The Nature of the Genre

Okay, so desperation held me snug in its fevered grip for yesterdayʼs post. I hadnʼt anything else, so you all got to discover what I have been writing this past week since November 1.

The “novel” is a planetary romance, a term that was new to me when I encountered it about a decade back, but which describes adventure stories set on science-fantasy planets in the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughsʼs Barsoom books. (The link is probably worth a click and read, because the Wikipedians are sure to explain the whole issue much more clearly and less ambiguously than I.) There have been a lot of these kinds of stories, imitators and enthusiasts for the Burroughsian adventures using the notion of an Earthperson (invariably male, however) somehow transported to another world where he rises quickly to the top as the most heroic, stoic, enduring person on the planet. Oh, yes, generally (which indicates invariably) there is a beautiful princess with whom he falls in love and eventually (after one or more volumes in the series) marries to assume the leadership of the new world.

Burroughs experimented with psychic/astral projection (the method John Carter, the great original in this kind of hero, used unintentionally to become transported from a death cave in Arizona to Mars), as well spacecraft (Venus), mining submarines (Pellucidar), and any other method the author had time to utilize. Michael Moorcock (writing as “Edward P. Bradbury,” which was nearly the name I chose for my hero in Slaves to the Lesser Moon as a nodding allusion) made use of matter transmission (which, to tell the truth, well before Star Trek, was always my preferred imaginary means of transportation/travel; I think John Brunner, who wrote some excellent planetary romances of his own, in a slightly different variety, introduced me to the notion) gone awry, as did (without the awry) Robert E. Howard in his one and only venture into the genre. Alien spacecraft have abducted more than just Tarl Cabot of Gor (in John Normanʼs series that started fairly well, although I am not impressed today on my attmepting a reread as background/research/stuff-to-avoid, and degenerated fast, well, after about five years or so, into repetitive softcore interplanetary porn of the S/M variety — Lange [“Norman” is a pen name, alluding to Burroughsʼs own “Normal/Norman Bean” for his first book] seemed to enjoy somewhat too much humiliating proud earthly feminists [this was the early Seventies] into willing and endlessly submissive Gorean slavegirls — at which I gave up after about ten, of now nearly thirty, volumes, so maybe itʼs gotten better these days; he is still writing them). The great emulator (although not a hideously bad writer), Lin Carter, used both astral projection, in his case adopting the theosophical nonsense directly and in detail for the Green Star books, and more mechanical means (Jandar of Callisto, who fell down a mystical well in Cambodia). And there are many more (for instance, Mike Resnick, in those days precociously “Michael,” and his Ganymede books, whose transportation-to-other-planet technique I have forgotten — and not rereread).

An Evil Reptilian Alien Come to Earth to Subvert All That Is Good and (actually, rather than merely assertively through constant and tendentious repetition of malevolent falsehoods) Decent — or, in words he might vaguely understand, A Lying Lizard Monster

For my story, I am using a newly developed time machine, arising from novel equations to solve unexpected results from the CERN accelerator, partly built from stolen parts deriving via intermediates from Fermilab in Illinios, that creates out of the time-transported item a “gap” in the Einsteinian fabric of spacetime. All carefully invented and manipulating pseudoscientific jargon to create a proper sense of verisimilitude, and all just the excuse to get my hero out of Pashitakua,Wisconsin, and magically onto another planet (still Tsyriel — I am accepting any improvements). The earthly beginning to such stories is just frame stuff, and the writer needs to leave it behind as quickly as possible, in my own case in less than 10,000 words (because as I hit that number on Friday evening, Hunter, my hero, was already arrived).

The faraway planet is always barbarously magnificent and gorgeous, all stemming again from Burroughsʼs rather florid and overly vivid (Percival) Lowellian vision of a dying civilization amidst canals and dead sea bottoms (and I must assume ochre “greensward,” as I remain convinced that A Princess of Mars was my introduction to that word). The local folks, in order to permit a love story to develop, as it always does in every single planetary romance I have read or heard of, are amazingly human (even if, like on Barsoom, even the mammalians lay eggs, even after fertilization from an earthman/human — and I did intend all those repeated “evens”). I hope you understand why I say “amazingly” human. Sometimes, to make things a tad more logical, the humanoids are the ancestors or cousin races to our earthly species (thatʼs one neat route around actual evolution), or as on Gor, all earthly humans kidnapped by flying saucers to the Counter-Earth. One way or another, there must be astonishingly lovely, utterly beautiful Princesses in Distress to Save! Culture on this otherworld is both scientifically more advanced (Burroughsʼs Martians have flying battleships, radium rifles that shoot hundreds of miles, terraforming, and immortality…) and simultaneously much more like the middle ages or what Howard directed into “heroic fantasy,” the genre to which my Søren and Judah tales belong ( — but the Barsoomians solve all their disagreements with long and short swords in personal combat and prefer riding their six-legged thoats to the airships).

As I said to introduce my bit of the story for yesterday, “I went a different route…” I intend (right now) not to have any mammals on my Tsyriel, but I also plan to include the traditional love-story element. (Got ya guessing? No, even as an Iowan thoroughly angered/outraged/activated at the power of Steve (“Iʼm a Screaming Jerk”) Thinks-Heʼs-a King and hundreds of thousands of dollars of out-of-state money and influence groups to pseudopunish our state supreme court justices by dumping three of them in the last election, I donʼt plan a homoerotic relationship in my novel, although that might be an available and lucrative market for writers less scrupulous than I.) I intend birdpeople (probably as baddies) and reptilian humanoids (probably as the main species) among other strange and wonderful (they always have to be) aliens.

The one big name in the planetary romance genre, and in whose favor I feel that term was coined, is Jack Vance, about whom more to come… Someday. Right now I have up to five thousand words (or more) of my novel to write.

Oh, yeah. Steve King of the Vermin really is the evil, nasty crap that wonʼt wipe off your shoe after you have walked in a park after dark, no matter how much you scrape and wipe. Talk about fantastically, hypothetically needing Second Amendment solutions to obviously bad government… (and the King of Vile is so willingly devoted to misreading/ignoring the first clause of that Amendment!)

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

2 thoughts on “The Nature of the Genre

  1. Iowa didn’t have enough out of state money as Braley got re-elected…… I feel the same about him as you do the Hon. Steve King!

    • Did you bother to click the links and listen to the King of Dung?

      King (-sized ego of utter turpitude) spreads lies and falsehoods on the floor of the House, broadcast vindictively on CSPAN, repeatedly, without remorse, an unconscionable heap of subhuman jerkiness — none of which can be attributed to your own representative, sir, a simply hardworking and intelligent person.

      The King represents all that is wicked, deceiving, and worthless about ultraRightism, particularly his selfRighteous deception (of self and community at large) with all the bunkum, tommyrot and piffle that he so immorally spews.

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