Crash Dummy

By Roger Ley

sfgenreIt wouldn’t be a long flight, and Father Toby hoped that the aisle seat next to him would stay empty, but no such luck, a young woman took it. He checked her over as she lifted her bag up to the overhead locker. He couldn't help it: he might be a priest, but he still had a full set of human instincts, even though age had blunted some of them, made them easier for him to handle. The woman nodded to him as she took her seat, she was very attractive, wearing a black business suit with a short jacket and knee-length skirt.

He decided to include her in his prayers, his usual policy when he saw a good-looking woman: he prayed that their beauty wouldn’t lead them into sin. He’d talked about this years ago at the seminary near Dublin with his confessor, Father George. It had been his idea, and it seemed to work.

After take-off he dozed for a while. When he awoke, he half-opened his eyes and saw that his companion was mouthing silently and moving her fingers. Was she praying, saying the Rosary? Perhaps she was a nervous flier. As he moved, she looked over and smiled. ‘I hope I didn’t wake you, Father, I was just finishing my report.’

Report? It was the first time he’d heard praying referred to as that, and he was in the business, so to speak. Perhaps it was some new slang he’d not heard. He couldn’t place her accent. Perhaps English wasn’t her mother tongue, and she’d learned the language with a British accent, rather than the more usual American one.

The flight attendant brought drinks, he told them they’d be landing at Santiago in about an hour. ‘We’ll be down before that,’ muttered his companion. She stared into her gin and tonic for a moment, then looked up and offered her hand.

‘My name’s Farina, at least that’s my original’s name.’

Original name. Did she mean her maiden name?

‘I’m Father Toby,’ he said.

She smiled brightly and asked him why he was flying to Santiago. He told her he was visiting his sister who lived in Valparaiso. They chatted about this and that and he told her the story of his sister’s whirlwind romance with her Chilean boyfriend, after they’d met on a blind date. It had been twenty years ago, when they were both working in London, but he knew that women love to hear about that sort of thing. He asked her what she did for a living.

‘I’m an air crash investigator,’ she said.

‘So, you must have had a lot of training for that.’

‘My original did.’

Original, again, Father Toby was puzzled, but years of listening to confessions had taught him to let people talk, and things would usually become clear in the end.

‘So, do you investigate all sorts of air crashes or do you specialise?’ He was just making conversation, he noticed that she had amber-coloured eyes, unusual and quite captivating.

‘Well, Farina does. She specialises in unexplained commercial aviation accidents of the early 21st century.’

‘I haven’t heard of any air crashes in South America recently,’ he said.

‘No, but there’ll be one soon.’

‘Really, so you know which planes are going to crash beforehand?’ he chuckled as he raised his glass to his lips.

‘On this occasion, yes, because it’ll be this one.’ The plane bumped at just that moment. It took him by surprise, he mopped at his spilt drink with a tissue. ‘I’ve found that some of the navigation systems are wrongly calibrated, and there is an unusual wind shear in the Jetstream.’ She stared at him intently. ‘The pilots think they’re travelling faster than they are. Then there’s the fog over the mountains that we need to cross. It all adds up, it’s always a combination of factors that lead to an accident.’ She nodded sagely and appeared to relax. ‘The pilots will try to land too early and fly into a mountain. The plane will disappear, so I conjecture it will be covered by ice and snow. Difficult terrain, impossible to find, unusually the flight recorder will never be found either.’ She sat back and looked at him, ‘What a shame there isn’t room for us to fool around, Father Toby, I’d like to have tried it once.’ There was a wistfulness in her voice.

He hoped she was joking, he was wearing a dog collar, although it wasn’t always as big a deterrent as it was supposed to be. Just for a moment an inappropriate picture of the two of them came into his mind. He decided he must include her in his prayers as soon as possible.

Father Toby took a slow sip of his single malt. ‘How could you possibly know all this before it’s actually happened?’ He was beginning to feel uncomfortable sitting next to her. They hadn’t been given an inflight meal, so there was no plastic cutlery around — when he worked as a prison chaplain, he remembered that one inmate had killed another with a sharpened toothbrush.

‘Well, Father,’ she leaned closer. ‘Actually, I’m a synthetic, an artificial person.’

‘A synthetic? You mean you were grown in a tank? Like in the movies?’ He laughed quietly, but she didn’t. He looked around to see if there were any flight attendants nearby, in case he needed help. He could see they were all busy towards the back of the plane: there seemed to be some sort of medical emergency. An overweight male passenger lay in the aisle with people gathered around him. He thought about going down there and offering to give extreme unction. It might be safer.

‘Yes, Father, grown for this assignment.’

He wondered if she was making this up as she went along, or was she suffering a long-term delusion. She didn’t seem delusional.

He pointed at her glass and tried to crack her logic, ‘Do synthetics need to drink?’

‘It’s just a social convention, I can void food and liquids later.’

She was so attractive, perhaps she was an entertainer of some sort, maybe this was a spoof laid on by his “friends” at the seminary. He looked around but couldn’t see anyone using their smartphone to record them. He tried a different tack.

‘So, how come you can tell me all this? Isn’t it against the rules, against the Prime Directive, so to speak?’

‘You’d be right under normal circumstances, Father, but as we have such a short time left, and there will be no survivors….’ She left the rest unsaid.

‘No survivors? How do you feel about that?’ He was remembering one of the many counselling courses he’d taken over the years.

‘I’ve transmitted all the data and fulfilled my function. Copies get deleted, it’s just a fact of life. My original lives on, that should be all that matters.’ He noticed there were tears in her eyes. ‘But the thing is, Father, it seems such a waste. I could have had a life. I’m not supposed to feel like this, there must have been a mistake in the copying process. Synths of my grade are not supposed to have emotions.’ She began weeping quietly.

He put an arm around her. ‘There, there, my child, don’t upset yourself,’ he said. ‘Now tell me, is there any medication that you’re supposed to be taking? Let’s just have a little look in your purse, here.’ The lighting dimmed as the plane began losing height and slid into the cloud bank covering the Andes.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has illuminated the seat belt signs as we are beginning our descent into Santiago International airport. Please ensure that your seat back and folding tray are in the upright position.’

He couldn’t find any medication, so he comforted the “crash dummy” and wondered idly if a “synthetic person” could have a soul. It would make for an interesting discussion with his students next semester.

Their seats were near the front of the plane. The security door to the flight deck opened, and a young pilot, probably the first officer, stepped out and looked anxiously down the aisle towards the knot of people gathered around the fallen passenger.

Behind the pilot, Father Toby heard an alarm start to warble and a robotic voice began repeating: ‘Pull up, pull up, pull up…’

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About The Author

Roger Ley

roger ley punch judy 200Roger Ley feels that there is a lot to be learned about political correctness from ‘Punch and Judy’ shows.

‘Crash Dummy’ is one of the stories in his recently released speculative fiction collection, 'Dead People on Facebook.' All the stories in the collection have been published, podcast or broadcast in the last year, and Steampunk author Jessica Lucci included ‘Dead People on Facebook’ in her January reading list for 2019.

His other book, ‘Chronoscape,’ is a well-received science fiction novel about time and alternate realities.

Find him at <>

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nuke conflux 2017 200Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia’s longest running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998, and conceived back around November 2007. He has been a zealous reader and occasional writer of SF since his childhood in the 1960s, and even sold a few stories here and there back in the '90s.

“Nuke”, who it turns out loves editing more than writing, lives in the New South Wales North Coast holiday destination of Nambucca Heads, where he is self-employed in IT training, computer support, desktop publishing, editing, writing, and website implementation. He is also the resident tech-head, skeptic, and board member of community radio station 2NVR, where he produces a number of shows including The AntipodeanSF Radio Show.


mark web 200Mark Webb's midlife crisis came in the form of attempting to write speculative fiction at a very slow pace. His wife maintains this is a good outcome considering the more expensive and cliched alternatives. Evidence of Mark's attempts to procrastinate in his writing, including general musings and reviews of books he has been reading, can be found at

One of Mark’s very best forms of writing procrastination is to produce the eBook series for AntipodeanSF, which he has been doing since issue 175.


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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 250

10 To The Six And The Natural Order Of Things
by Shaun A. Saunders

A Place Of My Own
by Zebuline Carter

A Rift Of No Return
by Laurie Bell

A Witch's Place
by Zena Shapter

Between The Ticks
by Lynda Young

Beware! The Blab
by Tony Owens

Cassini Falling
by Cat Sparks

Cloned + Apocalypse
by Eugen M. Bacon

by Jason Butterfield

by Jason Nahrung

End of Days
by Ray O'Brien

Evidence Of A Dark Transformation
by Phllip Berrie

Frank's Best Friend
by Col Hellmuth

Halloween Party
by Kim Rose

by Trent Jamieson

In A Phobos Garden
by Rick Kennett

In Salt And Starlight
by Pamela Jeffs

by Edwina Harvey

Off Planet
by Tony Steven Williams

Once Upon A Moonlit Clearing
by Rebecca Fraser

Pictures Of You
by Ishmael A Soledad

by Lee Battersby

by Kevin J. Phyland

Science Fiction
by Jackie Hosking

by Chris Gladstone

Sit Up And Beg
by Michael T. Schaper

Slower Than The Speed Of Light
by Kris Ashton

Soylent 7
by Shane Griffin

by Martin Livings

Special Delivery
by Garry Dean

The First Law Of Havoc
by David Kernot

The Forgotten Sea
by Louise Zedda-Sampson

The Optimist
by Simon Brown

The Past Begins
by Jan Napier

The Slow
by Antoinette Rydyr

by Sue Clennell

when Willie came home from the war hoorah hoorah
by Bart Meehan

And more... 

AntipodeanSF April 2019


Speculative Fiction
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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AntiSF's Narration Team

marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

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Carolyn's work spans devising, performance, theatre-in-education and a collaborative visual art practice.

She tours children's works to schools nationally with School Performance Tours, is a member of the Bathurst physical theatre ensemble Lingua Franca and one half of darkroom — a visual arts practice with videographer Sean O'Keeffe.

(Photo by Jeremy Belinfante) 

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garry dean narratorGarry Dean lives on the Mid Coast of New South Wales Australia, and has been a fan of SF for most of his natural life. Being vision impaired, he makes good use of voice recognition and text to speech in order to write. Many of his stories have appeared in AntipodeanSF over the years, and his love of all things audio led him to join the narration team in 2017.

You can read examples of Garry's fiction on his website <>

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mark english 100Mark is an astrophysicist and space scientist who worked on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. Following this he worked in computer consultancy, engineering, and high energy research (with a stint at the JET Fusion Torus).

All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his enjoyment of rainbows, colourful flames on romantic log fires, and rings around the moon. He has previously been published in Stupefying Stories Showcase, Everyday Fiction, Escape Pod, Perihelion and also on AntipodeanSF where he is part of the narration team.

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timonthy gwyn 100Timothy Gwyn is a professional pilot in Canada, where he flies to remote communities. During a lull in his flying career, he was a radio announcer for three years, and he is also an author.

In addition to short stories at AntipodeanSF and, his SF novel is available internationally in print and ebook formats. "Avians" draws on his love of alternative aviation to tell the tale of a girl who runs away from home to join a cadre of glider pilots on a world without metal or fossil fuels.

On Twitter, he is @timothygwyn, and his blogs are at <>.

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pixie willo 100Pixie is a voice actor, cabaret performer & slam poet From the Blue Mountains in NSW.

She enjoys writing short fiction, plays for radio and stage as well as her own brand of weird poetry.

She hosts the 'Off-Beet Poetry Slam' held bi-monthly in Katoomba,

And is a theatre reviewer for 2SER FM in Sydney.

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david whitaker 200David Whitaker is originally from the UK though has travelled around a bit and now resides in India. He has a degree in Journalism, however decided that as he’s always preferred making things up it should ultimately become a resource rather than a profession.

His stories, covering everything from sci-fi to philosophy, have been published across the globe and links to each can be found at <>

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lauriebell 2 200Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen.

She is the author of The Butterfly Stone (YA/ Fantasy — available now) and White Fire (Sci Fi — available now)

You can read more of her work on her blog Look for her on Facebook <> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

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SF News

SF News

AntipodeanSF contributor Douglas J. Ogurek will edit the up-coming UNSPLATTERPUNK! 3 anthology. Call for submissions: Theakers Quarterly.

AntipodeanSF contributor Jason Butterfield has published a novel "Bastion: Holy City", now available worldwide through a variety of channels. Available at at good local bookshops, Ingramspark, Booktopia & Amazon, as well as Foyles in the UK, and as an ebook via various outlets. More information <>.

The Australian Science Fiction Foundation is sponsoring a short story competition through Continuum 15. Junior and open categories are available. The first-place winner will receive a cash prize. Details at the Continuum 15 website.


Upcoming Cons

Nullus Anxietas VII: The Australian Discworld Convention — will be held in Melbourne on April 12-14, 2019, and is themed on Going Postal. More information: <>.

Swancon 2019 — 18/04/2019 - 22/04/2019,  Esplanade Hotel Fremantle by Rydges 46-54 Marine Terrace, Fremantle WA 6160. Swancon is Australia's longest-running science-fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction convention, and is the premiere event in Perth for fans of all forms of speculative media. More information: <>.

Continuum 15 Other Worlds (Natcon 58): Continuum 15 is the Australian National SF Convention, to be held in Melbourne on June 7–10. More information and memberships <>. AntipodeanSF will be at Continuum 15 and celebrating Issue 250 of AntiSF!

Writing NSW Speculative Fiction Festival 2019 - Sydney NSW. Writing NSW is excited to announce that their biennial Speculative Fiction Festival will be taking place on 29 June 2019. <>.

Worldcon Dublin 2019 — An Irish Worldcon 15/08/2019 till 19/08/2019, The Convention Centre Dublin (CCD). <More info here>

For more up-to-date Aussie SF info join the ASFF: <>.

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antipod-show-50The AntipodeanSF Radio Show delivers audio from the pages of this magazine.

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