OR: Artemis #7

A review that originally appeared in The Fix #5:-


Edited by Ian Randal Strock

Artemis is published by LRC Publications Inc, in association with DNA Publications. LRC stands for Lunar Resources Company, and the magazine declares its support for The Artemis Project, an organisation set up to finance a return to the moon through private funding, a real life exemplar that harks back to pulp glory days when space projects were always the preserve of wealthy philanthropists and altruistic companies, while government got on with mucking up everything else. To be fair they make it sound eminently plausible, and for those who want to see manned spaceflight back off the drawing board and with an attainable goal there don’t seem to be too many other games in town.

Printed on glossy paper and with few typos, it has better production standards than other magazines I’ve seen from the DNA stable. There’s photographs and artwork accompanying the text, including several pieces in full colour, among them a gorgeous stellar panorama by Alan F. Beck and a striking cover illustration by H. Ed Cox, though some vandal has gone and spewed text over about half of this. Yeah, I know potential readers need to know what’s inside the issue but there’s a thin line between discreet placing and outright defacement, and this stomps all over it. If I was Cox I’d never work for them again.

‘Science and Fiction for a Space-Faring Age’ reads the banner under the magazine’s logo, and as you’d expect given the agenda content is evenly divided between the two, though even the stories are a bit heavy on the fact side of things. There’s information about The Artemis Project, books reviews, readers’ letters and news snippets of interest to the astronaut wannabe. In ‘Moon Age Daydreams’ Allen M. Steele toys with the idea of how a viable moon colony might actually operate, while Daniel M. Kimmel makes a hindsight reassessment of the film Destination Moon. John G. Henry unveils past plans by the US military for a lunar base, and why they didn’t become fact, while Walter B. Hendrickson, Jr discusses alternatives for the space shuttle and Robert E. Strong puts the case for a lunar lighthouse. It’s all interesting stuff, if this is the sort of stuff you’re interested in.

The fiction, of which we get seven examples, is on the whole the sort of material that gets described as meretricious rather than meritorious. ‘Flower of the Void’ by James Killus is about the launching of a deep space probe using nanotechnology, and the language with its biblical allusions is striking at first, but ultimately can’t disguise the fact that nothing really happens; what we’re getting is not so much a story as description rooted in techno wish-fulfilment. Shane Tourtellotte’s ‘Intelligent Conversation’ has a neat idea on the theme of first contact, but everything hinges on the final twist and this is delayed too long for maximum effect. It would’ve worked better as an ultra-short.

‘Birthright’ by Edward Muller is one of the issue’s better offerings, the sort of story Asimov churned out by the heckagig. It’s about a murder on the moon, with plenty of red herrings and the science satisfyingly blended with the detection. Hardly a classic, but an entertaining read. ‘To the Rescue’ by Lorren Stiles is a by the numbers account of a rescue in space, a story that laboriously tries to build up some tension and character empathy, while never moving any faster than a plod and managing to telegraph any plot surprises. Reading it is about as dull and pointless as going through the telephone book to see if all the names really are in alphabetical order. Much better is Will Ludwigsen’s ‘Representative Sample’, an epistolary piece that offers a witty solution to getting man back into space and made me smile.

‘Foggy Acres Blues’ by Thomas A. Easton takes the novel idea of an old peoples’ home whose residents are cloned and then set to take care of themselves. It’s well written and moving in places as the plight of the inmates and their carers becomes apparent, but Easton doesn’t do enough to make the nightmarish scenario seem credible. Finally there’s ‘Je Me Souviens’ by Edward Willett, set in the far future long after Earth has been destroyed and only a shrine remains to celebrate the cradle of mankind, with an elderly priest attending to those few who make the pilgrimage. It’s a story that attempts to ask some of the big questions, but in execution chokes on its own sentimentality, coming off a poor second to stories like Tiptree’s ‘Faithful to Thee, Terra, in Our Fashion’.

If you’re interested to know what’s being done to reboot the space programme, then Artemis could well be the magazine for you, but if you’re looking for memorable and exciting SF then it might be as well to swing your telescope in a different direction entirely.

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