Paizo’s Planet Stories Plunges into Pure Pulp!
You’d need to have a very long memory to remember the heyday of the original Planet Stories magazine, since it closed down in 1955. It was a pulp magazine – in both senses of the word “pulp.” But the name has lingered ever since, whispered at last call at convention bars to describe a certain kind of Science Fiction story – one where the science isn’t too complicated, and never gets in the way of the plot. One where the women are gorgeous and scantily clad, where the men are strongly-thewed (and often also scantily clad), and where the villains are black-hearted scoundrels out to rule their worlds. One where the blasters are hot, the ships have fins, and countless alien worlds are just waiting for the right blonde-haired American boy to become their new warlord. You know: the fun stuff.
Paizo Publishing, a rogue satellite that careened out of the Wizards of the Coast orbit some years back, has come up with a diabolical scheme to bring back the Planet Stories name. But this time it won’t be a magazine – Paizo is launching a new book line starting in August. Many of the novels in the new Planet Stories imprint will be drawn from the era of the original Planet Stories, and all will follow the original’s ethos of “Strange Adventures on Other Worlds.”
The new Planet Stories begins with Gary Gygax’s 1992 novel The Anubis Murders, a game-flavored alternate-world story about a sorcerous detective that makes up in extra pulp what it lacks in age. Also in August is a collection of tales about one of Robert E. Howard’s lesser-known barbarian sword-swingers, Almuric. Then in September comes Michael Moorcock’s City of the Beast, the first in a swashbuckling Edgar Rice Burroughs pastiche trilogy from the mid-1960s. In October comes the first bona fide classic of the list, C.L. Moore’s eerie masterpiece Black God’s Kiss, collecting all of the “Jirel of Joiry” stories, including one rare tale in which the warrior-woman Jirel meets Moore’s other famous creation, the science fictional adventurer Northwest Smith.
Planet Stories will continue with one book a month, bringing more from Gygax (The Samarkand Solution, another mystical mystery), Moorcock (Lord of the Spiders, second in that trilogy), and Moore (The Complete Northwest Smith), as well as Elak of Atlantis by Moore’s husband and regular collaborator Henry Kuttner, and The Secret of Sinharat by Leigh Brackett, the writer whose name was synonymous with the original Planet Stories.
In keeping with the classic Planet Stories – about which the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction sniffed, “its covers were garish in the extreme” – Paizo’s new trade paperbacks will also have atmospheric, colorful genre paintings that leave no doubt about what kind of books they are.
It’s been a while since anyone published a line of SF and Fantasy “classics” simply because they were great adventures and fun to read; I wish Paizo all luck with Planet Stories, and I hope it thrives for years to come. This world needs all the pulp it can get!