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Jupiter # 23: SF Magazine January 2009 aka Jupiter 4 XXIII: Kalyke

01/02/2009. Contributed by Rod MacDonald

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pub: Ian Redman, 19 Bedford Road, Yeovil, Somerset BA21 5UG, UK. 56 A5 magazine. ISSN: 1740-2069. Price: £ 2.75 plus postage (UK). £4.99 PDF for 4 issues (requires 1.5mb in mailbox).

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Satellites rotate around Jupiter with Newtonian clockwork precision and equally as regular, 'Jupiter Science Fiction Magazine' appears once again on its quarterly journey presenting us with a magazine packed full of good quality fiction. It's worth mentioning that, in addition to the paper production, the magazine can be purchased on subscription in PDF form for only a modest sum.

While I'm not advocating that subscribers switch to the PDF magazine, the latter has many advantages apart from its cheaper price. It's kinder to the environment because paper isn't used and fuel isn't consumed transporting it around the world. Indeed, sent by e-mail, the PDF magazine goes almost instantaneously to every corner of the earth without stamps, customs, ships and planes.

The paper magazine has many plus points in that it is easier to carry wherever you go and the A5 format of Jupiter is ideal for this purpose, but the PDF has an advantage because the text size can be altered to suit the individual. Certainly, if I resided outside 'Jupiter's United Kingdom base, I would consider a PDF subscription to be a very good idea especially with the pound sterling being relatively low against other currencies at the moment.

Now on to the magazine! I can't say I liked the cover very much. It was a bit sketchy and amateurish. It was supposed to depict the first story, 'The Weight Of Shadows' by Lee Moan. I'm not sure if the artist is also the author but, if so, I would stick to writing. The story itself appeared to be an analogy of Africa and Rwanda's conflict between the Hutus and Tutsis. In fact, it was almost a direct parallel and I was beginning to wonder where a divergence would emerge.

The story tells of an emotionally traumatised woman, Ellie, choosing to go to a planet hundreds of light years away to look after orphans from a civil war rather than to remain on Earth and commit suicide in one of the state operated suicide centres. At the risk of being offensive to either Hutus or Tutsis, to most people there isn't a great deal of difference between them yet, the perceived differences they experience set them upon a deadly war. It's the same on this planet but the war has lasted two centuries. The anomaly is on this planet the inhabitants have a shadowy after-life attached to those still living. It was an interesting idea but one which came relatively late in the story. Underdeveloped, it had plenty of scope for something far more substantial.

'The Darken Loop' by Huw Langridge is an exciting story of multi-dimensions and an entity from the future. The story begins innocuously enough with the girl called Louise going for an interview some 40 years in our future but not having enough money to buy a cup of coffee. Schrödinger's cat scenario...whether or not she has a cup of coffee affects the long-term future of not just one universe but a multitude of them. It also determines if she lives or dies.

Bring into this The Axiom Few, a small band of freelance techno graduates. The brains of the operation, a guy called Geek, is in communication with this entity from the future, an entity anthropic in nature, which pulls the past towards it and looks after humanity in the multitude of realities. Anyway, Geek has invented goggles which can look round corners in a dimensional sort of way. Their task is to get a Costa coffee voucher to Louise through a rip in time to save her and the future which lies ahead but this is complicated by the fact that she was the girl-friend of two members of the group and looking into the past isn't always a good idea.

An excellent story, one which has plenty of scope for development into other forms of media. This was a short story but the characterisation is good and it's possible to see a novel or even a radio or TV series featuring The Axiom Few.

The satellites of the planet Saturn featured in 'Thicker Than Water' by Ian Sales. Earth had retreated into itself leaving the satellites of the outer planets Jupiter and Saturn to fend for themselves. The central character, Gina, a woman of strong character, short temper and belligerent nature is a major with a military unit on Tethys fighting a long drawn-out war against people from Titan.

Evocative descriptions of the environment of Tethys and Titan make this a very realistic story. It's easy to imagine oneself actually there! Through fast action and a pitch which is exciting to say the least, an attack is made by the Titans and the outcome doesn't seem good for Tethys. Although it isn't explained to any extent, of prime importance is a substance called fullarine, apparently abundant on Tethys, which somehow acts to support life out there the distant star system. A powdery crystalline substance, the impression was given that it is alive. Odo and 'Star Trek Deep Space Nine' come to mind.

Major Gina has had a chip on her shoulder most of her life. She's never really fitted in but now she discovers the reason why. This prompts her to take drastic action when the attack occurs. This is a good story with much promise, atmospheric and exciting. However, it appears as only a brief glimpse into another universe, sufficiently tantalising for one to wish to see more.

Another strong-willed female character takes the helm in 'The Rule of Law' by Elaine Graham-Leigh. Captain Marcella commands a scout ship on the edge of the Empire, a futuristic empire based on ancient Rome. A rather topical tale considering our current financial climate, the Empire is collapsing rapidly and indeed a military coup takes place on Earth leaving many of the people in space stranded.

To make matters worse, Earth has been at war with another empire and the war is not going well. Marcella takes on board a famous military man from an allied empire, similarly in decline. Sherenka is an intriguing character. One thinks of Cardassian by his physical appearance but in reality he is more Spartan and, just as the Spartan Empire (for lack of a better word) relied on Messian slaves or helots, this lot do the same. Additionally, Sherenka has a Heidelberg mark of honour, an eye damaged by duelling, but he is still able to see the collapse of his empire when the slaves revolt. Many parallels exist with Earth history in this story, maybe too many parallels, and though the scenes are very dramatic and compelling, the story needs expansion.

'Notes From The Apocalypse' by Michael Pepper is a fairly conventional post-apocalypse story, as the name suggests, where a ragged group of people struggle to survive in the chaos following The Big Event, as it is termed. With the economic situation being in a dire state with possibilities of national bankruptcy looming in the future, such tales will be more common. However, despite this being well-written, we have heard this stuff so many times before. Admittedly, this scenario is a bit more realistic than 'Survivors' which recently appeared on British television but there was nothing new for us to hear. I kept waiting for a twist in the tale but it never came. Maybe that's it! After an Apocalypse, there is no tail to twist because like the dog in the story, it has been eaten.

John Rogers gave us the final offering with a one-page story entitled 'The Bridge Of The Compass Rose'. The setting was a scrap-yard in space where huge freighters, 10 miles long, lie waiting to get dumped on to a nearby star. An old man reminisces about his life on the ship and his deceased wife.

To conclude, a good selection of stories and it was pleasant to read three of them with women of strong character taking the lead. A diverse range of stories at that! I have no doubt that 'Jupiter' will continue, despite the economic downturn and will get better and better in the future.

Rod MacDonald

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