Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Man Who Didn't Know Venus

A surprise in the recently uploaded Lost Worlds #5 (October 1952) at Golden Age Comics, a text story by Jerome Bixby. Jerome Bixby was an SF short story writer who, among other things, was the editor of Planet Stories for a year, but is best known for writing the classic Star Trek episodes "Mirror, Mirror," "Requiem for Methusela," and "Day of the Dove," as well as the story and co-writing the teleplay for "By Any Other Name." Unlike earlier transcripted stories, these scans are by Geo and are easily readable. (click on each picture to enlarge them to readable size.)

The whole comic book is available at Golden Age Comics HERE.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Super Salesman of Space

Another of the pulp fiction stories from Planet Comics, transcribed from the original JPEG fiche scans to make them easier to read and reformat. The two pages that this came from are included at the bottom.

Super Salesman of Space
by Tom Alexander, from Planet Comics #10 Jan. 1941.

They called him the Marco Polo of space, and later, the First Salesman of the Universe. The story was inter-planetary that he could sell cooling systems to the Plutonians and heating units to the Mercurians and it wasn't so far-fetched at that, for right now he was spinning on his way through the space lanes to get rid of a ship-load of uranium to a Saturnian satellite named Boolo, whose only export was rich uranium ore. It was like carrying those proverbial coals to Newcastle. But Charlie wasn't the lad to say "can't!" He knew he could sell those Boolonians anything.

Charlie Star was the man responsible for making Spludgus a household word on Earth. Good old Spludgus, that Venusian breed so rich in vitamin content that it turned our puny little Earthmen into muscle-bound Samsons in a month. It was Charlie who first found Plutoil gushing on the frozen plateaus of Pluto and made that famous deal whereby Earth got all the wells in return for the coal mines of Pennsylvania, which had long been in disuse -- The Plutonians used the coal for necklaces to decorate their frigid beauties -- and as long as they had no need for the oil -- it was a fair enough bargain. Star introduced Mercurian Hongony, Stungo Grass from Jupiter, Martian Gool, among many other things that now grace our finest tables. And women will always remember Charlie star as the man who gave them Nogud, the wonderful reducing liquid from the swamplands of Neptune.

And he wasn't only clever, he was a two-fisted fighting man from the old school. And trouble was almost as prevalent as cosmic dust in the Way Far Out -- as spacemen called the vast distance between planets.

Charlie stepped up the speed of his faster-than-light ship and headed in the direction of the ringed planet. He was going over his sales-talk that was to sell the unwanted uranium to the Boolonians he suddenly interrupted his conversation with an imaginary Boolox --

A black hulk was moving toward him through the void. Only one thin thread of purplish light edged over the top of the ship to tell Charlie that he was meeting his old enemy, the space-pirate from Mars, Rogero the Red.

And there was no swerving off his course to escape this time, for Rogero had already switched on his suction tubes and the two ships were hurtling toward each other, the one gaining speed while Charlie's freighter was steadily decreasing velocity against the fierce tug of the suction tubes.

Charlie sat back in his comfortable pilot's chair, lit a fragrant Venusian cigar and waited for the pirate to board his ship.

Rogero flung himself into the cabin -- much faster than he expected because he didn't have to break down the door. His crimson eyes glowed with startled anger as they burned out through his matted orange hair. He composed himself and drew up his to his full seven feet. Then he came to the point with a sudden explosion.

"Uranium. You've got it. I want it!"

"OK. Take it easy. Sit down and we'll talk this thing over. Have a cigar?" Charlie was all smiles.


"Well certainly, Uranium. But have a cigar. Finest tobacco in the Universe. I have the line exclusively. If you'd like me to supply you --"

"Uranium!" Rogero was almost bellowing. It infuriated him that this little Earthman was so calm, so unafraid.

"OK, you wanted to unload it yourself?"

"Yes. I unload."

Charlie walked through the narrow passage to the store hold. He put his hand on the door and as he felt the hot breath of the giant warming his neck from behind, he whirled with the suddenness of a weasel and shot a swift uppercut that tangled in the Martians's red whiskers and sent him back thru the passage with a dull thud.

Then, as though a whirling dynamo had been started within him, Charle went at Rogero with flaying fists. The ceiling was too low for the huge man and his head beat a tatoo against the steel plating as the Earthman drilled away at his chin.

But suddenly Rogero got smart and fell flat on his back -- Charlie tumbled head over heels into the pilot's cabin, propelled by a swift kick of the giant's bony knees. He scrambled to his feet, but the Red One was upon him, a murderous fist raised for the kill. It crashed down but sideswiped Charlie's shoulder. Charlie skidded out from under the next blow across the slippery floor. He yanked the covering from the top of his chart desk, bringing papers, pens, books and nick-nacks crashing down on top of him. But it also brought his Dyno-ray gun. Gratefully his fingers closed around it.

Rogero toward above the wreckage in blind fury.

Charlie pressed the ray release and a thin, hot streak shot across the Martian's face. He yelled in pain. Another streak cut across his chest, burning through the reptile skins and toughened fibrous fabrics that he wore. Rogero howled and fell back, clutching his wounds like a helpless beast.

Charlie rose to his feet.

"Now get out. Go back to your ship and don't let me ever hear from you again or I'll put this ray on full force and burn a hole right through you!"

Whining like a dog, Rogero the Red backed away toward the air-lock.

"Hey, wait a minute," cried Charlie, "I'm handling a swell line of ray-proof vests made of tempered Jupiter steel -- next time I run into you I'll have some along."


From the original fiche scans of Planet Comics #10 at Golden Age Comics, uploaded there by Rolster.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Moon Monster

Another of the pulp fiction stories from Planet Comics, transcribed from the original JPEG fiche scans to make them easier to read and reformat. The two pages that this came from are included at the bottom.

Moon Monster
by Jack Anthony from Planet Comics #9, November 1940.

The Hungry Primordial Beast Takes the First Human Life on the Moon.

July 7, 1960.

This is the last day of my life. I will be the first man to die on the Moon. So I will tell the story briefly and seal the paper in this aluminum capsule -- there will be other Moon explorers -- maybe they are on there way here now -- they will find this capsule and perhaps turn back before it is too late. I am in good health and, on Earth, would still have many years ahead -- but here; on the Moon -- there are only a few hours left.

There is life on this barren waste. Hideous, primordial life. It is this primordial form of animal matter that is slowly moving toward me at the maddening rate of about six feet an hour that will soon crush out the last breath in my body -- the last living thought. And there is nothing I can do.

I landed on the Moon three days ago. The trip here was exciting because of the adventuresome spirit of the thing, but otherwise uneventful. It took exactly a week and ten hours from the new rocket chute in the North Field Airport to the plain at the foot of the giant crater -- I believe the location was somewhat due west of the dark area that scientists have always called Mare Nostrum.

No words can express the exultation that surged through my veins when I actually felt the terrain of the Moon skimming below the surface of my ship as I brought her down. I shouted like a wild-man and tears streamed down my face. My hands were shaking so with excitement that I could hardly adjust my space-helmet and the winches of the air-lock seemed to take hours to unfasten.

At last I had lowered myself to the ground and there I was. The first man to set foot on the Moon!

I stood perfectly still for several minutes, glaring over the vast gray stretch of rocky plain before me. A dust cloud made it hard to see for awhile, but I found that my magnesium lamp easily penetrated that. That dancing film of dust made me realize that my first step on satellite would be a new and momentous experience The gravitational pull of the Moon is much less than ours -- there is no air pressure to hold the fine grains of earth to the surface -- no rainfall to moisten it down -- hence the perpetual cloud that had probably formed when the sphere itself was still in its early stages of formation -- but that was not what concerned me then.

I walked away from my ship. But I was not walking -- I was almost flying -- and it was the most exhilarating sensation I have felt since the days when I used to go swimming in the cold mountain spring on our farm on Earth. I must have looked a strange sight -- bouncing around, doing a sort of slap-happy Spring dance in my cumbersome space-suit with its grotesque helmet. All alone, I cavorted in the mist, leaping distances that would have put our champion Olympic stars in the class of toddling infants.

Soon I tired of the abandon and gaiety and soberly went over the supplies I would carry on my first Moon hike. I carried a pack not very differently stocked than those I had used on my camping trips in the Adirondacks, and set out to explore -- making sure that my compass was in perfect working condition.

But, I forgot -- you, who are reading this have already experienced this "lighter than air" sensation.

The Moon's night is much colder than Earth's. But my sleeping tube was well-equipped with an electrical heating coil and I lay snug and warm on my back -- staring at my home planet that had changed places with the Moon. But if the Moon had ever looked so magnificently impressive -- so radiantly dazzling, lovers would not only have filled books of verses about it, but whole operas -- Hollywood spectacles would have been composed about that single orb. I am an explorer, not a poet, so I cannot begin to describe the breath-taking beauty of that giant circle of light.

I continued in a northeasterly direction for another day. The terrain was monotonously uninterrupted by any sort of vegetation or variation in the flat rock formation. But I was nearing the foot of the crater and hoped for something more interesting when I had mounted the summit. I slept that night half-way up the crater's but when I awoke the next morning something prompted me to look back over the distance I had just traveled through my telescopic lenses and see if my ship was all right.

I gasped in downright terror at what I saw. Nothing. That was it -- the ship was not there! Perhaps, I thought, it's the dust cloud that is hiding it -- but my lenses should penetrate that. I looked at my compass. Yes, I was turned in the right direction. Maybe I was misjudging my distance. I adjusted the focus for a longer range.

Something -- a mammoth shapeless form, was retreating into the distance over the rim of a very small crater. And in its slimy folds I recognized the bulge of my rocket ship.

It took me another day to retrace my steps, horror gripping me all the way. It was not till this afternoon that I neared the rim of the "thing" that had captured my ship. But I dared not approach within a hundred yards of the oozing creature. A nauseous sickness overcame me just to look at it -- or perhaps it was a gas that emanated from the colorless form that penetrated through the canvas of my space-suit.

The best description I can give the "thing" is that it was a protoplasmic glacier that stretched for at least a mile in all directions. It had the substance of a jellyfish and was about a foot thick. But the strength of that base organic matter was enormous. My ship was already crushed beyond repair. Pieces of metal jutted through the slime but with no harmful effect.

Suddenly, I realized that my presence had attracted the Moon monster. It had begun to move toward me and oozed out encircling tentacles -- but I backed up the side of a small crater and almost fell down into its center. For several minutes I rested, trying to overcome the nervous shock that the nausea seemed to produce, Perhaps I lay there longer than I knew. I may have even fallen unconscious -- but when I again climbed to the rim I discovered that the entire crater was surrounded by the plasmic slime that was ebbing ever nearer.

It has taken me some time to control my shaking nerves. I am now in the center of the crater and there are only a few feet between me and death. I am glad I remembered to take a notebook in my space suit. It has helped steady me for the final moment.

Something very interesting has just occurred.

In my ship I carried a case of chemical vials. I had hoped to do some experimenting here. Apparently the beast has broken the case and some of the vials have rolled beneath its weight down the side of the crater. I just caught a glimpse of one containing nitric acid and as I watched the gelatinous folds closed around it, and it burst. The effect was instantaneous. The ameobic substance was decomposed and went up in a cloud of smoke, leaving a hole about ten feet square.

If only I had a large supply of the Acid! But I haven't and the hole is already filling in as the monster closes around me. Still, it makes me almost happy to think that some one may read this note in time to prepare himself against the Moon beast. Arm yourselves, explorers of the future, not with guns or ray machines, but with a goodly supply of nitric acid to eat away the treacherous slime that is about to devour me.

The end is near -- Good-bye!


From the original fiche scans of Planet Comics #9 at Golden Age Comics, uploaded there by Rolster.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cradle of the World

Another of the pulp fiction stories from Planet Comics, transcribed from the original JPEG fiche scans to make them easier to read and reformat. The two pages that this came from are included at the bottom.

Cradle of the World
by Lin Davies from Planet Comics #8, September 1940.

Fighting the power-drag of the time-warp, Captain Ames' space ship Discoverer is again smashed back to Earth -- this time in the dangerous days of the hard clouting Cave Men.

The space ship Discoverer hummed and groaned from the force of the shock. Half stunned, Captain Dexter Ames picked himself off the deck of the control cabin. Sprawled in the corner, Doctor Phillips, his second in command, was rising with a face distorted by alarm.

"It can't be a meteor!" cried Ames.

Phillips shook his head, as much to clear his thoughts as to answer the captain's question. "We weren't able to break out of the time warp," he muttered gloomily.

Ames set his teeth. "Let's see what the damage is." He leaned against the speaking aperture. "Morgan! Are the motors dead?"

"As a door-nail, sir," came the muffled voice of Morgan. "We're dropping, but slow -- the gravity resistors are still working."

"That's luck!" breathed Ames, and hurried to the great telescope. He peered down steadily, and gave a cry. "Doctor! It's Earth again -- or am I wrong?"

The little Scientist took his place and peeref through the great quartzite lenses. He blinked, "Yes, that's Europe -- and yet the land outlines don't seem just right! Do you know, Dexter, I have a feeling that we're journeying back into an older age!"

"Not the Ice Age, I hope," grinned Ames with a dubious grin.

"Decidedly not the Ice Age," reproved the scientist. "You should remember that in those times no such land configuration was possible.

Ames nodded. "Well whatever it is, we're stuck with it."

The Discoverer, battered and bent, sank into a long, narrow valley hedged in by snow-capped mountains. Engineer Morgan and his experts began there work at once.

Ames told off a scouting party, hoping to replenish the ship's dwindling food supply. "Remember," he warned, "keep together, and each man in communication by space-phone with the ship." The twenty, led by Gunner Hatch, trooped out the great door.

They climbed a gentle slope above a winding river. No man or beast appeared, and the scouts disappeared from Ames' view.

Two hours later a lookout cried out. Men of the scouting party had appeared on the brow of the hill. They were moving fast, as if in retreat. Another appeared, and then two who were helping an injured man. Hatch ran up as Ames stepped from the ship.

"We were attacked," he gasped. "By giants! Cave-men!"

Ames and Phillips exchanged a glance. "Centuries!" cried the scientist. "We've slipped past centuries of time."

Ames had been counting heads. "You're two mwn short," he rapped.

Hatch nodded. "And one man hurt. He was hit by a great rock thrown by a giant. The others are dead."

"How were they killed? Hit by rocks?"

Hatch's face bore a strange look as he spread his hands. "Nothing hit them. They just dropped after we shot one of the giants. Nothing hit them!"

"Nonsense!" cried Ames, but as he saw the stubborn lines in the Chief Gunner's face he wondered. "Come on Doctor, you and I will do a scout."

He picked six men of proved daring and discretion, and the eight followed the tracks of the food hunters. One man sighted a goat, but Ames shook his head. He wanted to see those bodies -- the two slain shipmates, and the giant -- if the had not been dragged away.

First they found the airmen. Doctor Phillips studied the unmarked still faces with pursed lips, then bade the men strip both. There was not a mark on them. The doctor, shuttling his hand through his thinning hair, said not a word.

A little farther away lay the giant. His death was no mystery. The ray of the ship man's pistol had caught him fairly in the face.

"We'll pick up our men on our way back," decided ames. "Now for food."

They had caught four goats before the giants appeared. One, the nearest, seemed to be a sort of leader. He carried a great club, swung on his shoulder above a craggy, scowling face framed with a mat of long hair. his only garmet was a bear hide hung off one shoulder and caught at the loins with a piece of bone. He came on slowly, teet bared, club balanced for a crushing blow.

Ames gripped his pistol. At that instant another giant leaped from the underbrush to make a flank attack on the party. The menaced ship man fired his ray-pistol. The giant's arms fell, the great body slumped.

And then a startling thing happened. The ship-man beside Ames gave a little sish and sank to the ground. Ames and Phillips knelt by him and saw that he awas dead.

"Ah!" cried the doctor, his face working, his eyes gleaming. "Captain, I --"

The leading giant had paused, astonished the sudden death of two men. His scowl left his face, and a thrill coursed through Ames' whole being. Why, this cave-man's face resembled his own! His pistol wavered from its target as he marveled.

Two giants forward from a fringe of woods. Three ray pistols spat, and they fell. And if by magnetism, three of Ames' party slumped and lay still.

"Ames!" cried the little scientist in anguish. "Stop them! Stop the firing! And don't shoot that big leader"

"Cease firing!" roared Ames. He turned wildly to the Doctor. "He looks like me, that Cave Man."

"Of Course," babbled the doctor. "Don't you see? The time-warp! These are the First Men! That's why our men died!"

Ames passed a hand over his brow, half lifting his pistol as the giants slowly advanced. "You mean --" he cried incredulously.

"Our men shot there own ancestors!" cried the doctor. "And so, without ancestors, how could they be alive? They died!"

"It's crazy!" cried Ames.

"It's the law of time!" retorted Phillips.

"And that big fellow --"

"Is your ancestor!"

Shuddering, Ames holstered his pistol. "Fall back!" he ordered his men. They paused only to lift their dead, and retreated towards the ship. Ames looked back. The big leader had stopped, and stood, leaning on his club, staring stupidly after Ames.


From the original fiche scans of Planet Comics #9 at Golden Age Comics, uploaded there by Rolster.

Friday, November 14, 2008

G. W. Thomas Interview

Here in a QuasarDragon first, is an interview with author/artist/editor G. W. Thomas. G. W. Thomas has appeared in over 400 different books, ezines and print magazines, including Writer's Digest, The Writer and Black October Magazine.

The second issue Dark Worlds Magazine came out recently . Can you tell us a little about the magazine?

Dark Worlds Magazine is a publication dedicated to pure genre. Most magazines specialize in Science Fiction or Horror, for example. DW publishes any kind of genre as long as it has a Pulp feel. The stories are illustrated in a Pulpish style. We wanted to create a magazine that was fun to read and not as lacklustre as most modern magazines. Since we aren’t trying to sell to a specific niche but a specialized market online, we can really indulge in the things that made the old magazines so great. We didn’t want to spend all our time reading through slush piles either. We know a lot of the writers in the small press and we know who we want to read and promote. So I created the Dark Worlds Club, a group of like-minded creators, and a pool of great storytellers and artists for our magazine.

Dark Worlds has very cool illustrations "in the old pulp style." How important is art to Dark Worlds?

The art is equally important as the stories. I am co-editor and illustrator. The other half of the team is M. D. Jackson who writes under the name Jack Mackenzie. We have known each other since high school and have worked on our art and writing for a long time now. Mike does our covers using a computer, a market his reputation is growing in. We invite other artists from the club to illustrate each issue.

I notice that the magazine is for sale at Lulu in both paperback book and download formats. Which format do you expect to be more successful in the long term?

From sales I would say that the paper version is doing better but there are plans to sell e-versions through a distributor like ReneBooks. I’ve been at this ebook thing for over six years now. I think there are markets for both delivery systems. I like reading books on a handheld. I enjoy the artwork more in paper. We don’t plan on going with only one method of sale. As new methods of selling books become available, we’ll try those too.

Where do you hope the magazine will be in five years?

Five years is a long time in the online magazine business. Technology will change everything again by that time. But what I can tell you about is what we are working on right now. We are planning a second magazine called MASTERS OF ADVENTURE which reprints public domain tales in the same spirit as DW. The stories will be illustrated by M. D. Jackson and myself only.

Dark Worlds also has a very good blog, can you tell us a little about that?

The blog is fairly new. For years I have been posting comments on authors in my forum. Eventually I clued in that if I had a blog instead I could use more images. I have to admit it was Quasar Dragon that made me realize this.

You also have a pair of very cool Book Collector stories "Goon Job" and "Merlin's Bane" up at Pseudopod. Can you tell us a little about the series? Are there any more stories currently available or forthcoming in the series?

The Book Collector series has eight finished stories and three or four underway. The first was “Sitting in the Lap of Shubb” written in 2002 and still unpublished. Most of them were written for anthologies I published myself like Amazing Heroes and The Ghostbreakers. “How Deep Is Your Love?” appeared in Double Dragon’s Atrocitas Aqua (2003). In October 2007 “Goon Job” appeared as a podcast at Pseuodpod. Since then the Book Collector’s popularity has increased greatly. I receive at lot of compliments and requests for more stories. My plan is to send Pseuodpod a story every 6 months so people don’t get too tried of the fellow. I am working on writing a Book Collector novel next.

You have been published an amazingly huge number of times. What is the secret of your success?

I guess part of it is working in so many media. I have published stories, non-fiction articles, illustrations, covers, poems and reviews. These add up over time. If you were asking me for advice on this though, I’d say stick to one thing and follow through with it. There’s more money in that. I am a Jack-of-all-trades and you know what they say about being “a master of none”. Still, it’s fun.

Of all the many genres you write in, which do find the most challenging?

The longer I’m at this the less I think in terms of genres. I am primarily known as a horror writer. I don’t think of myself that way. Working with J. F. Gonzalez really got me to see the difference. JFG is great horror writer. His book Survivor is about a pregnant woman who is captured by snuff film makers. Scary stuff. I’d never write a book like that. It doesn’t have any monsters in it. I like monsters (whether horror or fantasy or any combination there of) and I like stories about the people who chase them. My web site is called “Of Men and Monsters” for a reason. You can dress it up as a Mystery or a Western, but it doesn’t really matter. For me, it’s all about the monster.

In terms of challenges I am more interested in First Person versus Third Person narrative. The Book Collector stories are told in a nameless First Person such as Dashiell Hammett made famous. This stuff is fun to write though it is hard. Third Person is easy by comparison because you can go anywhere and show anything. I have to think about this for a long time before I start something new. Which will I use? Which one will make the story stronger?

Do You find any differences in your tastes as a reader versus those as a writer?

Not really. I make a lot of the people around me pretty mad when it comes to reading. My sons will recommend stuff, friends too, but I have very little interest in modern books. I prefer the old stuff from the Internet since public domain has made so many old, great books available again. Where could I have ever found a copy of The Crystal Sceptre by Philip Verrill Mighels? The complete Allan Quatermain? The hundreds of old SF pulp stories by Raymond Z. Gallun, Hal K. Wells, Arthur K. Barnes and Stanley G. Weinbaum, to name a few? Kipling, Doyle, Stevenson, writers you used to find in libraries but less and less so now. I’ve also been able to finish reading the works of the writers I started with: Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. P. Lovecraft. I’m working my way backwards, not forwards.

In the icon you use for your forum comments, you are holding a cute puppy. Can you tell us about it?

The puppy is my dog Oscar, who passed away last year. I use that picture because people always expect horror writers to be Lovecraftian freaks. I enjoy the disparity. I miss him greatly but my bean plants have been a lot safer.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Lost World of Time

Another of the pulp fiction stories from Planet Comics, transcribed from the original JPEG fiche scans to make them easier to read and reformat. The two pages that this came from are included at the bottom.

Lost World of Time
By Lin Davies from Planet Comics #7, July 1940.

Caught in a terrific time-warp, Capt. Dexter Ames ans his gallant space-ship crew turn their ray-rifles on the shaggy Hun-hordes of Attila.

Captain Dexter Ames, biting his lip, stood spraddle-legged in the control cabin of the space ship Discoverer, facing his chief engineer. Beside him, pale of face, the second in command of the Earth expedition, little Doctor Phillips ran a trembling hand over his brow.

"You are sure," Ames asked Engineer Morgan, "that our motors must be repaired before we can try to return Earth."

The Engineer nodded. "The pirate's blasting shells wrecked our batteries. We can reach a planet by careful use of the motors, and if the atmosphere is favorable we can soon make repairs."

Ames Nodded. "Give us what speed you can." Another nod dismissed the engineer, and Ames turned to Phillips. The little scientist was already poring over the stellar chart. He looked up suddenly.

"This is strange," he exclaimed. "The chart is vague about this corner of the heavens. But the asteroid lies yonder."

"Let us make for it then," Ames spoke though the tube, and heard Morgan's grunt. He gave the course to the helmsman, and the space ship swung, awkwardly, like a crippled thing, on her new course.

As it hurtled through space a strange feeling came over Ames. Halfway to Medona, he began to sense a mystery in their surroundings. He was pacing the deck when the lookout called out in alarm. "Planet ahead, sir!"

"Nonsense! snapped Ames. "Medona is--"

"It isn't Medona, sir," stammered the lookout, stupefied. It's Earth!"

"Earth!" repeated Ames. "Why, man, Earth is two million miles away!"

For answer the lookout stepped away from the great telescope, and Ames took his place. He took one look, gasped, and shouted to Morgan, "Reduce speed!"

Phillips ran up. Ames waved him to the telescope. The scientist squinted through the great quartzite lenses, and his jaw fell.

"Earth!" he muttered.

"Are we all drunk, Doctor?" asked Ames, smiling for the benefit of the terrified lookout. Panic would sweep the ship, he knew, if this evidence of some strange doom were to be followed by similar disclosures.

Phillips was blinking rapidly, thinking hard. "Ames," he said solemnly, "can you stand a shock?"

"Try me," grinned Ames. He winked at Phillips, indicating that the lookout should not hear.

Phillips lowered his voice, but the lowered tones could not hide his excitement. "It is Earth, Ames. but not the Earth of our time! It is Earth of some other day! We have slipped past a time-warp!"

Ames nodded slowly, his eyes widening. "So that's it!" He glanced ahead where the planet was still invisible to the naked eye. "What time period, then?"

"Ah, that we'll know when we land," countered Phillips. "If," he added hopefully, "we are to land."

They swept down to see a vast range of mountains, snow-peaked. The Alps, Phillips thought. They turned south, and found the land stretching away in a plain, cut by winding rivers. They swept lower, and could make out a vast army, moving southward.

"There are beasts, and men," murmured Phillips.

"An army," prompted Ames.

Phillips nodded.

"NO need to land among them," Ames declared. "We'll go farther south."

"But as they cruised, more armed columns appeared. Then they saw the first sign of pitched battle. The army streaming south was overwhelming the defenders of the land. They swept still further south, and Ames gave the order to land.

The Discoverer slid to a landing in a flat valley, where a bright sun gleamed on white walls. A fort lay on the far end of the valley, and scattered houses dotted the ground near them.

"Italy!" cried Phillips.

"The Roman Empire!" added Ames. He ordered a landing party to arm. the great doors rolled back, and he stepped forth from the hull of the Discoverer. Behind him came gunner Hatch and twenty Earth-men armed with ray-rifles. They moved to a well-paved road, and cautiously moved toward the town under the fort's walls.

Suddenly from a declivity in the land a javelin whistled. It struck Ames' helmet, and glanced off. The Earth-men raised their rifles.

"Don't fire!" Ames warned. He raised his voice, first in English, then in Latin, the tongue of the old Romans. "Ho! We come in friendship!"

"Instantly a head appeared above the stonework. Sun glinted on a bronze helmet of the sort that Ceaser's centurions wore. "Speak if you are a friend!" the strange officer growled.

Hatch muttered a warning. But Ames stepped forward alone. He saw the centurion was supported by a mere score of soldiers, all in the helmets and breastplates of the old Romans. Short swords and spears and shields were their armament.

"Who attacks you?" asked Ames.

The centurion growled, and his men muttered in astonishment. "All the world knows," cried the centurion, "that Atilla the Hun rides on Rome."

Then Ames knew. This was the time into which the Discoverer had flown!"

Let us aid you against Atilla," he urged.

The centurion looked doubtfully at the space ship. "You are demons?" he asked at last.

"Not we," Ames assures him. He made no effort to explain the magic of flight to this grizzled veteran of old Rome. "Where is the Hun advance guard?"

"Not more then a league away," responded the centurion. He pointed. They will march into sight in one turn of the hour-glass. We cannot hope to hold the valley but we must fight to the last."

"Then," decided Ames, "we shall help you." He wheeled and shouted orders to Morgan to begin repairs.

The Romans marveled as more men poured out of the great hull and began to bore into the motor compartment. In an hour the sounds of trumpets was heard. The centurion was looking askance at Ames, as if to remind him of his promise.

Ames pointed to his men. "Let us march ahead," he proposed. "We will meet Atilla's scouts."

The centurion nodded. "Let there be no treachery," he warned darkly.

Ames nodded, gave a command, and the twenty men of the Earth of the new day set out to battle for the Earth of an ancient century. They met Attila's advance in full view of the fort and town.

First came shaggy ponies, carrying bearded giants in helmets crowned with cow's horns. They spurred when they sighted the little party. The Earth-men waited, undismayed by marveling at the long swords high in air, and listening to the wild cries. The Huns charged.

The ray-pistols spoke. The Huns tumbled from their saddles, five, ten at a time. Twenty fell as if struck with one blow. The rear-most Huns pulled up. They retreated.

"By Jove!" cried the centurion as he ran up. "You fight like demons, whoever you may be!" He embraced Ames. "The Emperor will surely make you a prince. Look! -- the commander is coming to give thanks!"

Sure enough, a glittering procession was issuing from the fort. But at that moment Morgan came up. "Repairs are made, sir," he said simply.

So Ames turned with regret to the centurion. "We must go."

"How now? Go?" the centurion was offended.

"It is duty," Ames explained.

"Oho! That is another thing," the centurion admitted. And he stepped aside to permit Ames and his men to embark once again for Earth.


From the original fiche scans of Planet Comics #7 at Golden Age Comics, uploaded there by Rolster.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Starship Troopers 3 - Review

Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008) - 105 min. R. Direct to DVD. Directed by Edward Neumeier. Grade B-

I want to preface this with the caveat that this film is clearly a lower budget, direct to DVD film and cannot compete with big budget films in terms of special effects and cinematography. It is also, unlike Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation, a sequel that is very much in the spirit of the first Starship Troopers movie. If you disliked, or didn't get, the camp and satire of the first movie, you won't like this one.

Starship Troopers is back in this third film, loosely based/inspired by the classic and controversial Robert Heinlein novel. This film marks the return of Casper Van Dien as Johnny Rico and also a welcpme return to campy fun of the first film. The film continues the war with the Bugs that is the theme of the series.

Here the Federation is clearly far much more tyrannical than the first film, which was itself far more authoritarian than the original novel. Rather this is meanta sign that the war is going poorly or merely a misunderstanding of the original source material is unclear.

Campy jingoistic music "It's a Good Day to Die" as sung by Sky marshal Omar Anoke. You gotta love it. Don't watch the bonus video or the damn thing will get stuck in your head.

Jolene Blalock makes a good addition to the cast of Starship Troopers 3, playing Captain Lola Beck, an old friend or flame of Johnny Rico.

Johnny Rico - Casper Van Dien. Now a colonel, he greets the skymarshal and Captain Beck.

Troopers scrambling during bug attack. Fewer in number than in the big battles of the first film, they are still sometimes involved in impressive battle scenes.

Is there something wrong with the sky marshal? Questions about his sanity loom.

A Starship, which was something that was missing in the mostly single planet second film. The space scenes generaly looked pretty good.

The aftermath of the first battle. This is the catalyst for the main plot.

Boris Kodjoe as Gen. Dix Hauser, a mostly desk bound hero in this film.

A paradise planet with a beach, a babe, and of course, some bugs! (Note the use of the term "babe" was for alliteration not sexism).

Following the recommendations of some critics of the first film...

Another picture of Captain Beck who is really the tough, main character of the film, at least as much as Johnny Rico

Is there something on the horizon? Where there are troopers there must be bugs.

This scene actually looked pretty impressive in the film. The special effects are not generally overwhelming, but they are up to the task.

Marnette Patterson plays the annoyingly perky and faithful Holly Little.

Blasting Bugs! One of the highlights of any Starship Troopers film.

Amanda Donohoe plays the tough as nails Admiral Enolo Phid. The only question is rather she's a hero or villain.

Bigger, badder bugs. This new bug is even bigger than the brain bug of the first film. I loved its means of speech.

Mecha troopers - what more need be said?

More Starships, really they looked pretty good in the film. I was pleasantly surprised.

"God is real and he's on our side!" The Federation finds religion - for propaganda. Many people don't seem to get that the film is satirizing excessive faith, not endorcing it.

Yes there is, and no, I won't post an uncensored picture! Why some people rewatch the films.

All things considered, Starship Troopers 3 is a pretty good film, but by no means a great one. It is worth a rental, but not a purchase (unless you're quite well off).

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Star Pirates

by Lin Davies. From Planet Comics #6, June 1940.

Homeward-bound with his vital secret of Sun control, Captain Dexter Ames of the Space-Ship Discoverer runs into pirate trouble!

Yes, there were three specks in the stratosphere, far off to the right. The quartzite lenses did not lie. Captain Dexter Ames of the Earth-ship Discoverer drew back from the squat telescope with worry furrowing his forehead.

Three space ships! Where did they come from? Were they friends or enemies of the exploring craft hurrying home with fateful news? He pressed a button to summon his second in command, and in a moment Doctor Phillips was at his side.

"What is it, Captain?"

Ames focused the telescope and gestured. "Take a look."

The little scientist squinted through the space-revealing tube and exclaimed in alarm. "What are they?"

"They're not Earth-ships," said Ames Grimly.

"Perhaps they're Inter-Planet patrol craft," suggested the doctor hopefully.

Ames shook his head, "They don't cruise in threes."

The little doctor glanced worriedly about him, as though seeking the cause of their trouble. His eyes fell on the great figure sprawled upon a bench in the wing of the control cabin. Ames, too, glanced that way, his eyes running over the ten-foot giant, and suddenly his eyes gleamed.

"I've got an idea, Doc!" He gestured to the helmet, made of metallic coils, on the doctor's head. "Let's show the Prince the ships in the scope, and you test his thought-reaction!"

The doctor rubbed his hands. Quickly he led their amiable guest-hostage, the Prince of Alpha-Astra, to the glass. The big fellow stared while the doctor fiddled with the tubes of his thought-transference helmet. When the giant straightened there was a glitter of hostility in his eyes that made Ames' pulse beat faster.

The doctor's eyes were half-closed, his lips parted as he strained to catch the drift of the giant's thoughts. Then, "Ames! Ames!" he cried excitedly. "I've got it! The Prince identifies -- apparently with some doubt in his mind -- those ships as pirates from Neptune!"

"Pirates!" whistled Ames. "We've had no word of pirates in these parts!"

The doctor pushed the helmet off his wrinkled brow. "You think they'll attack us?"

Ames shook his head. "Don't know. But they certainly will if they've any idea how much they could win by blasting us to dust." He turned to the speaking tube and his voice roared with clear command. "Attention! Battle stations!"

Through the listening tube came sounds of quick movement, a swishing of soft-soled shoes on metal decks in the far recesses of the ship. Then came the responses. "Guns ready, sir!" That was Chief Gunner Hatch's clipped quick voice. "Engine-room standing by, sir." Chief Engineer Morgan drawled down in the bowels of the moto-room. Behind the captain a door popped open and the communications man poked his head out. "The board's dead, sir, but we're trying."

The captain nodded. "Watch it carefully. Try to tune in on the Neptune band, and report instantly if the three ships off the starboard bow try to speak to us."

"Three -- ships, sir!" The communications man's eyes popped wide. "Yes, sir!" He vanished.

Ames watched the gunners in the shoulders of the control cabin at their job of ranging the big proton guns on the tiny targets ahead, calculating speed, debating projectile types. At the scope the little doctor fidgeted. "They're bigger, Captain. You'd better take a look."

Ames took one look and nodded to Doctor Phillips. "We're in for it. Those are the Neptune pirates."

"The doctor paled. But he nodded matter-of-factly. "Perhaps we have speed on them."

Ames compressed his lips. "I doubt it. The Discoverer was built for a long cruise, not for fighting. "However--"

He paced the bridge. The next few minutes might spell their safety or doom. Everything depended upon the way he fought his ship. Could he give the pirates the slip, or, failing that, trounce them in battle? It was three to one -- and those Neptune ships looked like war craft.

They came up fast, flying at a tangent that would put them on his starboard quarter. But no -- they were crawling up, showing a speed that made the Discoverer look like a cripple. Ames barked into the speaking tube. "Morgan! Are you getting all the speed you can?"

Back came the answer, "The last gasp, Chief!"

The lean space-devils loomed larger. Ames could make out the ports where the muzzles of proton guns gleamed. Suddenly the leading ship fired.

Ames slammed the elevators hard down, and the Discoverer dived. As the great space ship slipped out of her course a dull boom sounded through her length, and she shivered. Ahead, a bright glow appeared. A shot across the bows -- a warning to heave to!

Gunner Hatch's voice sounded eager and quick. "We have the range, sir!"

"Not yet," warned Ames. "Don't fire. When you do, take the leading ship first."

He flung the Discoverer off her course, seeking to elude the pirate trio. But the move gained only a few seconds. When he scanned the rearward air again, the third pirate ship had crept up on one side. "Hatch!" he shouted. "Take that one -- to port!"

"Aye, sir!" And the port stern-chaser spoke with stunning concussion. Staggering, the pirate ship fell off, and Ames heard the gunners cheer. But in the next instant a crushing blow struck the Discoverer, hurling Ames to the deck, where he lay senseless.

He knew nothing of the motors' futile thrumming as the Discoverer, her rudders jammed by the hit, swung into a giddy circle. Or of how the two unhurt pirate ships, matching the Discoverer's speed, came alongside. He roused to see, dimly, the port and starboard bulkheads crashing in under the fire of the pirates' protons, and a swarm of lean-faced hot-eyed Neptune men pouring through the breaches.

Fear of them rushed into the control room, herding little Doctor Phillips before them. The leader surveyed the spacious control room.

"We can use her," he jeered in slurred Earth-language, "for cargo. And as for you--" he jabbed Ames with a ray-pistol, "--you and your people will slave in our laboratories." He gestured to the guards, and Ames and Phillips were jostled aft, into half-empty cargo hold. The bulkhead slammed, and quiet fell in the big chamber.

Ames rubbed his throbbing head, and looked about him. The whole crew was gathered here, desperation their faces. In one corner sat the giant Prince, broodingly fingering a great gash on his forehead; evidently he had been stunned before he was captured.

The ship rolled, and Ames knew that the course had been changed. The realization stirred him to frantic thoughts. "Once we're on Neptune, we won't have a chance," he told himself. "No, if we ever make the break, it must be now."

But below him was a metal deck. Walls and ceiling were just as impregnable, and as for the door -- he shook his head.

Then he sighted the giant again. Those broad shoulders --.

Ames jumped to his feet. "Men!" he cried. "Let's try a break! If we can force that door, it'll be split-second work to capture the prize crew. Are you ready?"

Morgan gave Ames an odd look, glancing sideways at the ponderous door. But Hatch was on his feet. Ames tapped the giant on the shoulder. "It's up to you, Prince."

The giant of the first star shook his head at the unfamiliar words. But his eyes gleamed when Ames rammed his shoulder at the door then stood back. In a flash the ten-footer was on his feet. His first thrust made the stout door tremble, while he caromed off it as if he had been a cork on water. But his second try cracked a hinge, and the crew gave a suppressed yell. On the third plunge the giant Prince laid the door flat.

And over his sprawled body the Discoverers crew raced. In two minutes the ship was safe from stern to stern, with the prize crew of surly Neptune men in irons.

"Well, Doc!" cried Ames. "Earth's alliance with Alpha Astra is working already. Hey, Prince?"

The ten-foot Prince of First Star grinned understandingly.


Below are the jpeg scans from Golden Age Comics. Where the full issue of Planet Comics #6 is available for download in CBR format.