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Planetary Stories
From the Vibrating Ether
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LETTER FROM LT LUNA

   

Dear Lune-addicts,

Well, you don’t like to toss around a word like ‘mutiny,’ even on the old Starship PS (unless it adds to the excitement of a story, of course). But when the Skipper announced last time out was maybe going to be our last voyage there was a lot of rumbling down below decks. We crew-critters thought we were starting to get the hang of things here. The drive had cut in and the engines were really, really singing, though I think it was Snaggletooth who said they sounded to him a bit more like his Aunt Farley’s tomcat than Pavarotti. We felt we were starting to milk the light-years out of the old hypers, and here the Skipper was talking about setting down at the next port and staying there. None of us liked that. The next port was Cedna. All the bars close at midnight on Cedna.

Frogeyes got so upset he wouldn’t touch more than one jug of Xeno at a time. Down in the engine room, Wart-ears was so despondent he was sucking on a damper rod. It was one sad bunch of crew-critters we had on this ship, let me tell you.

So we got together and talked it over and picked out a delegation to go talk to the captain about it. It was an informal delegation consisting of Oswald the Howitzer and an I-beam. Oswald went straight to the bridge and woke the Skipper up and asked why he was shutting down.


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Well, the Old Man took one look at that I-beam and allowed as how he’d never said we were going to shut down, in fact he had no idea how the rumor started. Most likely it was the efforts of one of our rivals. Ray Palmer of Other Worlds, maybe, or Oscar J. Friend of Thrilling Wonder, or even Ernie Saylor over at Aberrant Dreams. Yeah, one of them must have somehow hacked into the old Starship’s Mighty Mainframe and planted that message! “That Hugo Gernsback’s been awful quiet lately,” the Skipper pointed out. “But I wouldn’t put it past him at all. Do you realize he used to publish a magazine called Pirate Stories?”

You can imagine how that cheered us all up. Meltdown was so thrilled he decided to celebrate by going outside to chip space barnacles off our hull. If only he’d remembered to wear a spacesuit it wouldn’t have been half as depressing.

We reached Cedna and decided the next voyage ought to be special for you passengers. So none of us took shore leave. We all stayed with the ship and worked extra hard to make it even better than before. We took care of all the barnacles Meltdown missed (which wasn’t many; Meltdown could hold his breath for almost twenty minutes). We patched up the meteor holes and redecorated the whole ship. And I mean decorate! This ish of PS is a real beauty with gorgeous illustrations by Mark Fults, Jerry Burge and Logan Price to name just three.

And has Igor plotted us a course! It’s a beauty

 

that’ll take us all over the galaxy before we touch down. We’ll be going close to the center of the galaxy, for instance, where there’s a really sinister nebula called the Lantern of the Lost Worlds. There’re people who say some of the Great Old Ones are there, like Cthulhu and Azathoth; not to mention that infamous pirate Sadie the Ladie. Gerald Page will be helping to pilot that part of the trip, but Michael Shack gets the jets long enough for a couple of Captain Shivers adventures. Shelvy plans a grand swing by one of his favorite regions of space with a tale he calls “Blue Bums of Barsoom.”


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We’ll have a great new competition to choose the writer of the best letter of comment to the magazine. And we’ll have a second contest especially for those of you who’re too pretty to write letters. Wait’ll you see the prizes we’re offering.

 

As for us having a final voyage anytime soon, I took a small survey here on the ship. I checked with all the female crew-critters, which is about 23% of the ship’s complement. (That’s a larger representation than any other sex.) I can’t honestly say that all of them are as svelte as Captain Shivers or even (ahem), me. But none of us confess to being ladies, and I can assure you from long experience that not a one of us can sing.

Lt. Luna

Hey, how 'bout that! Now we'll have a letter column with colyums! And listen up: You better be sending in some letters letting us know what you think of this.

Yes, YOU! We got the good ship Planetary Stories moving again -- zooming,in fact, so let us know whatcha think of it!

Now, to some of you who Answered The Call. Let's start off with John Thiel:

John starts off with:

What!? Thinking of shutting down?? It won't be because you receive no comments from me! I'm busy advertising Surprising


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Stories today, but I will shortly be commenting about all three issues and I hope receiving a long LoC from me will start you to feeling better about publishing the zine.--John Thiel

Way to go, John! Better yet, later, you came along with:

I have been watching the entire STAR TREK series and consider myself still a science fiction fan and in fact an sf fan of the 21st Century. I consider Planetary Stories to be a first-rate modern fanzine, very timely and keeping pace with things. I'd hate to see you shut down and as you complain of lack of response I have hastened to write you a LoC. As a new computer user I've had a work-load or I would have written earlier. Now my work-load has diminished; for example, I've already seen "Sub Rosa", today's episode on TNG.

SF ought to be promoted. Just lately, SciFi came up with the idea of not renewing SG-1, and it looks like another bust period coming up, not very affordable with the number of regular magazines down to about three. Certainly TV sf is better than RAISING THE ROOF, which SPIKE has been threatening audiences with between ST episodes. The fact is, SF programming is some of the best on TV, the rest of it being rather similar to RtR. So I ask you to keep the SF spirit going with Planetary Stories.

I thought "Doomed Lensmen" in issue two was good fanfiction, more or less perpetuating the lives of characters both of yore and of the future. "Trouble on Shrlndu" has a similarly activated feel to it. On the theory

 

that only Ghu could do anything about the trouble described, I suggest

you search out Ghu on a search engine and see what's there. (AltaVista recommended). It's a gold mine.

Rick Brooks' "Smokescreen" in issue three reminded me of the new television series EUREKA. The effects of modern or unusual phenomena or strange cultures on specified towns or cities seem to be all the thing on TV these days.

Engholm's piece gave me a creepy feeling when I saw that its locale was Foo's Bar. Does the author intend to have this effect? I think the people in "Fine Print" hadn't read the Bottom Line either. I was surprised to see Bob Bolin in your fourth issue; I hadn't known he got around that much. He's been writing for my regular fanzine Pablo Lennis for years, though.

Weresoldiers is a subtle idea, but I think it's not altogether unheard-of. Look at Worf. As a matter of fact, that's a pretty good description of Klingons in general, so there's your troops right there. Chewbacca is another example of the concept in action. Asking once again, don't shut down Planetary Stories!

John Thiel

You tell 'em, John!


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Now, speaking of Bob Bolin:

Dear Sir:

I appreciate your magazine I still haven't read all the stories, but plan to do so. The magazine does bring back the feeling of the old pulp science fiction mags.

I also appreciated your publication of my story, Reluctant Hero. I use the pen name, Bob Bolin because it's easier to pronounce and remember than the more formal -Robert Bolin. This is to wish you good luck with future issues.

Bob

Stick with us,Bob!

Now comes a really good letter of comment,one I highly approve of (especially the way he addresses me!)

Lovely Lt. Luna;

I stumbled onto Planetary Stories at lunch today and enjoyed it greatly. This is the kind of storytelling I've always enjoyed.

I know writers live for feedback (well, at least the good ones!) so here's my survey of Issue 4 in approximate order of my enjoyment of them, with a quick comment on each

 

.

The City in the Syrtis - Evocative in a way that reminds me of Leigh Brackett, and that ain't too shabby! Nice touches of sensory detail.The Unkindest Cut of All worked well for me, even though I normally dislike twist endings. This one was so outrageous in scope that it was somehow charming.

Time Was - Fast-paced and true to the spirit of the originals, fun. The character interplay was the best part, for me.

Out of the Dark - Meaty, well constructed with interesting ideas, somewhat long for an on-screen read but it rewarded the effort.

The Stars my Fornication - Meaty in a different way. The buildup to the final scene felt a little rushed, but overall it's a lot of fun. The ending was somewhat of a downer, even though I see what he was doing with it.

Reluctant Hero - Amusing in a small-scale

way, but would have liked more detail about the afterlife.

Farewell to the Nadir - Just OK, a bit self-consciously cute for my taste, but humor is hard. I liked the illustration.

Crash Cameron and the Slime Beast - A twist ending that didn't really work for me - in part because it feels self-consciously cute. Just not my cup of tea.


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I hope the comments are of you to you folks, and that Planetary keeps on spinning!

Lee Tenibor

Good comments, Lee! I'm glad you stumbled!

Don't mind telling us when there's something you don't like about a story; while everybody loves egoboo, we've gotta know when we fail in order to improve!

Now, here's a newcomer to our pages:

I've been enjoying Planetary stories quite a bit. Good stories in a nostalgic vein, it brings back some memories!

I particularly like to read Gerald W. Page's humorous Nadir McGuirk stories. However the latest one, "Farewell to the Nadir" left me disappointed, due to the fact that the end of the story is MISSING.

"Out of the Dark" is a good tale, lots of great imagery in that one. The stories are of high calibre in general.

Keep up the good work--and give us the finish of that Nadir McGuirk yarn!

Best regards,

Wm. Michael (Mike) Mott

 

You're right, Mike; the end of the Nadir story was discovered and repaired; pull it up now and you'll see. That happens now and then; editorial overlook, I guess you could call it! Thanks a lot for your letter; do it again sometimes -- like, to let us now how you like our New Look!

Now here's a comment from a very well known, very respected fan, Joyce Katz;

Dear ShelVy,

Sorry your response has been so low. I think it's probably difficult for people to find anything to say in response to stories. This doesn't explain, however, how fandom managed to evolve, since it was an offshoot of people commenting about stories. Just one more thing Fan Was Not Meant to Know.

I liked "Unkindest Cut of All" by Utley. But it did make me wonder about the composition of the doctor's scapel, which was able to puncture the very rind that had been so impenatrable to the internal pressures. And also, I have to ask in view of the creatures omnivorous appetite, who survived to write the story?

Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life....

Best,

Joyce Katz

Good hearing from you, Joyce -- even if you DID


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address it to ShelVy instead of Lt Luna!

And now, a letter pulled out of Ron Hanna:

Well, you asked for response, so here's my two cents.... I hate reading stories on the computer... Have you considered going the traditional fanzine route (in print)? Lulu has a great Print-On-Demand site, with NO CHARGE... just prepare your stuff, upload, and they handle all the orders, printing, shipping, etc... and every 3 months you get a royalty check... less their 20% fee, of course...

LOVED the Lensman story and the cover.... but the interior artwork sucked BIG-TIME... Was it drawn by a child? Sure looked like it, what with nothing more than colored stick figures... REALLY turned me off when I saw it...

I think it's great you're doing a pulpzine, but without it being in print, it's not something I would follow as a fan... I want my pages to turn!

Ron

Glad you wrote, Ron -- but there's a problem with your suggestion to Go Print: Then people would have to PAY to get Planetary Stories! That goes against ourpurpose to make Planetary Stories available to EVERYbody. . .everybody that has a computer, that is. I know what you mean about the feel of Real Pages in your hands, but I just can't see that happening. A PDF version is attached; print it!

Now here's a letter from one of our favorites, Chris Garcia:

 

I feel like an old school LetterHack when I write to a fiction zine. I missed those days by being born a couple of decades too late.

I have to give it to you that the threat of losing PS is a great one and it's certainly what got me to send another letter (in fact, I don't know if I got a chance to read issue 3). I'm always interested in keeping things around a bit longer, so if my dropping a line helps, I'll do it (it'll also be the second LoC of the day and the Fourth of the week, so I'm keeping pace with myself.)

I love the image with The Stars My Fornication. It seems like an image that would fit right in at The Drink Tank. It was a fun little story and it reminded me a bit of the smutty paperbacks that my Dad left behind at my house. While it's certainly not along the lines of The Day The Universe Came, it's right up there.

I have to admit that though I enjoyed the stories, I often have a hard time reading things when they're not presented in the traditional paragraph format. It's just a little weird and a personal thing.

The City in the Syrtis is another fun one and I think I've read it before in the first printing, though I could be wrong. I think I've come across a bunch of old Spaceways in my time.

It seems like there's a bit missing missing from the second

paragraph of The Unkindest Cut. It reminded me of the Short Filmed version of AE Van Vogt's Can of Paint for visuals (though


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it's nothing like it in style theme or execution.) The feeling that it gave me was that of a 1950s SF/horror film. You could almost feel the Goo being pictured as Communism!

-- Chris

Thanks for the letter, Chris. How do out paragraphs suit you now? As well as the double columns. . .we're trying hard!

Now a letter from another of our favorites, Gerald Page (actually, as you'll see, it's TWO letters!)

Dear Shelby -- Haven't had time to read anything yet but I wanted to let you know that I think number four looks like a winner. Lots of stories, including one by one of my favorite writers, Steven Utley. How can it miss?

Some data on "The City in the Syrtis" you might care to pass along to your readers. Spaceway was a digest first published in the 1950s by William Crawford. Crawford had published a number of legendary books and magazines in the field, including the magazines Marvel Tales and Unusual Stories in the thirties. He also published two legendary books, the first small press sf items, H,P, Lovecraft's The Shadow over Innsmouth and Eugene George Key's Mars Mountains. Shadow was the only book of HPL's published in his lifetime. Crawford resumed publication in the field with a magazine called Fantasy

 

Book after the war, and a book operation called FPCI. Fantasy Book published the first fiction of a few writers you may have heard of, including Cordwainer Smith and Andre Norton.

Spaceway ran for a few issue in the fifties and then succumbed to the economic problems that killed the science fiction boom around 1954. By coincidence I started reading sf about that time and picked up the last issue in early 1955 and read it. It began a serial by Ralph Milne Farley (real name Roger Sherman Hoar) featuring his series character Myles Cabot but the magazine died with it uncompleted.

Bill revived Spaceway in 1968 and I sent him several stories. We also began corresponding. He resumed the Myles Cabot serial and finally completed it. I read it and while I'm not saying it was worth a 14 year wait, I did enjoy it. I had a story in the issue that ran the very last instalment of that serial.

(Those of you who read the sf/fantasy semi-prozine Aberrant Dreams may have noticed the editor's use of the name Myles Cabot on some features. Now you know where that came from.)

I also need to comment on that cover by William Jackson. It seems a bit more Tremaine Astounding than Paul Payne Planet Stories. Doesn't it break a tradition by not having a heroine in an Earle K. Bergey designed lady space captain's uniform in it? Not that it


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matters. It was an excellent drawing and I love it.

Now I'm going to go pour myself a glass of xeno and read some stories. --Jerry

Thanks for all that Inside Dope, Jerry; around here, I'M the inside dope! . . .Well, enuf of being humble! Now to Jerry's Letter of Comment:

Dear Lt Luna: -- I was right. I thought Steven Utley's "The Unkindest Cut of All" would be pretty good and I was right. I suppose it's a minor story but it's so well written that doesn't matter. The way it's constructed is almost perfect.

As for "Out of the Dark," I just can't say enough. A thoroughly entertaining story, very well written. Loved the characters, loved the ideas, enjoyed reading it. A lot.

Rest of the stories were entertaining. There was a tendency to open some of them too early.

For example "Reluctant Hero" would have been a stronger, more entertaining, shorter (much shorter) and better story if it had begun when Rain arrived in Heaven. He'd have to explain the situation when he got there of course, but it's not as if that would have taken more than two or three short paragraphs. I'm afraid the satire in the beginning of the story was a tad obvious and would have been better

 

floor. A different opening point would have helped "Time Was ..." also. It seemed to take just too long to get to the point where there felt like there was any sort of story. I think a bit more attention to construction would have made the ideas easier to grasp, also. Still it was readable and

the ideas were fun. You have an unusual knack for producing likeable characters in a seemingly effortless way.

How old fashioned a letter column do you want? How long has it been since we had any real controversy in an sf mag anyway? Let's bring back the Dean Drive. Psi machines. Edwin Sigler vs. Chad Oliver. Shaver versus the World.

Or maybe we could just talk about the stories.

Best

Jerry

Hey, we can take controversy, Jerry -- but we LOVE letters about our stories! . . .And, as I'm letter editor, I exercised my right and changed your second "Dear Shelby" to "Dear Lt Luna"! Get the hint???

Now, here's a letter from Mark Halegua:

I did a little reading of your "magazine," #4. So far only the first


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story, "Time Was."

First, I couldn't get to the cover from the TOC.

Second, the centering of the text is uncomfortable for reading a

story, in my opinion. A slightly smaller text and left aligned, IMO, would be better and more comfortable. In fact, since you use a pulpy paper background, why not format the text into 2 columns, as it would emulate the SF pulps. It shouldn't be a problem, and I think would look and feel better.

The story itself is a little choppy. Not bad, but not great either, and I think it would be better if it were a little longer, or, perhaps broken up into 2 stories and then expanded. The first part would be the creation and testing of the Trigger, and the second story about the attack of the clones. :-)

This will allow you to expand on both and give more detail.

I'll try reading the next story later.

Mark

Appreciate the letter, Mark, and you will have already seen that we HAVE columns this time! As for the justified left side -- well, if someone can tell us a program that will do that and work in both Netscape and Internet Explorer, we'll be GLAD to do it! And let us know what you think of the other stories!

 

Next is a letter from Steve Upham, editor of Screaming Dreams (www.screamingdreams.com). If that link doesn't work, go to our Links page!

Great to see Issue #4 of Planetary Stories released! You asked for some feedback/comments so just thought I'd suggest that along with the online *.htm format pages, personally I would like to see a PDF version download as well. I think it makes it a bit easier for people to download and read offline later (or to print out if they prefer a hardcopy). Of course not everyone will prefer a PDF file but that's what I find most useful these days myself.

I think it would also be nice to see some more interior illustrations in each issue, but again that's purely a personal preference as I'm an artist and not a writer.

Anyway, I hope that you will continue with Planetary Stories as it would be a shame if this were to be the last issue! If you want I can do a write-up of it in the next issue of my own eZine? Maybe that will help to generate a bit of extra response for you? Send me some promo text about PS and I will include it in the next issue. I can also include a pic of your excellent coverart with the text if you want? Let me know anyway.

Oh, thanks also for mentioning my eZine in your Links section. Much appreciated I assure you.


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Progress with my own eZine is behind schedule at the moment though, because of delays waiting for several contributors to send in their final material for issues 4 and 5. I was hoping to have had them

both online by now but it's still dragging on! I am going to try and push forward though and get the eZine back on track by the end of this month, fingers crossed.

Keep up the great work at your end anyway.

Kind regards,

Steve

You're certainly welcome, Steve. And we now HAVE a PDF version of #4; just go to www.planetarystories.com/PS4.PDF. With luck, thish will go PDF as well; if so, it will be PS5.PDF. I've got, by the bye, something to send you to plug us in Screaming Dreams!

Ned Brooks sent us a muchly-appreciated letter:

The problem of feedback to an online fanzine has been discussed several places. I get almost no feedback from the online version of mine, and yet, as you can see from the comment summary column I do in each issue, the response to the paper version is fairly good. There are some 300 paper copies, but I don't have a counter on the cyber version - to know which issues were looked at, I would need 27 counters. However, my zine is entirely non-fiction, so the cases

 

may not be comparable.

The cover of the fourth issue doesn't come up from the link, just the "not found" message.

"The Reluctant Hero" was silly but fun. I thought the ending was a little weak - it wasn't clear to me how the president was to "have a baby" - no foundation had been laid for the sex or marital status of the president except that he "waved a cigar".

Page's story is another silly one, but longer.... The second chapter (?) seems to open with a glitch }d \fs24\s3\fi288\sl480\slmult1 unless that's some curious feature of the story that I don't get. I see there are two more of them further down. Not a bad story for utter nonsense.

Best, Ned

Thanks muchly, Ned. I think ShelVy fixed the cover link (or, in truth, I think Lloyd McDaniel did it for him after ShelVy couldn't do it!) and I know it was ShelVy who straightened out the glitch in Page's story. And, as I mentioned earlier, paper versions of Planetary Stories just won't work; for one thing, with all the color, it would cost an arm and a leg to print just a hundred! And, as I said before, getting someone else to do it and SELL it for us is not what we consider a viable option.


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We even got a letter of comment from Lloyd McDaniel, to wit:

needs a smaller bra on the bimbo on the cover!!!

:P)

L.

Hey, Lloyd -- even with the added grin, that's a sexist remark! (Besides, you mentioned nothing about MY bra!:-)

Now THIS is a letter column! Enuf egoboo to keep us going for AT LEAST three more issues! In fact, here's another, complete with credentials:

Hi Folks,

Thought I would drop a line to say how much I love your site and magazine. It looks great, and is certainly needed. Just to let you know who we are, my wife (Ginger) and I published a string of genre magazines, two of which were SF: Startling Science Stories and Alien Worlds. Actually, a third, Exciting UFO Stories was SF with UFOs. We published several other titles, and all together barely had one or two pages of comments each month. We ran the same letters in each title, whether the loc was written for our mystery

 

magazine or SF magazine, or which ever title. You just couldn't squeeze LOCs from the readers! We finally started asking the readers to vote on their favorite story each month, and that got some locs. But good luck!

I'll see if we have any available stories for you, although it looks like you have plenty on hand already. Is it okay if we send referrals your way? We are still getting short stories in the mail and over the Internet, mostly SF and mystery, but have not been sending them anywhere in particular. Again, good luck, and don't give up. Most fans are quiet, but still love the mags and stories. Oh, do you have a Classifieds in your issues, like a short ad or two?

I would love to have a note in your issues stating that I collect and swap pulps and digest SF magazines with other collectors. Can I do that?

See my signature below.

Tom Johnson

"Jur: A Story of Predawn Earth" by Tom Johnson & "Savage Land of Jur" by Tom Johnson - www.chippewa.com

"Lost Land of Jur" by Tom Johnson - NBI


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"Queen of Jur" by Tom Johnson - Sanbun Publishers

"Tales of Masks & Mayhem" Volume One & Volume Two at Amazon.com

"Crime's Last Stand" & "Dark Streets of Doom" by Tom Johnson (Gryphon Double Novel)

www.tomjohnsonsjur-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

http://www15.brinkster.com/jur1/index.html &

www.geocities.com/fadingshadows1/index.html

There you are, Tom! Got in your 'swap' plug and everything! Dunno if you really intended us to print your 'signature', but I thot it was interesting. And, yeah, we understand the problem with LoCs -- but THIS time we got results -- as you can plainly see! As for stories, we are ALWAYS willing to look at new material, yours or your referrals. Don't be bashful!

And now we hear from another newcomer: (Ain't it wunnerful, getting all these letters?--

Your editorial , , , mentioned that you are looking for comments on the issues you have already published. Are you looking for

 

story critiques? I saw your webpage with the cover art, and I thought the covers were fantastic.

I have pretty much given up on reading science fiction. Most of the stuff that is published is so pretentious as far as its holier-than-thou attitude, and it has little or no sense of humor. I would much rather have an adventure story with a lot of action, and even if the characters are one-dimensional, at least they are fun. It seems like most writers and publishers believe that unless I am reading stories that reinforce my guilt complex or increase my angst, then I am committing some kind of heinous sin. Since when I read SF I read things like the trilogy of "Before The Golden Age" books (which I still have), I guess you can color my soul black.

Tom Condarcure

You slammed that nail right on the head,Tom! If I want philosophy, I'll read Neitsche! Sf oughta be action, Action, ACTION! Humor, planets blasted, rocket ships, aliens and all that. Yeah, characterization is nice, but the story should come first! As for what we're looking for -- what you thought of it all! If any story really strikes you (good or bad; we want both!) tell us about it! And not just stories; features, art, whatever you see that you like/don't like, we'd like to know! click here tocontact


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