Shadow Over Mars/The Nemesis From Terra by Leigh Brackett

batman diversity

I’m not going to to try to pick apart any great meaning or symbolism out of this. I’m just going to dump some stuff and hope it sounds awesome enough to check out.

Shadow Over Mars has got a dozen weird alien races, hot space babes, ray-gun fights, helicopter crashes, ancient martian castles, ancient martian crucifixions, evil dwarfs, a telepathic black man, fist-fights, and menthols to go around.

It ends in a literal balls-out fist-fight*  for the fate of the planet, where someone’s thumb gets ripped off and somebody gets beat down with the corpse of a Martian transcendent and strangled while a pretty girl looks on in terror.

It’s no wonder Kent stuck a full page ad in this; at one point Rick manages to ward off the effects of the powerful Martian hallucinogenic perfumes in the pit of deadly pleasures by taking drags off the smokes that the barbarians forgot to take from him.
I have created this elaborate diagram to illustrate the relationships between the characters in Shadow Over Mars.

Shadow over mars

Kyra, the bird-girl, is in wuv with Rick.

Rick, despite thinking Kyra’s a great gal, loves Mayo McCall.

Mayo, a Martian Rights activist, is in love with Rick because she thinks he’s gonna save Mars.

Jaffa Storm, scary psychic black man from Venus, wants to do some rough stuff to Mayo and show her why she’s wrong.

Hugh St. John, who wants to save Mars through politics & intrigue, is in love with Mayo, but he’s a total tool so Mayo’s not interested.

Eran Mak, St. John’s Martian protege, comes across as wanting to be St. John’s butt-buddy. They’re made for each other. I imagine him looking like a Martian Adolf Hipster all “I did what I did for Mars, man!”

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about Jack Vance’s the Gray Prince, sci-fi guaranteed to make a liberal’s head explode!

Why does my copy's cover have a boring picture of a guy hiding behind a rock shooting at some blobby thing? This cover is awesome and it's something that happens in the book!

Why does my copy’s cover have a boring picture of a guy hiding behind a rock shooting at some blobby thing? This cover is awesome and it’s something that happens in the book!

*:I don’t remember how or why Rick ended up naked in the abandoned polar city of the ancient lost race, but he did.

Tower of Zenopus pt 4: Conclusion

My library group running Tower of Zenopus wrapped last night. There were a few loose ends, namely the Thaumaturge Alain, about whom little can be done by a small party, but on the whole I think that it reached a satisfactory conclusion. The module had more than enough content to cover the 4 sessions despite my worries that it might not.

The party (without the mage this week), returned to the tunnels, one fighter intent to pry out some goblin teeth. They made short work of the giant rats who were nibbling at corpses. Some ghouls were wandering about, gnawing on the petrified adventurers (Rollo the Pirate was presumably eaten); the party won surprise and used the opportunity to back away.

The party quickly figured out why the goblin from the previous session had led them around the long way; he figured he’d have a better chance of living admitting failure to the boss than going up against the giant spider. The spider put the hurt on and almost killed the Dwarf. A few lucky blows and the party’s rather impressive strength bonuses managed to make fairly short work of the deadly foe. After the party recovered, they made another delve, a straight-shot west and got the drop on the pirates. The pirates didn’t put up much fight but almost got away (they tried to shove off and put out to sea), though the party was able to take them down, showering them with arrows and spears.

They rescued Lemunda and were rewarded by her father Lord Alba. Good guys win. Yay!

So, some ideas for expanding Tower of Zenopus:
-Lemunda is a tough broad, and she probably could’ve taken any of the pirates one on one in a straight up fight. So, why is she there held by the pirates (besides being lovely)? Well, in my own game, the reason is that she’s tough who likes to hang out around the docks drinking and gambling (she’s also probably a would-be adventurer; how else would she have made it to Level 2?). I reason that she won big against the wrong guy and one of the pirate lords of the city wanted her punished. I think that this is a really great place to drop in something like Gron & Krim’s Blood & Guts Tavern; depending on how one treats greenskins in the setting, one could easily swap out the demihumans for other ruffians. Hell, maybe Lemunda was part of the underground fighting scene in Portown?
-The Tower of Zenopus and Portown were supposedly built over an ancient city. Even though B4 – the Lost City takes place in a desert, there’s no reason you can’t stick the pyramid deep underground. Then you have an underground lost city with an even deeper underground city below that one! The tough part of working out the underground city aspect of Tower of Zenopus is that there’s nowhere on the map that reasonably could lead to it or anywhere else. What I did, on the off chance (which was never realized) that I’d run out of content from Holmes, was create an adjunct mini-dungeon just east of where 10 x 10 dirt “tunnel” off the ghoul room is. If the players tried to excavate it, they’d find more of the crypt structure under the graveyard and beyond that tunnels into more limestone caves. At the far end of this dozen or so room cave system, I dropped B4, waiting to be discovered.
-Theoretically, I could retcon Portown into Portsdam and drop it into Alfheim. I won’t, though, for several reasons, not the least of which being I don’t want to be one of those DMs who runs their games in a single pet setting.

In other news, I’m so close to finished with my first draft of my Sword & Planet novelette I can almost taste it! Progress on it has been a bit slower than I would’ve liked, in part because of other work, time spent working on B&B, on my Zenopus game, blogging and just in general screwing around when i should’ve been writing. I’m not cut out for the story mines, as they say. But I ought to have something to show a few people for suggestions and review in a few weeks.

I don’t think it would work to shoehorn it in this time, but after reading Brackett, I feel like I need at least a couple chainsmoking characters in whatever I write next. I don’t know if I’m ready for all the ‘thrusting’ yet, though. From Martian spires to the Venutian economy, everything is thrusting about in Nemesis from Terra/Shadow Over Mars.  From the petrified tunneling worm to the bird girl’s ‘soft downy hair’, there’s nothing about this book that’s not screaming sex.

"Mr. Fallon, Rick Urquhart's leading a slave riot in your mines!"  "We'll bring out the Banning Ray and put a stop to him as soon as I finish my Kent."

“Mr. Fallon, Rick Urquhart’s leading a slave riot in your mines!” “It’s all right… Me and Storm’ll bring out the Banning and put a stop to him as soon as I finish my Kent.”

Tonight, more Civil War!

Next Week I’ll resume Short Reviews, finishing off the January ’76 issue of F&SF and taking on, at the recommendations of Joachim Boaz, a few of the stories from the Feb ’74 issue.