East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

I’m writing a planetary romance (so there!)


brackettI 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.bracket_amazon

Meanwhile, my strong suggestion is that you go out there, download and read these fine two fine stories.

1949 – Queen of the Martian Catacombs

1951 – Black Amazon of Mars

You will thank me later.

  1. in my opinion, one of the best single-author anthologies ever published. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

9 thoughts on “I’m writing a planetary romance (so there!)

  1. Damn, now I’m going to have to go into the attic and break out my collection of aging, and no doubt moldering, ACE double novels with the Leigh Bracket stories. I haven’t thought about Eric John Stark for a couple of decades now. LOL!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You go to the attic, I go to the understairs where my boxes of old paperbacks are stacked.
      No Ace doubles, but I have the old run of DelRey Skaith books in there… and the SF Book Club hardbac k is upstairs by my bed 😀


  2. Going into my attic requires emptying out half closet, setting up a 6 ft ladder, and squeezing between two joist beams that have about 14″ clear spaces between them and then boosting my way up into the attic. add in that I was born in the 1950’s ( I refuse to be more specific than that) and we’re talking a lot of work!

    Count your blessings that your storage is under the stairs LOL!!


  3. Absolutely loved Sea Kings of Mars. My first taste of Brackett’s writing however was The Coming of the Terrans, and unfortunately some of the stories I liked best from that anthology didn’t make it to Sea Kings. — Dariel


    • True, there’s some great stories missing.
      I think Heffner books did some fine hardback collections of Brackett’s works that are a lot more complete, but alas, my house is mortgaged already, and I can’t afford them 😀


  4. “But to access the paperback boxes I have to move a cast iron stove”

    Ok, I’ll give you extra points for that! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I found my Skaith novels! They’re the Ballantine editions with the Jim Steranko artwork on the covers. Good Stuff!


    • I have the Ballantine/DelRey here in my boxes, and the (very second-hand) SF Book Club hardback on my shelf. I guess the paperbacks are the same you mention (I remember one having a Boris cover, tho’).


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