I keep my eyes on the rearview mirror as I speed across the Australian outback. Most of the pursuing vehicles are burning wreckage fading into the distance, but two are still on my tail. If I gunned the V-8 interceptor’s engine I’d lose them, but my fuel gauge is hovering just above ‘E’, so I’m only moving fast enough to stay in front. A crossbow bolt shatters my rear windshield, and I give the engine a little more gas.
I stay out of range for a few minutes, until a pursuing truck flies by, burning gas and nitrous like a madman’s at the wheel. A shotgun blast takes out both my side windows as the truck passes, filling my lap with broken glass. Now I’m boxed in, and a crew in the back of the truck is loading a whaling-harpoon gun.
I don’t have a choice – I floor it and ram my bumper into the right rear corner of the truck. One of the crewmen falls out and lands on my hood. He wedges his left hand next to the windshield and reaches for a weapon behind him. The truck wobbles, but stays on the road. I floor it again, slamming into the same spot. This time I spin the truck, taking it off the road. One of its wheels catches a soft spot in the sand, and the truck rolls over and over, throwing sand, truck parts, and people in all directions.
A crossbow bolt from the pursuing car thwacks into my passenger seat, the point sticking out several inches. The man on the hood bangs a hammer into the windshield, obscuring my view with cracks. When he raises the hammer again, I jerk the wheel hard to the left, rolling him over the side. The pursuing car doesn’t dodge or brake, and bounces hard as it runs him over.
I can barely hold the wheel steady as my front left wheel wobbles, and my fuel gauge is reading below ‘E’ — I’ve got to take out the pursuing car. I grab the crossbow from my passenger seat and jam it into the accelerator pedal, to load without slowing down. All I have is dye packs — only non-lethal weapons at the airport gift shop. I turn and fire one-handed out the back of my car, covering the pursuer’s windshield with sticky, purple dye.
I load again, swerve my car to the side, and pump the brakes. For a moment, the pursuing driver’s eyes go wide as I appear beside him. I fire into his dashboard, and the exploding pack covers his face with dye. He swerves off the road, taking a small hill too fast and launching into the air. His car cracks in half when it comes back to the ground.
I run out of fuel just as I reach my small-town destination, and coast into the parking lot of Andromeda Spaceways’ main ticketing office.
The Bedroom Ceiling by Steven Pirie Intended as a humorous story, but not my style.
Non Smoker. Good Sense of Humour. Must Like Chickens. by Marie Alafaci A dull story about someone’s boring life. The only fantasy element is that one of the characters is, without any explanation or any impact on the story, a talking chicken. This is mission control, can you repeat that PDC? It sounded like you said talking chicken. Affirmative mission control, talking chicken.
Grey Snow in the Shadows by Ian McHugh This seemed like a long story. There is a civil war, a military coup, and some paranormal stuff. Now you know everything I know about it.
Lapis Lazuli by TL Fordwalker A ‘dragon’ has been preying on the knights and nobles of a kingdom. Yet another knight is venturing into the dark forest to slay it. This knight is poor, so instead of a squire, he takes a slave along. He doesn’t know that his slave is a girl, posing as a boy to avoid a certain common usage of female slaves. The knight is killed almost immediately, and his body left impaled on some sharp object, but the ‘dragon’ ignores the slave girl. It turns out that the creature is actually a giant bowerbird, surrounding its lair with the shiny armor of knights and the brightly-colored clothing of the nobility; the drab slave clothing is of no interest. The slave girl explores the lair, and finds a brightly-clothed princess inside. She thinks about leaving the princess to rot, but ultimately empathizes with her as they are both girls of similar age. The slave girl tells the princess to take off her finery, and they walk out together.
Mirror, Mirror … by Felicity Pullman A witch story suitable for Halloween time. One minor quibble I’ll mention for the benefit of other authors: an American character uses some very un-American slang.
Suckers for Love by Simon Petrie At first, I enjoyed the story’s use of odd words to emphasize that the protagonist was an alien. Then it became an overly descriptive squid-on-squid sex scene.
The Tale of Kasim and the Alchemist by Robert Porteous This story was set in medieval North Africa. I like how it established the foreign-ness of the setting through character interactions and behavior, rather than long-winded descriptions of clothing and architecture. This seemed like a longer story, but I didn’t ever feel that it was dull. I thought a certain action by the characters at the conclusion was a bit out of place, but maybe there’s some cultural precedent I’m unaware of.
The Grand Adventures of Space Cadet by Leslie Anderson This is a very short story, but it’s just a character’s thoughts about a dangerous situation; there’s no real plot. This was listed under the poetry section — it doesn’t seem like poetry to me, but then again, it doesn’t fully seem like a short story either.
The Spirit of Pinetop Inn by Renee Hall Hotel management interviews ghosts to haunt the property, thinking a ghost will attract more business. I saw the ending coming a mile away, but it was still a really fun story. This story (like “Lapis Lazuli”, above) reminds me of The Experimental Notebook of CS Boyack, a collection of enjoyable stories whose lengths are kept just right for their ideas.
Voyager by Liz Colter Essentially a Star Trek fan fiction.
Earth and Water by Annabel Acton In this story, some Greek gods mess around in the modern world. This seemed like a long story, but once again I didn’t find myself getting bored. I want to read this again some day, paying less attention to the story and more to the writing, to see what the author does to keep the story moving along so well.
Penny for Your Thoughts by Jennifer Lott A creepy story about a fortune teller. The resolution was interesting, but too heavily foreshadowed.
For the Love of Slarck by Pete Mawhinney A first contact story with very little content.
The Last Flight of the Acurus by Robert McCarter A space disaster story with lots of flashbacks.
Reunion by Nigel Brown A time-travel story, but not mind-blowing enough for the mind-blowing concept of time-travel.
I chose a Mad Max / Road Warrior theme for my intro story because Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (often abbreviated ASIM) is from Australia.
ASIM is a winner on two counts: they have the coolest name of any magazine I’ve looked at, and they are the first magazine to deliver stories that I really enjoyed (Lapis Lazuli, The Tale of Kasim and the Alchemist, The Spirit of Pinetop Inn, and Earth and Water). Unfortunately, to get those four enjoyable stories, I had to go through eleven other stories that ranged from borderline, to waste of time, to truly awful (I’m looking at you, talking chicken). For that reason, I’m not willing to call an end to my quest. If someone gave you a wonderful novel, but said you had to read 3 awful novels along with it, what would you do?
I buy an open ticket on Andromeda Spaceways, allowing me to board any outgoing spacecraft, but not obligating me to a specific departure date. Now, I just need some gasoline for my car. That shouldn’t be a problem.
Sounds like this one might have some hope in it. I almost wonder if they accept submissions. Your lead in stories are getting more entertaining. Bravo on the Mad Max lead in.
Yes, I’ll try another issue of ASIM once I’ve finished the rest of my magazine quest.
I’m pretty sure they accept submissions from non-Australian authors. They’ve either changed editors recently, or regularly rotate editors, so you might want to see what style the new person likes. They used to have a funny page on their site called something like “a comprehensive list of every reason why we’ll reject your story”, but I’m not sure if it’s still there after their site re-design.
I’m glad you liked the story – I’m afraid that its length, combined with 15 micro-reviews, will scare off the casual blog reader.
Please don’t worry about the length of your intro story – they’re the reason I’m drawn in to read your microreviews of the stories within the magazine. Good luck finding something worthwhile. I don’t read a lot of short fiction (I prefer to listen to it in podcast form), so I don’t have any recommendations for you.
What podcasts do you enjoy?
I listen to EscapePod (which does science fiction short stories) and PodCastle (which does fantasy). They’re in the same family of podcasts (along with PseudoPod for horror, which scares me so I don’t listen). In fact, I think it was PodCastle that did The Spirit of Pinetop Inn as an episode last month.
Thanks for the mention of those podcasts. Maybe I’ll add an episode of Escape Pod to my current quest.
I’ve heard of this magazine before (who can forget a name like that?), but I was under the impression that it was a very small publication, only available in Australia. Is that not the case (or no longer the case)?
I don’t know whether they’ll ship the print version to the USA, but they have multiple electronic formats for sale on their website – that’s how I picked up this issue. You can buy individual magazines, or get a subscription at a slight discount.
I just checked the website, and the electronic issues only seem to go back to issue 54, but maybe they’ll make some more available in the future.
That makes sense. Years back, electronic formats weren’t as prevalent of a thing.
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