinion, the April/May (#12) issue is an improvement over last month; a good fluctuation, containing stories that I felt were more humorous, more original, and more effective. I also noticed fewer editing errors in ASIM this month; still more than in magazines like Realms of Fantasy or Asimov's, but not an unbearable number of errors (as I found in Absolute Magnitude). Like issue #11, issue #12 of ASIM contains many stories, more than the afore-mentioned competitors, although I did not compare the word count.

Barbara Robson and Stuart Barrow's very short "Welcome to Andromeda Spaceways In-flight Duty Free" offered a few chuckles and set the tone for an irreverent issue. I loved the sales pitch for the "Forbidden Knowledge" item: "Be the envy of your cult as you chant vile phrases not heard for millennia!"

I didn't mind so much that Mark W Tiedemann's "If Anyone Should Ask" didn't seem to have a point. It was fairly funny, and the "Duty Free" had properly prepared me to expect some not-too-serious stuff. The idea of alien amateurs botching a kidnapping and examination had me snickering in no time. My favorite scene was when the aliens tried to levitate the hapless protagonist out of the house through a doggy door.

Stephen Dedman's "Changes" seemed a bit muddled to me. Unlike the first two stories, it was an attempt at a realistic coming-of-age werewolf story, and was not meant to be funny at all. While I thought Dedman did a fair job of capturing the mundane settings and characters that grounded the story, I also felt that he did not have enough time to get me to care about the protagonist and his struggles. The conflict with the father seemed a little incomplete to me, and I felt some of the other characters did not have time to become whole. I had difficulty feeling involved in the story.

"Logger" by Jacob Garbe launches back into comedy, being a yarn about how Jonas Baragovia, big game hunter and adventurer, first learned to hunt wild trees. That's right, wild trees. "The trees were wild. They were cunning. They killed men and flattened houses. They were vicious." Jack McGregor teaches Jonas how to battle the trees, and the two men seem an unstoppable team, but their encounter with a redwood named Murd'rous Red just might turn the tables.... I thought this story was silly, but then again, that was probably the whole point.

Dirk Flinthart's writing in "Fairytale" is, in my opinion, masterful. Flinthart tells the tale of a dull man with a dull life who only finds pleasure in collecting insects. Martin Pymble is attracted to the delicacy and precision, the reassuring and ritualized nature of insect collection. He thrills at "sorting through the jewel-like forms trapped [in his net]," until he finds a dead fairy in his kill jar. Proof that the numinous exists could have a transforming effect on Pymble, who feels that "to be human is to desire something more, something deeper, something subtle and sweet and vibrant and infinitely alive. To be human is to be disappointed." Flinthart wrote a perfect tale here, a story rich in symbolism and imagery, with economical word arrangement, great character development, and a poignant finish. This is by far the best story in this issue, and would be one of my nominees for a Year's Best collection.

In Helen Patrice's "Galateas's," protagonist Karen serves as the front-door receptionist for a middle-of-the-range brothel. Thanks to a deregulated genetic engineering industry, commonplace aliens, and just plain weirdness, Karen never knows what clients she will greet when she answers the door. Karen's misadventures are pure pulp, and no reader should expect to take anything meaningful away from the story. Just kick back and try not to be too squeamish....

"Sister Supernova" might seem puzzling at first, but read it patiently and wait for the last line of the story. Author David Kay admits he wrote the whole thing with the last line in mind, and I guarantee the reader will either let loose a peal of laughter or a mighty groan of anguish, depending on their taste in humor. This story is another fun lark, and like most of this issue, not meant to be taken seriously.

"The Girl with the Four-Dimensional Head" by Colin P Davies is excellent. This is not another goofy, pulpy tale, but a gritty sci-fi drama with fully drawn characters, outstanding dialog, and an interesting take on the old standby setting of Mars. Madelaine's presence in McColl's mind throughout his life is a fascinating idea, and the charged emotion that exists between the characters is believable. If all of Davies' work is this good, I'll need to hunt some of it down for future reading.

The next story is also serious rather than comedy, creating the first streak (two-in-a-row) of non-humorous tales in this issue! "Choices" by Sue Bursztynski is a well written, if slightly convoluted, angle on the legend of King Arthur, told from the perspective of the Nimue character. Bursztynski very quickly informs the reader (or at least this reader) about the various alliances and dalliances that shaped Arthur's legend, and then explores some alternate timelines where Nimue tries to make changes in an effort to save Camelot. The author does a great job of showing the relationships in action where she can, rather than just spitting out a heap of un-digestible Arthurian lore, but there is a great deal to cover in only a few pages, so some of it comes out slightly dry. I'll leave whether Nimue succeeds in her efforts up to the reader to decide, because I don't want to ruin the ending for you. This is a solid story, and most fantasy fans will enjoy it.

Matthew Bey's "The Elves Hate You" was flawlessly hilarious. Do not try to drink or eat while reading it, as choking is a very serious hazard! Bey wrote the tale in a pique of frustration with the fantasy genre, and his vengeful sarcasm shines through. The characters are hilarious caricatures, perfect in appearance and dialog, and their fate is well served. This is by far the best comedy in this magazine, and it would be my favorite if "Fairytale" had not appeared in this issue.

The last story of the magazine, "Y-Knot" by Bevan McGuiness, was a complete miss for me. The story was an attempt at a serious tale; a tough cop yarn set in the future on a colony world. Some of my distaste for the story comes from the fact that I do not care for most "hard-bitten" detective or cop stories. I find them incredibly dull and derivative. It's not McGuiness' fault that I dislike the tropes of that genre, but I feel the author took the story from bad to worse by relying on a premise that made it almost impossible for me to suspend disbelief, and by writing a sloppy ending that I felt was so ridiculous that it had me chortling. I also felt the main character, Anne, was uninteresting from the beginning, as well as a bit unrealistic.

I smiled at both comedic poetry pieces, "A Dark Lord's Lament (his sorrowful sonnet)" by Barbara Robson and "Size Matters" by Mikal Trimm, which I felt were effective and well suited to this issue.

Of the special features, I enjoyed "Tea and Biscuits with Sean McMullen" by Edwina Harvey, and "Envision 2003" by Heather Gent and Louise Cusack. Both features are most likely to be of interest to writers, but not necessarily to recreational readers.

In my opinion, this issue of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine was an improvement over the last one. The three best stories, those by Flinthart, Davies, and Bey, made the rest of the issue worth perusing. That said, I find that comedy in the sci-fi and fantasy genre is difficult to do well, and this comedy-heavy issue had a hard time holding my interest. I feel that ASIM has a long way to go before it can compete with the quality fiction available in other magazines, where the majority of the writing is good, rather than the minority.