Retro Fandom Friday – Enchantress of Venus Edition

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

This is it, the final Retro Fandom Friday for some time! People were abuzz in the Vizigraph about the Fall issue of Planet Stories, which featured Enchantress of Venus as its cover story. I totally did not plan for this to fall on the day that our Illustrated 70th Anniversary Edition of Enchantress of Venus comes out, but hey, it is a happy coincidence!

First letter we’ll look at comes from W. Paul Ganley:

What is Planet coming to? How dare your cover illustrate a story! All the science-fiction tradition, gone–Destroyed by a mere flick of the paint brush–lost forever. Oh, well, I suppose an artist had to hit upon a picture that would follow a story just by the laws of chance–even though they don’t read the story. (They don’t, do they?)

 

Enchantress of Venus automatically slips into first place, by three laps head of Action on Azura. It also automatically places Leigh Brackett fourth upon my list of authors–no, wait a minute, I’ll make that third. Will Jenkins(…)has slipped.

 

I agree with Rodney Palmer: Brackett’s work is undeniably like that of Burroughs’. Not, I believe, in style, but in the mood she creates. (Burroughs, by the way, is my favorite writer.) Oddly, her style is akin to that of Bradbury (my second favorite author); I say oddly, because I see no similarity in the styles of Bradbury and Burroughs.

 

I guess her character, Stark is here to stay. Now, I have a question I’d like you to answer when (?) you print this. Did Miss (?) (Married.–Ed.) Brackett write any stories about Stark before she left science-fiction-writing ‘way back when I wasn’t reading (anything, probably)? (See Ed Cox’s letter, below.–Ed.) If so what are teh titles, and in what issues did they appear (I want to get them, if any)? If she didn’t, here is a request–two requests. First, have her continue the series, as she can have him as a hero on any planet she chooses, without detracting from the story value–in fact, it would enhance the story. Second, if N’Chaka is a new character, how about a story (book-length novel, huh?) about his early childhood. I doubt whether the fen will accuse her of pirating Burroughs’ work. I’d like to read about the adventures of Stark in his youth in Mercury, and about the incidents of which she has but hinted in her latest stories.

Anderson’s cover isn’t exactly spot on, but it DID actually portray a scene from the story!

As we see, the Burroughs / Brackett comparison continues, and Ganley’s letter is more proof that the pulp readership and fandom in general were not under the mistaken impression Leigh Brackett was a man. Ganley would sort of get his wish about the continued adventures of Stark. Brackett expanded some on Stark’s youth and his relationship with his mentor in her Skaith books, though she never devoted any book-length stories to his origins. And while Bradbury’s and Burroughs’ works do seem largely antipodal, Brackett provides the connection between the two as the ardent fan of the latter and friend and mentor to the former.

Ed Cox (who the editor cites in Ganley’s letter) writes:

Leigh Bracket is the only one that tops AOA [Action on Azura] and that wasn’t too easy to do. I thought Enchantress of Venus (not too fitting a title but then, I can’t think of a better one right now) was related to Lorelei of the Red Mists (Summer, 1946.–Ed.) and, by gosh! it was. Starke became Stark, the gal he got in the first story is missing, but it was essentially the same setting, and just as good as the previous yarn. I also noticed a tie-in or two with another story or two of hers…in another–unmentionable here–mag.

Ed’s half right. The setting is the same or similar to Venus of Lorelei, The Vanishing Venusians, and The Moon that Vanished, but the Starke of Lorelei and the Stark of Brackett’s later stories have a lot more differences than just the missing E in the name.

Dee’s yarn is worth the paper it’s printed on but nothing more

Glad I wasn’t the only one who hated The Wheel is Death.

US Army Private Clarence L. Jacobs says:

The best story in the ish according to my somewhat warped opinion was Action on Azura. While the theme was old, the way of handling it was very entertaining. But the best character in the ish was (again to my somewhat warped opinion) the little monster in the Brackettale. While the story itself was typicaly(sic) in the melodramatic veins that is usually stressed by Planet’s lead novels, Miss Brackett threw a few bits of very apt description in building up a picture of a very minor character.

It’s something I hadn’t even really thought about, but assuming that’s referring to Bort, Varra’s little brother, he makes a great point; though he plays very little role in the actual story, Bort adds more than just flavor and window-dressing to show what the Lhari are like, childish and cruel and petty. In some ways, he is a reflection of Varra–Varra, who is also childish, cruel, and petty hopes to have someone like Stark she can drag around and control at her whim, like Bort and his little dragon, but with Stark, she bites off more than she can chew.

Lewis Sherlock weighs in on the dispute whether to ax the Vizigraph:

Who buys Planet? Morons and crazy people, that’s who. The morons just read the darn thing while chewing bubble gum, and the nuts write fan letters. (Pardon me, I gotta go get some more bubble gum…)

 

If these nuts don’t have some… (where’s that fancy writin’ book I got for Freshman comp?) some socially acceptable (?) sublimation of their exhibitionist drives, if they are caught, stifled, repressed without any means of setting before the world their pitiful cries of defiance, their last slender grip on sanity will give way and something will crack… (Crack! That was a big bubble. Bubble gum is an art.)

 

Throw out all the stories, (no, don’t throw out Brackett, get more Brackett), throw out… (no, don’t throw out Osborne, Action on Azura was swell) o.k., keep all the stories, get more stories, come out once a week, but KEEP THE VIZIGRAPH!

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