Conducted by Lt Luna

Well, here we are about to wind up another voyage -- we're really racking up the light years with this old ship, aren't we? The Captain seems pleased the way we seem to pack in the cargo at every planet we set down on, and we've shipped some good stuff lately.

Not that everyone is happy about us. Elmore Jambolt, esteemed Director of the Society for the Suppression of Entertainment in Science Fiction Publications had expressed considerable discontent with Planetary Stories. He writes, "Planetary Stories, and its companion 'publication' Pulp Spirit, lack obscurity and other necessary elements of true literary value. Their writers seem determined that their stories be enjoyed and understood. Pulp Spirit even has a review column called PulpRack which seems determined to review only the most out-of-date of fiction, and where its writers seem sometimes to give the outrageous impression that they actually enjoyed the stories they were reading."

He even mentions "The Vibrating Ether." According to him, "This disgusting excuse for a letter column cheaply avoids pomposity and political correctness at every turn. It even publishes pictures of female readers. We, for one, are not amused."

Of course that makes the entire matter a bit confusing to us -- we were under the impression that members of the Society for the Suppression of Enjoyment in Science Fiction Publications were happiest when they weren't being amused.

In conclusion, Dr. Jambolt once again mentions The Ether Vibrates. "We plowed through several installments of this so-called letter column. At every turn we were offended. The contents of this column featured letters that were cogent and insightful to the point where we were forced to read to the end of every one of them. It seems to be the policy of Planetary Stories to allow its readers to say anything they care to, as if their opinions mattered. Couldn't the editors save us the time by taking polls and allowing votes? Do we really want to replace a healthy herd mentality with actual individuals? The right of free speech is too important to be wasted on just anyone.

"Nor," he goes on, "do we advocate censorship. But we are one hundred and ten per cent in favor of control. Somebody ought to control publications like this right off the internet."

Well, this is certainly an interesting point of view. We showed the letter to the Skipper and when he stopped laughing, he handed it back and said, "Print it at the top of the column." Then he went off to the bridge to steer the good ship Planetary Stories out of the orbit of a Dwarf Star just in the nick of time. --Lt. Luna

Anthony Larson, who has favored us in the past with some fine poetry -- just go back and check out our last Holiday Issue -- sends in the following letter.

Dear "Lt. Luna,"

You become a writer by working at becoming a writer. John Kuester is probably going to become a writer. (Actually, he already is, but I'm trying to make a point.) It's likely the only thing that can hold him back is whether or not he gives up. It is a tough, heart breaking business, this trying to be a writer, and a lot of people -- including a lot of superbly talented people -- just can't take all the setbacks. I've lost count of the magazines that took stuff by me and then died before they got them in print.

At the other end of the spectrum is the person who wants to write but doesn't seem to have the eye and ear for it. The person who doesn't study published writers to learn how they do it and why and when. The person who just plods along doing the same old thing again and again, not comprehending why no one takes his stuff.

As I get older, I find myself more and more drawing on the works of Clark Ashton Smith for -- to use a word I mistrust but I can't think of a better one in this context -- inspiration. To me it's more like prodding. He prods me in directions I wouldn't travel otherwise. Happily, his complete work is being collected now. Night Shade Books is publishing a multi-volume collection of his stories, and Hippocampus is doing the same with his poetry and translations. I have four or five versions of his "The Hashish-Eater," certainly one of the finest epic poems of the fantastic I've ever read. It assuredly eclipses George Sterling's "Wine of Wizardry" and stands alongside such works as "The Faery Queen." I don't regard Smith as being as good a poet as Byron, Shelley, Shakespeare or Keats (or Baudelaire or Villon, for that matter) et al, by any means, but he had moments of clarity and reach that equaled and on occasion might even have surpassed them. He certainly equals them in the imagination department.

By the way, the newest edition of "The Hashish Eater," edited by Donald Sydney Fryer includes both the original version of the poem and its later, edited version. along with a CD of Sydney-Fryer reading the poem. Sydney-Fryer's reading doesn't really do justice to the poem, but it doesn't hurt it, either. Go buy the book now.

To get back to Planetary Stories, Gerald Page's "Star Poet," it can hardly be necessary to say, looks like an effort to write a space opera such as Smith might have wanted to write. Smith wrote quite a few -- you could put together a thick book collecting his space stories alone. When he touched on space and space travel in Weird Tales, the results are often magnificent, but at the time he was writing, space opera meant Gernsback, and his efforts to satisfy the requirements of Wonder Stories, while very good, are obviously restrained by his standards.

It might be a bit less obvious but the two stories Page wrote of Hoy Ping Bob are very much Smith stories -- just disguised somewhat by the plainer style and humor. He certainly portrays Hoy Ping Bob as a Smithian wizard, much more laid back than Smith's versions, and more sociable perhaps, but still decked out in all the trappings. I think Tucker would have liked that, perhaps even have pronounced the stories as "Smooooth." The female characters are much more complex than Smith's -- his female characters tended to be possessions rather than people; it might be interesting to see a feminist interpretation of Smith, though not so interesting, I suppose, that it would actually have the virtue of readability.

C.A. Smith is beginning to get the recognition he deserves now. Jack Vance was influenced by him and I'm starting to read essays and reviews of Vance's work that mention that fact. There was one recently in The New York Times, of all places. I suppose that says something about Smith's stature. (Interestingly, the NYT review fails to mention James Branch Cabell, who was a powerful influence on both Vance and Smith, but especially Smith.)

When new writers show up -- or when you're working with writers -- do you ever point out stories in Planetary Stories that you like or which have qualities you like? Aside from the fact that it gives the newbie an idea of what you want for the magazine, it calls attention to the publication as a repository for good stories well written, and it forces the potential contributor (if he follows up) to think of stories in terms of being Planetary Stories type space opera. I think you should make it a policy to urge newcomers to read the stories in PS that you really like.

I think PS has published far too many trick ending type stories. They always seem like stories out of the back of a 1950s era sf magazine to me, more Orbit (the magazine not the anthology) or Imaginative Tales than Planet or Thrilling Wonder. They seem like the sort of thing written by writers like O.H. Leslie, Winston Marks, H.B. Hickey and T.D. Hamm.

Many of the writers you probably want to point to as examples of what you really, really want are not readily available to the current reader. I mean writers like Ross Rocklynne, Gardner F. Fox, E.C. Tubb and even Henry Kuttner. But a good book store or an online dealer can supply current editions of stuff by Leigh Brackett, Edmond Hamilton, Jack Williamson, Clark Ashton Smith, C.L. Moore and Jack Vance. To say nothing of Poul Anderson and current superstars such as Gary Wolfe, Alistair Reynolds, Mark van Name, David Weber, Catherine Asaro, Lois McMasters Bujold and the like. Make them read Catherine Asaro and David Weber, especially. If any of them come close to writing like Asaro does, you'll have what you're looking for.

Your strength lies in the fact that none of the other magazines are really looking for action stories, or even traditional space adventure. If Weinbaum sent "A Martian Odyssey" to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction this month, it would be rejected as all wrong for the magazine. If C.L. Moore sent "Shambleau" to Analog, Stan Schmidt would at least ask for rewrites. Maybe suggest a scientific angle.

And there lies your strength. If someone submitted "A Martian Odyssey" or "Shambleau" or even Kuttner's "We Guard the Black Planet," you would not hesitate to take them.

But you have an obvious weakness, too. Anyone trying to do what you're doing would have it also. Where do you find the writers both interested and talented enough to write what you need to have written for PS?

You (Shelby Vick) and Page are clearly the most consistently good writers Planetary Stories has at the sorts of stories it needs. You can create characters that fit the situations, and write the kind of action the stories require. More importantly, you can conjure up the wonder and imagination to describe the stuff that no one has yet seen.

I think that sort of wonder is important. A few nights ago I watched an episode of "Universe" on the History Channel where an astronomer described how the skies of earth will likely change over the next few (well, not so few) centuries. It seems that two smaller galaxies are colliding with our own right now. Thousands of years from now this will fill the night sky with so many stars that we'll have perpetual daylight. I'm sure quite a few of the show's viewers thought of Asimov's "Nightfall" at that point, but I thought of Ed Hamilton. Hamilton often made it a point to describe the night sky of the planets he wrote about, conjuring up some wondrous quality, or having his heroes react to the way the sky was different -- more stars, fewer stars, what have you. I suppose this really started with Burroughs and those two moons in the sky of Mars that John Carter would gaze at (never mind they were too small to show up from the ground as much more than streaking meteorites). But it was a way to emphasize that here and now has given way to where and when.

There are a lot of ways in which other worlds will be different. The color of the skies will depend on environmental factors. Look at Mars.

If there's a breathable atmosphere it still won't taste or smell the same. A space traveler might return to his home planet and years later awake from a dream with the taste of a distant planet's atmosphere in his mouth. The gravity will never be exactly the same as Earth's and even if the difference is only a fraction of a percent higher or lower, muscles used to another gravity will have constant reminders for a while that they aren't in Kansas anymore.

Even sounds will be different. A symphony played on Earth may sound different on another world, not just because it might be necessary to use other instruments of at least other materials to make them, but because the air will have subtle differences of content and pressure that will affect sound and hearing.

All these things need to be considered when you write space stories and some of your writers are very good at that. The worlds a space hero goes to will logically be more varied and fantastic than the worlds a wizard in a fantasy goes to, because most worlds in fantasy are and ought to be really based on Earth. But we're learning an awful lot about other planets these days and we're learning just how varied combinations of even common rock can be. It all comes so fast from the astronomers. It's never the same universe two days in a row, anymore. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

A. Larson

We guess the first writer to really exploit the wonder of alien environments was A. Merritt in his classic, "The Moon Pool." But almost from the beginning of modern science fiction, we've had writers who could create and describe wonderfully strange worlds and the beings that live on them: Neil R. Jones, Edmond Hamilton, Stanley Weinbaum, Henry Kuttner, Arthur C. Clarke, Jack Vance, Hal Clement, Greg Benford and many more. We like to think the future masters of that sort of writing are showing up in Planetary Stories now.

And speaking of Johann Kuester, he sent us three emails in a row, commenting on last issue:

Dear Luna,

Just finished issue fifteen and I have to say it was one of your best. Great stories and fun visions of tomorrow. "Curtain Call On Mars" was especially well done, I thought, perhaps because I love reading about the Mars we can all imagine and want it to be. The illustrations were the best I've seen yet. "Good job," artists and a pat on the back. All in all, a great issue and worth waiting for.


Johann Kuester

Dear Lt. Luna,

Bonnie and Clyde in the Belt was an extremely fun story and kept me on edge till the end. I certainly hope they'll be more installments. The ending just begs for a sequel. Good write. That's what I call Sci-Fi.


Johann T. Kuester

Dear Luna,

I've seen the new Star Trek movie twice, now, and enjoyed the hello out of it. As fantasy science fiction/Hollywood inventions go, it was darned good. Seriously, I thought it as enjoyable as the first Star Wars movie I saw way back when. I don't know what people were expecting, I know a lot didn't like it, but I did and that's what really counts.

Always yours, Gorgeous,

Johann T. Kuester

If I'm so gorgeous (and only modesty keeps me from admitting it), then why have Vick and Page scattered so many pictures of Heather and Sarah around this issue's column?

Robert Kennedy sent us the following:

Hi Guys,

Sometime back PulpRack and later the Vibrating Ether discussed WW1 fiction before turning to Code Talkers and finally to Chief Joe Medicine-Crow, who hijacked 50 horses from the Germans in WW2. Doing this completed the four qualifications for him to become the last Plains Indian War Chief. His Wikipedia page is:

This week, in traditional dress, he received the Medal of Freedom.


Bob (Robert Kennedy)

Mostly we get letters, but this time out a DVD crossed our desk, as well. It was Galatia Films' "Reclaiming the Blade," narrated by John Rhys-Davies and featuring Viggo Mortensen. Karl Urban, and legendary fight choreographer Bob Anderson (who worked with Errol Flynn, Johnny Depp and Mark Hamill, among others). It's a documentary on swords and swordplay and should be of interest to anyone interested in the history of the sword, the use of the sword in fantasy and fiction, and the recent resurgence of interest in traditional European handling of swords.

It's of special interest to us, of course, because one of the experts interviewed in the film is Hank Reinhardt. Hank, an old friend of ours, and an expert on space opera, also helped out with Planetary Stories and this column. Hank passed away during the post production of the film, and it's dedicated to him.

Greetings, fellow World-Wreckers!

This is just a quick missive to give a big heartfelt THANKS to those learned and gifted patrons who recently purchased any of our new releases by Edmond Hamilton.

Which are, in case you happen to NOT know:

The Metal Giants and Others, The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume One
The Star-Stealers: The Complete Tales of the Interstellar Patrol, The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume Two
The Collected Captain Future, Volume One

The original solicitation for these inaugural volumes of THE COLLECTED EDMOND HAMILTON was on June 14, 2008, with a plan to launch by the end of that year. Obviously, things slipped, and these three titles saw release on July 18, 2009 in Kinsman, OH on (appropriately enough) "Edmond Hamilton Day." While this delay is regrettable, we hope the finished products makes up for the wait -- over 100 pages was added to each volume (at no increase in price) and some truly unique and wonderful items (letters, artwork, etc.) were added to each volume.

Following this extended pre-sale period, we found ourselves with the daunting task of packaging over *1,400* pre-sold copies of books upon publication. For those who are keeping score, the total weight of the shipment of these three titles was 9,952 pounds -- each carton of 12 books (that's 830 cartons plus dustjackets) weighing 35 lbs. Each carton was personally unloaded by the Big Poobah into two shipping warehouses prior to breakdown for order fulfillment. For those interested in the total man-hour time, please send your request to

While it's hard to gripe in the face of the successful launch of these three titles, we found ourselves at the mercy of the clock--and customers' patience--as we used every spare minute to fulfill all the advance orders . . .

It is with a heavy wallet, an aching back, and a shocks-stressed vehicle, that we can now declare that all orders for the new Edmond Hamilton titles are packed and are winging their way to your hands at this moment. Some of you have your copies already, either by way of "Edmond Hamilton Day," "Pulpfest 2009" in Columbus, OH at the end of July, or just lucky enough to be among the first few waves of shipping.

In the near future we'll share some of our customer feedback as well as post a small roster of people to thank for making these books a reality.

In the meantime, we are happy to share that we are back on track with the serialization of Hamilton's "The Hidden World" from Fantastic Story Quarterly, 1950, and will wrap up this on-line adventure in the next few weeks. The Table of Contents is:

Meanwhile, please send us your feedback and thoughts on these new books. In this fragile economy, every Haffner Press book sold equals one step towards the release of our next slate of titles (more on that soon!). So let's get the word out that: THE WORLD-WRECKER IS BACK! With these three new books, we've got over 2200 pages of Edmond Hamilton goodness to share with the world. And the more these titles sell, the sooner we can bring you volumes with filled with stories such as "Cities in the Air," "The Universe Wreckers," "The Death Lord," "The Terror Planet," and "The Fire Creatures," as well as the further adventures of Curt Newton (aka Captain Future) and the Futuremen as they face the perils of "The Magician of Mars," "Star Trail to Glory," "The Lost World of Time" and more!

Keep Watching the Skies!

Stephen Haffner
Big Poobah

We know that when a new issue of Planetary Stories and Pulp Spirit come on line, a lot of you turn first to this column. Not that we blame you, of course, but that doesn't mean you aren't required to read all the stories in this issue too, and send us a letter. Or maybe three like John Kuester back there. You can reach us at

Lt. Luna