tales to astound
the ever-rolling
oss magazine
december 2018

All life-forms are invited to send their stories, comments and articles to Zendexor at heritageofdreams@aol.com.

[Please submit as simple .doc or .docx format as attachments, using New Times Roman size 12 or Arial size 10 font, or inline text in an email.  Due to some issues with email not getting through, if you do not receive confirmation of receipt within three days, please contact via email only (no attachments) to arrange another attempt.  Use a different email account if the second attempt also does not get a response.]

[ + links to:   previous issues  -  The Eternal Zones story archive  ]

editorial

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.

What 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.

complete short story

The Purple Sea.............................................................by Dylan Jeninga

serials

Something New Under the Sun (part 2)...................................by David England

               ...Elias and the Baroness tracking a killer and a great secret across worlds...

The Brain-Mist Writhes..........(part 8 of Uranian Throne)...............by Robert Gibson

               ...Show-down at the Tree...

previous issues

november 2018 editorial

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.

serials

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...

The Claw Extends...........(part 7 of Uranian Throne).............by Robert Gibson

...Don't be special or you'll get summoned to the Justice Tree...

the planetary postbag

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.

Zendexor replies:

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.

october 2018 editorial

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

complete short story

Long Live the Billion-Year Space Reich.....................................by Violet Bertelsen

...a cautionary tale for billionaires...

serials

The Lifeblood of Worlds - Part 3 (conclusion).............................by David England

                ...Baroness Botelier tracks down her father's discovery...

The Infrastructure Throbs.........(part 6 of Uranian Throne)..............by Robert Gibson

                 ...and the Noad wanders into shaken territory...

the reality distortion field

We Are All Human After All....................................................by Jamie Ross


september 2018 editorial

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...

short-story feature

Rimworld Trash..............................................        .....................by Dylan T Jeninga

              ...how to succeed as an independent trader: live by your wits!

serials

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...

The Lever of Power.........(part 5 of Uranian Throne)..............by Robert Gibson

                 ...rebellion raises its head in the Uranian city of Olhoav...

august 2018 editorial

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!

august 2018 features

The Lifeblood of Worlds - Part 1..............................................by David England

...skulduggery among the nations in a late nineteenth-century Space Age!

Exception....(Uranian Throne part 4)...............................................by Robert Gibson

...Dynoom miscalculates; Dempelath terrifies; Hyala discovers...

Mission to the Tenth Planet.....(Conclusion)..............................by Dylan Jeninga  

...Scott returns with a souvenir...

the planetary postbag august 2018

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:

https://www.fadedpage.com/

[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..."

https://www.fadedpage.com/csearch.php?author=Burroughs%2C%20Edgar%20Rice&sort=auto&tags=science%20fiction

[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!

https://www.fadedpage.com/csearch.php?tags=science%20fiction

[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.]

july 2018 editorial

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!

july 2018 features

short story

The Rogue Planet..........................................................by Dylan Jeninga

...a discovery replete with dramatic irony...

serials

Mission to the Tenth Planet - Part VI.......................by Zendexor

...the mania for Oneness seeds its own destruction...

The Nebulee......(Uranian Throne - Episode 3)...............by Robert Gibson

...young Nyav misjudges the risks of Wayfaring...

the planetary postbag july 2018

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

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38482583-lost-mars

https://www.waterstones.com/book/moonrise/mike-ashley/9780712352758

[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.]

june 2018 editorial

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...

Zendexor

june 2018 features

serials

Mission to the Tenth Planet - Episode V...........by Dylan T Jeninga and Zendexor

- the ship from Earth comes into range of the frightful Zutelix...

Hyala......(Uranian Throne - Episode 2).....................................by Robert Gibson  

- she was a kind of guru, but she had her own worries...

a spaceman's drinking song

Caliban's Bar....................................brought to this planet by Dylan Jeninga

the reality distortion field

The Dark Forest Premise and a Look at Space-Suits............by Jamie Ross

the planetary postbag

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.


may 2018 editorial

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.

may 2018 features

novelette:

The Winds of Vulcan.................................................................by Dylan T Jeninga

- The physical conditions were hostile enough.  But was there more?

short story:

Zookie Must Die...........................................................................by Violet Bertelsen

- Henniver ventured into Darkside to confront his last enemy...

serial:

Dynoom......(Uranian Throne - Episode 1).....................................by Robert Gibson  

....The danger of Man replacing Machine...!

april 2018 editorial

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.

april 2018 features

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...

the reality distortion field - april 2018

Working in the Space Program..............................................by Jamie Ross

march 2018 editorial

"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. 

march 2018 features

The Chthonic Pull and On the Shoreline of Darkness ............by Violet Bertelsen

          - 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


>>  The Eternal Zones Story Archive