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Good moral advice is notorious for not being much use to the recipient - and I suppose this is because such advice is usually given either (1) to one who is already following it, or (2) to one who is not ready to follow it (otherwise he'd already be following it - see (1)). Be that as it may, here's the advice: in a time of loss, concentrate intensely on appreciating what's left, on building up what remains to us. Our sub-genre, for instance. In our roles as writers / supporters / commentators / readers, we're onto something big. We can enjoy the advantages of working together on a magically flexible literary highway, namely the Old Solar System, sufficiently elastic to allow us infinite scope for individual treatments of its themes, and yet also sufficiently endowed with overlapping characteristics to provide a sort of common fund of power from which we can draw.
In short, we're sitting on treasure, much of which awaits excavation, so let's get digging...
A Dark, Imperious Hand (conclusion)...............................by David England
...a villain is revealed...
...the exiled Heir must voyage into the unknown...
What should be the attitude of the fortunate few who turn out to be exempt from, and even beneficiaries of, catastrophe? Well, folk like us, who ought to have read all the right books, e.g. War of the Worlds, Day of the Triffids, One In Three Hundred, The Stand, Earth Abides, Last And First Men, Out of Chaos, A Wrinkle in the Skin, and innumerable other classics replete with disaster, should have imbibed enough wisdom not to waste time on feeling guilty at our undeserved escape - instead we should regard our opportunities as duties to be fulfilled to the uttermost of our capability.
So you writers who now live in enforced isolation - use the time to do your work! No excuses!
Meanwhile you readers can support us writers with feed-back. Unstinting and effusive adulation is preferable, but if you can't manage that, just go for a good second-best, namely, mature and reasoned criticism.
Or you could let the rest of us know how you're getting on, and I'll open up the OSS Diary to your comments.
That would be all the more welcome, as this coming month may see fewer Diary articles from me. I have had the time to do more for it this past month than has been the case for a long time previously, but now, this April, I really am determined to concentrate upon getting episode 14 of Uranian Throne written, if it is at all possible to do it in such a short period.
A Dark, Imperious Hand (part 2)................................by David England
...Shadows of a past...
The Last Baroness (part 3)................................................by David England
...A new world, born in the ashes of the old...
Outlaws of Neptune (part 5)..................................................by Robert Gibson
...Showdown in the Wobbly Mountains...
Currently the stalwart "Three Musqueteers" of TTA appear to be David England, Dylan Jeninga and yours truly.
Fortunately, however, we three don't bear the entire epic burden on our own shoulders. I was also glad to receive an email this morning from Jamie Ross, who unfortunately has had to cope with some serious health issues. We can expect to receive his next tale before too long, accompanied - we can hope - by some of his artwork.
Furthermore, if our luck continues to hold, Xiangjun Zeng also may send us some more episodes of his far-future Mars - the latest of which appears in this month's issue. A few words about my presentation of this piece: I have placed in in a "Saga sample" category rather than under "Serials", because (a) the rest of it is to be found not on this website but on the author's own; (b) I reckon the episode is a good standalone read, a ray of illumination shed upon the larger scenario of Longtail's far-future Mars.
All in all, we few current contributors form a satisfactory base; but as always I am keen to welcome more. Let's hope that among the over 4000 site users - the number of whom has risen substantially during the past year - more writers will come forward. For what can compete with the Old Solar System as a playground for the imagination?
Admittedly, an interstellar-fiction buff might object that a mere nine major planets isn't much compared with what the Galaxy offers.
All right: nine major planets only... but (to resort to an arithmetical analogy) if they're the integers, think of the uncountable decimals between them... let alone their moons and neighbouring asteroids, and the unexplored depths of the transplutonian void.
The interstellar buff might point out (for instance) that Sol lacks a super-terrestroid companion; wouldn't it be grand if we had a rocky world of, say, 11,000 miles' diameter? Ah, yes but, says I, we may turn out to have one! The Transplutonian Planet X might be anything you like. Ah, but, says the objector, it's bound to be mighty cold. Not necessarily, says I. Plenty of excuses to warm it up! Internal heat; orbiting IR radiators; whatever. Or - a completely unsuspected form of energy.
Another scope for OSS expansion is Time. Currently, the Earth is the only planet with an impressive literary record of Time-Travel, but that could change. If Wells' narrator had sited his machine on Mars or Mercury, for example, think of the tales he might have had to tell.
Science, with us, is not a discipline but a mood. Get that mood right, and it doesn't matter what rules you break; you've successfully GAWI'd.
A Dark, Imperious Hand (part 1)................................by David England
...a perfectly reasonable request...
The Last Baroness (part 2)...................................................by David England
...a young baroness must prove her mettle...
...the Interrogator heads into the unknown...
Journey to the Skybridge................................................................by Xiangjun Zeng
...Longtail the Martian's latest adventure...
Provided at Generous Prices.................................................by Dylan Jeninga
...our mythological lumber's dubious source...
How good are you at being astonished? For my part the occasional really astounding, stunning events – things which I hardly dared hope I would ever see, such as the Moon voyages, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and now Brexit – are followed, unfortunately but inevitably, by a fade in the gloss of wonder as I get used to the facts. But the wonder can shine again, if I press a re-set or “refresh” button inside my head, and that “button” has another use – it can identify prodigies of amazement which were insufficiently recognized at the time, but which can be brought into view like archaeological features that are obvious in an aerial photograph though invisible from the ground.
The twentieth-century rise of science fiction as a literary phenomenon is one such event. It’s easy to take it for granted, shrugging off its arrival as an inevitable result of the progress of science and technology. What ought to remain surprising is the degree to which sf authors became able to write as though they already were citizens of the galaxy. Think of Schmitz’ amazing “Federation of the Hub” series, in which the reader is plonked without strain into an absolutely real and convincing mature interstellar culture.
The twenty-first century survival and growth of the OSS as a sub-genre is another such marvel to be freshly admired. In fact I would not rule out the possibility that the OSS may become as recognized as the Western, in the canon of well-defined literary forms.
Now for a few words about this month’s features. As usual the series continue – currently David England’s and mine. But also we have two “singleton” offerings.
My short tale, an effort at sf horror, was inspired by a frightening
dream. Ancestral Scottish thrift urged
me not to waste a good nightmare, so I have done my best to make a story out of
it, though of course the difficulty in such a case is that one needs to provide
at least a hint of a rationale, which is then apt to water down the
terror: so, most likely you won’t
whimper with fright as you read it, in the way I did when dreaming it (my wife
had to nudge me awake).
The other new story, by Dylan and set on Europa, enlarges the scope of what we see as alien, by an eerie process of de-familiarisation, a new perspective on the known, cloaking it with the aura of the unknown. It reminds me of Ransom’s brief objective vision of humans through Malacandrian eyes in Out of the Silent Planet…
Of Dress And Dames (conclusion).......................................by David England
...Can the stakes be too high...?
The Last Baroness (part 1)............................................................by David England
...Strange winds, shifting fortunes...
...Parliamentary obstacles overcome...
...Planar Plutonians have conquered the Earth...
The Colorless Colossus of the Cold........................................by Dylan Jeninga
...Europa was rumoured to harbour more fearsome creatures than fish...
It was in an interview towards the end of his life that Edmond Hamilton expressed his dissenting opinion on the popular characterisation of a decade: to him, the Nineteen Twenties weren't at all "roaring". On the contrary, in his experience (he was born in 1904) they were a remarkably quiet time.
Quiet or not, the "Roaring Twenties" were of legendary importance in the history of sf, being the decade in which the sf pulp magazines began - the specific date 1926 giving rise to one of those cutely haunting date-rhymes that echo like catchy tunes: Amazing Stories has just hit the news-stands in April and then lo and behold, in July of that same year, the USA celebrates its sesquicentennial.
However - if I may adapt Hamilton's social
opinion into a literary one - I'd be reluctant to lay emphasis on the
1920s as a time when the sub-genre of the Old Solar System roared into
life. H G Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs had already staked out their
territory by then - and where would we be without them? Truly, the
important action had well and truly begun before the start of the
supposedly noisy decade.
Similarly, the NOSS has already achieved lift-off before the current dawn of the Twenty Twenties.
Which means - our new decade has jumped the gun and is off to a good head start.
Of Dresses And Dames (part 2)................................by David England
...Trouble. Nothing but trouble...
One Who Burns Worlds (conclusion)................................by David England
...Many lines are crossed...
Outlaws of Neptune (part 2)...........................................by Robert Gibson
...Bridge of the condemned...
So far, as Editor, I’ve always been able to offer the readers at least two items in every issue. Most often more than two – but never less.
For this December issue, I was beginning to get scared that I’d be down to just one offering; then I breathed a sigh of relief when David England wrote to me offering a new serial; next, though, I had to retract my sigh of relief - for he wrote again informing me that the latest tale of The Hard Streets of Aphrodite would not after all be ready till January…
In desperation I decided to write something myself. Outlaws of Neptune has been floating in my mind a long time in the form of a vague idea, but I hadn’t thought of starting the actual tale so soon… but needs must. And it would be an interesting experiment, thought I, to see whether I can produce something quickly.
And did I thus manage to toss off a quickie? Not on your life. All I did was start yet another serial… aaargh! Oh well, at least that’s something.
Meanwhile, it turned out that after all David was able to offer the first part of his new tale in time for the start of December. The upshot then is that you have three adventures to peruse. Three serials running concurrently.
So here we are with coverage of Neptune, Venus and Mars, the latter being the scene of David England’s One Who Burns Worlds – concerning which, by the way, I here issue a trigger warning.
Attention all reactionaries like myself: One Who Burns Worlds contains an up-to-date standpoint which may offend you if you haven’t managed to ditch your traditional taboos in favour of more fashionable beliefs.
David having successfully infiltrated my website due to his skill as a writer, I cannot bring myself to ban him for his up-to-dateness, inappropriate though it is for what I take to be the moral atmosphere of the Old Solar System. Perhaps we could view his work as a sub-genre called the TOSS – the Trendy OSS.
Some readers may wonder why I am not fashionable myself. Why should I object to X? (I call it X because free speech doesn’t exist on this topic.)
My answer is this: we humans are a mass of “orientations”, emotional, cultural and spiritual, which can exist in tension and mutual opposition within an individual, and our present culture’s demand that one orientation must over-ride all the others seems dubious to me. Certainly the contradictions within ourselves mean that the question is not “to suppress or not to suppress”, but “to suppress A and encourage B, or vice versa”.
Having said all that, I would add that if free speech were allowed, you would find that though I would hotly defend my traditional views, I would not be playing to win – rather, I would be playing to draw. I doubt whether it is possible to be certain of the truth. Therefore, even if I had the power, I would not restore the way things used to be. Rather, I would end the pretence on which our present society is based: the pretence that a controversial issue has been officially settled, and the fashionable view proved right, when in fact it has not been.
Of Dresses And Dames (part 1).............................................by David England
...A cut-and-dried job - or is it?...
One Who Burns Worlds (part 2).....................................................by David England
...dalliance with disaster...
...a mysterious murder on the Ocean World...
The good news is major, the bad news only minor, so I'll get the latter out of the way first - it is, simply, that what with helping my brother to move house this month, I'm fairly disorganized with regard to concocting a thoughtful editorial for TTA! So rather than offer you the usual profound insights into Litrachure, I'll get on with the good news, which is that we have no fewer than four items for this November issue.
Talking of the house-move: it has unearthed some interesting items of my old stuff, which might influence this site. For example: an old issue of the magazine Spacemen, with an interview with Ray Bradbury, and Forrest J Ackerman's editorial hype, which made a deep impression on my youthful self, counteracting my British reserve in a big way; plus a story of mine called Era Z which I had despaired of ever finding. Whether it's good enough to display, is a question yet to be tackled...
And now, on to this month's features.
Devil's Due (Conclusion)................................by David England
...a devil's bargain, to be sure...
One Who Burns Worlds (Part 1)...................................by David England
...uncertain dreams... an unsettling visitor...
...at long last, the Terran Heir's open defiance...
The Magistrate...................................................by Jamie Ross
...a no-nonsense approach by a Martian official...
from Dylan Jeninga, in reply to some carping aesthetic criticism of mine regarding the finless design and the ridiculous name of the SpaceX "Starship" - and then proceding to other matters:
You're going to be pleasantly surprised - Starship is indeed a member of the finny tribe! It even appears that the lower landing gear is incorporated into the aft fins, meaning that this sucker lands on its fins like a proper interplanetary rocket. I'll attach a picture. Curt Newton wouldn't bat an eye at this thing!
As for the name "starship", I justify it thusly: while it is meant for the Moon, it is also meant for Mars, which has always been the true goal of Space X. Mars does appear as a star in our skies, so in a poetic rather than literal sense, it is a "starship". There's also a habit of going over the top with names in the private space industry: one of Space X's competitors is called Virgin Galactic, despite the fact that it's only aim is to take passengers for quick orbital jaunts. One can only sigh and shake their heads bemusedly.
As for the first ship to Alpha Centauri, I imagine they'll call it "Galaxy Ship" or something.
I imagine that, once Moon travel us common place, a slew of proper Moonships will be pressed into service. Who knows, maybe in 2032, you and I will meet in Mare Tranquillatus - but if not, then that Carnival [the Preston Guild of 2032] would be delightful!
Speaking of future prospects, the wife and I took part in a NASA program to compile a list of names to travel with their 2020 Mars rover. The hope is, someday, some interplanetary archeologist will find it and read them. Really, for me, it's a chance to get a bit of myself Out There, so to speak.
In my current rambling fashion, I hope to return to the subject of my writing professor. He actually assigned one scifi story to be read - Human Moments in WW3. It's about a pair of fellas in a spy satellite, written in 1983 when such a concept must have seemed plausible. It's really about the Overview Effect, that phenomenon whereby astronauts and cosmonauts see the Earth and experience an epiphany, a shift in perspective about the fragility and value of life on Earth - but I don't know that my Professor will be open to that interpretation. The story is written by a Very Respectable Author who mostly wrote about ordinary life, and I would not be surprised to hear that my instructor doesn't consider the story to be scifi. But maybe I'm too pessimistic.
It was interesting, though, to read a scifi work by an author who was not part of the scifi community. The lingua franca of ideas which all scifi authors are given unspoken permission to speak was unknown to him. For example, the idea of magnetic boots to counteract microgravity appears in many stories, but presumably because he was unaware, our author invented the laughably named "suction clogs". "Bunks", a nautical term employed even on the ISS, is switched for "hammocks", and the author spends a paragraph describing what a scifi writer would simply term a "reactionless drive."
I don't mean to say that the story is bad, it's not. It is an excellent mood piece, all about those "human moments" in the face of something big (the Earth, war). But it also makes for an interesting exploration of a scifi story written in a vacuum, like that Pope who raised kids without teaching them any languages.
We'll see what my professor says to my input.
Reply from Zendexor:
Well, on account of the fins, I'll relent and give my blessing to the "Starship". As you point out, planets are "stars" - in fact I'm told the word comes from the Greek for "wandering star", if I remember correctly. In Dante even the Sun is referred to as a "bel pianeta" at one point. But as for Branson's "Virgin Galactic"... the word "galaxy" comes from "milk" so perhaps we could view it as a sign that the passengers are served milk-shakes during their jaunt.
That NASA programme with the names sounds like good public relations! Better than these scams about naming stars after people...
Your comments about the Very Respectable Author raise some deep issues; I'm inclined to quote you in next month's Postbag and see if we get some reaction. I think maybe some day I could have a page on site entitled "Suction Clogs". Meantime it would be great if you could get your professor to view our site... maybe contribute a tale or two haha... From the things you tell me I'm slowly building up a composite mental picture of this guy, who seems like he may be a Character.
from Jamie Ross, on the order of stories in his Lúthian Chronicles, and other matters:
My wife raised the question whether it might make more sense to put episode 2 in the 2nd volume [of Vintage Worlds] rather than episode 4 (Europa Dive). I'll leave it up to you and JMG as 4 is the first story from the second arc but I thought I would mention it.
Thanks for all the guidance by the way! and on top of that, I had really stopped reading science fiction and you and all the great contributors have gotten me back into the fun I had growing up reading these stories.
On a side note, they are filming the TV series of Issac Asimov's Foundation novels a block or so away from my office at Troy Studios. Should make it fun to see who shows up at the local eatery! (Nightflyer's filmed there and was pretty cool except I'm not really into space horror films.
Reply from Zendexor:
I'm getting used to the idea of your episodes in the other in which they are at the moment, though your wife's comments are well worth bearing in mind. This is an occasion where I hesitate to take any initiative, preferring to be guided by you and the readers. I hope more discussion will be sparked by the comments in the Postbag. Here's a case where there's no such thing as bad publicity!
It's a great compliment to the site, that it helped re-kindle your enjoyment of sf. Not only that, but this particular type of sf... for instance, the descent to the Uranian surface in Into the Wilds is classic golden-age interplanetary stuff.
I shudder to think what a TV rendering would make of the cerebral, dialogue-driven Foundation series. The original three Foundation volumes are reflective and imaginative rather than full of shots and explosions. And for their effect they rely on the author's style, which the TV screenplay won't be able to preserve. Asimov himself didn't understand his own strengths as a writer, and allowed his style to grow flaccid in old age. In fact I don't think he realized he had a style, yet at his best he did and it was excellent.
My assumption when, many moons ago, I initiated Tales To Astound, was that it would mostly house single stories. I did not foresee the rich harvest of serials which now dominates each issue. Some months yield more than others, but there is never a dearth, and I have always managed to muster at least two items; last month, exceptionally, had six. Strangely, what is frequently lacking is the singleton story, last month's Mercury tale by Dylan Jeninga being an exception. This month there are no singletons but I'm proud to be able to present another four series-episodes.
With regard to two of them, some tension exists between my straight-laced editorial self and enfant terrible
David England, one of whose current serials contains some use of the
f-word, while the other one exhibits some up-to-date attitudes about X.
At this stage, I'm not too worried. One the one hand, I deplore our
culture's suppression of free speech for those who oppose X, but on the
other hand, this censorship suits me since it lets me off having to name
or define X or discuss the topic at all - I merely issue a
trigger-warning for the sake of my fellow-reactionaries, that The Dance of the Red Lady
contains fashionable views. That's the most I dare do, since I can't
risk losing David's input. And most likely these comments of mine will
result in a surge of clicks on his pages, an outcome which won't break either of our hearts.
Assuming that the
Net doesn't get destroyed in a catastrophic solar flare, which would be
the modern equivalent of the burning of the libraries at Alexandria
(besides giving us a lot of other things to worry about at the same
time), the outlook for Solar System Heritage is good. The site is
growing; the number of users is on average increasing; the sky's the
limit, so to speak...
Devil's Due (Part 2)................................................by David England
...on Venus things go from bad to worse in the mean streets of Aphrodite...
The Dance of the Red Lady (Conclusion)..................by David England
...in the southern Martian highlands, mother and daughter clarify a few things...
...the remaining crew descend to Uranus' surface, to find their ideas of that world upended...
Sleeping Fury (Part 4).....................................................by Xiangjun Zeng
...Help from the Stone Singer in the grim city of Howlstone on far-future Mars...
Chronology of The Lúthian Chronicles:
From Jamie Ross (after Zendexor had wondered whether Into the Wilds would be better placed as the third than as the second episode in the series):
It's the second one but some of it is in parallel. The crew starts the search in the period Lizbeth is resurrected and sent back to earth. The scene where she talks to Myker is after she returns. Exile to Space then is after the crew is back together again at the end of Into the Wilds… If I put it into a novel I would probably interweave Despair and Wilds…
From Zendexor to Jamie Ross:
The advantage is that from the point of view of a reader new to the series, it makes more sense for the first sections of Into the Wilds to be a flashback explaining what the crew of the Shining Star were doing, and for the second part of the story to be the continuation of Lizbeth's previous adventures, which the reader will already know about from Exile to Space. What do you think?
From Jamie Ross to Zendexor:
I have been chewing on this a bit.
Beyond Despair and Into the Wilds are somewhat concurrent and then Exile to Space follows which completes the first story arc of how Lizbeth and Marika are transformed into hybrids, their subsequent exile from Earth and Lúth and how they get their ship, the Crazy Loon. The second arc is the exploration of the outer planets where they discover the Sentient Being that is Europa and more hints of the dark threat from outside the solar system. The third arc will be the exploration of the inner planets and the species then encounter and then the final conflict and resolution with the digital life form, Unity. (at least, that's what is in my head at the moment). That would all become a novel ,and then blockbuster movie and TV series... (I do write fantasy after all!)
So I think I want to keep the order as chronological. The flashback idea is interesting and has merit but I am not sure what changes I would have to make to the to make that work (though it's a really good idea when I get around to rewriting for the novel)… It would have been handier if the story had unfolded in a chronological way in my head, lol but seems that's not how it works!
Offering the reader over twice as much as usual, this month’s haul of fiction prompts reflection upon the types of tale found here.
Dylan Jeninga’s suspenseful short story is a perfect example of what I shall call the Anomalistic Spine-Tingle. Its setting is a sketchy, mysterious penumbra wreathing the centre-stage protagonist and his personal discoveries. I guess it must have been easy enough for Dylan to plug the reader’s synapses into the OSS archetype of Mercury’s Darkside, so as to administer the necessary jolts of creepiness from that readily available mains supply; no world-building skill required, for the power is already laid on; on the other hand what did require special skill was the mounting tension on the personal side - the gradation of the character’s nervous perceptions as they build up towards the climax. That transition from dismissive scepticism to appalled realization, reminiscent of the Jacques Tourneur film Night of the Demon, is emblematic of the AST type of horror tale, which is all about discovery.
David England’s new serial Devil’s Due – here commenced alongside episode two of his other serial – shares important traits with the Anomalistic Spine-Tingle, in that we still rely upon the protagonist for the story’s main spotlight. Indeed David’s tale is primarily a character study; psychologically (though not of course literally) the setting emanates from the sardonic detective on whom our interest focuses. That’s not to say that the setting is skimped; it’s as well worked out as it needs to be. But the narrative is linear, monochrome, intense, like the prose of Raymond Chandler in whose footsteps our storyteller is successfully following – again, like Dylan's protagonist, on a path of individual discovery.
Which brings me to consider the other type of tale. Here the main power-source comes not from paths of individual discovery but from flights of panoramic survey. Whereas I could not have written Dylan’s or David’s stories, I could (given time) have written Xiangjun Zeng’s, or something like it – because he and I are in the same business, that of what I’ll call Panoramic World-Building.
In the PWB story-type, the setting is the real hero, and people move around in it with the primary role of illuminating its terrain. Here, therefore, the characters functionally emanate from the setting – the reverse arrangement from the AST.
Of course I’m generalizing, and the two types must overlap: diffuse wide-spectrum emitters such as XZ and myself must also go laser-like on occasion; reciprocally, focused beamers such as Dylan J and David E must spill some general light. But the distinction I’ve tried to draw does offer (I hope) some insight into different writers’ various strengths – we could for example contrast the classic AST tales of Keith Laumer with the PWB exemplar of Barsoom, and study the temptations, pitfalls and opportunities of each. Follow-up from readers would be most welcome!
And finally, on the subject of follow-up, I have revived the Workshop section of the site, in the hope of some feedback and discussion regarding the unfinished and problematic tales which can henceforth be posted there. To start with we have Project Selene, begun with commendable ambition by an author whose first language is not English. The idea of setting the scene in the Solar System's distant past has limitless possibilities, and if re-written and polished up the finished work would contrast nicely with the scenario by Xiangjun Zeng which is set in the distant future...
Devil's Due (Part 1)..................................................by David England
...All is not as it seems with the PI's new client...
The Dance of the Red Lady (Part 2)...................by David England
...in which Charlie learns something about books and covers...
...Regime in crisis as ice-quake splits Olhoav...
Where the Nightlife Never Ends...........................................by Dylan Jeninga
...Stranded on Mercury's Darkside, and unfortunately not alone...
Sleeping Fury (part 3)...............................................................by Xiangjun Zeng
...On far-future Mars, the Sand Strider's doom is good fortune for Howlstone's ruler...
Project Selene........................................by "Xorx"
...Mystery hangs over the disaster to the mass-driver...
Regarding authors' noms-de-plume
From the author
of The Resurrection of Merrick Hardcastle, Karen Szymczyk, after I
suggested that that name has a lot more oomph than "K S Augustin":
...I have a thought experiment for you. Let's say you have enjoyed one of my novels. What would you say to the person behind the counter of your friendly neighbourhood bookstore? "Please, could you tell me if there are any other books written by..." Go on now, regurgitate my surname from memory! In fact, "Augustin" is another family name from my father's side. He wrote a short history of the Portuguese Eurasians in south-east Asia.
Comment from Zendexor: Easy! Just ask for books by Shim-Chick! Certainly if I'd been blessed with a name with Szymczyk-level zing, you can bet I'd not want to forego the advantage when signing my stories. Though even "K S Augustin" is considerably less boring than "Robert Gibson"...
Constructing Ganymedean sagas
From Dylan Jeninga:
I think the hardest planet in the Solar System to write for is Ganymede (I know it's a moon, but it may as well be a planet). Io is volcanic, Europa has a real-world connection to possible life, and Calliso is ancient and uniquely beautiful, Jupiter itself is the mightiest of worlds - what's Ganymede got? One of the only decent stories about it, Farmer in the Sky, is about changing it to be more Earthlike!
The best I can come up with is that connection to Earth. In a few of my unfinished drafts set in the Jovian System, I mention Ganymede as a garden planet, a sort of Second Earth full of promise as well as a very valuable piece of real estate. I imagine workers toiling away in the Ionian mines or Europan ice fisheries, working toward the promise of an acre of land and a Ganymedian mooncow, and disillusioned workers running from servitude to rough it in the wilds of Callisto. So, I could use Ganymede as a plot device, but as an actual setting, I find myself facing a shortage of interesting ideas.
I know just what you mean about Ganymede. It's odd that no author has made it his own, or even tried to. But the good side of it is, that because of that neglect, all that real estate is waiting for a bright young writer to grab it! Need I say more?
Well, you might say, I do need to say more if I'm to give some hint as to the personality of OSS Ganymede, which is what you're asking about. Maybe, though, enough hints and CLUFFs have been thrown around here and there. Clark Ashton Smith in The Plutonian Drug mentions the fabulously long life-time of the Ganymedeans. You could have that applying to an elite. Then there are the pinnah birds, and the lanky J W Campbell natives visited by Penton and Blake, and various other clues accessible from SSH's Ganymede page... mere fragments, of course, but enough, maybe, to trigger a synthesis. Helen Weinbaum's Tidal Moon could also provide useful hints.
favourite option would be an ERB-style Ganymede with one race of human
telemorphs plus a variety of other intelligent species, plus jungles, mountain
ranges, tidal flats as a nod towards Helen W., strange birds as a nod towards
James Blish, a near-immortal elite as a nod towards CAS, and perhaps some
ancient wormholes linking the world with other Jovian moons... all this maybe
set in the distant past when Jupiter was hot enough to warm the place.
Alternatively, the long-lived elite might preserve the climate by mind-power,
demanding subjection in return... possibilities there. (Shades of the Mind-Wizards of Thanator, in Lin Carter's disappointing Callistan series. If only someone would succeed where he so tantalisingly failed.)
The offerings this month speak for themselves: a greater-than-usual richness, which - in combination with a greater-than-usual site usage - obviously stem from the System-wide excitement over Vintage Worlds 2.
It's as though the submissions deadline for the new Anthology has acted as a tonic injected into the veins of the OSS community - including mine, thus inspiring me to hype up the August TTA in these terms. Associational thinking causes me to lump it all together: the new series-tales from David England and Jamie Ross, the Mercurian drama from K S Augustin, the long-awaited fifth "RDF" article from Jamie Ross - who has been recovering from illness - and the fact that I now have a good batch of tales for Vintage Worlds 2. Creativity is in the air, as sniffable as in Renaissance Florence. (How's that for hype.)
The Dance of the Red Lady (Part 1)................by David England
...A frustrated daughter. A family secret...
...A symbiote may not mean to be dangerous, but...
The Resurrection of Merrick Hardcastle........by K S Augustin
...Miscarriages of justice can be put right, even on Mercury...
Who will next reach the Moon?...............by Jamie Ross
Should I re-organize the nav bar?
From Dylan Jeninga:
I've been thinking a bit about Sean Flander's comment regarding the organization of the site, and I think I have a proposed solution, although it will take some legwork on your end I'm afraid. It has to do with the extensiveness of the menu bar on the left side of the screen.
It might be worthwhile to reorganize it like this, or something similar.
- Starting at "Home" keep everything the same through "...And The Void Between Worlds".
- After that, organize the tabs thusly:
- References - Clicking this leads to a new page containing links to "Authors","Fictional Dates" and "Names"
-Themes - Clicking this leads to a new page containing links to all of the themes, as well as "ticklers", which is sort of a theme, in a way
- Conversation - Clicking this leads to a page containing links to "Author Heaven" and "Fireside", as well as all of the links under "Issues and Debates" and, most importantly, "Your Views"
- Original Work - Clicking this leads to a page containing links called "On Site Fiction" (which itself leads to another page containing Tales To Astound and its related links), "Blogs" (leads to the OSS Diary, The Intrepid Travelogue and The Reality Distortion Field)
- Cosmic Flotsam - Anything that doesn't fit elsewhere. Includes links to all competition pages, Page View Winners, The Stellar Neighborhood, and others.
If you wanted to take the organization still further, you could replace the planetary tabs with "Inner Solar System", "Outer Solar System", and "The Outermost Reaches", with each link leading to a page containing all of its requisite links to the planetary pages.
All of this might lead to a more organized appearance, although I couldn't say how much work it would be as I know little of website design...
Reply from Zendexor:
Nicely creative suggestions; the probability
is quite high that I'll put them into effect. It shouldn't be too hard
to do, now that you've done the thinking.
I wasn't sure what Sean F was referring to; he never
replied to my reply. I wondered if he was maybe referring to the lack
of a search button, which is something I've go on my to-do list. But if
it's a matter of too great a profusion on the nav bar, like some
over-fecund Venusian jungle, then your suggestions solve that one
One bit of doubt remains re this idea of slimming
and "tidying" the bar: might not some readers be currently encouraged by
the variety on display rather than confused or overwhelmed? The sort
of reader who likes dreamily browsing in a chaotic second-hand bookshop,
might also like a long long nav bar full of links. A matter of
A psychological point to ponder.
Reply from Dylan:
While I certainly see your parallel to a bookstore, a brick-and-mortar bookstore has the advantage of a physical existence, where a nav-bar is a block of words - harder to wrap your head around.
A compromise, of course, would be drop-down bars - although I don't know how easy such a thing would be to implement.
[Editor's comment: will other readers let me know their views? Email me on email@example.com if you would be so kind! I hesitate to re-organize the site without regard for your sensibilities...]
From Troy Jones III - in reply to the above:
I have a couple of suggestions for how to make the site a little bit easier to navigate. One would be to move "What's New?" up to the top along with "Home" and "About Us". Frequent visitors to the site are probably mostly interested in seeing what has been updated recently. Currently, to do that, we need to scroll all the way down to the feed below the left nav bar, or find "What's New?" in its current location. (Or bookmark the What's New page... actually, it was a long time before I even realized that there even was a What's New page and that I didn't have to scroll all the way down to check the feed.)
For first-time visitors, the enormous selection of links may seem a bit overwhelming. I would suggest, at the end of the section called "The Invitation" on the front page, saying something like "We suggest newcomers to the Old Solar System start with Tales to Astound, our on-site collection of original fiction and editorials, or the OSS Diary, containing news and thoughts on the subject of the Solar System that should have been."
(The trend in web-design is for a very simple navigational flow that funnels users exactly where you want them to go. Most visitors, once they get to the end of a page will subconsciously expect to be told what to do next; I'm not crazy about that trend, but it is kind of what users have come to expect.)
And I would also suggest moving the glossary at the bottom of the front page to its own separate page. "OSS" and "NOSS" are probably the only truly critical terms to know, and they are both discussed at some length in the front page's introductory text. (Probably most people won't want to start their Solar System adventure reading a dictionary.)
Oh, and the Planet X page probably could use a link to "What to see on Planet X".
[Sounds very good for starters; and these are reforms which are fairly easy to make. I'm grateful for the advice. - Z.]
What should we call the inhabitants of Io?
From Troy Jones III, in reply to my having queried his use of "Ioi" to denote the natives of Io, in a tale submitted for Vintage Worlds 2. I had suggested he change it to the more conventional "Ionians".]
Re: Ioi, "Ionians", to me, pertains to the ancient Greek Ionians, whence comes our name for the Ionian Sea and the musical "Ionian mode". I feel the natives of Io need a different name in order to distinguish them and avoid any embarrassing cultural misunderstandings, just as Europeans probably would not want to be confused with aquatic natives of Europa. (For the latter, "Europan" works but is clunky to my ears, and is so close to "European" that confusion is still very likely.)
But speaking of Greeks, I am a big fan of Greek-inspired affixes and I think it's a crying shame that we don't say "hippopotamoi" for the plural of the animal whose name is Greek for "river horse". That's where I got the idea of Ioi. (Which reminds me, "Ioi" should be pronounced "ee oy", not "eye oh eye" or "ee oh eye".) Natives of Europa? Europai, problem solved. (Pronounced, "yoo roe pie").
And one other problem with insisting on -ian or -ean suffixes for everyone: what do you call a native of Saturn's moon Titan? Alright, now what do you call a native of Uranus' moon Titania? See the issue? Certainly if you're a smuggler of Titanian flame orchids, you'll want to know which is which! (In the Headless/Sarcastic universe, they would probably be Titani and Titanians, respectively.) [Z: I use "Titanics" for the inhabitants of Titan.]
(Long story short: leaning toward keeping "Ioi". Actually, I would be curious as to what JMG thinks of it. He is a student of classical languages; he may well consider it an abomination haha.)
Reply from Zendexor:
Ioi is fine by me, really. I was just being a trifle pedantic. But at least it has sparked off an interesting discussion...
From Jamie Ross, in reply to my request for confirmation
regarding the place of his latest tale, Exile To Space, in his story-sequence:
Europa Dive is IV and this is III. Beyond Despair was I and the next one, tentatively called Into the Wild, is number II and tells how the rest of the crew of Shining Star goes down to the surface, minor crash and gets involved with lots of hazards and meet the indigenous Keltans for the first time... so hopefully tie all the events together and setting the stage for further exploration missions and the threat of the dark forces outside the Solar System (ie a lot more material in the future)...
A sense of imminence broods over the System as the worlds bate their collective breath... in anticipation of Vintage Worlds 2, for which the deadline for submissions falls on the last day of this month.
Perhaps this explains, at least in part, why June has been the best month of the year so far for Solar System Heritage - with regard to the number of site users (2,661), number of visits to the site (12,606) and number of individual page-views (20,920). Perhaps writers are flocking to steep themselves in the shared reality which permeates and is celebrated in the site's hundreds of pages.
After all, though a writer is respected for being "original", the idea of "originality" (as the term implies) is a back-to-the-origins thing: a search for a fountainhead, not a prioritization of individual caprice. Individuality comes with the treatment, not the basic subject-matter. For our Vintage Worlds collections we don't want writers who are so individual that they individualize themselves right out of the genre; we want writers who enrich the scene like a good architect will embellish a city.
Take as an example the two very different contributions to this month's Tales To Astound. The finale of David England's serial and the new story by James W Murphy give us intrigue and thrills on the one hand, and farcical humour with an undertone of terror on the other. As usual we find it's a case of "further up and further in" (to quote C S Lewis in The Last Battle); that's to say (if I may adapt Lewis' mystic context to my worldly purpose) if you limit yourself to staying inside the Old Solar System, it gives you the key to an infinity of plots and tales: like the Tardis, it's bigger inside than outside.
A note about David England's series: David has informed me that he has submitted a manuscript version to a publisher and, as a consequence, has asked me to take This Precarious Balance down from the site after the end of this month. It has been a privilege to host the tale - and it has been a crucial mainstay of Tales To Astound - and I'm sure we all wish the author the best of luck with publication. Fortunately, I can reassure the readers that David is providing us with a new saga with the same background which will begin with our August issue.
A Life of Leisure and Renewed Vigour.....................by James W Murphy
...thinking of relocating to Venus? Be prepared...
The Fate of All Things (part 3 - conclusion)........................by David England
...She must decide: vengeance or the secret of power?...
From Sean Flanders:
I just discovered your website, and (while hardly the easiest thing to navigate) I'm loving all the love and attention you give to the Old Solar System. That sort of old-style, utterly improbable science fiction really speaks to me, gets the old sense-of-wonder firing, and it's great to find others who appreciate it.
But there does seem to be a glaring omission on your site. You have pages on all the planets in the Solar System, including ones that never existed like Vulcan or Planet X, but you don't (as far as I can tell) have anything on Counter-Earth: the planet that follows the exact same orbital path around the Sun as our Earth, but always on the opposite side of the Sun from us, forever hidden from view.
Mars and Venus may not be as habitable as old stories liked to imagine, and Mercury may not have its tidally locked Twilight Zone, but at least those planets still physically exist. Counter-Earth is a world that can only exist in the Old Solar System, and unlike sun-scorched Vulcan, if it appears in a story, it's almost certainly abundant with Earth-like life (if not a perfect doppelganger for our own Earth).
Not telling you how to do your job, 'cause I love the work you're doing. Just a little comment from the peanut gallery.
Comment from Zendexor:
Sean, many thanks for your feedback. I'd appreciate more of it - it's of incalculable worth to get readers' views.
For instance: if you could point out difficulties in the navigation, I'd maybe be able to improve the layout.
Re Counter-Earth, it's true I have no knowledge of it, beyond a certain rumour that the Gor books are set on that world - I've never read them, though. Have you, and if so, are they any good?
Fortunately this is a less lean month than the last!
Readers are here presented not only with the continuation of David England's serial, but also with a free-standing tale by a new contributor, James W Murphy.
Let's be grateful for the fact that we're all free, as writers, to colonize the rich territory of the Old Solar System. The more I think about it, the more I see how close the analogy can be, between homesteading and literary pioneers. If you're a writer in our genre you have to be a sort of Daniel Boone of the mind. You survey the topography of your chosen scene, you hew yourself a clearing in the thicket of confused and tangled ideas, you erect a structure of plot, you make it habitable by your characters...
And - this particular frontier will never fill up! No prospect of any Frederick Jackson Turner coming along to announce its passing. Not even Mars will ever be fully explored (see the current episode of The Fate of All Things). As for the outer planets and all their moons... well, it's like an entire universe there for the taking, yet it's also a paradoxically familiar strangeness, a realm which for all its alien vastness is part of our psychic heritage.
The Lost Rings of Saturn...................by James W Murphy
...a Terran and a Jovian escape the tyrannous Saturnians...
The Fate of All Things (Part 2)................by David England
...inside an ancient holy site on Mars...
From Dylan Jeninga:
...I admit, I'm a bit dismayed at your disillusionment with space travel …you've got to keep the faith alive!
We are, after all, a species of wanderers. Our very first ancestors, surrounded on all sides by the wilds of Africa, would surely have perished if not for the compulsion to see what lay over the next hill. It was that instinct that pushed them up to your native isle, and further, to my home continent, and beyond. The drive to explore, to look past the horizon, is perhaps one of the noblest of all human characteristics, and something sorely needed in this age of division and radicalism.
I don't speak of economic prospecting, but pure wonder and exploration. It is that wide-eyed dreaming that pushes NASA and organizations like it to explore with whatever resources they are permitted by the tight-purses in Washington. I think that, if they could, they would gladly have sent humans to Mars years or even decades ago, but they've made do, scraping together the cash to send robots in our stead - and I admire them for it.
And who knows, someday they might get people to space, or somebody else will. What those people will discover - fossils, microbes, fish, intelligence - is still up in the air. Far from barren, the Solar System has several possible harbors for life. So keep your chin up, my friend!
In that vein, I must suggest you read "Avengers of the Moon". It might serve you up a scifi meal that revitalizes your faith in the future.
Comment from Zendexor:
I agree about the wide-eyed dreaming. Not only in the space program but also in the support given by government for astronomy – a refreshingly non-sordid side of human nature.
Trouble is, if the robots have always got there first, then the expanding frontier is no longer a matter of seeing with our own eyes what’s “beyond the next hill”.
However, let's ponder whether mankind might find a way round that problem, by learning somehow to identify with its robot probes. If we could view them as an extension of our personal senses, by analogy with putting a pair of extra-strong specs on… then wouldn't we thereby be "touching" the frontier? I think Arthur C Clarke would have argued this way. He believed that you can’t make any profound distinction between remote sensing and proximate sensing. If you take that line, it makes no philosophical difference to the personal status of the messages we receive from our sense organs and nerve endings, if their reach is extended for millions of miles by artificial probes.
I see his point, but... hmm... duh... that's a difficult one.
The best solution would be to develop a space-faring culture of individualists who, in their sturdy little scout-boats, explore at first hand without preliminary robotic reconnaissance.
We just need the scout-boats.
Perhaps Mr Musk could get onto it...
David England this month starts us off on the latest tale in his popular saga of the Edwardian Space Age.
Thank the skies we have David's contribution to keep TTA going - for this has otherwise been a lean month, in which I myself am setting the bad example of not contributing anything (my excuse is that what with exams looming, this is the busiest time of year for a private tutor).
The Fate of All Things (part 1)............................by David England
...the Baroness and her new spouse get a new slant on Atlantis...
From Dylan Jeninga:
I'm currently reading Endurance, the biography/tell all by Scott Kelly, who I'm sure you remember, spent a year on the ISS. He shares a number of intriguing details about life as an astronaut, as well as some factoids about Roscosmos. I was most interested to learn that the Russians have their own, real version of "The Green Hills of Earth", about cosmonauts missing the "green, green grass", and they play it when the spacemen and women are meeting with the media. While the Russian program is otherwise poorly funded and slapdash, sometimes to frightening degrees, they do seem to have a romance about the whole thing that the US could stand to emulate.
It got me wondering if anyone had ever made "The Green Hills of Earth" into a real song. I've found a few, and two I enjoy.
This one, just because it gets all of Heinlein's lyrics in:
And this one, because it sounds like something The Blind Bard of the Spaceways might have actually written, minus the accordian:
Comment from Zendexor: The Green Hills of Earth is a great example of an invented literature, like Hamlet's play-within-a-play, or Lovecraft's imaginary references. I wish Heinlein had done more tales like that. His poetic/mythopoeic side isn't what one most remembers about him but when it did come to the fore the effect was superb.
From David England, when submitting The Fate of All Things:
...the fourth and final chapter of the story arc of This Precarious Balance.
would like to convey my appreciation to those readers who have
accompanied me on this journey and to let them know that this is not the
last we will see of our heroine. Astute readers will have noticed some
gaps of time between the various chapters of this story and I will say
that another series of "in between tales" has been planned, the first of
which has already been written. Stay tuned.
Also, I'm pleased to say that anyone picking up a copy of the forthcoming Summer 2019 issue (#11) of MYTHIC will have the opportunity to witness a key episode during Lady Penelope's formative years.
And, finally, there will be yet other tales in this universe and as well as the continuance of the main story-line begun with this series over the past year.
Comment from Zendexor: hence my grounds for optimism, that the flow of tales will continue!
Thank goodness for David England's serial, of which the third and last episode appears in this month's issue. Were it not for that, there'd be no new serial episodes this month, since I've been too busy to write the next episode of mine. (In order to still the pangs of conscience I have managed to knock up an article instead.)
Fortunately we have a new "singleton" short story by Dylan Jeninga, and moreover it's set on a fascinating planet which has long been in urgent need of further literary coverage - namely, the watery version of Neptune.
For that matter, any version of the mysterious eighth planet would be welcome as a setting for new NOSS fiction. Particularly as I sense a vogue for the outer reaches... indeed to me it feels as though currents of expansive moment may be stirring in the OSS: consider the surge in attention being paid to Titan, to judge from the victory of that planet in the March IKO and its continuing place at the head of the planetary bodies in the page-view charts. Ganymede is also doing better than usual. And for the past three months we've had Outer Solar System IKO winners. Straws in the wind, perhaps; hints that a sophisticated readership is reaching out to new frontiers, the imagination engaged in a colonising movement analogous to the American settlers moving into the Mississippi Valley from 1815 through to the 1850s.
Perhaps it's time to look for a bargain spacecraft and shoot off in the direction of the Asteroiods...
The Sea Empress........................................by Dylan Jeninga
...she lurks beneath the waves of the giant blue planet...
The Sons of Eris (part 3).............................by David England
.....the Baroness fences with a revolutionary.....
.....comparing notes of do's and don'ts.....
The serial by David England continues with its depiction of a habitable Solar System - no explanation needed there; it fits on the site with natural ease. On the other hand Dylan's latest tale is a bit of an interloper - or is it? Despite the fact that the author himself says that the tale is not OSS, the fact is I could not resist including it.
To justify doing so, I go into space-barrister mode.
Ladies and gentlemen of the reader-jury, consider the following argument:
Admittedly the Mars portrayed in Be Seeing You is the realistic, currently accepted scientific version of the planet. However, there is also another planet involved here -
Namely, Earth. An Earth which can't be quite the same as ours - for its civilization has produced a sentient Mars rover, coterminous in all other respects with the recently defunct Opportunity.
So why not assume you're looking at a wisp of Earthshimmer, emanating from an offshoot of the Old Space Program...
On a different note, readers will see from the Postbag that I have been corresponding with Xiangjun Zeng on the topic of influences. What strands go into our sub-creations? An endlessly fascinating topic. Please chip in, readers.
The Sons of Eris (part 2)....................................by David England
...As death looms, Elias opens up - and gets away with it...
Be Seeing You.....................................................by Dylan Jeninga
...A hardy but winsome robotic pioneer...
...Starting a new life on the seventh world...
...All the stuff found in my story came from a mishmash of all sorts of things. The Skybridge was really the Bifrost. The crystal flower stone tree - the Yggdrasil.
really wanted was to write a scene of a giant ship sailing across sand
dunes. I thought how wonderfully Conan/Barsoom that would be. At first I
had a giant turtle pulling the ship, then I thought, what if that
portion of the Red Desert was really really soft, like quick sand? What
sort of things could live in there? That could even be something of an
adventure story by itself to discover what's in the Dune Sea. Dr.
Brownfur and his merry bathyscopic adventures in the Dune Sea. But then
of course a turtle would sink right in.
the end, it was either the worm or a beetle, and I thought, what the
heck, I'll go with the sand worm, down to pounding on drums to hitch a
I have received a bunch of apologies from stalwart writers who have not yet managed to finish their offerings in time for this month's TTA. However, those writers can rest assured they're being true to their vocation; it is far better to wait until the inner bell pings "I'm ready; publish me" than to betray the creative instinct by being premature.
Meanwhile I do have the minimum with which to keep going - a couple of additional episodes to two of our ongoing series. I have managed to complete episode ten of Uranian Throne on time - thanks partly to an opportune bug which compelled me to cancel some lessons and left me free for more writing... and David England has chipped in with The Sons of Eris, the first part of which adorns this issue of TTA. Parts two and three will feature in the next two issues; and together the entire tale will comprise the third of the yarns which, including The Lifeblood of Worlds and Something New Under the Sun, together make up his saga of the Edwardian space age, This Precarious Balance. David has told me there will then be a fourth to complete the whole.
A few more words about this writing business. An odd comparison has just occurred to me, between the decisions an author must make and the process of narrowing options described in Asimov's Foundation series as a "Seldon Crisis".
In each case, the decision-maker (the politician in Asimov's tales, the writer in the real world) has only to wait while alternatives are shown up to be unworkable one after another, so that in the end only one course of action is left.
I have been experiencing this of late, very powerfully, in the advance decisions I have been needing to make about the future shape of Uranian Throne. The amazing thing is, the way in which being stuck and flummoxed and stymied is actually the route to a solution.
Doubtless you other wriers have similar tales to tell. One day we must all get down to a symposium and compare notes...
The Sons of Eris (part 1)..............................................................David England
...the faithful Elias advances in the service of his lady...
...it's never too late to be totally wrong about the shape of your life...
Serials rule OK - again! Three concurrent serials, and for each of them you can reach the latest episode by clicking from this issue of Tales To Astound.
I'm also glad to be able to include another of Jamie Ross' non-fiction articles, in his convergent-truth series The Reality Distortion Field.
As for singletons, my guess is that the pipelines are filling up with material destined for Vintage Worlds 2.
Meanwhile I'm sure you'll remember - either directly or, if you're too young, as history - the convergence between the interplanetary sf script and reality, fifty years ago. Apollo 8 went round the Moon at Christmas 1968, while I, a goggle-eyed youth of 14, watched on TV. And we expected the moon landing the following year, and we got it; but the first voyage into deep space, and the sense that the future had leaped into reality, came specifically during that Christmas now a half-century gone.
Well, the convergence turned out brief. After a mere four years of wonder, reality and the dream veered apart once more. At least, that's how I used to look at it, with a sense of loss which almost broke my heart.
Now, though, I'm heartbreak-proof as far as that's concerned, because new thoughts have shown me how reality is, after all, win-win!
Sure, we missed our Arthur C Clarke-style future on the Moon. And we couldn't have had such a future on Mars in any case, even if men had reached that planet, as I'm sure you'll agree - the likeable orb in The Sands of Mars doesn't exist. But -
We've got our wondrously weird, fantastic future Earth! And it's getting more picturesquely bizarre every day!
An adventurous New Year to all my fellow-Jasoomian readers.
The Adventures of Longtail: Sleeping Fury (part 2).............by Xiangjun Zeng
...the alluring slums of Red City, and beyond...
Something New Under the Sun (Part 3).........................by David England
...stirrings on Vulcan...
...Dynoom seeks help from across the void...
Chinese Lunar Rover: Navigation and Names.............................by Jamie Ross
...what's behind the dramatic news from Farside...
Last month the line was held by our two serials; this month I have a "singleton" to offer as well - a powerful Venusian tale by Dylan Jeninga.
The sense of limitless possibilities within limits, of there being no end to the variations on a defined theme, boggles my mind pleasantly as I contemplate what may be on-site by this time next year, or a few years ahead. And for the more immediate future I can give you some more precise news about what's in store.
On the topic of serials, here's some good tidings for next year: Xiangjun Zeng, who's developing the Longtail saga of the far-future OSS, has informed me that the epic is scheduled to be ready around June 2019. As a writer I know how a tale tends to stretch its own deadline, but still, it's cheering news. Longtail, when it comes out, will surely feed the insatiable maw of Tales To Astound for many months.
about more singletons, though? My seventh-planet-rival Jamie Ross is working on the next
tale in his Uranus-linked series, of which each tale so far can be read
on its own, and I suspect that will also be true of those to come. Dylan is working on a Mars tale. As for my own efforts, I confess I have no time for producing stand-alones at the moment, my time and energy being taken up by the monster Uranian Throne, which is threatening to expand into several books... On the other hand, maybe next year, when I get my pension... and a bit more leisure... who knows?
I'm hoping to hear from some of the new readers who accessed the site during an amazing ten-day surge in use, 12-22 November, when interest abruptly doubled. Perhaps some of those readers are writers too. Or critics, or commentators... or secret service agents checking on the infiltration of our reality by OSS influence... Whoever you are, you don't have to be coy.
The Purple Sea.............................................................by Dylan Jeninga
Something New Under the Sun (part 2)...................................by David England
...Elias and the Baroness tracking a killer and a great secret across worlds...
...Show-down at the Tree...
As the Solar System holds its breath for Vintage Worlds 1 to burst onto the scene, we have a nicely contrasting pair of NOSS serials on concurrent offer in Tales To Astound. One is my Uranian saga, while the other is the continuation of David England's adventurous Edwardian space-epic. Uranian Throne is confined to one world, whereas This Precarious Balance roves through the System; so here are two basic types of OSS scenario, as neatly represented, side by side, as if it had been planned that way!
On a different note, I'd like to refer readers to John Michael Greer's Ecosophia blog which, to my history-minded soul, is particularly fascinating at the moment. JMG is a supporter of this site - indeed, it is he who suggested, and is chief editor of, the Anthology. And yet, he doesn't believe that space travel has a future - the main reason being that our fossil-fuel-based industrial civilization is not sustainable, so that insufficient resources exist for expansion into space. I almost agree; I'm not quite as sure as he is. But in any event, what matters is the great literary continuum in which we both love to zoom around, and which is unreachable by real spacecraft, even if our economic resources were to suffice - because, unfortunately, the factual Solar System simply does not make the grade.
That's not to dismiss the chances of finding life in our planetary neighbourhood; see the points made by Dylan in his recent Travelogue. But it's rather late to hope that the reality out there might match the creations of sf.
Never mind, we have the mysterious Planet Earth to play around in, and we can speculate on that awesome thing we're headed for, called the Future. Cultures, civilizations, rising and falling and changing... read all about it in Ecosophia.
Meanwhile one achievement of our civilization is explored right here - that feast of fascination, archetypes and adventure, the literary Old Solar System.
Something New Under the Sun (part 1)......................by David England
...this sequel to The Lifeblood of Worlds takes us from Venusian back-streets to the Vulcanian interior...
...Don't be special or you'll get summoned to the Justice Tree...
From Dylan Jeninga, who has gone back to college:
...Geography is particularly interesting
because I can privately draw comparisons between the Earth and other
planets: Luna and Earth both experience thermal weathering, Mars has
large lava tubes where those are relatively rare on our planet, etc. It
reminds me that the third planet is as interesting and exotic as any
other, if not more so.
It also offers some inspiration. After the chapter on rivers, it occurred to me that Old Venus would doubtless have some rivers to dwarf the Amazon, and that it would take some truly mad explorers to brave them.
I do miss the canals - Earthly canals are lacking in comparison, but they've got oceans to make up for it.
...A bit of good news for both of us: we seem to be living in a renaissance of Moon novels. Just in the last few years we've had the Luna Series, Gunpowder Moon, The Moon and the Other, Radiance, and now Kim Stanley Robinson is coming out with a new Lunar adventure: Red Moon!
I admit that I haven't always cared for Robinson, I found the characters in his Mars series too stale for me to finish it. But it strikes me that he might have improved over the years, and even if he hasn't, this Lunar outing my be well suited for you to enjoy. His lifeless Moon won't get you down, and we know the author's heart is in the right place when it comes to colonization. At the very least, If be curious to know what you think before I pick it up myself.
I think the explosion of Moon books might be symptomatic of an increased public interest in Luna generally. The excellent movie First Man has just hit the theaters to great reviews, and Spacex announced that it intends to send some billionaires on their own private tour around the Moon in the near future. Also, the Chinese announced their intention to colonize our satellite, and given that their despotic government isn't subjected to the whims of changing administrations the way America's is, I don't doubt that they'll do it (not that I wish the U.S. government was more like China's. I just wish our presidents would let NASA finish a long-term project now and then).
Yes, it's a good time to love the Moon.
I have to admit, though, that Spacex's announcement made me a bit melancholy. After some reflection, I realized that I resent the notion of space becoming a playground for the super-rich. While I understand that most new technologies are only accessible to the wealthiest 1% at first, I don't feel that very many of them will have the appropriate reverence for what they're doing. Some of them will, certainly; for whatever flaws in his character, Elon Musk seems to appreciate the gravity of his ambitions. But I fear the oil barons and fashion moguls will treat the stars as curiosities, to be ogled and then forgotten, a cool Instagram photo and nothing more.
I'd much prefer the old model: NASA colonizes space and populates it with more and more scientists and technicians until the colonies become self-sustaining and travel is cheap enough that private citizens and emigrate if they'd like to. The rich have their exclusive pleasures, sure, but the way lies open for everyone to seize the sky. I suppose that vision was too idealistic.
I hadn't known of the new trend in Moon novels which you mention; it's good that you are keeping tuned in to what's going on, rather than just mooning (no pun intended) about the past as I tend to do... Alongside the other real-life things you mention, in particular the Chinese announcement that they intend to colonise Luna, it may all add up to a significant Zeitgeist, or so we can hope!
...Unlike you I did manage to finished the Robinson Mars trilogy. I quite agree about the characters, but I persevered for the sake of the planetology rather than for the people... The deadening influence of relevantitis and token diversity tends to sap the juice out of characters... The paradox that can afflict authors' efforts is that the more uniformly they go in for "diversity", the less interesting their characters are. Contrast the characters in, for example, Clarke's 1950s novels "The Sands of Mars" and "Earthlight", in which, improbably, his Mars and Moon colonists all seem British and most are male, yet they're interesting people despite their lack of international or sexual variety. On the other hand, Poul Anderson could do the diversity thing and actually make it work. One feels he did it because he was sincerely international in spirit, not just because it's the fashion.
...Political short-termism has as you say been the bane of the US space effort. The counter-acting influence of the astronautical-industrial complex (to adapt Eisenhower's phrase) hasn't weighed enough on the other side. I was very disappointed indeed when Obama cancelled the Constellation program; just think, if he hadn't done that, we'd probably be just a year or two away from a Moon base now.
I also sympathise with your disappointment at the idea of space being a playground for the idle rich. However, remember that the billionnaires won't actually be doing the piloting! It will remain essential to have some real spacemen and spacewomen to do the necessary. So, we might get situations which are quite traditional from the OSS point of view, in which the down-at-heel spaceman has to step in to save the day when the spoiled rich guy has goofed. After which, the heroine realizes she prefers the former to the latter after all... Van Vogt or Weinbaum would have had fun with that sort of plot.
This month, in addition to continuance of the serials, we offer a couple of complete features, each of which bring us face to face with the chasm between fond dreams and darned reality.
I must admit I hesitated for a cowardly nanosecond or two before deciding to include Violet's send-up of Elon Musk. With my tendency to see both sides of a question, I feared that some readers might plaintively demand, "Hey, what are you doing? Here's a chap who's putting his fortune on the line in an attempt to realize our dreams of Mars-colonization - why snipe at him?"
On the other hand: when I read it I had to admit that the send-up succeeds in its own terms. That immediately raises the serious question, how? A humorous satirical piece, if it manages to being funny, is likely to be on to something...
Perhaps the lesson is, that there's no going back to the (comparative) innocence of Heinlein's The Man Who Sold The Moon.
Or perhaps that kind of dream could be realized - but only if the
target is the Moon. Might it be that Elon Musk is aiming
at the wrong celestial orb?
Here is what I believe: that Mars-plans are unrealistic for the foreseeable future, but that we could make a good go at the old dream of colonising the Moon. I would strongly argue that a Moon base is more interesting a project than a Mars base, simply because the real Moon is not as big a let-down (when you compare it with the fictional Moon) as the real Mars is compared with the OSS Mars.
I emailed Violet with my reaction and she replied, partially agreeing:
"Colonizing the moon makes way more sense to my mind than colonizing Mars... Personally, I agree too that the moon is as exciting as Mars. My thought is though, whichever way you cut it, space colonization is most likely forever in the realm of science fiction rather than science fact. The energy costs and logistical elements are just so enormously frustrating to human goals, and I doubt that humans could survive longterm anywhere besides earth based on subtle things like the gravity we need to maintain adequate bone density and other problems we haven't learned to begin to consider yet.
"That being said, I dig science fiction and especially OSS science fiction! It doesn't have to describe something likely to happen to be really good fun and even thought provoking and beautiful."
Amen to that! But to return to the particular topic of Elon Musk and his Mars plans - could it be that he spurns the Moon because he thinks our satellite is old hat? Quite a few people probably do think that way; in other words, they assume that after just six manned landings we can say "been there, done that".
In actual fact, Terra's companion-world retains not only its alluring mystique but also, until we've settled it, its status as a frontier. Unfinished business!
So, readers, if any of you have a few tens of billions of dollars to spare, and if you're into astronautics, I suggest you head that way... perhaps after re-reading Earthlight.
And now, to return to my introductory remarks about the theme of dreams versus reality: welcome back Jamie Ross with the third article in his non-fiction series. Toilet wars in space? What sordid stuff is this? We could laugh it all off, but maybe we'd miss a gold mine of literary profundity if we did so. Huge issues are being raised, issues on which (as regards literary approach) Jamie and I would most likely be on opposite sides. And that's all to the good. We can compete in epic but friendly rivalry. Those of us (like me) who treat the fictional universe as a kind of nature reserve for that mythic species which could get along without toilet wars or the like (one might call it homo dignitatus), can try to out-yarn the realists, and vice-versa, and may the best approach win!
Incidentally, readers will be glad to hear that Jamie Ross is currently working on a sequel to Europa-Dive.
Long Live the Billion-Year Space Reich.....................................by Violet Bertelsen
...a cautionary tale for billionaires...
The Lifeblood of Worlds - Part 3 (conclusion).............................by David England
...Baroness Botelier tracks down her father's discovery...
...and the Noad wanders into shaken territory...
We Are All Human After All....................................................by Jamie Ross
Currently, serials seem to predominate - a sign of authorial commitment, and thus, for us readers, a kind of Standing Order at the Bank of the Imagination, promising us a secure income of adventures.
Following Longtail: A Prologue, we have at last the opening episode in an actual story. Sleeping Fury is set, like the Prologue, in XJ's
far-future Solar System with its colourful hints of mysterious culture-layers and successor species, but it takes us further, into a real adventure. (Note: I regret I have not yet been able to find a suitable illustration for this tale. If anyone has a suggestion for one, I should be grateful.)
XJ's contribution means we now have three on-going serials, with the first two, Uranian Throne and The Lifeblood of Worlds, zooming ahead in this issue alongside the newcomer.
What richness this is! Precisely what I want to encourage - the sense of endless exfoliation of comfortable
adventure. (Comfortable for the readers; not, of course, for the characters.)
We readers paradoxically desire a limitless expansion within limits: that's to say, an immensity contained within our favourite sub-genre limits. We wish for that sense of trust which allows us to feel we know what we can expect within our chosen limitless limits. Hope I'm making myself clear...
Serials aren't the only things we want, however. I'm sure readers will welcome another original stand-alone space-adventure by Dylan Jeninga, concerning the risk-taking, resourceful Rasi...
Rimworld Trash.............................................. .....................by Dylan T Jeninga
...how to succeed as an independent trader: live by your wits!
Sleeping Fury.........(The Adventures of Longtail - 1)................by Xiangjun Zeng
...an old, old Red Planet and a disaster that threatens once every million years...
The Lifeblood of Worlds - Part 2........................................by David England
...from Mercury to Ceres, on the trail of a clue to the mystery of Vulcan...
...rebellion raises its head in the Uranian city of Olhoav...
Readers will, I'm sure, join with me in welcoming our new serial-writer, David England, whose saga begins in this month's issue. We now have two serials running concurrently, in satisfying contrast with regard to style and subject. You will note that in our letters section David confides some of his plans for his series. Some titles may still just be a gleam in his eye, whereas others are far along towards completion; anyhow it looks like those who want to learn more about his universe won't be kept waiting forever.
One thought leads to another. Our serialists, David England and Robert Gibson, are both due to appear in the OSS collection Vintage Worlds, and that reminds me that the cover illustration for Vintage Worlds became public news during July - see the Anthology Project page. The more I contemplate that picture the more I like it. It manages to suggest a vast amount without being too cluttered. I will admit that I misinterpreted it initially, thinking that the huge sphere in front of the giant planet was another world - whereas it actually seems to be more probably a translucent force-field, semi-concealing some intriguing structures.
Another of the delights of that book, which I as Editor have seen but you people haven't, is the way John Michael Greer's Foreword complements my Introduction without merely echoing it. The essays were written independently of each other, without consultation, and, I hope, fit together all the better for that, managing to avoid repetition, with a sort of concerted stereo fix on the topic. An example of "independent collaboration" between two spirits whose hearts are in the right (OSS) place.
And talking of collaboration -
In this issue of Tales To Astound we have, at long last, the final part of Mission To the Tenth Planet. Dylan and I have worked on it, mostly by contributing alternating sections, for what seems like ages, but we've kept the thread of the narrative coherent - at least, I hope you readers will agree. We submit it to your judgement: is it a solid contribution to the literary lore of Trans-Plutonian space? I hope so.
Finally, please indulge me in one of my periodic attempts to sway impressionable writers to my will:
Bear in mind, folks, that after Vintage Worlds 1 we'll probably see Vintage Worlds 2, and more volumes after that, if all goes well. So we'll be wanting many more stories from you, and I want to say this - not for the first time:
There's a tales unwritten page on this site which indicates some of the important literary gaps that need filling. Go to that page, pay heed to it, and get going with those sagas which are piteously crying out to be brought forth from the limbo of potentiality and into the light of actuality!
The Lifeblood of Worlds - Part 1..............................................by David England
...skulduggery among the nations in a late nineteenth-century Space Age!
...Dynoom miscalculates; Dempelath terrifies; Hyala discovers...
Mission to the Tenth Planet.....(Conclusion)..............................by Dylan Jeninga
...Scott returns with a souvenir...
From Dylan Jeninga:
The saga of Dynoom continues to be gripping, please send my regards to Mr. Gibson! And to Jaime, it's always good to learn of new anthologies. I just finished one called "great science fiction stories about Mars", published in 1966. I found it to be rather hit or miss, with the three hits being "The First Martians" by A. E. van Vogt, "Tin Lizze" by Randall Garrett, and of course "Omnilingual" by H. Beam Piper. Tin Lizzie was interesting because, apart from being well told, it presented a version of Mars that has more in common with real-life Venus than Mars.
[Editor: Your remarks on the Garrett tale remind me of Michael Moorcock's Mars which in my opinion would have been better cast as Venus. But if that were to become part of the theme, it would be fair enough. You could also say J G Ballard's The Drowned World convincingly depicts an Earth on the way to becoming Venus-like in character - OSS Venus, that is.]
From David England, regarding the series of which this month's episode is a part of one of the tales:
...The titles and over-all story-arc are pretty well set. I know what happens; I just have to get everything out. The final scene of the final story is done. (Similarly, I've had the ending of a novel in my head for something like 25 years. I just have to write the story that goes in front of it.) ...What I don't know exactly is when things will get written.... Right now, "Something New Under the Sun" is roughly half-finished. "Sons of Eris" has substantial scenes sketched out. "The Fate of All Things" has the opening scene, the ending scene, and the plot.
I admit I'd be curious to see what the response to this first installment is...
[Editor: This is all very reassuring. Once we know that quality is there, our next demand from a writer is QUANTITY. Readers - and editors - are, above all, greedy for more.]
From Jamie Ross:
...stumbled on this archive looking for old Doc Savage books:
[Editor: this is big stuff. A huge and growing archive of FREE e-books. For starters I have promptly downloaded a Ray Cummings tale, "The Wings of Icarus", from a 1943 Startling Stories. Jamie has done all a favour by alerting us to this trove, which I suspect is not yet widely known.]
I didn't realise Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a Venus series as well
"...Carson Napier set out for Mars in a
secret interplanetary rocket but found himself instead on a different world—the
cloud-hidden planet Venus.
Venus was a startling world—semi-private, semi-civilized. It was a place of unmapped oceans dotted with great islands; a world whose trees pierced the clouds and whose cities squatted on their branches; a planet whose inhabitants included men, half-men, and monsters, all struggling with each other for dominance..."
[Editor: in some ways I envy Jamie who has the treat in store, of reading ERB's Amtor series for the first time.]
...general science fiction includes the classic Lensmen series!
[Editor: and indeed why not expand through a couple of galaxies while we're about it? The already-famous Lensman series deserves to be respected more than it is. Doc Smith has a reputation for being a poor stylist or a non-stylist, but in my opinion his exuberance often amounts to a fitting and proper style in itself. A sense of distance is unfortunately sacrificed, annihilated by improbable velocities, but to compensate we have (thanks to Smith's terrific inventiveness) the wonder of variety, and also it's worth bearing in mind that fast transport does in fact sadly de-value distance - the automobile and the aeroplane do it on Earth.]
Some readers may ask themselves, after reading Dylan Jeninga's excellent The Rogue Planet - which I am thankful to be able to present in this issue - "Granted it's a good read, but what's an interstellar tale like that doing here? This site is devoted to the Old Solar System. Let's keep it that way!"
Well, let me ask you this: what is Hawaii doing in the United States of America, considering that the place is thousands of miles from America?
Life is complicated...
Actually, there is a very good reason to include the story here. The far-future fate of the Solar System may include its break-up, entailing a diaspora of our current planetary neighbourhood. I don't want to say too much, though, lest I spoil the story.
Regarding the two serials, running on from last month: Mission to the Tenth Planet
is nearing its end. There is one more episode to come, to be written
by Dylan (but we won't insist it be completed during his honeymoon).
The other one, Uranian Throne, of which the third episode appears
in this issue, as yet is nowhere near its end; readers will no doubt
agree that the writer has set himself a challenge which needs to go far.
A word about the eagerly awaited OSS Anthology, Vintage Worlds. I have seen the artwork for the cover and I found it inspiring. Let's hope it's the first of many volumes!
The Rogue Planet..........................................................by Dylan Jeninga
...a discovery replete with dramatic irony...
Mission to the Tenth Planet - Part VI.......................by Zendexor
...the mania for Oneness seeds its own destruction...
...young Nyav misjudges the risks of Wayfaring...
From Jamie Ross:
I was browsing the bookshelf and found two books, Lost Mars and Moon
Rise. Collections of OSS stories! I didn't know if you were familiar
with them (I am guessing you are) but if you hadn't seen them, I thought
I would pass it along
[Editor: I've followed up those links and they look good to me. I advise other readers to do the same. I might also mention Men On The Moon edited by Donald A Wollheim - it includes the great lunar-creature story Keyhole by Murran Leinster. Discussion of this tale is something I ought to have provided on this site by now - not having done so is one of my serious omissions.]
From Dylan Jeninga:
I watched a video last night by futurist Isaac Arthur (his name itself proving that his heart is in the right place) wherein the colonization of Mercury was discussed. He briefly mentioned that it might, eventually, be a simple matter to slow Mercury's roration until it's tidaly locked. A bit of that reality engineering you like to talk about, eh?
[Editor: Good plan - provided the engineering wipes out evidence of its artificial origin! See the tale Uranian Thule by Robert Gibson, to appear in the anthology, Vintage Worlds, which we're all eagerly awaiting.]
The Outer Solar System gets top billing this month.
First we have the long-awaited continuation of the literary collaboration between Dylan Jeninga and myself, Mission to the Tenth Planet. Dylan and I have worked out the plot, but with the other calls on our time we haven't kept up regularly with writing the story. However, now we can present Episode V (there are two still to go). This Episode has mostly been written by Dylan, who takes care of the Terran side of things, including realistic details of ship and crew, while I look after the portrayal of the alien monster-mountain, Zutelix. I think it's fair to say that collaboration was vital for this tale; neither of us could have managed it on our own.
The other serial is a one-man job and maybe this will mean that the episodes arrive more regularly! Uranian Throne continues with more drama and insights into the civilization of the Seventh Planet. Long may the flow of narrative continue.
Non-fiction is also featured in this issue; I'm delighted to include Jamie Ross' second piece in his Reality Distortion Field series. The future for Tales To Astound already looks bright even though this is only the fourth issue.
I have begun to institute a Letters Page, old-style, for comments from readers. This depends on you people sounding off as much as possible. C'mon, don't be shy!
Lastly, bearing in mind that Romance (in its many forms) is what makes the OSS go round, I'm sure readers will all wish to congratulate Dylan Jeninga who is getting married on the 15th of this month, and to join me in wishing him and his new Jeddara a long and prosperous reign. Whether the guests will be singing "Caliban's Bar" is more doubtful...
Mission to the Tenth Planet - Episode V...........by Dylan T Jeninga and Zendexor
- the ship from Earth comes into range of the frightful Zutelix...
- she was a kind of guru, but she had her own worries...
Caliban's Bar....................................brought to this planet by Dylan Jeninga
The Dark Forest Premise and a Look at Space-Suits............by Jamie Ross
From Dylan Jeninga:
I've finally sat down and read Dynoom, and there are my thoughts: Gibson
is on top of his game here. Dynoom, the titular AI, is likably
vulnerable, and the unusual premise serves the tale as I hoped it would.
Ooranye is an enjoyable setting, well crafted, and I'm always glad to
get more of it! [Editor: There's plenty more to come, including a novella in soon-to-be-published Vintage Worlds.]
Re Zookie Must Die: I love Violet's marriage of the Gernsbackian raygun future with a certain level of "grit", as we like to call it. What's more, Henniver was a likeable protagonist, someone I sympathized with immediately. [Editor: I feel the same. I would however like to know more about what exactly happened on Nightside in Violet's tale. It's tempting to clamour for a sequel.] ...I enjoyed that Henniver is a miner of "harmonium". That's two stories on the site with call outs to Sirens of Titan: namely my own Titan story [Pirates of Titan] and Zookie.
Already on the first day of the month I had enough material to start off the May issue - and this prompts me to remark that the continuity and quality of submissions has so far exceeded my expectations. Well done, contributors; you're the salt of the System.
And since I can't afford to miss any of your input, may I draw everybody's attention to the "Please send your stories and letters to..." section at the top of this page. For the wording in square brackets I am indebted to a reader, P Robert Thorson, who has had experience with email-problems. In any case, simple ways are best for someone like me who is not much good at unscrambling esoteric file-types. (I recently had another email from someone who suspected I might have ignored his contribution deliberately. As if I would be so crazy! Once and for all, I pounce on anything sent, and grumble when nothing is sent. That's the attitude here at System HQ.)
Thinking over my latest reading as Editor, I have been struck by the idea that sf stories, and perhaps other types of stories too, just require one realistic thread, one realistic aspect or "face" among their many fantastic ones, in order for that quality to draw the unrealistic remainder in its train towards success as a work of art. If you picture the story as a comet, the realism is the nucleus while the un-realism is the coma and tail. Or you can imagine the process as one of convection; the one realistic aspect pulls the fantastic elements after it.
In Dylan Jeninga's new tale The Winds of Vulcan, that necessary realistic aspect is provided by the starkly believable crew and the practicalities of their plight. Because all of that is so convincing, we're drawn to accept the rest in its train - the existence of Vulcan itself (while we're reading the story) and the possibility of native inhabitants glimpsed amid the tempests. We accept it all the more, insofar as the plot gives us the intensity of what I call a "snapshot drama" - one desperate slice of life-and-death. (Incidentally, Dylan has also provided us with some thoughts on the inspiration for this story - see The Gritty NOSS.)
The opening episode of Robert Gibson's new serial is, by contrast, a gritless murmur which lulls us into an old-glow sense of wonder; but the tale still possesses a certain realism which springs from a surprising emotion: namely the "yearnings and insecurities" (to use the author's own phrase) of a sentient computer, fixed in the fabric of a city, longing for mobility and for the sense of purpose that is slipping from its grasp as its old functions are less and less needed. A reader persuaded to believe in that will then swallow the rest of it - in particular the habitability of Uranus, and the mysterious, ancient civilization of that world.
From the completely non-gritty Robert Gibson back to the gritty-NOSS scene, we meet the blazing power of Violet Bertelsen's Mercurian story, Zookie Must Die. Here, in a Twilight Belt with a breathable atmosphere, the "realistic thread" is the thirst for personal vengeance and the moral transformation of the protagonist. You have to believe it all while you're reading. (Incidentally, this tale is set in the same reality as On the Shoreline of Darkness.)
Some may cavil at my theory of the "one-realistic-thread". Some may point out that there have been successful writers, in particular perhaps Edgar Rice Burroughs, who have written a kind of dream-literature without any realism at all - the Barsoom tales, for instance. I would disagree for the following reason:
I think ERB is no exception to my rule. He is realistic in one important (albeit paradoxical) sense. That is to say, he uncovers a lot of truth about the wish-fulfilment side of our natures. Insofar as we long to escape from tedium and vulgarity, that part of our inner being has as much a right as any other to be termed "real".
Using such arguments, I can wangle it so that no one has a hope of refuting my theory. It's un-falsifiable. That's the kind I like, no matter what Karl Popper says. And on that self-satisfied note I'll leave you to get enthralled by the latest in planetary peril.
The Winds of Vulcan.................................................................by Dylan T Jeninga
- The physical conditions were hostile enough. But was there more?
Zookie Must Die...........................................................................by Violet Bertelsen
- Henniver ventured into Darkside to confront his last enemy...
....The danger of Man replacing Machine...!
This month's cornucopia presents the reader with two fascinating new stories plus some thought-provoking non-fiction.
Jamie Ross gives us a stunning sequel to Beyond Despair; and the word "stunned" does indeed describe the state of officialdom after the revelations which a joint Terran-Uranian expedition receive on Europa! This tale belongs to a rare but important class of OSS story which not only celebrates but logically justifies the idea of a habitable solar system. In other words, it gives a reason why the glamorous Old Solar System might, after all, be real. Best of all, the plot invites a whole series of further sequels...
Jamie's story is a conceptual-breakthrough tale; the other good kind of story to have is the pure adventure, and Dylan has sent in one of this category. Adventures require settings that are convincing in their own terms, and Pirates of Titan gives us one which, within an OSS context, is fascinatingly plausible.
Then we have the start of a new regular column, The Reality Distortion Field. Remember those monthly Isaac Asimov science-fact articles in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction? It's good for a mainly fiction magazine to include a different slant from the stories, a breeze from another corner of reality. But to judge from Jamie's fictional contributions so far, we can expect him to be likelier than Ike to give due weight to the OSS, as he explores the interplay between reality and our favorite dreams. In that respect we are hugely privileged to have the views of a real space-engineer with his heart in the right place.
Europa Dive.........................................................................by Jamie Ross
- Terrans and Uranians team up to face peril on a Jovian moon in a wonder-filled sequel to Beyond Despair
Pirates of Titan.....................................................................by Dylan T Jeninga
- Kira had to atone for her past, by undertaking one final mission for the authorities...
Working in the Space Program..............................................by Jamie Ross
"Time, like an ever-rolling stream / Bears all its sons away..." (And daughters, even.) Isaac Watts' lines convey the sense of a continuum, whereas magazines in the pulp era had to be discrete events, appearing one after the other, month after month in separate issues. We're no longer limited to that! Here on-site is your continuum magazine! The format of Tales to Astound (much of which, including the title, was suggested by Dylan Jeninga) shows that the Isaac Watts scenario has won out. You readers, consequently, can be borne away on an ever-flowing tide of stories galore, each "monthly issue" cumulatively containing all the previously displayed tales as well as new ones... burgeoning towards an infinity of Old Solar System adventure.
Stid: You're doing well with the hype, Zendexor. That's one point you have in common with the old editors.
Zendexor: Indeed, for the sake of authenticity, a monthly orgy of self-congratulation should be part of the deal.
Stid: Monthly? How come? If it's continuous how is it quantized into monthly issues?
Zendexor: New things may happen every month; tales may be added every month, and/or comments made - the possibilities are endless. Take this first "issue", for instance. Five authors have sent in stories to me so far this month: an unprecedented bonanza. Temporarily they show up in "This Month's Features", and permanently they reside in the archive, "The Eternal Zones".
Harlei: The Eternal Zones. Sounds transdimensional...
Zendexor: Eternally significant, at any rate, as each work of fiction scores another groove in the plenum, the ultimate integral, the character of a world or worlds.
- sinister influences from the outer System against a rich background
Rock and the Belt Pirates...........................................................by Joe Guzzo
- our hero puts his powers to the test in a sequel to Rock and a Hard Place
Whom Gods Destroy...................................................................by Dylan Jeninga
- Do Not Disturb the sleep of the Moon!
Project Utopia..............................................................................by R Olsen
- women and men are worlds apart
Beyond Despair...........................................................................by Jamie Ross
- the seventh planet holds a key to new life