Well, when we define things, just as we defined Epic Fantasy last month, we break down the etymology of the (in this case) phrase. And, maybe not so much the etymology (the linguistic changes the word has gone through) so much as the history of the word itself and what it is in our language today. So, in order to define Sword and Planet we must look at both of those terms individually and continue onward from there.
For most readers this should be review but swords are simply weapons. When I think of swords, I think of medieval and King Arthur and battles and war, although I know that swords have been around much longer than those times. The idea, though, is that it is connotative of this sense of historical renaissance.
Secondly, the word planet is, well, a large mass in space that is comprised of many different substances and some being able to hold life and others not. It moves around a sun and is in some sort of solar system. But, more importantly, when we think of planet, at least when I think of planet, I think of space exploration. I think of traveling and what the future is going to be like. I think of things like Star Wars or Star Trek. In essence, this word is very connotative of a futuristic world.
So, when bringing these two words together, we know that we are going to get a type of fantasy that is archaic, yet futuristic. Interesting, yes? I think so. That is why I wrote my own novel use those ideals. (However, to be fair, once I started researching this type of fantasy much more, I would say mine doesn’t necessarily fit in with it for a couple of reasons).
Alright, so now we have the definition out of the way, let’s take a look at what these characteristics are that translate from what we just broke down.
1) There is a hero, usually an Earthman, and he typically uses a sword to fight off an alien race while trying to rescue a damsel in distress.
2) Adventure. Lots of adventure. There needs to be in order to make up for the generally stock-type characters that develop in these types of novels.
3) Anachronistic situations. For example, aliens possessing the technology to use space crafts, but domesticated animals are used for ground transportation.
In fact, bestsciencefictionbooks.com sums up the major happenings of the plot rather concisely when it says in an article, “a chivalrous man is transported from Earth to an alien planet, the Earthman discovers he is the lone human, the Earthman becomes involved in a conflict between two parties (two factions, nations, or species), he picks the side with the most beautiful woman, the woman is kidnapped, the man takes his sword and goes to rescue her and along the way fights off monsters and alien animals.”
Although there are books that would fit this genre that prelude this, the prototype for this type of book was first introduced to us by Edgar Rice Burroughs through his series, A Princess of Mars. Many of you may not be familiarized with that name, but it is the recently repopularized movie about John Carter who is a Confederate officer and soldier, has taken up prospecting in Arizona after the war to regain his fortune. Under mysterious circumstances, he is transported to Mars.
And that is actually where I am going to segue into next week’s blog post. As you know I try to review a new book or movie that fits the genre each month and as my kindle is still broken I haven’t been able to review anything in terms of reading yet, but I will take a look at this newly put out movie, John Carter, and see if it truly does fit these characteristics that we have detailed here.
So, stay tuned for that. Also, I already have a general idea of the fantasy that I’ll be detailing for next month, but if you have thoughts or comments I’d be willing to take a look at them and try to come up with some alternative!
– Michael E. Thies