Temporary Difficulties Beyond Our Control... Please Stand By

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Title: Temporary Difficulties Beyond Our Control... Please Stand By ("Quantum Leaplet")
Publisher: Penguin Press
Author(s): Susan M. Garrett
Cover Artist(s): Ann Larimer
Date(s): September 1991
Medium: print
Size: digest-sized, 28 pages
Genre: het
Fandom: Quantum Leap
Language: English
External Links:
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wraparound cover by Ann Larimer

Temporary Difficulties Beyond Our Control... Please Stand By ("Quantum Leaplet") is a gen 28-page digest-sized novel by Susan M. Garrett. Cover artist Ann Larimer was nominated for 1992 QL Artist FanQ Award.

Summaries and Ads

Summary from Media Monitor: "It is a story of time and identity, there's a problem with Ziggy that only Sam can fix... but Sam doesn't remember how."

From Penguin Press Presents #7: "Ziggy has an internal flaw that prevents the project from determining what Sam's there to do and may keep him from leaping again. Only Sam can fix it... if he remembers how. This leap into a physicist in Eustace, Texas in 1979 presents Sam with a problem he can't solve and the possibility of spending his life as someone else. No, that's not a mis-print — we're selling the Quantum Leaplet for only S2.00, postage included! This is a digest sized (81/2x11, folded), twenty-eight page zine containing one story and a neat fold around cover by Ann Larimer. Our initial run of 125 copies is almost gone, so order today!"

Reactions and Reviews

This is a 'Quantum Leapflet', which means it's one story in 28 digest-sized pages. Sam leaps into Peter Mateo, an engineer who's just gotten a job in a new town, so no one knows Peter very well and Sam isn't as easily 'tripped up' as usual. Good thing, since Al's pretty late getting there. Problem is, not only does Ziggy not know why Sam's there, the computer's threatening to completely disintegrate, possibly taking the Project with it, and once Al finally shows up, he has to warn Sam that they may be separated shortly. Ziggy's so trashed they may have to shut it down, and what will happen to Sam and Peter then is anyone's guess. Death is a definite possibility.

The author says her goal was 'to write a story about Sam having nothing to do except think about the consequences of his actions ~ and his future', but this story doesn't strike me as primarily introspective. Actually, I hoped the situation would reveal more of Sam than it did. I felt like the first half promised more than the second half delivered, in that once the situation is laid out the story almost turns into a Mary Sue rather than leaving Sam alone to worry about things and to 'face his own mortalily' or whatnot.

On the other hand, for two bucks it's not a bad deal. It's not action/adventure, and it doesn't have scenes of great personal revelations, but it does move along at a nice pace, it's well written, and it holds together pretty well. [1]

...Thanks for sending me a copy of "Temporary Difficulties"... it's very good. Everyone is in character. The plot is believable and a little scary as Sam realizes he may have to be Peter the rest of his life. And I liked the fact that it is a character-based story instead of a 'Oh, let's save the World from Disaster' sort of thing with car chases and explosions, etc. The very best QL stories are the ones that center on Sam or Al, I think. I just read along at my usual zippy pace and nothing made me stop and go "hmmmm," so print that sucker and run a zillion copies. [2]

"Temporary Difficulties Beyond Our Control. . . Please Stand By" was a satisfying tale with an interesting premise that is told with a confident command of character and language. Despite a definite lag in momentum about one-quarter of the way into the story, we are pulled through by the characterizations of Sam and Al to a conclusion that is quite insightful and satisfying. I particularly enjoyed the opening, where we see, hear and even smell Sam's entry into a new persona and share his sense of disorientation and that think-fast mentality that gives him just enough information to keep him ahead of the game. I also liked Al's appearances at the start of the action and his totally familiar tendency to gloss over the big screw-ups going on in the background. I felt abit of "treading water," however, as Sam got home and realized he would be grounded for a while; for a few moments, I could have put the story down, almost too thoroughly sharing Sam's thoughts of, "what gives here?" But luckily the "Ziggy crisis" and Al's (literal) disappearance got me through the slow parts, so I could appreciate the later stories finer points. Dialogue, as with all your stories, is crisp and excellent; I particularly liked Al's "make fun of the hologram" line. And we were able to feel Sam's pain and desolation at not being able to tell Carol the truth about himself. We, like him, faced the fear of being stranded in the past—and wondering how we would respond to such a challenge. The ending was not contrived at all—-in fact, a similar device was used in the season opener this year—and the explanations sufficiently complex to sound believable. I also liked its exploration of the intricacies of time—and how even the lightest tap could produce the deepest tremor. And who can argue with the gorgeous cover? Ann, don't ever leave fandom! I couldn't live without knowing you were out there! Execution generally was excellent; you've got the sig format down, and I liked the drop caps so much I think I'll steal them for MOUNDS OF TIME. All I want to know is, when do you publish another one? Like a handful of salt-sweet almonds, these leapflets can be habit-forming! [3]

Three out of five stars. I've been reading Susan's work in other universes for many years. She claims in her editorial not to be a big QL fan, don't believe it, she must be to have written this story. She set out to write a "thinking" story that couldn't be done on the show, a leap where Sam spends most of the time thinking about the changes he's making to the lives of the people he's leaped into - in this case Peter Matteo, on the first day of his new job in a hi-tech research lab in Texas. Nobody there knows Peter any better than Sam does. Ziggy's struggling with a hardware failure, so Sam is left to unpack Peter's belongings and dwell on why he's leaping. As Al's link is flickering out and they may have to shut down Ziggy entirely, Sam must solve both their problems. Wonderful character interaction, not for action/adventure fans.[4]

I don't get it. Susan Garrett, frequently in cahoots with artistic cohort Ann Larimer, routinely puts out well-written, well-designed, beautifully printed fanzines. These guys can do more with a whim than most of us could manage with a Five Year Plan. Then, to top it off, they're able to sell 'em for peanuts without being reduced to panhandling on street corners to pay their printer. I just don't get it. Temporary Difficulties Beyond Our Control... is a digest-size Quantum Leap zine, which Ann Larimer reportedly refers to as a "Quantum Leapflet" (you can dress her up, but you can't let her talk in public). Although slight in stature, weighing in at a mere twenty-eight pages plus covers (the title is damn' near longer than the story) this zine stands head and shoulders above most of the fan fiction I've seen recently.

Sam Beckett has "leaped" into newly employed researcher Peter Matteo, in 1979Texas. His search for clues to his purpose there is hampered by problems the Quantum Leap project team is experiencing with Ziggy's hardware. The situation turns critical when it becomes apparent that the problems will soon render Ziggy completely useless, stranding Peter Matteo in the "waiting room"--and Sam in 1979.

Susan's story is more introspective than much of televised Quantum Leap-no heroic antics, car chases, or blazing gunfire, just a difficult puzzle that raises some tough questions for Sam, forcing him to reexamine his ability to deal with the likelihood and probable consequences to him of failure. Her narrative style is crisp, her handling of settings and situations is convincing and assured, her invented characters are believable, and Sam and Al ring true.

My only quibble has less to do with Susan's work than with my own expectations of fan fiction. Given the apparently hopeless situation in which Sam finds himself, and Al's frustration overhis inability to help, I expected more, oh, I dunno... angst? Metaphorical hand holding? You know - Good Stuff. It lacks the emotional impact that I look for in fan fiction. Susan's writing is restrained, more professional than fannish in style. In fact, with minor changes, this could be a work of serious science fiction (if that isn't a contradiction in terms).

One of the most pleasing things about Temporary Difficulties is logical flow from beginning to final resolution. In the aired episodes, Sam frequently does things that seem foreign to his nature (what little we know of it, anyway). In contrast, Susan's solution is natural, unforced, and elegant, stemming directly from Sam's own talents and temperament. By unwittingly helping a friend, he helps himself, as well. Being by no stretch of the imagination a scientist, I can't vouch for the validity of the science, but I found the neatly crafted solution eminently satisfying.

The presentation is excellent. Typeface and titles are attractive and easy on the eyes (although the text in my copy is crooked on the page), and typos were kept to a respectable minimum. Ann Larimer's cover sparkles. Her penwork is neat and accurate, yet lively. It isn't her bestest ever (remember, she's the one who broke the Bell curve with her cover art for Ahead of His Time & Ticket to Read), but it is damn fine, and complements the story beautifully. And it's printed on a nifty paper that fades from light blue to dark, adding visual interest without detracting from the art. There is no other art in the zine, and, being the greedy sort that I am, I did find myself wishing that there had been at least one or two interior illustrations (I know, I know, but I can dream, can't I?).

To sum up before this review becomes longer than the zine itself, this one's a "must read" for QL fans, and, at two bucks a throw (see what I mean about selling for peanuts?), how can you possibly go wrong? [5]


  1. ^ from The Imaging Chamber #10
  2. ^ from Penguin Press LOC Booklet
  3. ^ from Penguin Press LOC Booklet
  4. ^ QL Fanzine Reviews File #1 by Mary Anne Espenshade (June 23, 1994)
  5. ^ from Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #3, the reviewer gives it "4 trees." The reviewers in "Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine?" rated zines on a 1-5 tree/star scale. See that page for more explanation.