Thursday, December 17, 2009

Leigh Brackett - David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer

Multi-page introduction to 'The Enchantress of Venus' in the The Space Opera Renaissance. Amazon's Search Inside will let you see it.

Search for Leigh Brackett, select page 92.

"There was another, less serious, more crowd-pleasing form of space travel fiction in science before space opera. If the latter emerged around 1928, with doc Smith's Skylark of Space and Hamilton's "Interstellar Patrol" stories as its best-known early exampes, then the former had already produced its paradigm text more than a decade and a half earlier Edgar Rice Burroughs's "Under the Moons of Mars," serialized in All-Story magazine in 1912 and later republished as A Princess of Mars. The form this tale exemplified is what has come to be known as the "planetary romance." I find this a tremendously useful label for another distinct subgenre of popular sf, one that contrasts with space opera in several ways, though it has some things in common. Many casual commentators have confused the two forms...
Moorcock says, in the same essay quoted earlier:
It's commonly known, because Ray has said so, that Ray Bradbury's Mars, like Ballard's Vermillion Sands, is not a million miles from Brackett's Mars. And before the whole world realised how good he was, Bradbury regularly appeared in the same pulps. Leigh would have credited Edgar Rice Burroughs for everything, but Burroughs lacked her poetic vision, her specific, characteristic talent, and in my view her finest Martian adventure stories remain superior to all others.

The central character of "Enchantress of Venus," Erik John Stark, is also the hero of many of Brackett's Martian stories, and of three novels written in the 1970s. Born on Mercury and raised by subhuman savages, he is a Tarzan figure who wanders the solar system and is here on the strange watery Venus of early SF. This story is one of the archetypes or models of space opera as it came to be understood by the 1970s, and as it has been understood since."

4.5 out of 5

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