Tuesday, January 03, 2012

New School Year, a Review, and a Giveaway

My son, Josh, is coming up today so I won't be around the net much. And tomorrow I start back to school so I'm going to be less regular (in blogging that is) than I've been over the Christmas break. In the meantime, I leave you with a review.

With his John Carter of Mars series, Edgar Rice Burroughs ignited a publishing juggernaut that lasted well into the 1980s and drew in writers such as Robert E. Howard, Leigh Brackett, Gardner F. Fox, Lin Carter, Alan Burt Akers (Ken Bulmer), and many others. The John Carter stories formed the prototype of a genre that came to be called Sword and Planet fiction. By the late 1980s, however, the genre had declined to the point that it was no longer being published by the major presses and only the small presses kept it alive. Now, Jeff Doten has created one of the first new pure Sword and Planet anthologies to appear in many years, and he himself did the lavish interior illustrations for the work. Here are my thoughts and notes on the collection.

Strange Worlds, “Collected and Illustrated by Jeff Doten.”
Space Puppet Press, 2011

Soft cover, fully illustrated, 189 pages.

Contains an introduction, eight illustrated stories, and a full color comic book, as well as an expansive list of suggested reading in the genre of Sword & Planet fiction. Each story is introduced with a full color cover set up to look like the fantastic paperback covers of the 1970s and 80s.

Cover: by Jeff Doten. A John Carter type character is caught in a contemplative mood.

Introduction, by Jeff Doten. A very short commentary on the nature of Sword & Planet fiction.

1st story: “God’s Dream,” by Charles A. Gramlich. As a boy, Zarn’s father is murdered by desert nomads and Zarn himself is taken captive. He grows to adulthood and earns the right to wear the title nomad for himself, but he can never be fully a nomad, and the mystery of his father’s death draws him into the badlands and toward a destiny he has never suspected.

2nd story: “When the World Changed,” by Ken St. Andre. Is it death that awaits anyone who opens the Pits of Vrando’harr? Or something much worse?

3rd story: “Metal Rat & the Brand New Jungle,” by Jennifer Rahn. Ivor and Tyla fight the Zernesq, and no matter how strange the world around them becomes they find a way to fight on. This one definitely had one of the strangest and most unpredictable endings I’ve seen in fantasy.

4th story: “Pearls of Uraton,” by Paul R. McNamee. Drak of Dithor knows how to get things done on Uraton. That’s why two Terrans come to him with a dangerous and illegal request. Great hook at the beginning and action all through this one.

5th story: “The Final Gift,” by Liz Coley. It is time for Tarn to seek his spirit guide, and kill it with the last new blade of his people. But what if the beast he meets is more than a beast?

6th story: “The Beasts of the Abyss,” by Lisa V. Tomecek. “Miranda Station. Edge of the empire. No man’s land. A place of little opportunity and even less mercy. For Caliban, it was perfect.” Lisa Tomecek was channeling her inner Leigh Brackett when she wrote this one. The atmosphere and action are very good.

7th story: “The Specimen,” by Adrian Kleinbergen. You open a small doorway into a parallel universe and you get a small sample of the weirdness to be found there. What happens when you open a “big” doorway?

8th story: “Slavers of Trakor,” by Charles R. Rutledge. Connor Blake had what John Carter had, what Dray Prescot had, but then his princess was killed, her flyer shot down by the insect-like Chithlain’s. And now Connor has only emptiness. Until a young man tries to waylay him and instead ends up offering Connor redemption.

Comic book: “Martian Abductations,” by Jeff Doten. A grocery run on old Mars is not for the faint of heart.

Suggested Reading: A pretty comprehensive list of the best known Sword and Planet fiction available. Authors and titles listed.

Now for the giveaway. I have a copy of this book that I'm going to give away to one of the commenters on this blog. I'm going to leave this post up for a few days so if you want to be entered in the drawing for the book just leave a comment. After I have the drawing, I'll post the winner here and indicate how to get in touch with me to claim your prize.

If you can't wait and simply must have your copy shipped now, you can order these: HERE.



Tom Doolan said...

This one is definitely on my "want list" and I hope he does more of them (maybe I can get myself in on the next one). Looking forward to reading all of this S&P goodness!

nephite blood spartan heart said...

This sounds excellent, there isn't nearly enough Sword & Planet stuff out there.

Chris said...

I WILL have this book, it's just a matter of when. So if I win it, it will be sooner than later, heh.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm an eBook guy, so won't enter to win the physical copy, but it sounds good. I just purchased some of the John Carter books on my iPad and hope to read them soon.

Paul R. McNamee said...

As one of the writers, I won't go for the contest.

However, I will back up Charles' review!

I finally managed to read all the tales myself before the end of the year and really enjoyed them. I think we're in good company.

Deka Black said...

This year i want to read more Leigh Brackett. A very easy resolution to acomplish.

Hopethis anthology helps others to knowmore sword & Planet.

jodi said...

Charles, enjoy your break with your son. See you when you get back!

Erik Donald France said...

Sounds cool to me ~~ stayin' alive, the genre continues ~~

Adventuresfantastic said...

I have a copy (which I positively reviewed last year), so Charles please don't consider my reply for the giveaway. I would encourage everyone who likes sword and planet to get a copy. If you don't win, purchase a copy at your earliest convenience. I'd like to see more of this type of work, and if book sells well, that will increase the chances of there being another one.

Charles Gramlich said...

Tom, pretty good stuff for sure.

David J., I agree, man. You know I do.

Chris, rock on!

Alex, you're in for a treat with the J. Carter. The first three are the best.

Paul, it was a fun collection. That's for sure.

Deka, I saw some Leigh Brackett ebooks for free on Amazon. Some of her good stuff.

Jodi, thankee. WE had a great hibachi and sushi lunch.

Erik, the pulse is slow but it's there.

Keith, I agree. I hope to see more of this kind of thing.

Ron Scheer said...

Pick my comment and make a fan of me. Thanks, Charles. You're always a winner in my book.

G. B. Miller said...

Sounds interesting. Always on the prowl to sample at least one book in genres that I haven't read before.

Charles Gramlich said...

Ron, thanks, man.

G., I like doing that as well.

Cloudia said...

You could teach a course (or write a scholarly book) about the whole SF/Fantasy field!

Aloha from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral

> < } } ( ° >

Cloudia said...

Like, when did SteamPunk emerge?
From where? See, there's a post!

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I plan to read a fair bit of sf/fantasy this year. It's a genre I've been guilty of neglecting over the years. I hadn't heard of Sword and Planet fiction until I read about it here as well as in your previous posts.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, I think Steampunk builds off the original work of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne. It would be an intersting topic.

Prashant, it's also called interplanetary romance, but I much prefer the S & P label.

ivan said...

...Out of my medium, but what a fascinating plot:

"...God’s Dream,” by Charles A. Gramlich. As a boy, Zarn’s father is murdered by desert nomads and Zarn himself is taken captive. He grows to adulthood and earns the right to wear the title nomad for himself, but he can never be fully a nomad, and the mystery of his father’s death draws him into the badlands and toward a destiny he has never suspected."

Interesting. My eclectic reading has unearthed the long-lasting Mamluk
slave warrior class in India that lasted for about a thousand years!

Oscar Case said...

Not interested, but thanks for the review.

laughingwolf said...

grats on your tale being included in the book, charles

book sounds like a pleasant way to wile away the hours with...

paul, way to go, you're in good company!

BernardL said...

ERB captured me body and soul at a very young age with first the Tarzan series, and then the Mars series. The heroism, romance, bigger than life characters, and mind blowing sci/fi-horror like heads running around changing bodies... only now it's only horror to me, because they have the sci/fi part almost a reality. :) Yep, nearly every allowance went into comic books or the next ERB novel release (They weren't dummies back then. They'd release them in order... just not fast enough for me). :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Ivan, that is the weird way my mind works, and I'm pretty used to it by now.

Oscar, definitely a genre that's not for everyone. Me, I love it.

Laughingwolf, Paul had a strong story in the book for sure.

Bernardl, I originally got most all of the ERB stuff through the local library. Out town had no bookstore. I own them all now, thoough.

Randy Johnson said...

Throw my hat in the ring. This looks right up my alley.

Charles Gramlich said...

Randy, I bet it is!

sage said...

Enjoy the time with your son and may you not be too overworked as school resumes!

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


You are spot on with the John Carter Burroughs Mars series. Every year when I go to the woods I bring another volume and so am slowly re-reading them over time. Seminal work.

Did you know there is going to be a John Carter movie in the theater this spring?



PS Congrats on publication!

Anonymous said...

Great review. I think I'll get this one.

Anonymous said...

Great review. I'll get this one.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sage, my prayer as well.

Don, I do know about the John Carter movie and the stuff I've seen so far looks pretty good. I have high hopes.

Richard, mayhaps you will win! We'll soon know.

Steve Malley said...

Cool! Love that cover, too!:)

Rick said...

Every time I read your blog I go out and buy a new book! thanks for the tip on this one.

Charles Gramlich said...

Steve Malley, yeah, the artist did a great job throughout.

Rick, you might win it!

Morgan Holmes said...

Sword & Planet/Interplanetary romance is a genre now 100 years old depending on if you consider Gulliver on Mars or A Princess of Mars to be the first novel. It is as American as apple pie.
A genre often sneered and belittled by self-proclaimed "literati" often within the fantastic fiction world.
Good to see this collection of new material, some by people I know. Despite there being an absence of "big names," I view this as a plus. Having a book full of new or relatively unknown authors often translates into sincerity and energy.

Charles Gramlich said...

Morgan, indeed so, and definitely energy here, and some different takes on the S & P concept. Thanks for weighing in.

Tyhitia Green said...

Cool, a giveaway. I like the premise of your story, Charles.

Anonymous said...

Charles, since you've extended the deadline I figured I should join in and leave a comment. It's nice to see a book like this being published now, especially since it contains a story by you.

Unknown said...

Sounds like a great read. I hope it does well.

Mary Witzl said...

Put me into the drawing too!

Also, Happy New Year -- and enjoy your break with your son.

Charles Gramlich said...

Tyhitia, Glad you entered.

Jack, I'm gonna let it run through this week, I think.

Carole, thankee.

Mary, will do!

Bruce Durham said...

This review only further whetted my appetite for the collection. We definitely need more S&P.

Cynthia Ward said...

It's great to see a new Sword & Planet anthology after all these years.

Charles Gramlich said...

Bruce, Cynthia, thanks for dropping by. I am still running this contest and will do the drawing soon.