About talespin

I'm a writer, an educator, and an east coast Canadian -- all titles that don't make me much money.

Tales of Timmy Tim – Episode 1: Granddad’s Portrait

This is a short story series I’ve been working on. It’s a story about a cook, Timmy Tim, who comes from a long line of fearsome space pirates, and his sidekick, Slink. It’s meant to be a fun and humourous little bit. It was also inspired by the 90s game, VGA Planets.


The occasion called for baked apples and fresh roe, garnished with asparagus, string beans, and carrots. It was exquisite, refined, and no well-to-do, highfalutin aristocrat ever disapproved of it. The galley was empty, almost silent, except for the tapping of a chef knife on a wooden cutting board.

“Slink, I’ve outdone meself. Capt’n will say, ‘Well done, Timmy. Well done, Timmy! Ten shares o’ loot for ya. No, twenty shares of loot for ya!’”

“Twenty shares would get me that new soap.”

“This is the one, Slink.”

“Yes, Timmy, it’s the one.”

“Today, we make our mark.”

“Today, we make our mark, Timmy.”

“Riches and glory.”

“Riches and – “


“Sorry, Timmy. It’s just: you’ve out done yourself.”

“I know that. Now listen! If you want to bring out the flavour, slice ‘em end to end, like this.”

He chopped off the tips of the beans and halved them end to end. His hands were steady, graceful, and as precise as a surgeon cutting into a chest wall.

“Timmy, what if he doesn’t like it?”


“I mean, does the ambassador like blue spadefish?”

“That’s enough, Slink.”

“What if he gets sick?”


Slink was just a lowly deckhand; he washed pots and pans, the ship’s hull, and the occasional dead body. He only worked a few hours after midnight, so the rest of the time, he sat in the galley and watched Timmy cook.

The intercom bonged and carried the voice of the ship’s computer, “Attention, crewmembers: Ship approaching. All crew standby. Ship approaching.”

Timmy and Slink pressed their faces against the window and watched the ships dock in the darkness of space.

“Slink, that there’s a cruiser, as strong and strurdy as most Federation vessels.”

“It’s quite big.”

“The ambassador’s arrived; finally, he’s our way out.”

“That would be lovely, Timmy.”

“It won’t be long now: I’ll be on the bridge makin’ Granddad proud.”

Not far from the window, in a prominent position on the wall, there was a painted portrait of a grizzled man. He wore the crimson uniform of the Bands, held two knives on his lap, and over his left shoulder was an aerodynamic spaceship zipping past stars and planets. Timmy stared into the unwavering eyes of his granddad. A reverent minute passed before he pressed two fingers to his lips and placed them on the painting.

After the cook returned to meal preparations, Slink took a turn to stare at the painting. He glanced back at Timmy, shuffled his feet, and returned his gaze to the penetrating eyes of the depicted pirate. Once more, he looked at Timmy, then back at the portrait, and then hesitantly spoke.


“Yes, Slink.”

“Did your granddad cook much?”

“Course not; he had a ship to captain.”

“I suppose. I suppose. I suppose you don’t get a reputation like that by frying fish.”

Timmy glared at Slink. Before he spoke, the galley door swung open, and in barged a man wearing an eye patch and a long crimson overcoat.

“Cap’n!” exclaimed Timmy.

“Lads, up front!” the captain commanded.

Timmy and Slink scrambled forward, stumbled over each other, and made a frantic attempt to stand at attention.

The captain scrutinized the two crewmen. He stopped in front of Slink, pursed his lips, and asked, “Who are you?”

Timmy answered, “He’s Slink, sir; he cleans the dishes, and he manages other bits here and there. Don’t worry, sir; I’ve cooked up me best plate yet: baked apples and fresh roe, garnished with aspa…”

As his superior drew uncomfortably close, Timmy stiffened, his knuckles whitened, and he was overwhelmed by the scent of fermented fruits. Without his slouch, Timmy was two heads taller, so the captain gripped the cook’s smock and pulled his face to meet his own.

“The Dread Pirate Timaeus Tim was an inspiration to us all, his father less so, and then you. We need more than your best. The Feds are paying us a fortune to wine, dine, and transport the ambassador. The wining and dining had better go well; is that understood?”

“Yes, sir,” Timmy nodded.

Another crewman entered, opened wide the galley doors, and announced, “The Ambassador of the Amphibious Autocracy, Archduke Ardrick Alleyworth.”

The story continues in Episode 2: Baked Apples and Fresh Roe.

If you are interested in reading more Tales of Timmy Tim, episodes are released monthly at My Patreon. – TS

As always, you can make a PayPal donation to support the Planets Magazine, or click the button below to Buy Us A Coffee. It’s always a fun boost for our morale.

Buy Me A Coffee

Fleet Formations: Fascists

This Articles of War document was decrypted and translated as a study model for Echo Cluster strategists. These intelligence briefs describe employable tactics and complementary ship combinations for the Eleven Races.

The underlying purpose of Fleet Formations is to encourage commanders to consider what happens BEFORE “End Game”. We often build our fleets with one thing in mind, “Max Power, Tech 10 ships all the way. Hooyah!” Beyond theory, the majority of actions which lead to victory are done within the first 40-60 turns; moreover, eight races have their best chance of winning if they gain a significant advantage before the “Mid Game” transitions to the final slog. Those first 50+ turns can be used for more than just building ships and whipping the local indigenous populations. It’s the perfect time for Tech 1-9 to go forth and shine.

Continue reading

The Balboa Quality — PART ONE

It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” – Rocky Balboa

Rocky – (1976) screenplay by Sylvester Stallone

Energized by a recent online conversation (Commander Koski, 2022), I set out to answer the question, “What makes a good sacrificial ship?” I found a good brunch spot and filled a notebook with statistics, thoughts, and ship specifications around this topic – Yes, at that time in Earth’s history, people still used pencil and paper; this writing exercise was referred to as a scrambled brainstorm. Somewhere between the bacon and the coffee, I noted the factor which defined a good sacrificial option was, what I called, the Balboa Quality (BQ) – the ability to take a beating and deal significant damage. This article provided an overview of a system for determining the value of this type of ship. The BQ system proved capable of determining which ships were economically and militarily efficient in sacrifical situations.

Continue reading

Making the Grade: Strategic Mine Laying

Due to focusing on my studies, it has been months since my last article on Christmas Planets. I have a break between semesters, so I am taking time to write an article which might help players choose which race to embrace — if you are one of those who likes to focus on just one race. This piece examines the capabilities of the eleven Echo Cluster races to control the battlefield with minefields, i.e., strategic mine laying, and it assigns a letter grade to each race based on three skill categories: long term sustainability, countermining potential, and minefield specialisation.

Continue reading

It’s Like Christmas – Part II

In the first article of this two-part series, I introduced the concept of “Christmas planets” – those newly-scanned worlds which make you cry out, “Yus!” and unabashedly pump your fists. There’s lots of resources on a map, but these beautiful gifts bring joy to both new and experienced players. They supply every production facility within 2-3 turns and boost entire economies up to 2-3 clusters away. Most planets provide resources for 10-30 turns, but these anti-misers keep giving long into the end game. This article highlights several top-priority Christmas planets.

Continue reading

It’s Like Christmas – Part I

My childhood contained two Christmases I most remember. The first was spending winter in the snowy mountains of Newfoundland, Canada. — This has little relevance to the article, but it sets the mood rather well. — The second memory – and the more important glimmer of my past – was opening the best gift ever: a Nintendo Entertainment System. As I played Super Mario Bros. for the first time, I felt an odd sense of euphoria. The world filled with wonder and possibilities; and I knew I was special and super lucky to have this gift. Later in my life, this type of joy occurred three more times: finding a twenty dollar bill at an exhibition fair, winning the grand prize from a granola bar package, and receiving an orbital scan from a Planets starship above a world of indigenous Insectoids. These last moments appear as mundane but they felt like Christmas.

Continue reading

ACTION NEWS: Grand Marshall Championship

The Crisium Conflict (not to be confused with Crissum Contact)

Good evening to all folks at Planets Nu! This is Gary Garishen, bringing you an exclusive sneak peek at the Crisium Conflict. Be warned: The described images are quite intense and may cause indigestion.

My team and I accessed an inquisition room in the Grand Marshall’s office (aka Discord). We witnessed the interrogation of representatives from the Eleven races. These commanders endured Klingon agonizers, Imperial carbon freezers, Spanish donkeys, and a myriad of Privateer castration tools; in the end, we gleaned important inside information about the match.

Action News apologizes that several participants did not survive initial questioning and were unable to provide answers.

Continue reading

The Negotiator’s Parables

Lessons in Planets Diplomacy

Once upon a time in a sector two feet in front of my eyes, I tumbled down a wormhole and found a universe that was flat, the stars bright but still, and cows, worms, and iguanas lived on tiny white dots in the black. To my right, I saw a flock of birds caught in webs and a lizard eating a shoe. On my left there were many soldiers, some nearly human and others part machine. They were caught in an endless war of lies and blood. I averted my eyes.

It was then that I noticed the cricket on a rock near the path. He wore a dress shirt and a tie. As odd as it was, it was stranger still when he asked me to sit. He taught me about Space War and spoke of the Grand Queue. The wisdom of the cricket opened my mind and I decided to pass it on… to you.

Continue reading

610 Turns


War of the Zodiac: Last Gaffer Standing

BovTown Comics by Talespin

We here at the Mag rely on your feedback to measure how well we’re doing, and there’s very little to match that joyful feeling of getting a free coffee. As always, you can make a PayPal donation to support the Planets Magazine, or click the button below to Buy Us A Coffee — and don’t forget to leave your feedback!

Buy Me A Coffee

Best Foot Forward

Your First Move

A gender-neutral computer voice with hints of a high-class accent speaks through the intercom, "Commander, a medium freighter has been commissioned. Its captain is awaiting orders."

A creolized accent comes from the radio, "Hoy, come in. Dis be Capt'n Johnson o' ECS Twenty-Three Hundredths. The hold be empty. We gutegow. Waiting on you, Bossmang. The 200-Kiloton lady be hungry."
2021 release of the new MDSF image

On Turn 1, your empire controls a single Medium Deep Space Freighter and its first mission has rippling implications throughout the entire game. A well calculated move is required to set a strong pace so you’d better “put your best foot forward.” It equates to setting your feet in the blocks at the starting line of a hundred metre sprint. The one in the front is called your power foot and it generates a hundred percent of your forward momentum; your starting freighter is your Planets power foot and it determines the speed and direction of your economic develop.

Continue reading