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

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, #27

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Image“The Return of the Queen” by Bill McKinley
“Random Acts of Destruction” by Rory Douglas Abel
“The Case of the Overdressed Man” by Mike Lewis
“The Fairy Wife” by Eilis Arwen O’Neal
“Slag Fairmont – Psychic Zone Ranger” by Douglas A Van Belle
“Calling the Unicorn” by Aliette de Bodard
“Head in the Clouds” by Hayley Griffin
“Speedbumps on the Road to Recovery” by Timothy Mulcahy
“Demons of Fear” by Jennifer Fallon

“The Return of the Queen” by Bill McKinley is part of a new breed of fanfiction that has been springing up lately; fiction based not on another author’s characters, but on the author himself.  “The Return of the Queen” plays with authors C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien in an alternate-history setting, where, as nearly as one can tell, England has been invaded by the Germans. 

This piece doesn’t have much of a storyline; the Germans want Tolkien to give a lecture on Beowulf and give them the German-language rights to his “children’s story” (no names, but you can make their own guess on that one).  Tolkien, concerned that they’ll rewrite it for propaganda purposes, doesn’t want to.  He, Lewis, and Lewis’s brother, Warren, spend the bulk of the story arguing whether he should or not.  

Rory Douglas Abel’s “Random Acts of Destruction” sports, among other things, headless corpses, moving tattoos, and an AI that’s addicted to spam.  On top of this, the author adds solid characters who make you like them and an engaging storyline that pulls you ever-deeper into his created world.  When you add a masterful command of the English language to the mix, you come away with a story that leaves you fully satisfied, yet somehow wanting more. 
A Trans has randomly mutated into a killing machine; now plainclothes policeman Ryan needs to find out how and why, before it can happen again.  The answer may implicate his closest friend, the head of the largest legal drug manufacturer in the world—or, as the story plunges from one layer to another, it may not.  Abel weaves a complex and intriguing tale that manages to avoid simplicity without once being confusing.  Well worth the read. 

“The Case of the Overdressed Man” by Mike Lewis blends science fiction and fantasy in an interesting story that sometimes becomes hard to follow.  When Nick and his magician master, Dr. Theosophus, are contacted by a strangely dressed man trying to locate his sister, they stumble onto a complex scheme that attempts to blend technology and magic.  Ultimately, the characters weren’t strong enough to carry the plot.  The idea was interesting, but neither Nick nor Dr. Theosophus will linger with me for long.  Still, while not memorable, “The Case of the Overdressed Man” is a pleasant story to read when you have twenty extra minutes. 
In “The Fairy Wife” by Eilis Arwen O’Neal, Fey marry humans because human women have a better chance of getting pregnant—and living through the baby’s birth—than Fey women.  But what if you’re a human women married to a Fey and you can’t get pregnant?  What if you secretly suspect the reason the fertility spells aren’t working is because you’re not completely sure you want them to?  And what if, one day, a baby came to you? 

O’Neal has done a remarkable job of weaving a story that most women, whether they want children or not, will be able to identify with.  Men, most likely, will be less empathic.  It’s a woman’s tale, through and through.  But girls, be sure you read this beautiful little story with a tissue at hand.  Or a box of them. 

“Slag Fairmont – Psychic Zone Ranger” by Douglas A Van Belle is more about the voice and the characters than the actual storyline, but the three main characters may be just weird and wacky enough for it to work for some people. 

In "Calling the Unicorn," Aliette de Bodard takes well-known folkloric "facts"—only a virginal maiden can lure a unicorn; a unicorn's horn contains magical properties—and weaves them into a short but compelling tale.  Emily's brother has been poisoned and will die without the antidote of a ground unicorn's horn.  So Emily approaches Lady Agnes, the only woman in court who has successfully caught a unicorn, and asks for help.  Lady Agnes shares the spell, but warns her against placing her brother's life above that of the innocent creature.  The consequences of Emily's actions make for a powerful and well-rounded ending. 

Emily is a very likeable character, caught in a moral dilemma that is easy to relate to.  Her decision is one that many people would make, and she accepts its fruits with a grace that shows her depth.  The setting is simple, but need not be any other way to tell this tale.  The language is smooth with moments of beauty.  De Bodard handles the unicorn folklore with care and maturity, and brings to it an interesting fate for the unicorn after its horn has been removed.  All in all, a good read. 

Hayley Griffin’s “Head in the Clouds,” is an amusing tale of a prince trying to rescue a princess who doesn’t want to be rescued.  Unfortunately, the story wasn’t much more than that.  The ending is pretty much what you’d expect, and while the princess’s obstinacy makes for some chuckles, the end left me wondering “That’s it?”  While cute, this one's more a joke than a story. 
“Speedbumps on the Road to Recovery” by Timothy Mulcahy is a fun little story of our times. Arnie Campbell is a businessman out of therapy after having a nervous breakdown.  His in-head Scheduler helps him keep track of his many meetings and calls in true near-future, sci-fi style.  The story has a good message, delivered with humor.  Although I suspect the people who would get the most out of it are probably going to be too busy to read it. 

Jennifer Fallon’s “Demons of Fear” is about confronting your fear.  Literally.  Jill is a battered woman attending a support group, but her counselor may not be what she seems.  The story thrives on its rich, vivid characterization.  The story’s message—face up to your fears and you can conquer them—is blatant, but not so much so that the story becomes unbearable.  The main character is believable and likeable, and the fact that the story’s only plot is its message becomes forgivable because we want Jill to be able to face her fears, to pull through. 

(Reviewed by Keesa Renee DuPre except for “Calling the Unicorn” by Aliette de Bodard which was reviewed by Alex Dally MacFarlane.)