Wednesday, July 28, 2010


By Robert E. Howard

There is a certain sub-genre of science fiction that is sometimes called “sword & planet”. It has its roots in A Princess of Mars and other tales of John Carter on Barsoom by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The hallmarks are an alien world filled with decadent science, barbaric warriors and an outsider from earth who shakes up the scene.

Robert E. Howard of Conan fame made his own foray into the field with Almuric, perhaps his most extended science fiction work. In fact Almuric is one of REH’s few novels (it was serialized in Weird Tales but never issued as a novel until the ‘70s). The hero is Esau Cairn, a man too strong for civilized life. When fate puts him outside the law a kindly scientist helps Cairn out with a dimensional transporter that shoots him to Almuric, a planet remote from earth. The inhabitants are shaggy ape-men and gorgeous barbarian princesses. On Almuric, a fellow is judged by his courage and strength, not his bank account so Esau Ironhand fits right in.

Alas, there is always a hitch. The demonic Yagas, a race of winged fiends, tyrannize over Almuric. When they massacre Cairn’s friends, it means war. 

While not as well developed as the Hyborian Age, Almuric is an entertaining imaginary world. I enjoyed the naïve and romantic story telling of A Princess of Mars. In Almuric we get REH’s take on that style of story telling: bold, direct, and swashbuckling.

-Dave Hardy


Charles Gramlich said...

Yes, I love some S & P. That's where the Talera books fall, of course. Almuric is a nice change of pace from much S & P.

Dave Hardy said...

I'd have to rate Leigh Brackett as my absolute favorite S&P writer, with Sword of Rhiannon her best. Almuric comes pretty high.

Have you read Paragaea, by Chris Roberson?

Paul R. McNamee said...

More than a few of us are hoping for an s-&-p revival with Disney's John Carter movie coming.

I've been finding alot of ebooks of s-&-p available now (for the Kindle, at least.) Charles clued me in on Dray Prescott. I've also found Kline's Venus trilogy, the first two of Lin Carter's Callisto series, and even the Gor titles.

I haven't bought them all, but they're out there and accessible now.

Of course, outside of the e-realm, Paizo's Plant Stories continue, and it looks like they are getting back to their roots. The next announced title is some Robert Silverberg s-&-p tales collected in one volume.

Charles Gramlich said...

Never even heard of paragaea. I'll check it out. I like Sword of Rhiannon a lot. I like the Skaith books pretty well too.

Dave Hardy said...

I recently got Moorcock's "Kane of Old Mars" series as well as the Sojan stories (in Elric at the End of Time). Those are quite good ERB-style Sword & Planet. Paizo has reprinted 'em all I think.

I read Carter's "Under the Green Star", it was an odd mix of fairy-story & Sword & Planet. It didn't really work for me, but I could see some inspirational material for a writer with a grasp of how to blend genres.