Outer Reaches - Volume 1 Number 1 - Winter 2010
Edited by Guy Kenyon
Cover Artist: M.D. Jackson
Review by Sam Tomaino
Black Matrix Publishing
Date: 19 February 2010
Links: Black Matrix Publishing / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
Outer Reaches is the third magazine I've read from new publisher Black Matrix Publishing. The others were Encounters Magazine and Realms. They say they will be publishing four quarterly magazines a year with an average of over 70,000 words (usually 80,000) per magazine -- all fiction. Outer Reaches is described thus "This one is for all of you who think we have cooled our heels for way too long on this little mud-ball called Earth. Filled with adventure and suspense in the deepest reaches of space".
The issue begins with "Dusk" by Tyler Preston. Dusk is the name of a "desolate rock on the fringe of colonized space" that is the setting for a tale of anger and revenge. Our narrator is a man named Crawford, whose wife died in an explosion at a facility that allowed people to be resurrected after death through a computer memory download. She had been opposed to such things on religious principles and had been protesting outside the facility. Now, Crawford has the last man responsible in his power and he plans to get revenge. The story manages to tell us enough about the people involved and the future in which they live and was quite well-told.
"Grinders" by Timothy Miller is the story of a soldiers in a future war. They are criminals who have been promised their freedom for 13 months service. Few survive and Jesse and his friend Coffee are the lucky ones. Then, Jesse finds out what the real deal is and must find a way to make things right. This was another story succinctly and effectively told.
"Arabesque" by Lawrence Buentello is a grim piece told from the point of view of a man named Kappa who is the sole survivor of team that set out to explore another world, one that had evidence of an alien culture, of which only an ancient city has survived. There is no other evidence of life, no fossils, no bones, nothing. Kappa is alone because the rest of the team have all died, possibly because of some contagion. Kappa has lived 5 years alone and now has visions of the past. I thought this story was okay, but that's about it.
"Choosing Days to Die" by Crystal Lynn Hilbert is another story about a future war. Cera is a soldier in this war, battling creatures that she calls freaks. Then, she is captured and learns something of her opponents. We never get any real information about this war, but that's appropriate because Cera doesn't know much either and we can understand her point of view which makes for a very effective tale.
"The Temple of the Stars" by Martin Turton features Stephen Gerun who is part of a team researching the remnants of an indigenous culture called the Lijarin on a world called Harrion. There are great things to discover, but Stephen's heart is not in it, because his wife Mena has left him for another man. The governor of the planet is shutting down the exploration because he thinks there is a danger to their colony. Stephen discovers something, but does this make him happy? Turton draws some good characters and tells a nice little tale.
"Heresy" by Mark Mattison is a long piece and takes more than a quarter of this issue. I wish it was a better story. It takes place between 2066 and 2068, partly on an asteroid called 99942 Apophis and partly on a future Earth ruled by something called the World Church. We learn little of this World Church other than that their supreme deity is called Godde, and that it is an article of faith that there is no other intelligent life other than humanity in the universe. Then, who is it that attacked and killed miners on the asteroid? We get an answer that isn't particularly interesting and a lot of wasted words. Some of the wasted words are devoted to a new piece of technology called the THX-1138 which adds nothing to the story except a reference to an old George Lucas movie. This wasn't a bad story, just a very undistinguished one.
"Hunting for Scraps" by I.E. Lester is a much better story and shows what can be done in just two pages. We get a story about the end of planet Earth and what the survivors have done since. Lester shows his talent in being able to convey a lot with just a little.
In Greg Hall's "Freedom is Human Nature", we get a tale of a future Earth in which a group called the Benefactors have taken over and done things to benefit humanity. There are some humans who don't care for the benefits and are using time travel to stop the Benefactors This made for an exciting tale.
In "The Report from Hansen's Planet", Jeffrey Scott Sims tells us what happened to an exploratory team on a remote planet. Everything is told through one person's diary and some other documents and all this effectively gives a very good account.
"In the Ice Mines of Gliese" by Mike Sweeney is an exciting tale of a man named David Sammerson, on a mission to take out some dangerous beasts, deep in the center if a planet called Gliese. This moved right along, gave us plenty of character development and was well worth reading.
Bill Ward is an author I've read in other magazines and he, once again, shows his talent here with "The Tick-Tock Man". Altein Intorian is a cyborg with a mission, kill the Consul, Maxentius Iridous Draecoul, the head man on the planet Jorgata I. Tsuda Tessering is a telepath who has been hired to protect the Consul. We get to know a bit about all three of these characters and also, this is the best story in the issue.
Finally, there is "The Crystal Blight" by Alva J. Roberts. Bethany Norris, called Black Beth, leads a group of space pirates, trying to get a precious metal from a planet on a war zone. She and her cohorts find themselves surrounded by forces from Earth and that's only the least of their problems. This was another good story and a good finish to the issue.
Like the others, this was a slickly produced magazine but I will once, more make this request. They tell us nothing about the authors. Even if they do not have a lot of previous credits (and, at least, some of them have), it's always nice to know something about them.
I'll also say again that I'd like to see Black Matrix Publishing succeed but this magazine could uses some improvement. One shouldn't take up more than a third of the issue with a mediocre story. Fortunately, the other stories in the issue make up for it. You can check out Black Matrix at their website (www.blackmatrixpub.com) if you want to support new writers and their publisher.