“Planet Stories” ::finger quotes::

Why do I dislike Paizo’s Planet Stories imprint and recommend against people buying from them when the opportunity presents itself? Well, besides the fact that I hate Paizo and dislike several of the folks who work for them, their “Planet Stories” brand is a bit of a misnomer.

From what I’ve pieced together, Paizo found out that no one had owned the Planet Stories name and trademark for decades. The original Planet Stories folded back in the 1955 along with Love Romances and its parent company, Fiction House. The name had probably been free and unprotected for ages.

It would be like if I decided to swoop in and register the trademark for Thrilling Wonder Stories or some other dead pulp magazine.  Paizo found Planet Stories’ corpse by the roadside and decided to wear its skin while publishing stuff that, ironically enough, wasn’t really Planet Stories. Paizo’s Planet Stories line is decidedly more Sword & Sorcery and Weird Fiction focused than the actual Planet Stories ever was, but I decided to take a closer look at just how little Paizo’s now-discontinued line had to do with its namesake.

  1. Anubis Murders – Gary Gygax – post pulp
  2. City of the Beast – Moorcock – post pulp
  3. Black God’s Kiss – CL Moore – Weird Tales
  4. Elak of Atlantis – Henry Kuttner – Weird Tales/Strange Stories
  5. Secret of Sinharat – Leigh Brackett – Planet Stories
  6. Northwest of Earth – CL Moore – Weird Tales/Leaves/Fantastic Universe/Fantasy Magazine
  7. Lord of the Spiders – Michael Moorcock – post pulp
  8. Samarkand Solution – Gary Gygax – post pulp
  9. Almuric – RE Howard – Weird Tales
  10. The Ginger Star – Leigh Brackett – post pulp
  11. Masters of the pit – Michael Moorcock – post pulp
  12. The Swordsman of Mars – Otis Adelbert Kline – Argosy
  13. Infernal Sorceress – Gary Gygax – post pulp
  14. Worlds of Their Own – Various modern – post pulp
  15. The Hounds of Skaith – Leigh Brackett – Post Pulp
  16. The Dark World – Henry Kuttner – Startling Stories
  17. Death in Delhi – Gary Gygax – Post Pulp
  18. Reavers of Skaith – Leigh Brackett – Post Pulp
  19. Robots Have No Tails – Henry Kuttner – Astounding
  20. The Outlaws of Mars – Otis Adelbert Kline – Argosy
  21. The Sword of Rhiannon – Leigh Brackett – Thrilling Wonder Stories
  22. The Ship of Ishtar – A. Merritt – Argosy
  23. Steppe – Piers Anthony – Post Pulp
  24. The Complete Silver John – Manly Wade Wellman – MoF&SF (Post Pulp/non-pulp)
  25. Sos the Rope – Piers Anthony – Post Pulp
  26. The Walrus & The Warwulf – Hugh Cook – Post Pulp
  27. Template – Matthew Hughes – Post Pulp
  28. Before they Were Giants – Various Authors – All Post Pulp
  29. Sojan the Swordsman/Under the Warrior Star – Michael Moorcock – Post Pulp
  30. Battle in the Dawn: the complete Hok the Mighty – Manly Wade Wellman – Amazing Stories
  31. The Planet Killers – Robert Silverberg – Post Pulp
  32. Hunt the Space Witch – Robert Silverberg – Post Pulp
  33. The Chalice of Death – Robert Silverberg – Post Pulp

So, we have 21 books that are either post-pulp novels or collections of stories that were not published in the pulps, 4 books that are wholly or primarily from Weird Tales, 3 works from Argosy, and one each of Amazing Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Startling Stories, and, yes, Planet Stories.

Brackett is the one (perhaps the only) name on here who is solidly associated with the original imprint, though many of her classics were also in Startling and Thrilling (she was probably the best Thrilling ever had). Kline wrote stories you might have seen in Planet Stories, but due to the time frame he was writing in, he was primarily a writer for Argosy and Amazing.

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12 responses to ““Planet Stories” ::finger quotes::

  1. So basically they took the name so they could (re)publish stories which are more Appendix N-related. Not a bad business move–I bought CL Moore’s “Black God’s Kiss” from them. But I can now see your frustration.

    And most of their readership wouldn’t know otherwise.

    • Kind of. I don’t actually know why they used the Planet Stories name other than that it was available and it had been the name of one of the more influential pulps. It might have just been that it was the only top-tier pulp that hadn’t been resurrected by someone else (Amazing Stories and Weird Tales are both known for their shambling zombie reincarnations over the years).

      But it would be kind of like if DC and Batman folded tomorrow and then in 50 years someone noticed no one owned the name “Detective Comics” anymore, decided to trade mark it, and then used it to sell comics about Pirates.

    • Really, I would be fine with it if they had come up with some new name and not trademarked Planet Stories.

      I have a lot of mixed feels about the public domain pulp stuff. I’d like to see more of it get back into print and become more widely available, but I also dislike the mercenary approach of a lot of publishers to get up low-quality versions for easy money. To me, what Paizo did was worse because they took something built by people a long time ago and said “This is ours, now. No one else can have this thing.”

  2. I never really associated the imprint with the old magazine. I recognized the nominal connection, but I read Paizo’s “Planet Stories” as a reference to the “Sword and Planet” Genre – the genre I consider to be the dominant sci-fi pulp genre (until the Campbellian wave). Paizo’s imprint definitely goes beyond the genre, but a goodly portion of it’s titles appear to fit there or in the similar Sword and Sorcery genre.

    This is especially apparent if you look at it’s list of original books – Howard’s Almuric, Moore’s Northwest Smith, Moorcock’s Blades of Mars and Barbarians of Mars.

    Though this, arguably, just waters down what were properly “Planet Stories” stories –
    putting the magazine down the memory hole in order to use it’s title. So it’s still not a defense.

    • The thing is, Planet Stories didn’t even have all that much Sword & Planet and virtually no Sword & Sorcery. PS mostly features Raygun Romance, Space Detective stories, Military Sci-fi, and Blue-Collar space adventure. Cowboy Bebop type stuff.

  3. If somebody does try to revive the name of a dead pulp magazine, they should at least publish stories of the same genre and style as the original, even if they are newer works.

    For instance, I’d give the new Planet Stories an OK for including Brackett’s Skaith and Moorcock’s Mars books, since the first is a revival of a pulp-era character and the second is a deliberate homage to Burroughs / Kline -style sword & planet.

    The rest of them on the list? Where are the cigar-chewing spacemen hunting for treasure or chasing space-criminals or getting involved in alien revolts against Terran hegemony? THOSE are the sorts of tales that Planet Stories was really known for.

    • Exactly. Even Brackett’s stuff is kind of on the fringe of what Planet Stories usually published. There are very few sword & planet stories actually in PS, but a lot of Jet-centric-episode-Cowboy-Bebop-style space thrillers. Stark is the closest PS has ever gotten to Sword & Sorcery in the issues I’ve read.

  4. Anything can be a planet story if you think about it. Is it a story? Is there a planet in the story? Boom. Planet Story. I encourage Paizo to start a book review which uses only those two criteria.

    Moby Dick- It is a story. It takes place on a planet.
    1984- Both a story and a planet were present.
    The Time Machine- The story features one planet in many time periods.
    Star Wars: Aftermath- One story. Many planets.
    The Lord of the Rings- Many stories. One planet.
    Goodnight Moon- Story without a planet as the focus. Two thumbs down.

    • Yeah, except they took the name of an existing but defunct publication known for a particular kind of story and slapped a trademark on it using it to publish something completely different. Like I said, it is like if 50 years after DC went out of business someone noticed that the trademark on Detective Comics had expired so they registered it to publish stories about pirates.

      • Totally agree. It saddens me to think that there are vulture capitalists out there combing through expired trademarks looking for big names to buy for a song. For some people it’s all about the money.

      • Yeah. It’s why I’m really conflicted about some of the projects I want to do. I want to at least try to add substantial value to what I try to put out, such as illustrations or if there has just literally never been a collected edition of an obscure writer’s work, if I’m going to be making any money off something that was in the public domain. And I don’t think that a company trying to seriously put out those older works, some of which may be in the public domain are the problem; I reserve my ire for folks who will use straight up Gutenberg text file, typos and all, to put out ebooks with generic covers for a quick buck. I have actually seen a Ross Rocklynne raygun story with one of those ‘path-through-dead-woods’ stock photo eBook covers. x_x

  5. Better to scoop them up for a legitimate attempt than leave them to a true vulture. You’ve seen there are worse animals out there than you. Act. They certainly would in your place. And that means eventually they will.

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