Edited by Edwina Harvey
Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Co-op (2010)
Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack, March 2010
I often find stories that appear in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM) a little disappointing; they so often seem to stop just short of their full potential. Either they are quite a lot of words leading up to what often seems to me to be a slight punchline; or they seem to be just a draft or two short of turning a really good idea into a really brilliant story. In the case of the first problem, that may just mean I don’t really have the right sense of humor for ASIM. In the case of the second, well, it’s a matter of opinion. ASIM certainly consistently attracts and publishes some very good writers with very good ideas.
Those familiar with ASIM will know that the editorship of each issue rotates; Edwina Harvey helmed Issue 42. Although I had my usual reservations about some of the stories that appear here, the issue is on the whole one of the better ones I’ve read. The magazine is also becoming more readable; behind the scenes areas such as layout and proofreading seem to have improved so that you’re less distracted by small hiccups. It overall seems slightly higher quality than some of the early issues.
“The Good, The Bad, and the Donkey” by Alex Kearney is an example of a story that led up to a fairly anti-climatic ending. It was well written, and it wasn’t too long, and for a while it looked like it might be going somewhere interesting. But in the end it built up to a fairly lame sort of conclusion that left me unimpressed.
“Soldiers” by Dave Luckett was another story that ultimately disappointed me, largely because it ended with a sense that there was more to come. This was a wry, well written look at bureaucracy and war and where they meet – and don’t. It took a while to draw me in, and then once it had me, it ended so abruptly that it felt as though either something was missing or there was another story or stories out there somewhere.
On the other hand, “The Name Thieves” by Laura Goodin was very well pitched. Again, it was well written, and it had an emotional punch that some of the other stories in this issue lacked. It was less humorous and darker than many of the other stories. Importantly, it also seemed complete. Goodin has constructed a tight little story, told it, and moved on. This was probably the highlight of the issue for me.
Jason K Chapman’s “Inside Job” was another standout, a twisty little psychological thriller that used some familiar science fiction themes – notably that of computers in our heads and other implants – to play with some equally familiar fears and themes about the nature of perception and reality. But he infuses it with originality, and writes it well. You won’t be overpowered by the end – it’s not *that* original – but it is one of the more memorable stories in this issue.
“Pageant Girls” by Caroline M Yoachim completed the trifecta of the best stories in this issue. Short and very punchy, Yoachim uses the inherent creepiness (for many of us) of beauty pageants starring children as the basis for a creepy little story that is likely to stay with you for a long time.
I’m not generally an automatic fan of poetry, but I found “An Open Letter Circulated Across the Web” one of the funniest things I’d read for ages. Marcie Lynn Tentchoff has done a brilliant job of using a particularly difficult medium – humorous poetry. I think this piece will appeal to a lot of readers of speculative fiction. I’m not sure how memorable it will be in the long term, but it’s hugely enjoyable when you first come across it.
Issue 42 contains 12 stories in total, two poems, book reviews, illustrations, and two special features. The first is a tribute to Douglas Adams, which I was surprised to find was an illustration rather than an article. I suppose most readers of ASIM won’t really need an article or obituary of Adams, but it was still unexpected. The other feature was a short article about, essentially, zombies. Short and effective, the last paragraph will make you remarkably uneasy.
ASIM 42 is consistent with many other issues of ASIM. It contains a mix of darker and lighter stories; some are extremely good and some seem to fall a little short of this potential. This issue didn’t contain any particularly bad stories, and it may well be that some which left me unmoved will appeal more to other readers. It’s worth reading, particularly if you want to stay in touch with current Australian short fiction.