Archive for the ‘Pulp’Category

Back on Patrol

After some much-needed medical leave, I’m back on the job and getting back into the swing of things. While I was out of action, I spent a lot of time reading through my collection of pulp sci-fi stories and got to thinking about our concept of scale.

I’m a big fan of the space opera, naturally. E.E. Doc Smith’s Lensmen series is by far my favorite of that genre. It’s hard to get much bigger than the adventures of the Galactic Patrol and the Kinnison family. Massive ships, huge (and I mean huge) interstellar wars, universe-wide plots, you name it and Smith’s covered it. From space axes to weapons that can dim an entire sun, it makes for fantastic reading and had a huge impact on the creation of Cosmic Patrol, obviously.

But like I said, as I was sitting in the hospital and then recovering at home, I got a lot of reading done. It was mostly short stories and one of them was H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Whisperer in the Darkness.

If you’ve never read Whisperer, (seriously? The hell? Shame on you!) it’s one of Lovecraft’s best stories. It features all the hits: cosmic menace, ancient tomes, horrors which should not be names, cultists, a Nyarlathotep cameo; it’s simply a classic. But as I was rereading the story, I began to think about Lovecraft’s view of the solar system and universe.

In Whisperer, the main enemy is the Mi-Go, a race of space-insect-fungi things that menace a retiree and his dogs in rural Vermont (that sounds silly but it works, trust me). We also learn in the story that the Mi-Go hail from Yuggoth, a planet on the edge of our solar system. Though it’s not specifically stated in the story, Lovecraft would later tell a friend that Yuggoth is, in fact, Pluto. This makes sense, Lovecraft was an avid, if amateur, astronomer and Pluto was discovered in 1930, the same year he wrote Whisperer.

That made me stop for a moment. Here was one of Lovecraft’s coolest baddies and they were from our own solar system! How cool is that? Most of his big baddies are truly cosmic, pan- or other-dimensional beings that humans can barely conceive of without going insane.

Aliens native to other planets in our home system is nothing new of course. Everything from the Tharks to the Europans have native origins. But really, it’s not something you see much of anymore in modern science fiction. Back in Lovecraft’s day all the way through the 1960s, “local” sci fi was fairly common and it’s not hard to see why.

Back then, we as a race didn’t have the experience we do today and that was reflected in our creations. Now we know about hundreds of exoplanets and it’s a lot more fun to dream about visiting them than visiting, say, Venus. Anyone writing about a trip to Venus would have to deal with the widespread knowledge that Venus’ atmosphere sucks and you’d be more likely to melt than meet a race of Golden Amazons.

Obviously, one form of fiction isn’t better than the other, but it was refreshing to think about our own, small corner of the universe as a hotbed of cosmic adventure. I’m glad I populated the Cosmic Patrol home solar system with everything from Neptunian Mind Plants to Automen to Cometarians. Zooming in on Sol can be just as rewarding as traipsing around the universe, all it takes is imagination, of course.

One more thing

So, yeah, the whole medical leave thing knocked me for a loop and put me behind on my Cosmic Patrol duties. We at Catalyst also have a few other things going on that will eat up a bunch of time in the near future. That said, I’m still plugging along at development of The Moon Must Be Ours, which I promise I’ll talk more about next blog post.

In the meantime, the core rulebook got another great review! Also, Cosmic Patrol will again be part of this year’s Free RPG Day awesomeness.


03 2013

Atomolink & a contest announcement

I was cruising Flickr today, checking the number of hits my Shadowrun-themed Lego minifigs got over the last 24 hours (717 so far, thankyouverymuch), and found myself looking for pulp covers. I found this great issue of Fantastic Story Magazine from November 1952:

The cover art is by Earle K. Bergey, and while it’s not as wild or fantastic as I usually like, it really stuck with me. Mostly it’s how the rocketship plowed into the planet like a lawn dart, no crumpling, no debris. But that’s what I love about pulps — maybe the planet is soft? Yeah, that’s the ticket — it’s soft, made of living tissue, and that’s why the tentacles are attacking the stranded crew. It’s just a defense mechanism.

And that’s why I’m a pulp sci fi fan, and why I wanted to make Cosmic Patrol! Take one sweet piece of art and bam! — adventure!



We ran a contest for writing/art spots in the next Cosmic Patrol book, Into the Cosmos. It ended Dec. 1 and took me a long time to pick the winners out—all the entries were amazing. That said, they are chosen and I’ll be announcing the winners this week. I just have to wrap a fews things up before I can send out the omniwave communique.


12 2011

Atomolinks: The Metal Horde

It doesn’t get much better than this! The cover from Imagination’s June 1954 issue features “Slaves to the Metal Horde” by Milton Lesser (aka Stephen Marlowe, see last Atomolink).

The cover has everything you could hope for in a sci fi pulp: distressed woman in torn clothes, fantastical robot threatening her and an awesomely intriguing title. It doesn’t take much effort to see how you can create a game scenario based on the art.


06 2011

Atomolinks: Stephen Marlowe

After too long a break, it’s time to restart Atomolinks! I’m going to take a break from spotlighting cover art and feature an author that I’ve really grown to like, Stephen Marlowe. Like so many other writers from the pulp era, Marlowe wrote under many different names: Adam Chase, Milton Lesser, C.H. Thames, Andrew Frazer, Jason Ridgeway and Ellery Queen. So, if you’ve a pulp sci fi, adventure or mystery fan, there’s a decent chance you’re read his work without knowing it.

There’s a nice bibliography of Marlowe’s work over at Wikipedia, but I’m going to focus on the first story of his that I read, The Graveyard of Space. Graveyard was published under the name Milton Lesser and first appeared in the April 1956 issue of Imagination magazine.

The plot is fairly straightforward – a couple is traveling back to Earth after a failed uranium mining operation on an asteroid. The two are unhappy, and all signs point to them splitting up once they get home. There’s guilt from the failure and a general sense of guilt from the impending failure of their relationship. They’re taking an old rocket home, a “battered old Gormann ’87.”

On the way, they fall into a sargasso of space – a roaming gravity anomaly that pulls them in and strands them, damaging their ship and leaving them helpless. But – and this is the part that really hooked me – they’re not alone. Over the years, this roaming anomaly has snagged dozens and dozens of other ships, dooming the crews of those ships to death from starvation, suffocation, and grimly, cannibalism.

I’m not going to tell you how it ends though. Head over to and grab The Graveyard of Space yourself. You can check out a few of Marlowe’s other works there too, which I strongly recommend.


05 2011

Atomolinks: On the Inside

Sabotage on Sulfur Planet

When you start talking about pulp science fiction magazines, many people immediately mention the classic, colorful, lurid covers of the era – and rightly so. The astounding cover art is what really make the pulp era memorable, even for those of us that weren’t alive at the time (like me!). But what many people forget about is the interior art which, while generally black and white line art, could be just as excellent.

The World Thinker

I was happy to stumble upon a set by Flickr user “Doc Mars.” While the set features art from Jack Vance stories, it’s a wonderful example of pulp scifi art in general – both cover and interior art.

Check it out, you won’t regret it.


09 2010

Atomolinks: Pulp Art and Artists

Dark Roasted Blend is one of my favorite blogs. I can get lost for hours just clicking around the website, checking out the wacky things they find. DRB had a great post in 2008 that I’ve had bookmarked for a while, and it’s time to share.

Grand Old Times in the Future showcases some of the big names in science fiction pulp art, from Wally Wood to Kelly Freas to Donald Newton.

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06 2010

Passing Greats

Al Williamson passed away today. io9 has a great post featuring a smattering of his pieces, from Flash Gordon to Star Wars. One piece they didn’t show was a cover from Weird Fantasy that Williams created with Frank Frazetta.

Art by Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta

It doesn’t get much better than this! Barbarian warrior fights a space monster while a damsel in a classic fish bowl helmet wields a raygun. Just perfect!


06 2010

Atomolinks: Kelly Freas Prints

The Ark of Mars

Kelly Freas' cover art for Planet Stories September 1953

Amazing cover art is synonymous with the science fiction pulps, and in many cases, was key to their popularity. Kelly Freas was one of the best artists and definitely one of my favorites. Lucky for us, you can check out Northern Star Art for a huge selection of prints, posters and other pieces – some actually signed by Freas! The prices are incredibly good – I purchased a lot of six of Freas’ Planet Stories covers for a paltry $19.99 and was impressed at the quality of the prints. I don’t say it often, but they should be charging more!

Go check out Northern Star Art now!


06 2010


Atomolinks: Sweet scifi, pulpy and otherwise awesome things to check out. Use them as inspiration for your own game or just take a look and be entertained.

First Atomolink: Ron Turner cover archive on Flickr!

Ron Turner is one of my top pulp scifi artists. Not only was he incredibly talented, but was also quite prolific. Wikipedia has a nice entry for him here:


06 2010