I think I mentioned in the past how much I like Leigh Brackett’s stories.
I loved the Skaith books, and I actually read Bracket’s The Sword of Rhiannon well before I discovered Edgar Rice Burrough’s Marian novels.
You can find a few of Brackett’s stories for free download out there, and I’ll provide links at the end of this post, but the reason I’m writing this is because I’m putting together a 5000-words story I plan to submit to a magazine next month. It’s going to be a planetary romance sort of thing, and it will be set on Mars, and so last night I went to the shelf and took down Sea Kings of Mars1 for a quick recap.
To soak-up Bracket’s language, if you will, to see if I can learn her secrets (wishful thinking).
Brackett was good. She had a fine eye for detail, and a great narrative voice.
A friend of mine once observed that she had scripted The Big Sleep, the Bogart movie, so all of her characters felt like Bogart, even on Mars.
Indeed, she brought a noir sensibility to the sword & planet genre.
And that’s fine with me.
As I take a pause to write this post, my story (working title, The Dancer from Cydonia) is roughly outlined as a 10-scene short, I wrote the first 1000 words after lunch, and considering my current writing sprees, it will be ready by the weekend. Then I’ll let it rest for two weeks (maybe passing it on to my beta readers and tweaking it a bit) and finally send it along to the publisher.
I always loved the Bracket/Burroughs (etc) Martian setting, and I already used it in my Italian language collection Eroi dei Due Mondi – of which a reviewer said
“I had a hard time reaching the halfway point. Rambling and without an interesting story. One Star.”
I love reviews like this … but all the other reviews are 5 Stars, so I guess it’s OK.
But while the Mars of Planetary Romance is sort of a stock setting, a bit like the Spanish countryside was for Spaghetti Westerns, I’m trying to do something new with my story, a different take on the cliché.
I’m playing a bit fast and lose with science and history and what not, but basically I just found myself a good justification to make Earth-people and Martians biologically compatible. Because OK, ERB said Martians were oviparous, but I’d rather have Martians as mammals, possibly primates, maybe even Homo sp.
Thank goodness, those pseudo-science books I read as a teenager are full of easy ways to get genus Homo on Mars. Thank you, mister Kolosimo!
In general, it’s easier to tweak history that biology. Makes a lot of things simpler.
As usual, I’m thinking in terms of series, so who knows.
I’ll let you know how things develop.
Meanwhile, my strong suggestion is that you go out there, download and read these fine two fine stories.
1951 – Black Amazon of Mars
You will thank me later.
- in my opinion, one of the best single-author anthologies ever published. ↩