Click me to see The Cigar Babe by Duncan Long!

Planet Magazine: "The New Home of Ginger Spice!"



With this issue, Planet Magazine wraps up its fifth glorious year of publishing in cyberspace. In Internet-years, and considering that the editorial staff comprises cyborgs manufactured using canine and Clinton DNA (same thing), we're something like 187 "Net-years" old. But like any 192 Net-year-old, we have lost momentum and are basically running on (methane) fumes. To top it off, we're feeling a little bit left behind in the Internet Gold Rush. So, as we enter our second half-decade of "real years," we are restructuring Planet into a serious portal-forum for important issues. This is essentially a big play by us for 'Net market/mind share. Our precise goal is to widen Planet's editorial and literary focus from science fiction and fantasy to "anything," or, to fine-tune that, "anything that most people are interested in." (The pop-up DHTML ad banners embedded in every paragraph will come later.) With this renewed vision, we also pledge to drop Planet's tendency to wander and digress (a tough job, since we're 211 Net-years old), although we will retain our laconic alacrity and hip irreverency (we'll make suck.com look like suck.suck, or maybe com.com! See? That comment is an example of what we're talking about). OK, let's not get sidetracked any further! To start off our new game plan with some rough and tumble, we're tackling that hot celebrity issue/scandal of Supermodels & Cigars (and we're not talking about Monica here -- she's super, but she's no model).

Picture it. A billboard across the street from a junior high school. On it: Young, pretty things. Role models. Fashionable. Underage. And holding cigars! We at Planet Magazine, feel a very real concern (well, to be post-Clinton-honest about it, it's really only "me" that feels it, not "we," and perhaps "concern" is too strong a word, not to mention "feel".... [OK, this editorial is not starting well. So, self, let's just get some momentum going here, but remember to come back later and delete these first few sentences before publishing this issue.] All right, who took my reading glasses? Fiddle-dee-dee, I'm already wearing them. It sure is hard to be 390-odd Internet-years old and still publishing a 'zine. Anyhoo, where was I? Ah, yes, in the middle of a parenthetical statement, which is getting rather looooooong-ish. Yes, yes, indeed. I would like to get out of this parenthetical statement. Yet I'm still here. Hello? Hallooo? Is anyone there? Hey! Help!! Can anybody hear me? Oh dear, I guess there wouldn't be, since I'm still writing an editorial that hasn't been published yet, and Oskkar, my Krellian manservant who responds only to infra-maroon commands, has left the Keep this evening for his monthly bridge game with Heublein, the dentist. Looks like it's time to pull out the heavy artillery. Um... God? Are you there? It's me, the editor of Planet Magazine. Y'know, I've never asked you for much [in my opinion, at least (oops, there's another parenthetical statement)], but there comes a time in every person's life when they need to pray. So... Dear Lord...[inaudible (yep, there's another aside)]...Amen. Great! Now, let's see. Hey, I'm still here! All right, that's it! So there's no God? Fine with me! Reckon I'll have to take matters into my own hands and just type a closing parentheses. Here goes nothing...).

There! I did it! I'm free! Oh, what a relief! Now I can page-up and begin deleting all of the preceding nonsense. Although, the very thought sets my nerves jangling. It's simply too dangerous. What if I get trapped again in a parenthetical statement? Reckon I'll just leave that tripe above dangling as one of my beloved Artistic Statements. (Guess this editorial is just another casualty in the SF Web-Zine Wars.... Oh, no, I'm back inside an aside! [OK, don't panic, kid, you've gotten out of these kind of scrapes before (watch it, you're inside an aside within an aside, and... oh, crap! [wait: take a deep breath now (Om); a moment of meditation always helps], so let's just methodically dig ourselves out of this one). Getting there...] And...) I'm out! Yahoo! Excite! All right, self, let's just start all over again, with a new paragraph, and maybe an easier first-person perspective, but this time let's have some focus!



I at Planet Magazine don't really care about... about... about.... Criminey! I've completely blanked on where I was going with that topic. Land sakes, if I were a centipede, I wouldn't get past the first step. I'm beginning to suspect that Planet's Editorial Overmind never had an editorial "topic" for this issue in the first place. Just another one of its verbal shell games... what is it up to? Anyway, it's too late in the game now. I'll have to punt. Time to hop in the old pea-green Ford Fury III, take a quick drive up the BQE to Planet Magazine's Science Fiction Cold Storage Warehouse complex at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, rummage through the dusty, canned-editorial morgue that lines the attic walls, and yank out something that "will do."

And, thusly, may we present, this issue's actual commentary:



The U.S. Science Fiction Gross Domestic Product has been up only 0.3 percentage point so far in fiscal 1998 -- a truly paltry amount. It's not that our country lacks science-fictional feedstock; far from it! The bottleneck is our national SF processing capacity, which can barely keep up with the SF-content gusher. Even the explosive growth of the Web has barely been able to sop up the available material.

For our part, we at Planet Magazine have been working overtime in the past 12 months to help digitize this torrential slurry of raw SF. Quite frankly, it's been difficult. We've lost sleep and cried a lot. You see, dear readers, the vast, government-built underground network of sweaty pipes -- which on a daily basis peristaltically pushes crude SF product to various national distribution points, such as SF paper and Web publications, as well as SF TV and radio companies -- has been slowly breaking down under the sheer pressure of the flow. Originally built as a WWII make-work project, this rusty and mildewed network was never meant to handle its current carrying load. Now we are in a dire situation, exacerbated by appalling facilities mismanagement under the direction of the Office of the U.S. Comptroller of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and UFO-related Content.

In short, we are living in the midst of a national, criminal cover-up whose tentacles tickle the highest nether-reaches of the Galactic Empire -- a scandal that makes Newt Gingrich's recent impeachment for lying down under oats while smoking a Tiparillo with a teen-aged Christy Turlington seem simple in comparison!

Happy Terran Holidays,
Andrew G. McCann, Editor (510 Net-years old)
December 1998


Editor's Note: The 1998 Preditors & Editors Readers Poll is now online at http://www.sfwa.org/prededitors/perpoll.htm (this is a direct link to the voting page, but please visit the rest of the Preditors & Editors site). At this link you can vote for your favorite electronic magazines, electronic book publisher, novel, short story, and poem. Planet Magazine has no connection to this poll, but we hope readers will nominate some of Planet's authors from this issue or from any other issue of Planet published during 1998 (visit Planet's home page to read back issues).



Dear Editor:
I'm an author who's created a Web site to showcase my novel Wings Of The Valiant an original, epic-length, sci-fi adventure that's now available exclusively on the World Wide Web at Electric Works Publishing. Your readers are invited to visit my site, which includes links, Web rings, media interviews, and a free preview of my novel.
Thanks, and have a great day.
Mark E. Jones

Dear Editor:
I've just spent a couple of enjoyable hours reading issue #19 of Planet. Excellent stuff -- and all presented with a sense of humor you just don't see anywhere else. Seems like everyone is too busy taking themselves way too seriously to have any fun with Web fiction. Planet is the most reader-friendly I've encountered.
Duane S.
Via the Internet

Dear Editor:
Just to let you know I enjoyed your SciFaikus.
Will S.
Via the Internet

Dear Editor:
The new issue ROCKS! "Queen Mab," "Pathfinder," "How Are You Wired?" and all the artwork is fantastic! The hive mind, members-only club, editorial are HILARIOUS! I was laughing out loud reading it. And by the way, I was a proud owner of a very stylish, Grey Members-Only jacket -- that is, until my sister borrowed it and spilled orange nail polish all over it. Even worse, I had a glossy black Sergio-Valente shirt that LOOKED like a Members-Only jacket.
Enough platitudes, your head will get too big.
Tom W.
Via the Internet

Dear Editor:
I think your Web site is cool, unless it isn't supposed to be WEIRD. Please don't write back.
D. Loucks
Via the Internet

Dear Editor:
Stopped by your site -- terrific pages. Very funny. Great design. Great contribution to the World Wide Web. I am much impressed. I am awarding your site both "Best Webzine" and "The Humor Award".
Ernest Slyman
Ernest Slyman home page

[Editor's Note: SF's tradition of full disclosure requires us to report that we have published work by Ernest Slyman in the past. But we'll take any award anyone gives us!]

Dear Editor:
I read two stories in your new issue and was very impressed. Thought you would like to hear a positive comment.
Good Luck,
Via the Internet

Dear Editor:
My boss is the greatest guy I know, second to my husband -- he's reallllllly smart, makes half a million dollars a year as vice president of a fortune 500 company. He is normal in every sense of the word, but he insists there is an implant in his ear and that he has been visited in the night by aliens. This activity has gone of for years -- and although he has been transferred several times, they always seem to find him again. Could this really be true? Hey, he's a genuine guy, and I have always thought he would climb a ladder to tell the truth before he would stand flat-footed and lie. What do you think? Where could he go to have this "implant" looked into?
Via the Internet

[Editor's Note: This was an actual letter to us -- whether sincere or not, we don't know, and what would we know about sincerity anyway? We told the writer that we only claim to be an expert about such things and suggested a visit to Whitley Strieber's home on the Web for further info.]

Dear Editor:
Hi, WONDERFUL Web page!!!! No ads and no cover fee?? Something like this would HAVE to be a labor of love, eh? Well, it shows! I am in the process of reading through your back issues. Keep up the good work, and I'll be seeing you!
Via the Internet

Dear Editor:
I am writing you about the Salivan Short Story Contest. The current deadline is February 28th, 1999, and there is a 5$ US entry fee. There are three categories: Fantasy/Sci-Fi, Horror & Romance and submissions must be less than 6,000 words. There are many prizes. We choose 30-45 stories for a possible anthology, publish the top three stories in each category, and award the number one author in each category with 40% of that category's entry fees. We're a not-for-profit organization, but we'll be mailing everyone a personal response, whether they win or lose! Please let your readers know about sending their submissions to:
Salivan Short Story Contest
1692 Pl. de Lierre, suite 300
Laval, Quebec, CANADA
H7G 4X7
Writers and readers can also see the Web site by clicking here for more details.
Tammy Mackenzie,

Dear Editor:
Just thought you ought to know about Giant Steps, an Apocalyptic Comedy for the World Wide Web. An online RealAudio-based multimedia sci-fi/comedy serial in 8 parts, episode 4 of which has just gone on site. It's the first of its kind in the UK and probably anywhere else. Concerning . . . Awesome technology, impoverished European space project, unhinged mystic, scheming students, video piracy, cheesy satellite sports channel, cosmetics corporation, neolithic earthwork, ice cream -- 'Babylon 5' it isn't.
Prophet Ken says: "Bathe my parts Lord!"
Everyone else says: 'Keep watching the ground . . ."
David Argent
Producer, Giant Steps
Scout Hut, London UK




Dear MC Escher:
I have always heard that the truth shall set you free. So I pointed out to my boss that his new five-year plan looked Unabomber-ish at best. And I mentioned that I hate my job more than I hate his feather-duster of a hairpiece. Then he set me free.
Can I send you my resume?
I.M. Freeh

Dear Red Hot Blondie Peppers:
In the future, all homes will be controlled by processors running Windows CE. That much we know. But this thought scares me. What if I said, "House, burn."? And it all burned! I'd need that like I need even another hole in my head.
Whistlin' Like a Calliope,
Manny-Hohls N. Myhedd

Dear Ice Water:
After we read Ken Starr's report on Bill Clinton's activities, we were floored. We simply had no idea what a marvelous swordsman the First Dude is. Awesome, awesome signing work with the old presidential "pen." And what a melody on the old "whore-monica"! We were surprised Old Bill was not lauded, even feted, by his Congressional fellow-travelers. Well, as far as we're concerned, Starr's report is required reading at our frat house this semester!
Get Down and Par-Tay!
Keg O'Bier
Pan T. Rayd
Delta Gramma Krak
Ohio University

Dear Puffy-Face:
The only thing I hate worse than buying condoms from some stranger at Rite-Aid is figuring out where to put yet-another unopened box of rubbers in my one-room squat next to the freight tracks.
Why Am I Telling You This,
Ray L. Rhode

Dear Messy:
As the cult leader Gabriel of Sedona might say, "I have The Answer" (of course, I'm assuming that The Question is: "Who can I give all my money to and then take orders from?").
Bud E. Boyy

Dear L'il Tim:
C'mon, Planet Magazine, get on the ball! You're in cyberspace now, where your competitors are your future selves, swooping in from the year 2098, and where years are measured in pico-seconds. So, therefore, we'd like to exchange banner ads with you. Our new "concept-less" Web-based business is the wave of the future. Our banner ad is 10,000 by 10,000 pixels; yours may not be more than zero pixels by zero pixels.
Luv and Pixes,
Ima Bot

Dear Cattle Auctioneer at the Local 4-H:
Let's finally put these Macintosh Myths to rest, shall we? Did you know that the entire Macintosh interface, as well as the 680x0 processor and Steve Jobs himself, were based on technology retrieved from a crashed UFO? (Little-known fact: It actually was Windows 1.0 that was stolen from Xerox, stolen from Xerox, stolen from Xerox, stolen from Xerox, etc.). However, the original Mac hardware was designed by an artist who, distracted by a UFO crashing in his backyard, caught his thumb in a toaster, pulled it out, looked at his thumb, and said either, "Gee you're dumb" or "What a good boy am I" -- accounts vary. Then, a light bulb went on over his head (that's because his wife, hearing some commotion, entered the darkened kitchen at that point and flipped the light switch). Later Mac designs were based on a cardboard box retrieved from a crashed pizza-delivery truck (the LC), a hamper retrieved from a crashed laundry-service truck (the Performa 6400), and a canister-style vacuum cleaner retrieved from a crashed 1960s sitcom (the iMac).
Micro$loth WinDoze Sux!
Rhet Oreck Lee

Dear The Bad Rapper:
Hello. This is an automatic e-mail message from Hilton Hotel's Industrialized Intimacy Program. We have received your electronic reservation. Thank you for making use of our Web site. Last March, when you stayed here at the Grand Edifice Hotel, we couldn't help but notice that you procured a prostitute. Thus, we will have one "night worker", rated disease-free, waiting for you in the bathtub of your room when you arrive. And if you will be needing anything for your wife, who we see is joining you on this trip, please alert the Concierge upon your arrival.
The Hilton Hotel 'Bot

Dear Nes-Tea:
I was at work the other day, when I noticed a guy in dirty, black leather, wearing wraparound shades and sporting a three-day beard, enter the office. As I watched, he came slowly up to my desk, and stopped. For a moment he said nothing; he just stared inscrutably at me from behind his sunglasses. Then, he reached inside his scraped and scarred leather vest and slowly withdrew a cylindrical package, wrapped in brown paper. He pointed it at me, and suddenly growled the following words: "This time, it's personal." For a second, I said nothing. Then I smiled, saying: "No problem." He smiled back. And I reached out, accepted the package from Dirty Bob, who is the courier in our shipping department, weighed it for him on my postal scale, and chirped: "That'll be four dollars and seventy-six cents via two-day FedEx, Dirty Bob!" Suddenly, Dirty Bob stiffened, murmuring, "Nobody calls me Dirty Bob... although I wish they would!" We both emitted short, barking laughs. "So, what's in the personal package your mailing, Dirty Bob?" I said. "Candy for my dear, sweet Mudder," he retorted. Suddenly again, Bob spun on his heel, coming to rest in a direction that was facing exactly away from me. I watch as his figure slowly receded from sight, although the strange thing is he never actually reached the room's exit. Soon enough, though, he had diminished to a pinprick, before suddenly disappearing in a brief glowing flash of light that momentarily illuminated the entire Mail Room, a special effect, I found out years later, that had been provided free of charge to our office courtesy of Pixar Inc. as part of its promotion for the movie "A Bug's Life". Apparently, the chairman of my company knew Steve Jobs. Anyway, I shook my head for a second and then bent back to my task of weighing non-interoffice company packages and affixing the proper postage.
Weightily and Shaggily,
Fred Exx
Mail Room

Dear Huggy Bear Jr.:
I am a 30-year-old stock broker on Wall Street, who, like anyone perhaps, works hard and plays hard. Sure, I overdo it sometimes, but recently I'd been feeling rather anxious almost all of the time, and so I went to my doctor for a check-up. He ran a few tests, and I came back the following day for the results. When I showed up, his secretary sent me into his office, where he was waiting for me in his plush chair behind an old, oak desk decorated with neat stacks of files and books. I remained standing. He looked up at me, mustered a smile, and said: "Well, I've gone over your tests. Outwardly, you seem in good shape, but your high-stress job and lifestyle have taken a toll, I'm afraid. I suppose I can best summarize the test results in this way -- you've got the insides of an 80-year-old man." My jaw dropped. I was absolutely stunned. How could he have known? Quickly, I leapt across the desk at him, spilling files and X-ray negatives across the tile floor. We struggled briefly, but I was able to get my hands about his neck and bash his skull against the pedestal of a scale. As I stood up over the bloody corpse, unrumpling my off-the-rack navy pinstripe Brooks Brothers suit, the secretary swung the door open, a look of shock on her face. I wheeled around, cantilevering and throwing out one leg; the momentum, mass, and angle all sufficient enough to instantly snap her neck. Hiding the evidence took some doing, including trashing all of the good doctor's files (paper and computer) and setting a blaze that ravaged the entire medical center where he had, until so very recently, practiced medicine. The human carnage at the center was extensive -- an unfortunate "side effect", as these doctors say. Subsequently, once I had spirited the two corpses back to my estate on the North Shore of Long Island -- both bodies secreted in the back of a laundry van I stole and later left burning under the Manhattan Bridge (on the Brooklyn side of things) -- I carried them down to my laboratory in the cellar of my mansion, where I soon added their insides to the growing vat of preserved human remains that I carefully tended in my subterranean abode -- a gruesome collection that I had begun so many long years ago with, as my doctor had discovered, no doubt much to his brief regret, the insides of an 80-year-old man. An 80-year-old man I had garroted. An 80-year-old man who had been foolish enough to call himself my "grandfather", but had been even more foolish by daring, once, to say "no" to me. So, why do I do it? I don't know, and I'm not interested. I'll leave the "analysis" to the pathetic FBI -- if they ever catch me.
See you at the Stock Exchange,
M. Eric Ensyko

Dear K-Tel:
I'm writing to tell you about Ben-Z-Dream(r) -- Speed all night at parties, sleep all day at work. Ben-Z-Dream -- specially buffered, Benzedrine-laced, non-tasting whipped food topping made from reverse-molecule fats and sugars. Just slather it on waffles, soup, steak, or even ice cream!
Yee Ha

Dear Grandmaster McGwire:
I've been up all night on Ben-Z-Dream(r) and couldn't wait to tell you about my concept for a new television show: "Jhesus -- The story of a Rhesus Jesus." It'll be a new Must-See TV series that shows evolutionary theory and religion aren't so incompatible after all!
Ben Z. Driem

Dear Italian Ice:
I hear it's national Coming Out Week. I've finally gained the courage, and, well, here goes: I own a Macintosh, and I'm Proud! There, I did it! I feel so free, and I just don't care anymore who knows.
Steve Jobs is Clapton!
I. Mack

Dear Tom Mix-a-Lot:
So I was having dinner during a date the other night, right? And this guy I was with said, Hey, are we inside a book? Cuz if we are, I sure hope the author doesn't stop typing! And then, like, we got up and walked over to the edge of the restaurant dining room, and we were able to see around the page we were on! And we could read what was gonna happen next, OK? And then... Hey, wait a sec, something doesn't feel right... Could it be? Am I inside an e-zine right now?
Irene De Dourbel

[Editor's Note: Yes, you are inside an e-zine. I am He Who Created You. I made you, and I can take you apart. Say Goodnight, Irene.]

Dear The "New" Faith No More:
I liked that movie Pleasantville. But they didn't do a proper job of Colorizing it.
Phil M. Buff

Dear P+:
Speaking of movies, I am a film-maker. I am young, I have ideas, and I don't need to be rubber-stamped by Establishment creatures like Sundance or sell-out "directors" like Todd Solondz (like that's his real name). I know what I want and I go and get it. For example, when working with actors, I demand the best performance, right now! One take! I like to pressure them -- moving in hard and fast with the camera, maybe bashing them in the nose with my long lens, knocking them over, if they're not doing a good job. Maybe even kicking and hitting them. Or stabbing them. Sometimes the actor caves in to my pressure, rather than being inspired, destroying the scene like the true cowards they all are with their crocodile tears. At that point, sickened by their lack of commitment, I will begin chasing them down the street, or up a stairwell, or wherever, filming of course all the while, until I catch them and beat the living daylights out of them. A bloody, punched-out mess. All captured on film. Yes, I've been sued. But what of it? Who are the courts to critique my oeuvre? In any case, "they" would have to find me first, wouldn't "they"? The courts are just like my Mom.
Biding My Time,
Phil Maiker
On a Bench Somewhere in Tompkins Square Park

Dear Methodist Man:
I've invented a device that allows people to operate PCs via microwaves. There are some neural implantations required, typically resulting in some infections and atrophying of the eyeballs, but the good news is that cellular damage to the body can be minimized with the use of a lead body suit. Since my product can be used with programs that create "Web pages," I am positioning my firm as 'Net-savvy, and am looking for venture capital money from any Silicon Valley types.
Please Fund Me,
Hugh Kant-Fathomm

Dear Cool-Whippio:
People these days complain too much about freedom of the Net. You kids today don't know what freedom is! Y'hear? Why, I remember the early days of Cyberspace, when e-mails weren't delivered on Sunday, and the whole danged Net closed down at 11 p.m. on Saturday. And as for e-mail attachments? Forget it! Those had to go separately by parcel post. Pretty darn expensive, too, I tell you. Well, it's long past sundown now, and since I don't have any of those newfangled Net video devices on my Smith-Corona 128k mono PC, I'll just have to just describe the following: I'm sitting here shaking my head. Well, that's enough outta me. I'll be logging out of the BBS, shutting down the PC and the old Hayes 300 baud modem, popping the 5.25" OS disk out of Drive B, and heading off to bed.
Cy Burr "Pie" O'Near

Dear E.D.I.T.O.R.:
I am such a dork. A dork! I really don't look out for myself. It's an old story with me. Here's what happened: My boss recently got into one of these agnosticky post-space-alien, Neo-Mayan cults that practice ritual murder. Anyway, he asked me if I would be the group's sacrificial victim for January. And -- well, you know, I was just about to go out to lunch and wasn't really paying attention -- so like a putz I said "Yes." Can you believe it? I can hardly believe it myself. I'm dreading telling my therapist about this. It's like that time in high school when I agreed to eat a desiccated squirrel road kill right off the asphalt in exchange for a date with some chick (double-whammy -- she never showed up for dinner at my house that night!). Now I've got to find some polite way out of this mess while still keeping my job. I'd really hate to have to actually go through with it.
Just Sign Me,
Pat C.







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