OR: Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #5

A review that originally appeared in The Fix #7:-

ANDROMEDA SPACEWAYS INFLIGHT MAGAZINE #5

Edited by Danuta Shaw

According to the cover blurb this is ‘Australia’s PULPIEST Science Fiction & Fantasy Magazine’. Could well be, but you’ll have to ask a native to be sure.

It’s competently produced rather than any triumph of style, with an easy on the eye layout, clear print and few typos, a combination of line drawings and photographs for illustration purposes, which complement the text without being intrusive. Non-fiction is pretty much the sort of thing we’ve come to expect from genre magazines, the usual melange of reviews and interviews.

A generous but perhaps unlucky thirteen stories are listed in the Index, but that’s deceptive. For starters there’s one that isn’t listed and for seconds the first supposed story is ‘Almost Home’ by Robert Hoge and not a story at all, but a thoughtful and moving personal account of the Columbia disaster, looking at the instinct that sends men and women into space inside tin cans. The emotive writing elevates this above all the other non-fiction and most of the fiction. Five more stories, all written by John Borneman, are presented under the general heading ‘Dr Susan Lee Research Notes’, set in the far future and with the good doctor recording unusual scientific breakthroughs of the past. These are brief, humorous skits in the manner of Frederic Brown’s Great Lost Discoveries series crossed with Pythonesque absurdity, and certainly they have their moments, but they are in the nature of light relief sprinkled in among the more ‘serious’ stuff.

And then there were eight. ‘Fairy Prince’ by Monissa Whiteley is a by the numbers piece about a streetwise commoner helping a magician and a prince disguised as a woman escape from their pursuers, competently written but with nothing to distinguish it from a thousand others in similar vein except a lack of engaging characters and heavy reliance on the idea that only idiots serve in the military. Sue Bursztynski’s offering is called ‘The Sword From The Lake’ and anyone who hasn’t already twigged that, yes this is another Arthurian variation, should go up and apples and pears right now, cause it’s well past your bedtime dear. Okay, it’s well written, with some interesting characters and reconfigures Arthur’s career in mythic and religious terms, but I found it wholly predictable and surely can’t be the only one who thinks Arthur needs a rest by now. ‘Bianca’s Birthday Present’, the first story by Wendy Laharnar, is a bit more promising, set in a future world where a loving husband tries to save his wife from the punishment meted out to those who are unhappy. This is a good idea, one with potential, but we don’t really get enough by way of background information about the society for it to feel real, while the dialogue is borderline naff and heroine Bianca a rather unappealing piece of work.

Finally things start to look up with ‘The Warlord and The Princess’, in which a marauding warlord’s lieutenant tries to save a young family from his master’s savage mood swings. It’s a familiar plotline perhaps, but Patrice E. Sarath makes it more interesting than the usual fantasy fodder, with an engaging storyline and characters with whom the reader can empathise, even the crusty old warlord who’s far from being as bad as he’s painted. The result is a well rounded and occasionally gritty slice of fiction, and it finishes with an end that’s realistic instead of the cliché I was expecting. A doomed love affair is at the heart of the portentously titled ‘RavensPerch: A Faerie Tale’ by Kirstyn McDermott, with a prince lost in the wood and finding a beautiful woman in a tower who helps him. It’s competently written, but with all the excitement and predictability of the Star Trek rerun you’ve seen umpteen times already.

Sarah Guidry’s ‘The Grandfather’, the story that didn’t make it into the Index, is a lively little number about a young girl who acquires an invisible friend, or could it be a mischievous spirit out of Russian folklore? Well, of course it could. The story’s engaging enough and holds the attention to the end, with credible development and believable characters, but at the end you’re left wondering what the point of it all was and coming up blank. Similarly with ‘Ice For The King’ by Angela Boord, with a magician wanting to present this rare commodity to his sovereign and the slave who carries it having a meeting with a little known god, all of which reads like someone attempting to ring the changes on Dunsany, and there are moments along the way of warmth and humour, some thoughts on freedom, but they’re just window dressing in a tale that has little real substance. Finally ‘Catbones’ by Sue Isle which, if you can get past the idea that what seems entirely transparent to the reader is opaque to the story’s protagonist, that her cat is some sort of murdering werebeast, is rather a pleasing little number. The novelty here is not in the plot so much as the backdrop, a world where vampires and body snatchers are all pretty much business as usual, rather as with Laurell Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, and as a result we get some larger than life characters and tongue in cheek dialogue, all of which entertain.

So, is it pulpy? Well a lot of what’s on offer here hasn’t been fresh since the 1950s if that’s your criteria.

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