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All Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories
edited by David Moles and Jay Lake
Wheatland Press, 400 pages

All Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories
David Moles
David Moles has lived in six time zones on three continents and hopes some day to collect the whole set. In addition to Polyphony, his work has appeared or will shortly appear in Century, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and Strange Horizons. He currently lives in Seattle.

ISFDB Bibliography

Jay Lake
Jay Lake lives in Portland, Oregon with his family and their books. In 2003, his fiction will appear in over twenty markets, including Asimov's, Realms of Fantasy and The Thackeray T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases. He is also a first place winner in Writers of the Future XIX.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Greetings from Lake Wu

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sherwood Smith

When I was a kid, there was no freeway going from the coast straight east, and so we had to cross Los Angeles via city streets. Most of it was a smog-shrouded megalopolis in the 50s, but Centinella was different. After what seemed like miles and miles of fence, you could see these enormous hangers looming high against the sky, no windows. And one day the hangers were open, vast doors several stories high, and there was this gigantic blimp being brought out! I was utterly mesmerized, turning around to watch it slowly diminish behind me as we drove on. That colossal, alien-smooth shape is probably what kindled my love of science fiction -- it certainly made the impossible seem possible.

Since then I have continued to love zeppelins, even the little things that car lots fly to catch the eye of commuters along the freeway. For many more than I, blimps -- zeppelins -- evoke science fiction of the 30s: death rays, evil Nazi scientists, manly two-fisted heroes, all of them racing about a landscape done in Art Deco, until World War II ended both the zeps and that golden, curiously innocent, age of heroic fantasy.

Several of the stories in All Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories try to recapture that spirit, and a couple spoof it. The rest of the stories range in amazing variety, tone, and idea. The two shared elements are zeppelins in some form, and strong writing. Some are idea stories, some character, many are both. And what zeps! At least two stories feature live ones. Flying cities, balloons that attract ghosts, pirate airships -- the breadth of vision represented by these authors completely disproves the idea that one-idea anthologies don't work. This one takes off and soars.

"Voice of the Hurricane" by Paul Berger -- From the gitgo we realize there aren't any Nazis, or death rays. Not with mention of the Sioux and Kansas clippers. The time feels like turn of the century 1900, in an alternate US where the Midwest is still unsettled because of herds of wild zeppelins that cross over, sucking up crops and soil -- and silos and outhouses -- to feed themselves. That's right, zeppelins are alive, and the protagonist is a harpooner, riding the gutted frame of a zeppelin in an airship now called a Kansas Clipper. The whale analogy emerges early on and becomes stronger as the crew takes on a hapless new worker who seems to draw the attention of zeps -- in the past, to the deep regret of his family. This opening story is deliciously strange.

"The Last of the Zeppelins" by Jed Hartman -- Here is our first taste of death rays, mad scientists, and two-fisted manly men. When the hero is named Hugh Betcha, you know that the universe depicted in this story would beautifully fit a comic book. Hartman gives us a fast-paced action tale sparked with wit. He knows those 30s tales, and knows just where to give a gentle twist that cause the reader to laugh out loud.

"The Eckener Alternative" by James L. Cambias -- A student studying time travel is warned that big changes could destroy everyone at this end of the timeline -- including those taking the class, teaching it, and designing and operating the time machines. But Cavalli really, really wants to save the zeppelins, so he tries various small changes, each time noting what happens to the coke he placed on a table... A quick, nifty tale.

"Instead of a Loving Heart" by Jeremiah Tolbert -- Death rays and Nazis are back in this fascinating story. We also have a mad scientist, Dr. Octavio, and his lovely jewel thief daughter, but nothing is quite what you expect, especially the robot servant of Dr. Octavio. The story is told through his eyes, a story both quick-paced and poignant.

"This is the Highest Step in the World" by Carrie Vaughn -- It is a beautifully told story based on a real occasion: an experimental parachute jump, the highest ever attempted. The ending is one that old-time readers will have seen before -- but still I find it quite effective when used with a light touch, as Vaughn does here.

"The Sky's the Limit" by Lawrence M. Schoen -- It is a floating poker game unlike any you've ever read. Guys, dolls, an airship, the perfect mixture of humor and suspense. Lawrence Schoen has got Damon Runyon's voice down so well I suspect in the future I'll be hunting through my Runyon collections looking for that zeppelin story.

"A Perilous Warm Embrace" by Michael Manis -- This exquisitely told story features a man named George, who is a night time sweeper at the zoo. He loves the animals there, observing how differently they behave at night than during the day when tourists are all around, but he's noticed that the apes and chimps are really acting strange. He tries to alert the resident zoologist, only to be dismissed as a retard. And when, during a feeding mishap, the apes take away the lighter they have obviously observed him using, he loses his job. But he goes back, because he cannot stay away...

"Sky Light" by David Brin -- Tor, a young career woman, is leaving San Diego for Washington DC to work for MediaCorp, a news outfit in a near-future scenario that has dirty bombs in the recent past as well as weird global warming changes. The beginning of the story is deceptively slow; as Tor crosses her favorite town on the way to the zeppelin that will carry her to Washington; we learn a lot about this world, including the fact that there are cameras just about everywhere, giving instant access to people on the Net so that there is little chance of the media lying any more. Too many witnesses to the truth. And if one has implants in one's skull and teeth, one can log on and talk to anyone, including evoking an unseen crowd to help one effect a change, if one senses increasing danger for political purposes... Despite that slow beginning (one that perhaps might better fit a novel, not surprising from a writer mainly known for novels) the story does pick up speed when Tor's zeppelin trip across country gets going. The velocity increases exponentially, ending with terrific energy and verve. Stay with it -- Brin's ideas are fascinating, and not so very far fetched.

"Negation Elimination" by Robert Burke Richardson -- An unusual, very well-written story, it is about the dangers of parallel universes. Professor Gao, who has a Leibniz Machine that seems to predict possible outcomes, is a prisoner aboard the zeppelin flotilla commanded by Captain Visvajit on its way to make war against the Tsar Rasnum. From hints provided by the Leibniz machine, Gao realizes he must convince the two not to embark into battle as this world is about to be eradicated; but how do you stop a battle that is the entire focus of an army's lives, especially when your alternative is only an idea? A splendid tale that is impossible to second guess.

"Why a Duck" by Leslie What -- Anthony and Beatrice Wilson took up ballooning in their golden years, and crashed. Now they seem to be embarked forever in various balloons as ghosts. How they deal with it forms a delightful story. What is especially good at dialogue and comic details, and this story does not disappoint.

"Matriarch" by Forrest Aguirre -- This two-page story is set in about as nasty a near future as any horror story, and for its length it has quite a bite.

"Aerophilia" by Tobias S. Buckell -- Vincent is cuffed and gagged, a prisoner aboard an airship crossing the planet Riley, whose surface far, far below is a mystery to the Earth settlers who have lived there for a long time. Even worse, he was taken prisoner by his own Id, a result of his implants going haywire. Spacers are supposed to be lucky, but it looks like Vincent is the exception to the rule as things get rapidly worse. Buckell's tale is zippy, imaginative, and full of delicious sfnal concepts. One of my favorites in a string of good stories.

"The Jewels of Lemuria" by Richard A. Lupoff -- Lupoff sets the mood with grace and surety: the time and place is maybe the next Earth over, a peaceful 30s when one must to go the telephone instead of taking it along, and cross-country trips are made by train. Two super heroes of African descent have their secret headquarters high in a skyscraper; when the Lost Jewels of Lemuria, recently found and about to go on display, are stolen, it is our caped crusader, the Crimson Wizard, who must solve the crime. He discovers no mere jewel thieves, but some evil non-human beings with nefarious plans indeed. A wonderful tale that evokes the best of the Golden Era.

"Counting Zeppelins" by Eric Marin -- It is another two page story, very strange, told in a folksy voice. I needed to read it twice, once to see where it was going, and again to appreciate how it got there.

"Love in the Balance" by David A. Levine -- Theophile Nundaemon is an aesthete trying to protect his embattled House of the Musings. The human Houses are all threatened, sustained as they are far above the surface of the world; forcing Houses into a unity by violence and pain is the Revanants, a zombie army commanded by Kyrie Strommond, commander of Theophile's former lover, the zeppelin Grand Edison III. This tale, with its exquisite prose and beautifully imagined details, evokes a very dark Jack Vance.

"Where and When" by James Van Pelt -- Two scientists, carrying forward the work of a third who died in an explosion, are at last able to shift back in time! But to their dismay they find themselves on the Hindenberg -- and it's moments before the great fire. They switch away, regroup, try again, thinking that their transfer would be random in both time and place, but instead they appear in the bay just below Mount Pelee. A tense, satisfying tale ensues as they must figure out what is going on -- and what they can do about it. If anything.

"Seven Dragons Mountains" by Elizabeth Bear -- My favorite of all the stories, this one is set on the coast of a China dominated by the British, but apprehensive at yet another attempt at invasion by the Japanese. Chueh-hsin is a dutiful younger brother, running a very poor restaurant, but he does his best despite obvious and not-so-obvious circumstances. After the departure of his best customer, who should show up but his older brother Chueh-min, dressed as a monk and missing for five years. Almost the first thing Chueh-min asks about is the whereabouts of Xiumei, who we gather is a woman he cared about. Chueh-hsin only says that she wished to return to her people, and the subject is dropped. But tension still lies between the brothers even as they discuss Chueh-min's secret mission, and the news he must get to the Governor's Palace at the other side of the bay at once. Of course Chueh-hsin must help him, even though it means walking all night long. But before they arrive, disaster strikes. Duty, honor, love, and character all thread through this tapestry of a story, one I enjoyed so much I had to go right back and read it again, this time savoring all the hints of later surprises.

"Silk" by Lee Battersby -- It's a somber story about a young couple who are given a shabby old house on the edge of a very good neighborhood. They love fixing it up, restoring it to its 30s décor; they encounter a surprise in the very last room while digging up the floorboards. Beneath is yards and yards of parachute-grade silk. Watch how inexorably the unreal becomes real.

"Biographical Notes to 'A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-Planes' by Benjamin Rosenbaum" by Benjamin Rosenbaum -- Benjamin Rosenbaum is aboard a zeppelin on his way back from a Plausible Fabulists convention in Wisconsin. He meets the Raja of Thule, who offers him a place -- just before an assassin shoots him with a poison dart. Rosenbaum finds himself launching into action, chasing the assassin, just to discover a pirate closing in. While retailing the action, he pauses to consider various philosophical scenarios, because that is what Plausible Fabulists do (note the conversation with the pirate chief about various Benjamin Rosenbaums who write); his next assignment was to try to write a story in a world that has no zeppelins, and as he endures the adventure, he is thinking about his story, formulating a protagonist in a materialist-determinist world with no zeppelins, who lives a quiet life trying to imagine a magical world in which zeppelins are the mainstay of long-distance travel... This story comes to several delightful conclusions. And don't miss the symbol of piracy in this world. Terrifying indeed!

"You Could Go Home Again" by Howard Waldrop -- The last story is a novella set in a Technocrat 1940, in which World War II did not begin. Harold Scott is President, and our hero, whose name is only given as Wolfe, recognizes 'Fats' Waller on the zeppelin they are taking from Tokyo (after the Olympics) to Germany. Waller plays some of his most famous songs as Wolfe tries to repiece his life together. He's recovering from a major operation... Older readers will suspect his identity, younger readers might not, but there is a charming afterword by Waldrop that explains all. He even includes a suggested soundtrack.

Bringing this superb anthology to a close.

Copyright © 2005 Sherwood Smith

Sherwood Smith is a writer by vocation and reader by avocation. Her webpage is at

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