Filler content with colonies

A magazine review that originally appeared in The Fix #1:-

Reviewed by Peter Tennant

Issue 3 of SF magazine Colonies looks half decent after a brief flick through, but closer inspection reveals that this is an occasion where first impressions are not to be relied on. In my copy the wrong author bio is placed at the end of one story and the title missed from another. Pages are misnumbered, borders go up and down like a drunken sailor or missing altogether, and in one place the text starts to fade away. As for typos, when on four separate occasions the author’s name is spelled differently in title and closing bio, while elsewhere the same name is spelled three different ways in as many sentences, it seems fair to conclude that somebody is asleep at the wheel. Admittedly some of the typos do add a certain charm, ‘rouge’ claim jumpers being marginally more intriguing than their rogue counterparts.

Unfortunately too many of the stories measure up to the magazine’s regrettable production standards. We open with ‘The Conference’ by Selina Shaw, a confused and confusing account of a super assassin on the job, where the plot’s banality is only excelled by the reader’s eventual indifference.

Fiona Avery’s ‘The Silence of Roanoak’ takes the interesting idea of transplanting the Lost Colony of Roanoake to a Martian setting (NB the different spelling), but despite the primacy suggested by the title this is tacked on as the final fifth of a story which up to that point appeared to be about something else entirely, and we don’t get a resolution to either plot strand, the characters decide to go off to the pub instead. There’s the threat of a sequel.

Next up is ‘G.A.F.F.E.R.S.’, a story that for triteness not only places SF back in the ghetto but tips it arse over apex into the river of raw sewage flowing beneath the ghetto. The asteroid miners have got tired of their sex androids. This is serious as, for reasons unknown, miners are the only fertile men left and their refusal to prime the pump and provide the new liquid gold is cutting into company profits. The solution: send a spaceship crewed by five gorgeous clones genetically enhanced to nymphomaniac-plus and guaranteed to kick-start any red blooded male’s libido. It sounds like something written by a ten-year-old Trekkie who’s watched the ‘Spice Up Your Life’ video one time too many. Humour might have saved the day, but there’s little sign of comedic intent. One can only conclude that author Tony Leather is a fifth columnist in the pay of dark forces out to discredit SF.

This is the moment when any reader not lumbered with reviewing this tosh would simply discard it and go do something else instead, which would be a pity as the magazine now throws up a few stories that, if hardly classics of their kind, are at least readable and entertaining. ‘Ice Cool’ by Vera Nazarian is the engrossing account of a spaceship crash landing on a frozen planet, cleverly told in both the third person and from the viewpoint of the Oracle who must convince the others that she knows how to save them. It has good characterisation, narrative tension, and some insight into the nature of precognition. Bart Carroll’s ‘Archibald’ is a wry and amusing story about a woman who uses an alien weapon as a stove, while ‘Sojourner’ by Jeff Cates is one of those tavern encounters so beloved of SF writers, well told and holding the attention. Finally ‘Playing All Sides for the Middle’ by Sean Brown is the first episode in a family feud type saga with a SFnal setting, a sort of Dallas meets Space 1999. What we get is necessarily back story, but the characters are well drawn and some of the premises intriguing, suggesting it might be worth hanging around for more.

Overall though Colonies is disappointing. With three issues under his belt, and other magazines from the same stable, editor John Dunne really should have his act together by now and be providing readers with something more substantial than this.

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