Illustration by Tomasz Jedruszek

We're Baaaaaaaack!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Shameful! Absolutely shameful!

I refer, of course, to the fact that the last several months have seen the Planet Stories footprint on this blog dwindle down to almost nothing. It turns out that producing a 576-page RPG core rulebook and a bestiary with more than 350 monsters in addition to our Pathfinder, Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Chronicles, Pathfinder Modules, Pathfinder Scenarios, GameMastery, Titanic, and Planet Stories lines is a bit time-consuming. (Just reading over that list makes me want to hide under my desk and take a nap.)

But those days of slothful negligence are past! The classic SF of Planet Stories will once again shine forth from this blog, and given our total artistic redesign of the line, there's never been a better time for it. In the coming weeks, we'll be talking more about Robots Have No Tails by Henry Kuttner, the first book in the new format, as well as its introduction by weird-fiction superstar Tim Powers and Kuttner praise from H. P. Lovecraft himself, plus subscription benefits and the philosophy behind the new look for the line. For now, however, I'm happy to let Mr. Kuttner speak for himself. The following excerpt is from the Robots Have No Tails story "The World is Mine," in which our drunken scientist hero attempts to solve his own murder while wrangling three adorable and incompetent martians bent on planetary conquest...

"The little guys came through the machine or whatever it was. You said you hadn't adjusted it right, so you fixed it."

"I wonder what I had in mind," Gallegher pondered.

The Lybblas had finished their milk. "We're through," said the fat one. "Now we'll conquer the world. Where'll we begin?"

Gallegher shrugged, "I fear I can't advise you, gentlemen. I've never had the inclination myself. Wouldn't have the faintest idea how to go about it."

"First we destroy the big cities," said the smallest Lybbla excitedly, "then we capture pretty girls and hold them for ransom or something. Then everybody's scared and we win."

"How do you figure that out?" Gallegher asked.

"It's in the books. That's how it's always done. We know. We'll be tyrants and beat everybody. I want some more milk, please."

"So do I," said two other piping little voices.

Grinning, Gallegher served. "You don't seem much surprised by finding yourselves here."

"That's in the books, too." Lap-lap.

"You mean—this?" Gallegher's eyebrows went up.

"Oh, no. But all about time-traveling. All the novels in our era are about science and things. We read lots. There isn't much else to do in the Valley," the Lybbla ended, a bit sadly.

"Is that all you read?"

"No, we read everything. Technical books on science as well as novels. How disintegrators are made and so on. We'll tell you how to make weapons for us."

"Thanks. That sort of literature is open to the public?"

"Sure. Why not?"

"I should think it would be dangerous."

"So should I," the fat Lybbla said thoughtfully, "but it isn't somehow."

Gallegher pondered. "Could you tell me how to make a heat ray, for example?"

"Yes," was the excited reply, "and then we'd destroy the big cities and capture—"

"I know. Pretty girls and hold them for ransom. Why?"

"We know what's what," a Lybbla said shrewdly. "We read books, we do." He spilled his cup, looked at the puddle of milk, and let his ears droop disconsolately.

The other two Lybblas hastily patted him on the back. "Don't cry," the biggest one urged.

"I gotta," the Lybbla said. "It's in the books."

"You have it backward. You don't cry over spilt milk."

"Do. Will," said the recalcitrant Lybbla, and began to weep.

Gallegher brought him more milk. "About this heat ray," he said. "Just how—"

"Simple," the fat Lybbla said, and explained.

It was simple. Grandpa didn't get it, of course, but he watched interestedly as Gallegher went to work. Within half an hour the job was completed. It was a heat ray, too. It burned a hole through a closet door.

"Whew!" Gallegher breathed, watching smoke rise from the charred wood. "That's something!" He examined the small metal cylinder in his hand.

"It kills people, too," the fat Lybbla murmured. "Like the man in the back yard."

"Yes, it— What? The man in—"

"The back yard. We sat on him for a while, but he got cold after a bit. There's a hole burned through his chest."

"You did it," Gallegher accused, gulping.

"No. He came out of time, too, I expect. There was a heat-ray hole in him."

"Who...who was he?"

"Never saw him before in my life," the fat Lybbla said, losing interest. "I want more milk." He leaped to the bench top and peered through the window at the towers of Manhattan's skyline. "Wheeee! The world is ours!"

The doorbell sang. Gallegher, a little pale said, "Grandpa, see what it is. Send him away in any case. Probably a bill collector. They're used to being turned away. Oh, Lord! I've never committed a murder before—"

"I have," Grandpa murmured, departing. He did not clarify the statement.

Gallegher went into the back yard, accompanied by the scuttling small figures of the Lybblas. The worst had happened. In the middle of the rose garden lay a dead body. It was the corpse of a man, bearded and ancient, quite bald, and wearing garments made, apparently of flexible, tinted cellophane. Through his tunic and chest was the distinctive hole burned by a heat-ray projector.

"He looks familiar, somehow," Gallegher decided. "Dunno why. Was he dead when he came out of time?"

"Dead but warm," one of the Lybblas said. "That was nice."

Gallegher repressed a shudder. Horrid little creatures...

James Sutter
Editor, Planet Stories

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Tags: Henry Kuttner Planet Stories Robots Have No Tails Tim Powers Tomasz Jedruszek
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