Edited by ‘ASIM Hivemind’

Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Co-op (2011)

ISSN: 1446-781X

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

It has been nine years since ASIM blasted off, helmed by a co-op of editors drawing on a pool of readers filtering the anonymous slush, and this issue – the 50th – marks considerable achievement both in terms of longevity and recognition. The milestone also coincides with a change in the print cycle, with future issues to come out quarterly rather than bimonthly and increase from 100 pages to 160, with a resulting rise in cover price.

So how has the big five-oh been marked within the magazine? Firstly, the cover art harks back to that of the first issue by Les Petersen, rather than highlighting a story as is usual, and some of the co-op’s editorial board have each selected a story for inclusion, with a note detailing the reason why, rather than the regular procedure of having one editor responsible for each issue. The issue is also a precursor to the new direction, boasting 164 pages, containing 13 short stories, two poems and assorted features including a retrospective of previous co-op members: a lot of talent has passed through the doors.
Such a one is former editor Nicole R Murphy, whose ‘The Fairy King’s Child’ plays bad human, bad fairy here, and also interviews and is in turn interviewed by Rowena Cory Daniells, another former co-op member kicking big goals with new fantasy series.

Rounding out the non-fiction is a review of Tron: Legacy, a movie which came out five months ago: good timing for those considering hiring it on DVD.

On the fiction front, there are some very good ideas, but the quality of the execution is as varied as the subject matter. I’d hoped for more consistency, especially from a ‘bumper’ anniversary edition.

Ian McHugh’s fantasy ‘Godbreaker of Seggau-li’, mixing the western with the Oriental, and more obtuse SF tale ‘Whaling the Multiverse’ (Mark Lee Pearson) are two of the more accomplished. Natasha Simonova’s ‘The Ambassadors’ is a well-detailed time-travelling romp with extra payoff for those versed in the private life of William Shakespeare, and ‘Deciphering the Quantum Foam’ (Robert P Switzer) is the perfect size for its cute, geeky love story steeped in scientific theory.

Mark D West’s ‘Titan’ is another SF outing of merit, crowned by fetching Olivia Kernot artwork, combining a talking chimpanzee, first contact and neo-colonialism in an engaging adventure.

In keeping with the mission statement of delivering lighter material, co-op editor Simon Petrie extracts chuckles from a premise as old as the Ark in ‘You Said “Two of Each”, Right?’

Other stories are less successful in building a narrative to accompany their considerable possibilities, coming across as underdone. For instance, one of the most promising, ‘The Skull Jeweller’s Apprentice’ by Shona Husk, carries a delightful cultural practice of decorating the skulls of the departed, but is interrupted by info dumps and shaded by the protagonist’s assertion that she needs a man about the workshop – particularly considering the flirtatious, dishonoured man in question and the possible ramifications to her business.

Likewise, ‘A Glimpse of Nothing in Silvered Glass’ (Damien Walters Grintalis) falls short of truly conveying the social impact of people not having reflections and could have more strongly exploited the protagonist’s role as slaver and murderer. The life and rights of a reflection are vague and contradictory.

Dennis J Pale’s ‘Morrow Street’ is the most disappointing story in the collection, kicking off as an invigorating old-school cyberpunk scenario and devolving into an adolescent Mary Sue fantasy in which some sentences don’t even make sense.

Exacerbating the sense of lost potential is an uneven level of copyediting – some stories are pleasantly clean, while others are littered with punctuation and literal errors. American and Australian spellings sit side by side.

One of the strengths of ASIM is that it serves up a broad variety of stories within the speculative fiction range, and this issue lives up to that promise. Here we have high fantasy, urban fantasy with fairies and fauns, space opera and urban SF and historical fantasy: something for almost everyone.

That wide appeal and the re-energising nature of the co-operative approach should stand the magazine in good stead, but based on this issue, it’s desirable that the future might also include more attention to detail and perhaps a heavier editorial hand to smooth out the journey.