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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