Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy

Hey everyone,

Paper Angel Press has a new short story series underway, with the first story released several weeks ago, and the next to be released on April 12th. Stories will be released monthly, on Tuesdays, so get ready for Truck Stop Tuesdays! Based on the first two stories, “The Stargazer Gift Shop” by Steve Soult and “Coke Machine” by Vanessa MacLaren-Wray, this series is a winner.

At the center of the galaxy rests a mystery — a fully-functional space station abandoned by an alien race for centuries.

Now a thriving hub for interstellar commerce and tourism, the station still contains more mysteries than you might imagine …

Both of these stories blew me away. I was taken with how both authors, from the first sentence, created a fully-functional world in such a compressed format. The characters are alive, the plots are quick and nimble, and the setting is fantastic. The premise is brilliant; this series is going to be so much fun. You can purchase the stories as they are released; the full complement of stories will be out as an anthology sometime in 2023, but I suggest not waiting — read them as soon as you can!

My reviews of the first two stories in the series are below:

The Stargazer Gift Shop” by Steve Soult

What would you buy at the Stargazer Gift Shop at the center of the galaxy?

Would you buy a soft drink, science kit, makeup, data disk, gumball, something else, or perhaps nothing at all?

While you are there, Rhoda will always be very happy to help you find the perfect gift.

On the surface, this is a sweet story about an android, Rhoda, who works in a gift shop at the center of the galaxy. She’s getting older, is eager to help, and worries about being shut down and her components farmed out. Rhoda is fully invested in her community and her job. She worries about the other androids working in the station and checks in with them during the course of the day. She enthusiastically helps out folks who wander into the shop, having to react quickly to avoid sticky situations. She has an ugly confrontation with a family of tourists, who, through some fast thinking and a small measure of grace, she manages to connect with in a positive way.

I love science fiction for its ability to reflect social justice issues. This story accomplishes that brilliantly. As the story unfolds, you’ll find universal themes: community, empathy, and kindness; along with privilege, prejudice, and power. As I read the story, I found myself resonating with the daily challenges of anyone working with the public — you never know what’s coming.

Favorite sentence: “It’s always nice to be fully charged in the morning, she [Rhoda] thought. That way I can get through the day without having to conserve energy.

Coke Machine” by Vanessa MacLaren-Wray

Every truck stop needs a coke machine.

What a way to die — coated in sticky effluent, upside-down in a disused access tube, lost forever in a drifting, abandoned, bankrupt trader ship.

Skip-ship engineer Marichka’s busy with a fire, a faulty Ancient-tech component, and now the etheric cabling’s sprung a leak.

Could everyone just shut up already?

Just like MacLaren-Wray’s full-length book, All That Was Asked, this story captured me right from the get-go. The author has an uncanny ability to draw the reader all the way in, starting with the first sentence, and not letting go until the hapless reader surfaces for air at the end. The story takes place in the compressed engine quarters of a ship, where Marichka, the ship’s engineer, is floating in a vat of goo, trying to make life-or-death repairs before the engine overheats, incinerating the ship and its crew.

Maclaren-Wray’s imagination is brilliant, bringing her world to life with vivid imagery and fierce characters. And her strong knowledge of engineering and physics, along with her attention to mechanical detail, pull the reader into a vortex of adrenaline-fueled, realistic action. It’s thrilling!

Favorite sentence (which happens to be the first sentence!): “Hanging upside down, lungs on fire, fingers sizzling with bad information, I’m trying to reconstruct a joke I heard once, back in my beer-clouded apprentice days, a long story ending in a terrible pun.”

~~~~~~~~~

That’s it for today — hope you enjoy these stories as much as I did.

Until next time,

Nancy

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