ST. AUBIN: The Quirky Side of the Venus Anthology: or How Jude Lawe Gates Taught Himself Venusian Karate



After having written “How to Train Your Werewolf”, I really wanted to write something space-y for the next anthology. Writing about the Greek goddess of Love seemed like cheating.  Blending into this was my fondness for the short stories of Harry Harrison, in particular “ The Men from PIG and ROBOT”. I wanted something uplifting, quirky and with an emphasis on character.

Jude Gates ESQ was born in part thanks to the Baen Free Radio Hour. They talked about the  Liaden series, describing one of its offshoots as staring characters resembling Wooster and Jeeves as Men About Space. This tickled my funny bone

Available May 26th

and settled into my subconscious. Then I started rereading the complete short story anthology of Dorthy L. Sayers, starring primarily Lord Peter Wimsey. I particularly enjoyed the later stories, about Harriet and Lord Peter as parents, or working together.  I suppose Mr. & Mrs. North and Nick & Nora Charles in The Thin Man had their influences, too.

The lynchpin was while going through Amazon looking at books. Then on CSPAN I heard about a book called “ Who owns the Moon?”– and land ownership and mining rights were as complex, if not more so– than the law of the sea. Suddenly, clever lawyers in space-saving our world from excess litigation captured my imagination. It didn’t hurt that Tom Stranger had come out recently. Thank you Larry, I think I popped a rib laughing. While I did have this idea floating around before Tom Stranger came out, it did help me realize that this whole thing had to be a comedy.

While Jason evolved organically with the plot of his story, Jude was fully formed before the story was written. So he was not only on the search for more money, he was in search of a plot.

Because it was Venus, I knew Jude had to fall in love. A nebbishy awkward fellow with a gift for gab would require a very special lady to fall in love with. Thus Saudella was born. In order to see his charm, she’d have to be a mind reader. It’s space opera, of course that can happen!  I admit, I borrowed some of her character from the secretary on WKRP in Cincinnati.

Looking further for a flushed out plot, I borrowed some plot points from a Babylon 5 episode. That would be  A Voice in The Wilderness, season 1. The episode neglected to delve into how mining rights might be affected. Therefore I knew I had a new slant on Epsilon III. Then I looked up some stuff about mining rights– and fun facts about the planet Venus.  Writing a story is like making sausage. You are allowed to get parts from anywhere, but they better taste good together.

The last and final ingredient was actually Tinney. I borrowed his name from a friend’s last name on FaceBook. I wanted a contrast to Saudella’s unique AI experience. I also had a narrative voice that was certainly not  Jude, but it knew enough about Jude’s private thoughts it had to be an AI with neural net access. Not to mention, if his knowledge was as vast as it would have to be– he’d need help organizing it. Plus, he needs a lot more storage than a human brain has available. Last but not least, he’s a little reminder that it really is Space Opera.

He is a great boisterous foil for Jude, plus helped define what technology is like in this world.  He isn’t exactly Jude’s Bunter, lacking in any social graces. Yet he says all the things that Jude won’t say and more besides. I admit, no knowledge of how AIs work went into building him. This is space opera. I won’t besmirch “science” by calling this “science fantasy”. I tried to introduce some realistic concerns here and there, because Bujold taught me that even space opera has to feel real at some level to sell your world to the reader.

Knowing a little bit about computers, I decided to give him a portable body. Basically, a robot shell that he can inhabit, and do physical things for Jude now and then. It’s an idea that I partially borrowed from Fool’s War and When Gravity Fails. The idea is that The AI both lives in Jude’s head to help him with his law practice, and can also inhabit the robot body. As a complex piece of software, he can jump to one or both places. The only issue is that the part of him in the robot has a limit to how far it can transmit data privately.

The plot is as follows:

The esteemed head of an astronomically wealthy family dies, leaving several relatives conflicted over the will.  As the family lawyers to the deceased, Jude and his brother are asked to present the will and arbitrate the estate holdings. The megalithic conglomerate that spans the galaxy becomes the arena where powerful personalities clash over differing opinions on future direction for the company.

The strangest part of the conflict is over mineral rights for the Planet Venus. Who knew our galaxy’s white elephant was prone to causing such strife? Well, Venus is the goddess of love in Roman mythology, so maybe we should consider ourselves forewarned.

On the way to the reading of the will, he learns that another lawyer is joining the fray to reveal a secret codicil that will determine the future of planets.

To make matters worse, he’s falling in love with this beautiful and mysterious woman, whose motives and role are unknown. Rumor has it that her input will drastically change the will with a codicil. It is clear she has some unusual talents. It may even be possible that she would use his feelings against him.  All while he does his best to protect the family– against itself, and all other interests, business and personal.

When another family member is killed at the reading, and the wife of the original deceased disappears, who knows what will be the outcome for the family?  For the corporation? For the planet?

And all Jude has is a vast knowledge of interstellar property law, a wisecracking AI, and a brother who straightens his tie at awkward moments. His father and head of the law firm, who has known the family all of his life,  must correspond virtually because he is also dying from an intergalactic virus.

I suppose it is fitting that the reading of the will takes place on Mars, the planet of strife.

I think the hardest part of writing this story was actually finding a name for it. I stole Venus Times Three from a classic novel of science fiction.  It started out as a working title.  The editor liked it, so we kept it.

The most horrible thing about all this is that my search engine, plus AMAZON show me the name of my own short story, but not this classic work of Science Fiction! I hope I can encourage more people to read classic science fiction. But it’s okay if you read me, too.  I hope you have as much fun reading this story as I had writing it.

   – Margot St Aubin 


Margot St Aubin has tried everything from web designer for a law firm, security guard for a famous auto company (among other places), a clerk at the Borders home office,  to learning to code.  No one told her that pythoness had anything to do with well poisoning. If you ask nicely, she makes book covers. She loves to travel, which seems to mean getting stuck in foreign countries, being harassed by the secret police, and being shut out of famous landmarks by burly men with machine guns. Juggling words and harassing fictional characters is overall more satisfying.  For her sins, she is stranded in New York city for the duration. She is hopeful that messages in a bottle will lead to rescue soon.  She lives in a bunker with her family at an undisclosed location in Queens.

You can check out the entire 11-book series right here. While four of the books have already been released, the remaining seven will be coming out in six-week intervals and can be pre-ordered at the link above. 


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PAOLINELLI: A Series Within The Series

Tuscany Bay Books’ co-Publisher Richard Paolinelli is today’s blogger as we continue our series of blog posts regarding Tuscany Bay Books’ Planetary Anthology Series. Richard is the co-editor of Pluto and has stories in six books in the series so far.


My first two posts in this series by authors and editors of Tuscany Bay Books’ Planetary Anthology Series have dealt with how I went from just being one of the authors in it to publishing it and my experiences in editing Pluto. So today I’d like to talk about my stories in the series. I’ll touch on the six that were accepted and the two that were subbed and await the editors’ decision.

Aside from the story that appears in Pluto, there is an overall theme to them. A.M. Freeman, who looks to be on track along with Bokerah Brumley to get a story in all 11 books, also has a theme for her 11 stories.

red spiritual smoke on black background with copy spaceIn the case of Pluto, my story was Yes, Neil D. Tyson, Pluto is a planet. It is set around a vacationing family visiting Disneyland in the late 1950s. And, if you are wondering how that can fit into the definition of science fiction then all I can say is wait until you get to the end of the story. You won’t be disappointed.

As for why I included it, I felt a collection that took on the subject of death should have a light-hearted ending. Something, well if you will indulge me, goofy, shall we say?

As for the rest of my stories in the series, the theme is: The Last Humans. Be it the last human in space, on Earth or even in the entire universe itself. Each story, aside from Pluto, casts one human being in an incredible situation.

You might think that would be all doom and gloom in the finest dystopian fashion. But recall, Superversive Press was not just a publishing house. It was the flagship for a movement. Superversive storytelling does not buy into the subversive, dystopian, everything is horrible mindset that has infected SF/F these days.

So yes, my characters are in the soup and things don’t look so good for them when we encounter them. But at the end of the day, there is still hope. For them and for us.

So let’s look at my last humans and see if I can pique your interest in them a little.

For Luna, I wrote Polar Shift. We are immersed into the story of one Samuel Peck from Peck’s point of view. And Sam is having a very bad day shortly after we meet him. Of course, everyone else on Earth is having an even worse day and Sam comes to the realization that he may just be the last surviving human in the universe.

As a rule, I tend to insert myself into the main character and ride along the adventure I have set out for them. Which is why, more often than not, the finished story seldom ends up the was the story was originally laid out.

In Polar Shift, I really put Sam through hell and, as one of Luna’s themes was madness, I went down the rabbit hole of insanity with Sam on this story. But it is safe to say we both emerged out the other side filled with a renewed sense of hope.

Next comes Uranus and The Last Human. This was a story I originally wrote as a screenplay for film school (yes, I dabbled in screenwriting for awhile and took a couple of actual film classes) a very long time ago.

You might read this story and think “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and perhaps it has some elements of it in there. But there aren’t any actual alien pods replacing humans to be found in my story. Rather, this story introduces us to a young scientist who returns from a vacation to find the world has changed. What remains to be seen is was the change for the better or for the worse? And she holds the power to undo it all. For Anne Fontana, the questions she must examine are: What does it mean to be human? And, which version of humanity is the right one?

This story was the first time I wrote a female main character. I’d never done it before. Oh, I’ve created several female characters with major roles in my stories right and left. But never as the focus of the story. It was something of a challenge, as I mentioned above, I tend to insert myself into the main character a lot, and I’m a guy, sooo….

At any rate, I think the story worked out nicely and I think you’ll agree too.

In July, Earth will be re-released and my story is Extinction Point. In this, a

descendant of Neil Armstrong is about to  become the first human to leave our solar system. On the way out, he will become the first human to step foot on the surface of Pluto.

This story was originally intended for Pluto had I not become Pluto’s editor and wanted to run the story above in it.

It is on Pluto that our star voyager runs into a slight detour that becomes a First Contact, a visit to an inhabited world not called Earth, a discovery of the reason why we’ve never been visited by another intelligent species, and a race against the clock to save Earth from a fate shared by countless other worlds.

In September, we will re-release Jupiter which holds my story, Icarus Falls. In this

we have another astronaut, on his final mission in space before a well-deserved retirement, finding himself on the wrong side of a disaster.

This one, from a cascading collision of debris from the destruction of an orbital space station has formed an impenetrable ring around the planet. Nothing can leave the surface and nothing can return to the surface from orbit.

It is easily the longest story in the collection but I needed every word of it to set the stage for the final act, when two people make impossible choices and both in the name of love.

In early November the last of my currently accepted stories, At Homeworld’s End,

will be published in Sol. This one is one of the shortest stories I’ve ever written. And like I did with Sam Peck in Luna, I went down the rabbit hole with the main character in this story. But unlike Sam, I didn’t go all the way here.

This is a story told from a first-person POV. And as you read it you begin to wonder why I have not named the person, nor given you any kind of description – not even if they are male of female – this was done on purpose.

Because I want each individual reader to put themselves into this character, as I did when writing this story. And possibly to fully understand why “the observer” made the decision, millions of years into our future, to stand on the surface of the Earth as it meets its ultimate fate to be consumed by our dying Sun. And to do so for no other reason, ultimately, because it was only right that one of Earth’s far-flung children had returned so that it would not die alone in the night.

So those are the six stories that are/will be in this 11-book series. I have two subs, one each for Neptune and Saturn, that are awaiting their fate with each editor. They are NOT automatically going to get in. They will have to earn their way in like all of the others that the editors will choose. I hope they do but will understand if they do not.

In their own way they each hold to the last human theme. The 13th Medallion, subbed for Neptune and a pre-Christmas Day release, sees an interesting take on the old adage: Be careful what you wish for. Phantom’s Lodge, sent in to Saturn and a Feb. 2, 2020 release, is set on Earth and has, shall we say, a more supernatural slant.

If either or both are eventually accepted, I’ll be back to discuss them in a little more detail. But even if the final count is only six, I am very glad I was able to add to this incredible series. I hope you enjoy reading all 180 stories as much as I have so far.



Find out more about Richard, his books and his free-to-read 1K Weekly Serial Series at this website:



OLSEN: Adaptive Reasoning



Pluto, the Roman god of death and wealth, drove the theme for the Pluto Planetary Anthology. It gave me a great opportunity to merge interesting themes into a new red spiritual smoke on black background with copy spacestory. My story, Adaptive Reasoning, let me explore how to anticipate and welcome death without fear, as well as how to come to terms with not being fully human or alien. I also integrated ideas on how thought patterns can block understanding. Just as an up-front point, I’m not going to spoil anything in the story here, so don’t worry if you haven’t read it yet.

About half my stories seem to be written for a specific market or anthology. Some have been steampunk themes, others science fiction in a shared universe, and one anthology wanted stories with chickens. For me, having some constraining rules for a story helps me to put together an idea and outline faster. I read about a study once where people who were given barely enough tools to complete a job succeeded faster than people who had extra tools because the second group spent time trying to figure out how to use all the tools. Telling me to write 5,000-10,000 words within the limits of a particular Planetary Anthology is easier for me than starting from scratch with no idea at all where the story will go.

Adaptive Reasoning is science fiction, which ties into my engineering background. I’ve been a software engineer since shortly after dirt was invented, so technical details are my forte. One of the interesting things with my story is that it is set chronologically before the name Pluto was assigned. This is the sort of thing you discover when you do technical research for a story. I had to work out what to do about that to properly restrict usage of the planet’s name until it was named.

1193_pluto_natural_color_20150714_detailYes, I still think of Pluto as a planet, as is proper. There’s a nice thing about standards and naming conventions. There are often enough to choose from that you can pick your favorite standard. Science is never settled because of how science works, and that’s where it’s fun to play with ideas by mixing what could be real with a touch of pure imagination like aliens or faster than light travel.

I enjoy working with hard science in stories. There are a lot of cases where a story has to bend the rules of reality, whether for plot points, or to make certain impossible things possible. For instance, I make use of how tech equipment decays over time in Adaptive Reasoning, yet in another story called Learning to Run with Scissors in an unrelated science fiction anthology, I’ve set up equipment that runs properly after being turned off for a million years. That survivability is pretty unlikely, but people can forgive such things in the name of a good story if you give them a reason to believe. It’s all about entertainment.

If you know much about stories, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve talked about scene, setting, science, and even theme, but I haven’t really mentioned characters. Without characters encountering and solving problems, you don’t have a real story. Rest assured that problems occur and emergencies loom in Adaptive Reasoning. I’m a fan of action-adventure pulp stories. I toned down the adventure this time and ramped up the emotional tension instead since I wanted more of a thinking story with a more sedate but satisfying ending that met the themes I’d been given. You be the judge, of course.



John edits and writes speculative fiction across multiple genres, and loves stories about ordinary people stepping up to do extraordinary things. He hopes to entertain and inspire others with his award-winning stories as he passes his passion on to the next generation of avid readers.

He loves to create and fix things, whether editing or writing novels or short stories or working in his secret lair equipped with dangerous power tools. In all cases, he applies engineering principles and processes to the task at hand, often in unpredictable ways.

He lives in Utah with his lovely wife and a variable number of mostly grown children and a constantly changing subset of extended family.

Check out his ramblings on his blog at or visit his Amazon Author page here to see his recent publications including his Riland Throne fantasy trilogy:


You can get your copy of Tuscany Bay Books’ Planetary Anthology Series: Pluto right here: Pluto and check out the rest of the 11-book series here: Planetary Anthology Series.

HALLQUIST: Editing Mercury

David Hallquist takes over the blog today. David was the editor for Tuscany Bay Books’ Planetary Anthology Series: Mercury.  In addition to editing the anthology, he also wrote a story for it as well as having stories included in Venus, Mars and Sol. He will share his experience as an editor and tell us a little bit about the stories within. 


Planetary Fiction Anthology was a lot of fun to work on and the whole thing started as an idea bounced around by an online community of writers, both amateur and professional. What was the next big thing to work on? I thought that a massive anthology, with one book in each dedicated to a planet in the solar system might be big enough. We’d need a separate editor for each one of course.

PAS_TWITTER_PROMOThe idea had a lot of enthusiastic support, much of it along the lines of “You go do that, then.”

Thus, I found out I’d just volunteered myself to edit the first book in the series: Mercury.

At first I was thinking: how am I going to get stories in for Mercury? This little planet seems to get overlooked in science fiction, with Mars getting the bulk of sci-fi attention and even the asteroids or other dwarf planets and moons seeming to get more focus. More, what would I write to contribute?

One thing that helped was broadening the concept from just science fiction into fantasy as well. Had I not done that then we all would have missed out on some of the truly fantastic and strange tales in the anthology series. On top of that, each planet had a mythic significance associated to it. Thus, Mercury would also be about tricksters and messengers, Venus about love and Mars about war, etc. Then, finally there are all the strange phenomena about each planet to write about, and bizarre little Mercury is as strange a world as any with its unusual composition and odd orbit.

Still, I was worried. What would anyone have to say about little Mercury? Would that tiny cinder near the sun be forgotten and ignored after all? Then, when the tales rolled in I was overjoyed. Planetary Fiction: Mercury contains tales of wonder strangeness of nearly every sort.

Award-winning author John C. Wright gives us an eerie time-traveling epic on Mercury Mercurywith In the Palace of Promised Immortality. Ben Wheeler treats us to a wild motorcycle race across the planet in Schubert to Rachmaninoff. We get a chilling tale of underground Mercury in Joshua Young’s The Haunted Mines of Mercury. J.D. Beckwith gives us the first faster than light ship near Mercury in Quicksilver.

In Last Call Lou Antonelli gives us a view of a Mercury of the far future, near the end of its life as a mining planet, and about to be forgotten. Declan Finn treats us to the schemes of criminal elements under the domes of Mercury in Deceptive Appearances. A.M. Freeman shows us another Mercury of the far future in The Star of Mercury. In Curcurbita Mercurias has a murder mystery on the innermost planet.

Still, only some of the tales took place on the planet itself. Had we not invited tales of the fantastic, then we would not have had tales like L. Jagi Lamplighter’s The Element of Transmutation where we meet the mythical Mercury himself, or Cory McCleery’s mind-bending trip of the fantastic in Tower of the Luminous Sages. Other tales deal with the concept of travel itself, such as Bokerah Brumley’s Ancestor’s Answer where time travel is used to resolve family honor, or Misha Burnett’s mDNA where a genetic messenger travels the wasteland to save the human race.

What about my story? I set out to craft a tale that would fit the concept of messengers and travel, while set on the planet itself. Mercury is a planet with a lot of mysteries: a strange orbit, a strange composition, and odd magnetic field readings. I love mysteries. So, I put together all of the mysteries along with questions on the Fermi Paradox when crafting The Wanderer. Explorers arrive on Mercury and find a strange structure as old as the solar system deep underground that could be the key for understanding what happened back in the beginning of the solar system and answering questions of life between the stars.

I’ve sent in submissions to the other books Planetary Anthology as ideas came to me. In The Morning and Evening Star, a man gifts the planet Venus to his true love, only to have his life fall apart in a disaster that threatens their marriage. In Rusted Fortress, explorers on Mars discover that the solar system was one the site of a terrible battle at its very beginning. Finally, in the upcoming Sundown and Out (Planetary Series: Sol) , a private detective must solve his biggest case yet: who murdered the Sun?

SuperversiveFinally, the whole Planetary Fiction project would never have been possible without the many creative gems from the contributing authors, and the tireless patience of Jason Rennie, our “Interplanetary Editor” (at Superversive Press) keeping the whole thing on the rails. I was overjoyed when I heard that Tuscany Bay Books was going to imprint the whole series. Thanks again to Richard Paolinelli for making this treasure chest of wonders available to everyone.



David Hallquist graduated from the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland in 2004, where he learned much of business but little of smithing. He has had a long history of customer service positions including banking, call center service and sales, all of which have served as a fascinating study of the human species. He lives in Rockville, Maryland, and is still waiting for the flying cars. A lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy turned author with several published short stories, has turned his pen and keyboard to tales of the fantastic.


Get your copy of Tuscany Bay Books’ Planetary Anthology Series: Mercury right here: Mercury and check out the rest of the 11-book series here: Planetary Anthology Series.

Pre-Order Available For Planetary: Luna

Tuscany Bay Books’ Planetary Anthology series continues with the second edition of the series – Planetary: Luna. The e-book will be released on Thursday, January 30th and you can pre-order it right now using the link below.

The book, edited by Dragon Award finalist, Declan Finn, features many of sci-fi/fantasy’s best authors: Finn, Jody Lynn Nye, Louis Antonelli, Mark Wandrey, Richard Paolinelli and the legendary John C. Wright and his wife, L. Jagi Lamplighter.

You will also be introduced to many up and coming authors that you will want to read for many years to come.

E-Book pre-order link: Planetary: Luna for $4.99

A print edition will be available for purchase, $18.95, soon.

The first book in the series, Planetary: Pluto, edited by Dawn  Witzke and Richard Paolinelli, is available for purchase here in both e-book and print form.

The next release will be Planetary: Uranus, edited by Chris Wilson, and should be out sometime next month. Following this release, the re-releases of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and Jupiter (previously released by Superversive Press) will soon follow.  The series will conclude later this year with Sol, Neptune and Saturn.