Recently, Jerry and I were discussing the fiction of Planetary Stories. I've decided to edit Jerry's contributions and present it as guidelines for new contributions:

My attitude, aside from being naturally curmudgeonly, is that readers are going to judge Planetary Stories by the weakest (i.e., worse) story in an issue, until the standard of the publication becomes too high to allow that. Only then will they judge us by our best.

For that matter, some may not know which is the best. Some may not care. Some may not take the care to understand the difference.

Some editorial standards are necessary. A story has to have a beginning, middle and end. It has to set up a situation and relate a change in that situation, with the resultant conclusion. It has to be about characters who seem rather like human beings, and act accordingly. We need to know who the narrator is, for one thing. Where did he come from? Why is he doing this? Why should we care that he's doing this?

The element of wonder is very important in space adventure fiction whether fantasy or science fiction, but it must feel right also. It must fit the tone of the story, seem to be an aspect of the background of the story, and if it can not be logical, it must at least seem logical.

The only thing a story has to do is satisfy the reader.

Do we need originality? It would be nice to get once in a while, but at the same time we need to realize that in some ways the form of the space adventure is as rigid and even dogmatic as a sonnet, and that whether or not a story has originality, it must have integrity. There must be something in the writer that needs to come out and the writer should show some devotion to bringing that something into the light.

And as editors we have to realize that very, very often, that something will have little or no relation to what we want to bring into the light, but that it might be just as important.

It is agravating to see a writer go in a direction so far from the direction you go in that his work seems alien to you. You become eager to tell that writer that there's another path over here. But if the writer's path is valid, you tell him to stick to it, whether or not you would want to walk that path yourself.

Often a good story is nothing more than a story that stirs people up in some way.

The stories in Planetary Stories and Pulp Spirit must be in good taste. Unfortunately, I can't tell you what good taste is. There was, at one time, a deal of discussion in the field as to whether the stories of Ray Bradbury and Clark Ashton Smith and H. P. Lovecraft -- with their preoccupation with death and the corruption of death -- were in good taste. Time, I believe, has argued that they are, and time seldom loses an argument. So we must learn to judge each story on its own merits.

Just be sure it has some.


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