Here is my review of The Lost Empire of Sol anthology, which was a labor of many years and at least 2 incarnations. The initial discussion from Scott Oden regarding this project must have happened on Facebook as far back as early 2012. A facebook group for the concept/anthology was created on May 17, 2012—so, nine years ago today. A number of people were excited about the project, including me. I wrote a story a little later in 2012 for the book called “The Machineries of Mars.” I know that Tom Doolan also wrote a tale for it, because after the initial plans fell through and the stories were released back to us, both Tom and I self-published ours on Amazon. I’m not sure if other writers involved at that time completed their stories or not. If they’re reading this, they can let me know.
In 2015, the anthology stirred to life again. Since I’d self-published my original story, and the new concept was subtly different than the original, I wrote a fresh story in 2016 called “A Sandship of Mars.” Scott brought Fletcher Vredenburgh aboard as editor and cat herder for the authors, and soon most of the stories were actually completed, edited, and ready to go. Things languished for want of a publisher.
Only when Jason M. Waltz joined the group and suggested that he’d like to publish the anthology did things really start moving. However, Covid hit and various other real-world events intervened so that the work finally appeared only in April of 2021. That’s certainly the longest developmental period for any anthology I’ve ever been involved in.
The idea was for ten shared world stories, with a story for each planet (including Pluto), and for the supposed planet that used to exist where the asteroid belt is now. When I wrote “Sandship,” the background concept was that there had once been a planet-spanning human empire ruling within the solar system but that the empire had fallen. The planets were now largely isolated, although some high tech space travel remained in a few places. In other places, the planetary populations had fallen back into a kind of Sword and Planet level technology, meaning lots of sword-fighting and a little bit of advanced tech.
To make matters worse, an alien entity was invading the solar system to pick up the pieces of the old empire. My understanding was that the entity was moving slowly and employing a variety of means to try and “take over” the lost empire of Sol. I wrote a fairly small world, self-contained tale about Mars being invaded by parasites that could turn their victims essentially into zombies under their control. I was pretty happy with it.
The final book contained not only the ten stories, but an introduction, forward, prologue and epilog. Here’s the TOC (Thanks to Joe Bonadonna).
Foreword, by Fletcher Vredenburgh
Sword & Planet is the Genre We Need, by John O'Neill
Prologue, by Scott Oden
To Save Hermesia, by Joe Bonadonna & David C. Smith
The Lost Princess of Themos, by Tom Doolan
What Really Happened at the Center of the World, by Christopher M. Blanchard
A Sand-Ship of Mars, by Charles Allen Gramlich
Whispers of the Serpent, by Howard Andrew Jones
Outcasts of Jov, by Mark Finn
Written in Lightning, by Keith J. Taylor
Survivors of Ulthula, by E.E. Knight
Hunters of Ice and Sky, by David Hardy
A Gate In Darkness, by Paul R. McNamee
Epilogue, by Scott Oden
To Save Hermesia, by Joe Bonadonna & David C. Smith is set on Mercury and did a bang-up job evoking the feel—for me at least—of the early Eric John Stark stories by Leigh Brackett. Stark was born on Mercury.
The Lost Princess of Themos, by Tom Doolan is set on Venus. Although not described in detail, the world brings to mind ERB’s jungle Venus. And the lost princess, Tamarra, follows in a long line of Sword and Planet Princesses, although much younger and less experienced than ERB’s Dejah Thoris. She finds her own hidden strengths, of course.
What Really Happened at the Center of the World, by Christopher M. Blanchard is a Pellucidar inspired piece with a little Journey to the Center of the Earth vibe.
A Sand-Ship of Mars, by Charles Allen Gramlich is my entry. It’s a little bit of a Dune meets the Ice Schooner meets The Puppet Masters. I really enjoyed creating the setting for this and might some day revisit it.
Whispers of the Serpent, by Howard Andrew Jones takes place on the planet that became our modern solar system’s asteroid belt. This is the first of the tales to have more of a Space Opera feel than Sword and Planet. Given the concept of the collection, you’d expect there to be all kinds of tech levels existing in the solar system so it makes sense.
Outcasts of Jov, by Mark Finn is set on Jupiter. Another Space Operish tale. It was good to see the Great Red Spot play a role!
Written in Lightning, by Keith J. Taylor is our Saturn tale. Very much a Sword and Planet work, although our heroes come from Venus rather than Earth.
Survivors of Ulthula, by E.E. Knight brings us to Uranus, or Ulthula in this story. This one also has a Space Opera feel, maybe a kind of E. E. Doc Smith and Edmond Hamilton meets Event Horizon.
Hunters of Ice and Sky, by David Hardy brings us to Neptune. The sky cities of Star Wars and Star Trek become low tech and are melded with the tale of Moby Dick! Great setting for many adventures.
A Gate In Darkness, by Paul R. McNamee is set on lonely, lost Pluto. The airships of Barsoom and Kregen meet slow decay as portions of the planet are lost to darkness and war.
So there you have it, ten imaginative tales that remember the shared history of Sword and Planet and Space Opera but take things in new directions and work in surprising connections from other realms of literature. I highly recommend it, and not just because I have a story contained within.