29 November 2010 ~ 1 Comment

Review: Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #47

written by David Steffen

I apologize for being slow to get this out. I realize that issue #48 is already available, which I haven’t had a chance to read yet. But I feel strongly about issue #47 and I wanted to post a review of it, even if it is a bit tardy. I bought issue #47 because it includes a story by my friend Gary Cuba. I like his style and I like to buy copies of his published stories. This was the first issue I’ve read of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM) that I ever read, and I was very pleased with what I read. Pleased enough that I asked for an ASIM subscription for Christmas. Not only were my favorite stories from this issue extremely good, I liked almost all of them, and I don’t say that about many magazines. I’m letting my subscription on another magazine lap because I simply like too few of the stories, and the few stories I do like, are just not that good. This issue was so much better I am happy to send my money ASIM’s way.

One thing that I really like about Andromeda Spaceways is that their judging system works without the author’s name attached to the story. A lot of the big magazines claim that they choose their stories based on quality and not on the fame of the name, but when asked about judging without author name attached, they tend to get very defensive. With the name stripped off, the story has to stand for itself. If a big name’s story is really worthy, it will rise to the top even without the name attached, but this way second-rate rushed stories by the big names will be less likely to make it through.

I encourage you all to give ASIM a try, based on the issue that I have read, and I hope that the magazine as a whole is as consistent as this first issue was. This one was edited by Patty Jansen, one of a rotating set of editors, so I will be very interested to see how even the magazine feels from editor to editor as well.

Dig up the Vote by Patrick S. Tomlinson

The living dead have been given the right to vote. To take advantage of this, political candidates raise zombies just to collect votes. The protagonist of this story is a volunteer helping out with this process. The story begins as she’s meeting up with the pink-clad Necromancer bringing the walking dead up from the ground, and is the one in charge of feeding them and herding them to the polls and coaxing them into voting.

This story was hilarious from the beginning with the interactions with the Necromancer, to the very end.. Humor is a hard thing to pull off well, but this one had me rolling. I believe this was Patrick’s first published story, so I’m happy that ASIM took a chance on his story. It’s a great bit of comedy, well-deserving of having the coveted first story location, and it was just a lot of fun..

Dog by Stephen Watts

Dog tells of a spaceship-dwelling family living on a ship. Grandpa always insisted that they share the ship with a supernatural roommate that mostly doesn’t bother them… as long as it gets it’s scheduled tobacco offerings. The trouble is, tobacco has been illegalized and becomes harder and harder to obtain.  Grandpa always insisted on the tobacco offerings, but now that’s he’s passed away, none of the remaining family members believe in the necessity of the offerings.

This was a cool story, a nice mix of science fiction and fantasy, supernatural creatures in space. I really cared about what happened to these characters, and I was very anxious to see the story unroll. It was very good.

Killing Time by Felicity Pullman

This is the story of Jane Marshall, the widow of star football player known by everyone simply as “Bull.” Most of the story is told as a flashback, telling of their not-s0-wonderful relationship before his death. For most of the story, the speculative element isn’t very clear, but it is there soon or later.

This was the one story that I just strongly disliked. Both Jane and Bull were nasty individuals without any redeeming features whatsoever. I got the impression I was supposed to be horrified by the dark events of the story, but when bad things happened to these characters I just shrugged. The ending was a twist, but a too predictable one, and one that felt more gimmicky than natural to the story. I would’ve gotten over the ending if I’d cared at all about either character, but as it was I just wanted this one to be over.

The Ship’s Doctor by Charlotte Nash

This is another author for whom this issue is their first publication. Congratulations on that, Charlotte! The title does not refer to a doctor who happens to live on a ship; she is literally a doctor who treats ships. In this future, ships are bio-engineered creatures with real intelligence, and it is no longer just a mechanic-type job. Instead, it’s more something that’s a mix of psychiatry and medicine applied to an anthropmorphized mode of transpot.

This was a really cool idea, and well executed. It took me a little while to get into the head of the main character, but once I got the hang of her point of view, I really appreciated it. This story did a very nice job revealing a complicated setting as part of the story, instead of dumping the information all at once. Her drive, her lust to do what she does makes for a very interesting and unique character, and the other main characters were chosen to be different enough from her to allow some very interesting interplay and contrast between them. I really cared about the stakes in this story, and I was really rooting for it to turn out right.

The Machine Whisperer by Gary Cuba

This is the story of maintenance mechanic Joe, as told by his co-worker. Joe has an extraordinary knack to fix anything, almost verging on the supernatural; he seems to have an aura that alters probability wherever he goes.

I’ll be upfront and admit that I consider Gary a friend, but I do genuinely like to read his fiction. He has a distinctive style that is makes me smile, and this is a lighthearted story in Gary Cuba’s usual vein. This carries the usual lighthearted style of Gary’s work. It’s short but sweet, giving a premise, working with it, but not overstaying its welcome. I actually wouldn’t have minded if this story had been a bit longer, which is not something I say very often.

Hyu Khul and the Broth of Stone by Tam McDonald

A fable-like story, a myth telling of Hyu Khul, a man so respectful of the virtues of his wives that he would refuse to touch them. He takes on a quest to brew a potion he overhears described by the gods, which will render him invulnerable. And, in true fable fashion, it comes complete with a myth.

This one left me pretty lukewarm. The character was so far-fetched he was hard to relate to, and the moral was pretty obvious from the very first line based on that far-fetchedness. None of the people ever felt like real people, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a fable-style story, but I also didn’t really buy the situation, and I wasn’t surprised by the moral. If the moral is so blaringly obvious, it sort of defeats the purpose of telling a fable, no?

Acid by Debi Carroll

A story told by a mermaid-like creature, one of a race of such creatures fished out of the Dead Sea. Their saliva is highly corrosive, and they’re captured to use for cheap and efficient petroleum refining. The mermaids aren’t individuals in the usual sense of the word–they have a sort of race memory, where any one can draw upon memories of any of its ancestors.

I’d read this one over on Baen’s Bar–I liked it there and I liked it here. The race memory point of view was very interesting, and I really wanted to root for the mermaid collective. It takes a little while to understand the point of view at the beginning, but it is just a difficult point of view to convey. Once I understood the premise, I didn’t have any more problems following it. This was very well done.

Leeching Tinnitus by John Phillips

Tommy’s almost 17, and he’s going to live with his last living relative, Baxter, an old man living on a country estate. Tommy’s suffering a case of Tinnitus due to trauma (that’s ringing ears, for those who don’t know). Baxter goes out of his way to make Tommy’s life a living hell, especially his daily task of collecting leeches for Baxter to use as fish bait. Who will come out ahead in the end?

Baxter was a real bastard, but Tommy was such a nonentity that I didn’t really want to root for him either. The Tinnitus seemed to have no real function in the story, other than to give Tommy a distinguishing characteristic. And Tommy did need need something to make him feel more unique, but I needed something more than a medical condition to do it. Maybe I missed something. I mean, it has to be very important if it’s in the title right? The leeches were certainly central to the story, but really were nothing more to me than a grossout factor. Grossout is okay, if it’s just part of another story, but when grossout is all there is… it’s just enough for me.

The Backdated Romance by Ferrett Steinmetz

A time travel love story. Unexpectedly, David approaches Barbara, telling her deepest secrets she’d never told anyone. She knew him before this, but only as an acquaintance, and he goes on to explain he’s from the future after they’d been married. A very cool start, and in true time travel fashion, it gets more complicated as it goes on.

I loved this story. I love a good time travel story and this was a great one. The problems presented were unique and interesting, and the dynamic between David and Barbara was very interesting, with the early years of their history already in David’s past. There were some great twists and turns here, and the story was well done. I’m not surprised like I was such a fan of Ferret’s story–his story “Suicide Notes, Written by an Alien Mind” made #2 on my Best of Pseudopod list.

written by David Steffen

I apologize for being slow to get this out. I realize that issue #48 is already available, which I haven’t had a chance to read yet. But I feel strongly about issue #47 and I wanted to post a review of it, even if it is a bit tardy. I bought issue #47 because it includes a story by my friend Gary Cuba. I like his style and I like to buy copies of his published stories. This was the first issue I’ve read of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM) that I ever read, and I was very pleased with what I read. Pleased enough that I asked for an ASIM subscription for Christmas. Not only were my favorite stories from this issue extremely good, I liked almost all of them, and I don’t say that about many magazines. I’m letting my subscription on another magazine lap because I simply like too few of the stories, and the few stories I do like, are just not that good. This issue was so much better I am happy to send my money ASIM’s way.

One thing that I really like about Andromeda Spaceways is that their judging system works without the author’s name attached to the story. A lot of the big magazines claim that they choose their stories based on quality and not on the fame of the name, but when asked about judging without author name attached, they tend to get very defensive. With the name stripped off, the story has to stand for itself. If a big name’s story is really worthy, it will rise to the top even without the name attached, but this way second-rate rushed stories by the big names will be less likely to make it through.

I encourage you all to give ASIM a try, based on the issue that I have read, and I hope that the magazine as a whole is as consistent as this first issue was. This one was edited by Patty Jansen, one of a rotating set of editors, so I will be very interested to see how even the magazine feels from editor to editor as well.

Dig up the Vote by Patrick S. Tomlinson

The living dead have been given the right to vote. To take advantage of this, political candidates raise zombies just to collect votes. The protagonist of this story is a volunteer helping out with this process. The story begins as she’s meeting up with the pink-clad Necromancer bringing the walking dead up from the ground, and is the one in charge of feeding them and herding them to the polls and coaxing them into voting.

This story was hilarious from the beginning with the interactions with the Necromancer, to the very end.. Humor is a hard thing to pull off well, but this one had me rolling. I believe this was Patrick’s first published story, so I’m happy that ASIM took a chance on his story. It’s a great bit of comedy, well-deserving of having the coveted first story location, and it was just a lot of fun..

Dog by Stephen Watts

Dog tells of a spaceship-dwelling family living on a ship. Grandpa always insisted that they share the ship with a supernatural roommate that mostly doesn’t bother them… as long as it gets it’s scheduled tobacco offerings. The trouble is, tobacco has been illegalized and becomes harder and harder to obtain.  Grandpa always insisted on the tobacco offerings, but now that’s he’s passed away, none of the remaining family members believe in the necessity of the offerings.

This was a cool story, a nice mix of science fiction and fantasy, supernatural creatures in space. I really cared about what happened to these characters, and I was very anxious to see the story unroll. It was very good.

Killing Time by Felicity Pullman

This is the story of Jane Marshall, the widow of star football player known by everyone simply as “Bull.” Most of the story is told as a flashback, telling of their not-s0-wonderful relationship before his death. For most of the story, the speculative element isn’t very clear, but it is there soon or later.

This was the one story that I just strongly disliked. Both Jane and Bull were nasty individuals without any redeeming features whatsoever. I got the impression I was supposed to be horrified by the dark events of the story, but when bad things happened to these characters I just shrugged. The ending was a twist, but a too predictable one, and one that felt more gimmicky than natural to the story. I would’ve gotten over the ending if I’d cared at all about either character, but as it was I just wanted this one to be over.

The Ship’s Doctor by Charlotte Nash

This is another author for whom this issue is their first publication. Congratulations on that, Charlotte! The title does not refer to a doctor who happens to live on a ship; she is literally a doctor who treats ships. In this future, ships are bio-engineered creatures with real intelligence, and it is no longer just a mechanic-type job. Instead, it’s more something that’s a mix of psychiatry and medicine applied to an anthropmorphized mode of transpot.

This was a really cool idea, and well executed. It took me a little while to get into the head of the main character, but once I got the hang of her point of view, I really appreciated it. This story did a very nice job revealing a complicated setting as part of the story, instead of dumping the information all at once. Her drive, her lust to do what she does makes for a very interesting and unique character, and the other main characters were chosen to be different enough from her to allow some very interesting interplay and contrast between them. I really cared about the stakes in this story, and I was really rooting for it to turn out right.

The Machine Whisperer by Gary Cuba

Hyu Khul and the Broth of Stone by Tam McDonald

Acid by Debi Carroll

Leeching Tinnitus by John Phillips

The Backdated Romance by Ferrett Steinmetz


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