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Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe

Tai-Pan Issue #31
Tai-Pan Issue #31
Covers: Front cover by Terrie Smith. Back cover by Brian Carpenter.
Stories: "The Snow Wives" written by Gene Breshears and illustrated by Barb Cummings "What I did on my Summer Vacation" a graphic story by Bill Koonts and Gene Breshears, "Daedalus" written by Chuck Melville and illustrated by Jennifer Anderson, "Little Things" written by Robert Mitchell and illustrated by C.D. Woodbury.
Information: None.
First printing: November, 2002
C.D.'s review: Issue #31 starts off with a bang with Gene Breshears’ “The Snow Wives”, melds legend with Vashti’s history with men in another story of her quest to escape Hautikivi. Barb Cummings’ stylish drawings add to the feeling of both earthly and supernatural for this tale.

“What I did on my Summer Vacation” is a short graphic story scripted by Gene and drawn by Bill Koontz. Faust can still say so much, yet so maddeningly little with one sentence.

“Deadalus” is a heart rendering story of the origins of Icarus, the Tai Pan ghost, written by Chuck Mellville. The story also features the mercenaries introduced in “The Rift” adapting to their new careers as free traders as well as adding new characters from this period of the ship’s history. Jennifer’s expressive drawings are a good compliment to Chuck’s cast of deep characters.

Robert Mitchell’s “Little Things” introduces Slash, a racing circuit pilot recovering from a crash, and his mentor, Gurung. Celebrity, fear, honor, and discovering roots all play a factor in this story that yours truly was delighted to illustrate.

Best stand-alone filler illo: Tough call with a classic Chester and Jonesy cover by Terrie Smith and the back cover of Capt. Ghatak by Brian Carpenter, but my favorite was the low grav handball game featuring members of the Iktome Crew by Gary Fletcher.
$ 6.00
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Tai-Pan Issue #32
Tai-Pan Issue #32
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Covers: Front cover by Jennifer Anderson. Back cover by Sky Rigdon.
Stories: "Suffer the Children" written by Chuck Melville and illustrated by Bill Koonts, "Kiss and Tell" written by Gene Breshears and illustrated by Sheryl Schopfer, "Chop Job" written and drawn by Bill Koonts.
Information: "Fifteen furs on a dead man's chest, Yo ho ho! and a bottle of rum" to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the project. This issue was one that helped Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe win an Ursa Major Award in 2003 for Best Fanzine.
First printing: April, 2003
C.D.'s review: One of my favorite things as a reader is that while this universe unfolds story-by-story, they aren’t told in a straight timeline. In “Suffer the Children”, Chuck writes a heart-wrenching tale about some of the members of the Tai Pan crew prior to “New Queensland Station”. Bill Koontz does a great job of following the mood of Chuck’s writing, starting humorously but building to horrifying.

“Kiss and Tell” is the second of Gene’s murder mysteries aboard the Quantum Lady. Velvet Kigeri has nabbed the Pretty Boy Killer and has returned to the QL to take in a fight and say hello to Monty. Unfortunately socialite Lindsey Pryce has been murdered and all the evidence points to her former associate. I like the character and this opens up the possibility of more stories in this series. This one becomes more of a howdunnit then the previous whodunit of this series. Sheryl’s stylish artwork always brings a smile to my face, even in this serious setting.

For “Chop Job” Bill tells a whole graphic story in two pictures. Like “What I did for my Summer Vacation” he shows you can say a lot without saying a lot.

Best stand-alone filler illo: Hmm… Great front cover by Jennifer, lots of early sketches for the fifteen year retrospection, there’s even a nice editorial gag with Terrie’s Chester pic on one page staring intently at one I did called “Looky Looky”, but my favorite of this issue is Sky Rigdon’s drawing of Solome with its delicate linework.
$ 5.00
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Tai-Pan Issue #33
Tai-Pan Issue #33
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Covers: Front cover by Gary Fletcher. Back cover by Jeff Young.
Stories: "Riding the Lady" written by Chuck Melville and illustrated by Jennifer Anderson and Sky Rigdon, "One Last Dance" written by Kristin Fontaine and illustrated by Edd Vick, and "Out of Place, chapter 6: Dark Matter" written by Gene Breshears and illustrated by Gary Fletcher.
Information: The return of the "From the Readers..." column. This issue was one that helped Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe win an Ursa Major Award in 2003 for Best Fanzine.
First printing: July, 2003
Scirocco's review: Story arcs move forward in issue #33: Satin finally contrives an encounter with her nemesis, the survivors of the black hole catapult attempt to escape the clutches of an interstellar navy, and the origins of the Quantum Lady's computer ghost are illuminated.

"Riding the Lady" relates the cautionary tale of one Christian Brown, a squirrel so desperate to save his daughter that he would bet the financial resources of an entire mega-corp to accomplish an impossible task, an no one from the security chief, to the ship's manager, to sneaky investigators will sway him from his goal. He's even got a system all worked out. What could go wrong? Chuck, as usual, provides superb characterization and delivers many jokes. "Polyester, indeed."

"One Last Dance" shows us a Satin well enough on the road to recovery that she can attend an award ceremony held in her honor for the indignities she suffered on Azerbaijan. But is she really well, or is it just an excuse to get close to the one who hurt her so badly? Many people want to help her heal, including Faust and her father, but when "help" arrives from a source long lost that puts her enemy at her mercy, will she choose redemption or revenge? Kristin artfully concludes a story arc started way back in issue #15, tying up many loose ends (some of which started even earlier).

"Out of Place, chapter 6: Dark Matter" takes a brief interlude from the main plot (wherein the Ramanujan is drawn into ever more dangerous regions of space) and focuses on the plight of those ships left stranded in the Basna system after the devastating passage of a black hole. They'd be able to leave, if only it wasn't for a blockade of invincible Beta Staran warships at every jump point. But physics, and the fire goddess Pele, are on the side of the good guys. Gene doesn't slack off on his standards just because he's the editor: I just wish I didn't mean having to wait so long between installments.

Best illustration: Jennifer Anderson's splash page for "Riding the Lady" is so full of emotion and activity that I can almost hear the crowd and the chime of the casino machines. Gary Fletcher also wins points for an internal illustration in "Dark Matter" ...because any illustration with warp field diagrams is sexy.
$ 6.00
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Tai-Pan Issue #34
Tai-Pan Issue #34
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Covers: Front cover by Jennifer Anderson, back cover by Susan Woolard.
Stories: "The Throne of Osiris" by Gene Breshears and illustrated by Barb Cummings, "The Flechette" by Chuck Melville and illustrated by Susan Woolard, "Needles and Pins" by Chuck Melville and illustrated by Daren Bost, "Night of Destiny" by Gene Breshears and illustrated by Jeffrey Young.
Information: This issue was one that helped Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe win an Ursa Major Award in 2003 for Best Fanzine.
First printing: December, 2003
Scirocco's review: Two of the stories in this issue return to the past, as much as they can, given we often publish stories out of chronological order. Another brings the past to the present. And the last is just painful.

"The Throne of Osiris" — Karaya thought she had problems dealing with Faust before, when she tried to form a relationship with the taciturn pilot, but that's nothing compared to what happens when a mysterious woman from the past re-enters his life. One of my favorite parts about this story is all the different characters from so many different places working on a problem. As I was reading, each of them took on a distinct accent and mode of speech in my head.

"The Flechette" is a pirate ship commanded by a villainous bull. The Flechette is also commanded by a devious cacomistle. The Flechette is also under attack by a group of saboteurs. The Flechette is also pursued by the Moskova Imperial Navy. The Flechette also has a destiny, eventually, to become Tai-Pan.

"Needles and Pins" depicts the unpleasant results of hugging dangerous persons. It also displays the viciousness of certain physicians. Chuck writes an amusing short-short story starring Angel, Jasmine, and Aki. Which is the most dangerous?

"Night of Destiny" — Gene mingles crime drama and space opera together in an interplanetary escapade. A slippery snow leopard still lives and breathes despite many attempts on his mortality, and plans with the crew of his ship to steal an important government seal. But will treachery, cunning, and religion protect them all from the timely intervention of Commander Ace Drago?

Best illustration: Hannah Sedgewick on the back cover by Daren Bost. Flaunt that horsey body, Hannah!
$ 5.00
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Tai-Pan Issue #35
Tai-Pan Issue #35
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Covers: Front cover by C.D. Woodbury, back cover by Gary Fletcher.
Stories: "The Carcajou" written by Chuck Melville and illustrated by Kathy Coleman, "The Devil's Workshop" written by Gene Breshears and illustrated by Gary Fletcher, "30-Minute Guarantee" written by Bill Koonts and illustrated by C.D. Woodbury, and "Safety Precautions" written by Chuck Melville and illustrated by Andrew Laverdiere.
Information: Character Gallery. This issue was one that helped Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe win an Ursa Major Award in 2004 for Best Fanzine.
First printing: April, 2004
Scirocco's review: If we published once per year, this would be our jade anniversary! Maybe that's why the cover is bright green.

"The Carcajou" is another of the names held by the ship that would one day become Tai-Pan. This is the third in Chuck Melville's series about the ship's owners and adventures (the first of which appeared in issue 25, our silver anniversary issue!) , though it takes place before "The Flechette" in issue #34. This time, the ship is captained by Vona Daro, the famed pirate queen of holovid fame, and one-time wife of Sirrah Chakkan. She can take on battleships and she can play "Who's the Better Killer?" with the best of them, but can even the queen of space pirates take on the Brotherhood itself? Chuck gives us all the answers and fills in a little more of the history of our beloved ship.

"The Devil's Workshop" — Mystery surrounds Faust like a fog bank, just the way he likes it. But when Aki is asked to give the benefit of her experience with neurological anomalies to a local court, Faust feels the need to play a part in the case, perforce revealing details of his past. Gene gives us a little courtroom drama and many revelations about Faust's origins and, perhaps, a few about what motivates his apparently random acts of kindness.

"30-Minute Guarantee" — Your pirate raid, accomplished in less than thirty minutes, or you can take their guns, shoot the pirates, and file a class-action suit. The lengths these guys will go to in order to finish the mission on time are staggering, but even though they leave wounded on the decks, Captain Roberts is there to lighten the mood. Bill Koonts, military man and pirate lover, gives us an amusing look at how tough life can be when you have to kill for it. C.D. Woodbury provides excellent illustrations: excellent enough that one of them also made it onto the front cover.

"Safety Precautions" are very important to any starship, especially when you have a perfectionist raccoon as a cargo master. Learn the dangers of not stowing things according to their labels, and woe betide those who fail to follow instructions! Chuck delivers yet another humorous short-short story, again featuring Tai-Pan crew.

Best illustration: A tie between C.D.'s excellent cover illustration and Jennifer's candid picture of Miata shopping. C.D.'s exposes the craziness of a pirate raid, and Jennifer's conceals the psychotic behind a veil of cuteness. Beware.
$ 6.00
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Tai-Pan Issue #36
Tai-Pan Issue #36
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Covers: Front cover by Jennifer Anderson, back cover by Kathy Coleman.
Stories: "The Sun Comes Up" written by Chuck Melville and illustrated by Sheryl Schopfer, "Complications" written by Kristin Fontaine and illustrated by Bill Koonts, "Legacy" written by Bob Mitchell and illustrated by Edd Vick, and "Playmates" written by Gene Breshears and illustrated by Jennifer Anderson.
Information: Tai-Pan Puzzler by Chuck Melville. Cover nominated for an Ursa Major Award in 2004 for Best Anthropomorphic Published Illustration. This issue was one that helped Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe win an Ursa Major Award in 2004 for Best Fanzine.
First printing: August, 2004
Scirocco's review: This issue deals a lot with the difficulties inherent in adjusting to new circumstances.

"The Sun Comes Up" details the hornswoggling of Toby Savuka by Bendigo Roberts. She thinks she's getting away from a holovid contract, and she is, but not really in the way she meant to. Chuck does an excellent job of waking up the naive singing sensation to the realities of pirate life, but is nice enough to throw her a lifeline in the form of Nikikakaki Sun-Goes-Up. The name's just a coincidence! Really.

"Complications" by Kristin Fontaine takes place entirely in Captain Rasputin's office. Tai-Pan needs a new engineer and Mr. Forrest has the qualifications and the skills the crew requires. But he also has the qualifications to greatly upset Satin and the crew, being a former Azerbaijani military officer. It might be too much for everyone involved, but good help is hard to come by. Kristin does a good job of setting the tone of uncertainty for future stories but still manages to leave us with a feeling of resolution.

"Legacy" — Yan-Hu (also known as Slash; I love Slash!) suffers a second crash in his career as a high-speed space racer. By all rights, he should be dead, and the doctors tell him it's a miracle he survived. But Slash is greedy for one more miracle: he doesn't just want to live, he wants to regain his former prowess. Gurung, his trainer and friend, wants to give him that miracle... but some miracles carry a heavy price indeed. This is Robert Mitchell's second Slash story and the feeling of elation he gives us is powerful, even in the midst of sadness. And this time he achieves it without frozen children.

Every kid needs "Playmates" when he's growing up, but where to find them when you're the only kid on a starship full of professional spacers? Sure, Dad's around, but he has to work his shifts and he can't be around to entertain all the time. That's where Chester steps in... to the dismay of Jasmine Petra who, overhearing the cacomistle's plans, fears the worst.

Best illustration: Bendigo Roberts knocking over the chessboard for a surprised Tobi Savuka, hands down.
$ 6.00
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Tai-Pan Issue #37
Tai-Pan Issue #37
UMA_winner_2004_badge
Covers: Front cover by C.D. Woodbury, back cover by Jackie Duram-Nilsson.
Stories: "Secret Lives" written by Kristin Fontaine and illustrated by Barb Cummings, "Niches" written by Edd Vick and illustrated by Chas P.A. Melville, "China Doll" written by Jeffrey Young and illustrated by Kathy Coleman, and "Turning Seasons" written by Julie Rampke and illustrated by David Zawitaj.
Information: Tai-Pan Puzzler by Chuck Melville. Chronological Index of Stories. Gene's thirtieth issue as Editor-in-Chief! This issue was one that helped Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe win an Ursa Major Award in 2004 for Best Fanzine.
First printing: December, 2004
Scirocco's review: This issue is an extravaganza of rare features, including a fiendish crossword, a comic, and five stories about relationships—though not always those between one person and another. There's also a chronological index of stories.

"Secret Lives," from the ready pen of Kristin Fontaine, tells us how uncomfortable it can be to come back home after a long trip. J.T. is always being hounded by her family to settle down and raise a family so they can get busy spoiling those grandchildren and whatnot. J.T. brings Rufus along, hoping she can use him as an excuse to extricate herself from the inevitable family machinations, but the family is just ever so pleased to see that J.T. finally has a boyfriend... even if she doesn't. Yet.

"Niches" — Fame and fortune can turn anyone's head, especially when he's not prepared for it. Talent and genius might take you a long way in the right circles, but among spacers, pragmatism is given a much higher value than a penny's worth of philosophy. Edd Vick reminds us that hubris comes at a price, and that a wake-up call can come from any direction; any direction at all.

"China Doll" — Paul Patrynskerov is an opportunist who's not above creating his own opportunities, but he gets a little more than he bargained for when, while prowling a cargo bay with an illegal security pass, he meets a frightened little girl named Kathi... aboard Iktome. Yes, folks, it's still a pirate ship.

Granting someone forgiveness can be tough, but as the "Turning Seasons" bring the yuletide nearer, Te Teko is motivated by the appearance of an unlikely ally to bury the hatchet. This is a rare Julie Rampke story, filled with emotion and (since Tina is involved) many sexual innuendos. But I like Tina, so I'm even willing to let the Toys R Us joke slide. Heh.

Best illustration: Satin putting Winecker Smith in his niche on page 14, by Chuck Melville. This picture has a great M'ress (from the Star Trek animated series) feel to it. That Winecker looks a bit like Gary Coleman is, I'm sure, just a coincidence.
$ 6.00
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Tai-Pan Issue #38
Tai-Pan Issue #38
Covers: Front cover by Jennifer Anderson, back cover by Tom Milliorn.
Stories: "Danger Is His Middle Name" by Gene Breshears, illustrated by Gary Fletcher, "Chasing the Lady" by Mark Allen Davis, illustrated by Chuck Melville.
Information: None
Price: $6 US
First printing: June, 2005
Scirocco's review: "Danger is His Middle Name" pits Chester against an evil from his past, putting him in the way of both harm and love in a fashion that's sure to provide thrills and chills. Te Teko does her best to help him out of the jam because Tai-Pan is on a tight schedule, but can she and a couple of keyboard cowboys really turn the tide against an unkillable supervillain? Maybe, if the keyboard cowboys also have plasma cannons. And who's that mink in a silver jumpsuit? Could it possibly be the dashing and imperturbable Captain Ace Drago?! Where's my autograph book?! Where's my humus?! Where are the kippers?! [swoon]

Willamina Ramani is forever "Chasing the Lady." Whether it's because she's piloting a shuttle to that luxury resort among the stars or, as the case may be, traveling across a thousand miles of bear-killing desert, she's got the skills and the fatalism to meet whatever life throws her way. And she's got Ursa Baby along to lighten her mood if ever she gets too pessimistic. What I want to know is why people keep expecting her to do all this other stuff when she's already got plenty on her plate. Poor girl.

Best illustration: A tie, this time, between "Citron and Sky Morgan" on page 30 by C.D. Woodbury, and the snarling furry gun babe on page 1 by Troy D. Johnson. Both are full of sharp shadows and both have great facial expressions, and both tell a story all alone, with no words.
$ 6.00
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Tai-Pan Issue #39
Tai-Pan Issue #39
Covers: Front cover by Sky Rigdon, back cover by Chuck Melville.
Stories: "In His Own Country" by Kristin Fontaine, illustrated by C.D. Woodbury, "Angel of the Pathways" by Mark Allen Davis, illustrated by Chuck Melville.
Information: None
First printing: July, 2005
Scirocco's review: "In His Own Country" — A strange combination of excellent, dramatic writing from Kristin, and very cute illustrations from C.D. Woodbury. This story deals with the harsh aftermath of the pirate attack staged by Barbie Frise ("Dancing on Your Grave," by Gene). It's never easy to kill someone—unless you're a psycho like Faust—even when it's necessary to do so... as Aubrey finds out to his own cost, as well as that of others on the crew. But as the healing begins and security tightens, Aubrey finds that strength comes not only from your job, or your experiences, or how many people you've killed, but also from those who care about you, and from the feeling of being home at last.

"Angel of the Pathways" — Zylithian society is strict, codified, and stable. Zeshn'ir has never wavered from its Golden Path, and the zylithian people have never met an enemy they could not subdue; until the discovery of the pestilential humans. They are so alien to the zylithian mind set that every effort to understand them has met with defeat, even among the greatest minds of their society. When Zeshn'ir is given the opportunity by his teacher to study a captive human, could it be that his fresh point of view, and his mind—not so bound by the parameters of social perfection—can see something no elder ever dreamed of?

Best Illustration: Oh, man. So hard to choose! I need a T-shirt with the cover illustration of Salome by Sky Rigdon. I need LiveJournal icons with some of C.D. great facial expressions. I need a sub-base signed by Vashti (after she beats my skull in with it on the back cover).
$ 6.00
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Tai-Pan Issue #40
Tai-Pan Issue #40
Covers: Front cover by Kathy R. Coleman, back cover by Susan Woolard.
Stories: "Money for Nothing" by Kathy R. Coleman and illustrated by Barb Cummings, "Not a Creature Was Stirring" by Gene Breshears and illustrated by Bill Koonts, "One to Remember" by Mark Allen Davis and illustrated by Chuck Melville, "How to Tell a Lie" by Sky Rigdon and illustrated by Kathy R. Coleman, and "The Girl Next Door" by Kristin Fontaine and illustrated by Annette Pschirrer.
Information: None
First printing: November, 2005
Scirocco's review: "Money for Nothing" details the efforts of Art the Ham to make an easy buck, but like Tolkien said, "It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him." Kathy Coleman drags her characters Raif and Stiletto into the fray; and a good thing, too, because nothing is ever as easy as it seems and nothing beats a good blaster at your side.

"Not a Creature Was Stirring" — Ghosts are frequent visitors to our November issue, but how can someone be a ghost if she's not dead? Gene tortures Delta for those of us who've been wanting to see her taken down ever since that despicable attack she made on Sasha. Bad 'possum! No cookies!

Ian St. Ritz is "One to Remember" the fate of bygone pioneers and explorers. No one takes a moment to remember anymore, no one appreciates the sacrifices of those early souls who met destiny... except Ian. And just this once, ever so briefly, he may see his diligence rewarded. On the other hand, maybe it's just the whiskey talking.

Sky Rigdon, in a rare appearance, explains "How to Tell a Lie." There are rules to follow, things to say and things not to say, and you have to be very, very careful. Lying to that upstart jerk Rik Traverse should be a simple mission. Unfortunately, Sirrah Chakhan is also careful, and he knows a lot about liars.

It's sometimes astonishing how often "The Girl Next Door" goes overlooked, but it's equally astonishing what small event can bring her to your attention. Kristin continues her story arc about the relationship between Rufus and J.T., exploiting the hapless new engineer: Walter Gasdan. Poor human!
$ 6.00
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Reviews courtesy of Mark "Miko" Allen Davis, Chuck Melville, C.D. Woodbury, and Jared "Scirocco" Robertson.