header by Jim Garrison

Well, here we are with another issue of Planetary Stories to enjoy – to say nothing of its companion magazine Pulp Spirit, and even a Wonderlust feature – which means that we, naturally, now turn our attention to the previous issue. Strange how that works out, isn’t it?

Before we dive into the letter bag, let me remind you that each issue we look forward to hearing from our faithful readers. That’s you. So don’t think you’re off the hook just because you’ve finished reading the stories. You need to write us about them, now.

Seems like Tom Johnson’s “The Tin Star” in the last issue of Pulp Spirit, prompted a bunch of comments. Let’s start off with Johann Kuestler.

Lt. Luna, Ma'am,

Just finished reading The Silver Star and enjoyed that great little twist in the ending. Tom's got a great little tale there. Thanks.

Johann T. Kuester

And from Keith Souter, discussing it at Blackhorse Westerns:

Hi Shelby,

I write micro-fiction and know how hard it is to fit a story into 250 words. I liked it a lot.

Well, if you write fiction at all – of any length – you need to submit some of it to Planetary Stories or Pulp Spirit. For that matter, why not both?

Pat Hawk asked:


I liked the story.

Is this the Echoes' Tom Johnson?

Best, Pat Hawk

It is indeed the same Tom Johnson who edited that fine pulp fanzine Echoes – and several other titles, as well.

And from Ian Parnham, also at Blackhorse Westerns:

Lt. Luna,

I thought that a good story. I liked the light shining in the eyes as that was the point of the story, flagged up in the title and the opening line, making it work for me. Being hypercritical (as this is micro-fiction and every word really has to earn its place) the story could have still been told in less words by deleting all the adverbs, none of which added anything, and tracking down some repetition like 'aged old' and redundant phrases like 'the town of'.


Charlie Whipple, however, had some disagreements:

Sorry, Shelby.

Hard to believe an object as small as a silver badge would throw a sunbeam exactly into the gunfighter's eyes. Have you ever tried to signal with a mirror? Very hard to find the target at the other end. Good short-short construction except for that one thing that causes a blip in the suspension of disbelief. Charlie

Joanne (We misplaced her last name; sorry), summed it up this way:

Lt. Luna,

I like the feel of it, and the sun on the badge works for me since you set it up in the first couple of lines. As for it being unlikely, I disagree with Charlie - you can guarantee the sun always glints off something unexpected and blinds you, especially when you're driving. :-)

How many times have you heard people say "can you believe..."


The ever-reliable Bob Kennedy, who wrote “How the Name Came” in the last Pulp Spirit, and who also writes the Voice stories (see “Grand Opening Under Fire” in the current Pulp Spirit) posted this letter on a couple of email groups he participates in.

Hello All,

Hope everyone had a fine holiday season.

The coming of the new year also brings new issues of the quarterly sister web magazines Planetary Stories & Pulp Spirit.

The Planetary Stories masthead proclaims "Galaxies Smashed, Worlds Saved, Time Traveled." The lead story in this 13th issue is “Acroscathe” by Lou Antonelli and Edward Morris. Here, at the height of the Cold War, is a potential First Contact story. The Royal Navy discovers a strange sphere floating in the mid-Atlantic. A NATO wide team is assembled to investigate.

While Planetary Stories covers the science-fiction & fantasy areas of adventure fiction, Pulp Spirit ranges across many other genres. Issue #4 features two westerns, a Spicy Armadillo story, plus my latest contribution.

In "How The Name Came" a Yankee pilot lands (literally) in the middle of a British special operations mission on some of those 'very special islands' in the WW2 Pacific Theater of Operations. Strange & Terrible Things (tm) follow.

"How The Name Came," also called "Lightning War In The Remote Pacific," is under my Erwin K. Roberts pen-name. I would appreciate any feedback you would care to give, either on-list, or off.


Bob Kennedy

We asked one our your favorite illustrators, Jeff Fraker for some biographical information and he sent us this:


Sorry this took so long. Hope it's what you want.

Okay, Jerry -- "The life and times of Jeff Fraker"

Comic books-
That's what started it all. My life long love of all things heroic- my love of reading- My love for art.
From the early days of drooling over little, colorful squares by Neal Adams, Jim Steranko, Barry Smith, Mike Ploog, Mike Grell, Mark Shultz (to name but a few) to later discovering the Golden Age greats like Eisner, Fine, Raymond, Powell, Williamson (again only a surface scratch). This is what started me drawing.
In my adulthood, comics have grudgingly moved over to make room for other similar pursuits, such as Old-time-radio, serials, lobby cards, radio premiums and, of course, pulps.
From comics, it was a natural segue into the pulps. The bright and fantastic images on the covers grabbing me by the knuckles and the bold, black & white interior pictures holding me by the eyeballs. Oh, and the stories were pretty good too.
Before the plethora of reprints now available and during my pre-computer days, I was constantly on the prowl for pulps, reprints, books and magazines about pulps- anything. This was when I saw an ad for Fading Shadows. I offered some samples of my art to Editor Tom Johnson who promptly put me to work on covers for their line of reprints and original stories. Since then, I have illustrated a couple of books, a bunch of magazines and a few webzines. My jobs as a full-time shifter at UPS and a part-time ministry at Stock Creek Baptist Church, does not allow me a lot of time to draw but I manage to eke out an occasional picture now and then.
Many of the drawings used on this and other magazines were actually drawn for posters and ads for the various old-time-radio style serials that I write for my church. I have written hundreds of hours of program scripts from comedies to very pulp-like hero series. (my way of creating future pulp enthusiasts)
Through my ministry I have been able use my old-time interests and my God-given talents of writing and drawing to teach kids (and hopefully adults) through my comic books, scripts, coloring books, chalk talks and other creative venues.
I have no formal art training to speak of, except a few collage classes that taught me very little that I had not already learned by reading and observing other artists. I am always watching for different techniques and experimenting with new mediums when I get a chance. I am color blind so I don't do a lot of painting, but I like to take a shot at it every now and then. I use Prismacolor markers when I want something painterly. (They have the color written on the side!)
Due to my time constraints, my drawing process has simplified over the years. I will either do a quick rough sketch or get an image in my head. I then take a few photos of myself and/or a lady friend in said pose, pick out the best and use it as a photo reference. I pencil it with a 2 mm mechanical pencil on Bristol board then ink it with my current favorite inking instrument. (Right now it is a Sharpy fine point pen. Usually when I get a favorite pen they discontinue making them. I hope the Sharpy pen sell- the ink may not be archival but It works great. The comfort of having a pen that's nib doesn't break, bend or bleed makes the difference between a satisfying picture and a steaming pile of poop.) Next, I scan it onto my computer, tinkering with the contrast or tightening it up in general, then email it away.
I live in Knoxville Tennessee with 4 cats and a couple ponds of fish.
Thanks to all who have complimented my work over the years- I really appreciate your kind words.

Johann Kuester is back, and are we proud:

Lt. Luna, I just finished, “The Armadillo Always Falls Twice,” by Gerald W. Page. I did enjoy it's fanciful take on the old pulps and thought it well written and fairly entertaining. I like those illustrations, too. Good read.

Johann T. Kuester

We were so pleased with T.J. Glenn’s story “The Sea Demon,” we asked him for more information about his character Dr. Shadows.

Wow, thanks Lt. Luna,

There are two Dr. Shadows Projects coming out from two publishers: In April "Sinister Shadows" will be out as a small press run from Omni-Spirit Press and will consist of a Dr. Shadows Novelette and a Bonus novella of the Skullmask in a never before printed story "The Skullmask and the Deadly Puppets."

In June ePress-Online will publish a collection of six Dr. Shadows tales in "A Hex of Shadows" online and in POD editions. It is intended as a frist in a continuing series.

Both books should be available through Amazon and Hex of Shadows through fictionwise.com as well.

Thanks for the plug!


And – believe it or not, we heard again from Johann Kuester. For a time there we were thinking of changing the title of this column to “Famous Letters of Comment – All by Johann Kuester.”


I have to say I enjoyed only one story in issue thirteen and that was, Star-Crossed. I liked it because it had to do with space and space ships, yet I didn't care for the negative bum and theme in it. I'd sure like to see more stories about futuristic space craft, bums and buxom girls, and less about bug eyed monsters and contemporary settings. I want to smell and taste the acrid sent of engines in the air, at land fall. I want to see these scantily clad heroines getting into trouble through natural, believable troubles and settings and the handsome, capable bums rescuing them. I've never been too big a fan for all these alternate type of stories as in issue thirteen, especially the attempts at humor and hope you get and use submissions with these other kinds of qualities in them.

I liked the story the, Ballpeen Murders, by Richard Logan in issue fourteen. Seemed a little strained as a sci-fi story, fitting better, I would think into the Pulp Spirit short story category with just the slightest changes. But still, it was well written and acquired the most important aspect of a story, to me, it was entertaining.

Then there was Death of a Bounty Hunter, by Shelby Vick. Keep Shelby on those keyboards. He's needed.

I would really like to voice an opinion that I don't need a new and fresh perspective on every story I read, not every time. The good old standby stories of 'spacers' against the universe and its dangers with the roar of rockets in your ears, the lightly dressed gorgeous women and handsome men, and yes, sometimes, the inevitable bug-eyed-monster, is just fine with me, as long as the stories are fun to read. And by 'fun' I don't mean they have to be funny, in fact, I'd rather not read funny sci-fi, but I do want them to be entertaining even though it has many of the elements of older classical stories.

Too many editors want to continually change criterion every issue to make it new and fresh. As for me, give me the roar of interplanetary motors, unbelievably pretty gals and strong hunks fighting and rescuing to save the universe from certain doom.

Thanks so much for trying so hard and I have to say, also, love your taste in outfits, sigh...

Sincerely, Johann T. Kuester

You know, we were talking about that very thing not too long ago with Michael Shack who writes the Nadir McGuirk yarns. He was telling us he wanted to find a way to make the stories more serious on one level – the plots and narrative – while maintaining the humor and satire. “Humor and space opera have worked very well together in the past,” he points out, citing stories of writers like Nelson Bond and Jack Vance as prime examples. Which brings us to …

The Astrogation Chamber

His first effort in that direction will be seen next issue in “Nadir of the Thousand Worlds,” the longest McGuirk story yet, and one where the story is plotted in a more serious way. The crew of the Starsnipe travel to a distant galaxy where Captain Shivers is forced to fly a ship through a dangerous field of space clutter and dimensional flux. But why? Make a point of reading it and telling us whether or not you like it, please. We like it very much and would love to run more stories like it. For one thing, there’s a sequel in the works to “Nadir of the Thousand Moons.”

And oh yes, Mark Fults is doing some of his best illustrations for it.

In Pulp Spirit you’ll get to read a magnificent new story by Rob Shelsky, “Treasure of the Last Templar,” a fine action tale of modern day pirates.

Lt. Luna