Spectrum SF 6

First to the Moon! Stephen Baxter and Simon Bradshaw.

Editor Fraser cites this pair’s previous story ‘Prospero One’ (Interzone 112, October 1996) as being a previous story in an alternate British space program series. Baxter has also in solo mode produced alternate takes on the space programme in ‘Tracks’ (Interzone 169, July 2001) and in his ‘Moon Six’ story (Science Fiction Age 1997 and honoured through its inclusion in Dozois’ 15th and online on the excellent InfinityPlus). ‘In the MSOB’ (Interzone March 1996 and Dozois’ 1997) also reflects on the space program/me.

His ‘Columbiad’ (Science Fiction Age, May 1996, and Hartwell’s Best SF 2 1997) is written in the style of HG Wells/Jules Verne, telling the story of a visit to the planet Mars, and this story is in very similar territory, in describing a 1930s British expedition to the Moon. Enjoyable in its own right, but I would rather see Baxter spending time on more serious short SF.

Luna Classifieds. Mary Soon Lee.

Mary Soon Lee returns to Spectrum with an enjoyable series of classified advertisments clippings, which neatly in their non-narrative form, give a wry commentary on life as it may well be (exotic location, same mundane issues!).

Eternity Magic. David Redd.

Not a prolific writer by any means, and a name unkown to me. The ISFDB identifies 19 stories published between 1966 and 1995: the kind of output Robert Reed turns out in a year!

As with the similarly recently-less-than-prolific Michael Coney, whose ‘Poppy Day’ story in the last issue of Spectrum SF, and later story in this issue, return to his ‘Peninsula’ setting of old, Redd’s story returns to a setting from stories published in 1966 and 1973.

Those of you who remember the earlier stories may well welcome a return to settings and characters previously enjoyed, and who am I to deny people such pleasures? In itself I didn’t really engage with the fantastical story, as having two main characters with such spectacular (time-shifting) magical abilities makes any threat to them rather pointless IMHO!

Instructions for Surviving the Destruction of Star-Probe X-11-57. Eric Brown.

Brown retains his ever-present status in Spectrum SF, and with stories the quality of this one, who will object?

The ‘plot’ as such is devastatingly simple : following a massive drive malfunction, the sole, injured, survivor of an FTL vessel has only limited time to find a functioning hibernation pod. The narrative is similarly devastatingly simple: a monologue/verbatim transcript of the ship’s AI as it guides and encourages the injured Susan Kuber.

IMHO a far, far superior story to his ‘Destiny on Tartarus’ which was a BSFA 2001 Short Fiction Award finalist (albeit it was an all-UK published finalist listing).

Mehitabel’s Memories. Michael Coney.

Coney returns to his ‘Peninsula’ setting (Spectrum SF 5 Feb 2001 and several much older stories).

Mehitabel is the latest/last in a long line of women who have passed their collective memories onto their next-generation clone-daughters. Her clone-daughter, Rhiannon, is rebelling at the forthcoming annual memory transfer, which will overwrite her own personal memories with those of her ‘mother’ – many of which memories she has her own perspective on.

The Peninsula setting, with characters like Carioca Jones having their regular ‘guest star’ role like a bad soap, to my mind rather gets in the way of the story. I would rather Coney had given himself free rein in using a new setting and new characters to explore the nub of the story.

Bad Dream. John Christopher.

The third and final instalment of a ‘John Christopher’ novel. As I review short SF and don’t include serializations as short SF, I will press on…

Conclusion

A better than good collection of mostly British stories.

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