The cover painting for this fourth anniversary issue of ‘Outposts Of Beyond’ is a ‘Dune’ sandworm and the picture is credited as ‘Shai Halud’ by Patrick Kennedy. I suppose that image isn’t copyrighted and it’s a good look for an SF magazine. The inside features stories, poems and non-fiction articles.
The first story is ‘The Starship And The Sphinx’ by Kendall Evans. All is quiet aboard the Starship Rim Runner, which is several years from its next wormhole insertion. Temporary Captain Eugene Stoddard hopes his six year term will pass peacefully. The crew spend some time in cryogenic stasis and there have been double the expected number of fatalities on awakening them and one was mad. Stoddard’s betrothed, Chalotta, is in stasis and their ten year duty periods do not overlap. Then the A.I. that runs most of the ship let’s a Sphinx on board through the airlock. The Sphinx is a feline creature, a member of an ancient alien race seldom encountered, who challenges the A.I. to a duel to decide the fate of the ship. An interesting story but the tone varied between flippant and dark, so I wasn’t quite sure what to feel. Of course, life does that, too.
‘A Certain Selfishness’, a poem by James B. Nicola, comes after the above. It rhymes, has rhythm and made sense! Forward to the past!
In ‘Promises, Promises’ by Gregory Jeffers, Steele Barden and his son, Flint, fly through a storm to Los Angeles to catch a Galaxy ship. The Earth has been wrecked by war and global warming and anyone who can afford it is fleeing. The captain of the ship demands a larcenous price and Steele also has to repair his ‘starfish’ which was damaged by the storm. A good SF yarn but it left me pining for a Nexus 7 Joy Unit. I hope they get invented in the next few years.
This is followed by another poem, ‘Defender Prime’ by A.C. Spahn, which not only rhymed and made sense but had a story and an SF story at that.
‘Exodus From Mars’ by Michael D. Burnside is a fine ripping yarn starring Amanda, a red hot babe with an air bike and a sword, a daring heroine who defies the authorities, steals and fights giants. Her accomplice is Jarl, a low grade working stiff, who helps her get various technological gadgets not usually on sale. He pines for her strong arms about him but knows he doesn’t have a chance. This excellent adventure story had a nice twist in the middle and would make a good graphic novel if some artist is looking for a script or a half-decent low budget SF film. I wondered if the man’s name was a backward tribute to C.L. Moore’s dashing heroine Jirel of Joiry, but I’m probably reading too much into it.
‘Tower Farm’ by Vonnie Winslow Crist is a reprint, first appearing in ‘Dogs Of War’, an anthology from ‘Dark Quest Books’. Crowe, an experienced soldier of the K9 corps is guarding a Tower Farm with Jax, his dog. Something hits the perimeter electric fence and he assumes it’s an animal but has to check. The towers have arrays of communications antennae and are used by various corporate and government bodies and are valuable. The intruders turn out to be dangerous, so Crowe and Jax have to fight. Stories of man and dog at war are very popular as they pull the heartstrings of any dog owner. Heinlein didn’t go with the K9 concept in ‘Starship Troopers’, but Andre Norton had success with ‘The Beastmaster’. Interestingly, both these came out in 1959. I wonder when was the first use of dogs for war in Science Fiction?
‘From Dark Shores’ by Lee Clark Zumpe is a fantasy. Prince Quillyan arrives at Port Agrassut and cheering crowds come out to greet him. His own soldiers take over the defence of the city walls from the local troops. The Governor of the town is Rothrulier the Deathless, a haggard old sorcerer and he’s an anxious man. He had his soothsayers beheaded for the bad tidings they gave him and the Prince has come to execute him for his crimes. The tale was beautifully written in stylish fantastical prose but the author tells you who wins half-way through, for no good reason. The means of victory was clever but the finale would have worked better had it not been foretold.
With biometric cameras almost everywhere, robot fly spies, tracer elements in your blood and sunshine that means you need a radiation suit outside, the future painted in ‘Double Or Nothing’ by Thomas Pask is not a pleasant one, though it might become a true one, alas. Our hero is on the run from Them, the ones who are in control. Neat use of first person narration and a clever ending that separates readers into citizens and conspiracy theorists, depending how you take it. I’m a citizen but we do need to guard our freedoms carefully.
‘The Beetle Queen’ is a novelette by Julia Warner. In a forest on the world of Lutheria, Cira falls into a deep hole which expands out into a cave. In it, there are large eggs and one is hatching. A green, slimy larva emerges, about the size of a sea lion. Using roots as foot and hand holds, Cira is able to exit the hole and go home to her parents. They live in the inflated bubble with the other colonists, nine hundred altogether, a tiny presence in the wilderness. Some nice descriptions of nature and a few surprising plot developments as Cira returns to the nest. I enjoyed all of this issue of ‘Outposts Of Beyond’ but the laurels must go to this story of hardy colonists facing danger. It had the flavour of a good Heinlein juvenile.
There are so many poems that it would be crazy to review them all individually but I was pleased to find rhythm, rhyme and a comprehensible theme in many of them. The stories are rollicking good SF or fantasy adventures and the price of all this treasure is just $ 3.99 in electronic format, though it can be had as a real hold-in-your hand magazine for more if you live in the USA. Considering that they only pay $20 a story, the quality of the stuff is outstanding and in an age when much of the genre seems gloomy, pessimistic or obsessed with political correctness and the victim culture, it’s refreshing to find that many small magazines like ‘Outposts Of Beyond’ are preserving the sense of wonder, the sense of fun and the sense of adventure that led many of us kids to SF in the first place.
(pub: Alban Lake. 141 page ebook, 3767kB file. Price: $ 3.99 (US). ASIN: B01K8EGNEE)
check out website: http://store.albanlake.com/product/outposts-of-beyond-july-2016/