Where do old novels go when they're out of print? Mostly they moulder in used book stores or get boxed away in basements, but sometimes, on the rarest of occasions, they see new life. Role playing game company Paizo Publishing has released a new line of reprints called Planet Stories.
When I started reading the various books of the series (beginning with Michael Moorcock's City Of The Beast) I was struck the different tone of these old stories. Out-of-print novels carry with them the atmosphere of yesteryear. How else could you describe a Burroughs-esque martian adventure except... pulpy? "The books in the Planet Stories line are definitely pulpy," admitted Planet Stories publisher Erik Mona. However, Mona was quick to explain that each story had its own style. "While I'd call Michael Moorcock's most famous character, Elric of Melniboné, brooding and dark, that doesn't so much apply to his sword and planet character Michael Kane, star of City of the Beast, Lord of the Spiders, and Masters of the Pit."
Prospective readers might wonder, if these novels are that good, why are they out of print? "A lot of the books we're publishing in the Planet Stories line were once considered pivotal books in the genre," Mona explained. "Most of them have not been in print in the last 20 or 30 (or even 80) years, so there's a perfect combination of great stories that many modern readers have never read. Robert E. Howard's science fantasy classic Almuric is a perfect example of this. It is one of four or five absolutely essential books in the popular 'sword and planet' genre that Edgar Rice Burroughs created with his John Carter of Mars series, and yet it has not been in print since 1977. I've been a fan of Robert E. Howard through his Kull and Conan stories most of my life, but the last time this important novel was in print, I was only two years old!" While all the published stories thus far have been reprints, that's about to change. "In July we'll launch our first-ever original publication, a 'lost' Gary Gygax novel entitled Infernal Sorceress," Mona said. "My sense is that we'll get into some more original projects in 2009."
One of the most tantalizing prospects of Planet Stories is the subscription package Paizo offers. An extension of their Adventure Path and GameMastery roleplaying products, where readers can get regular installments of gaming materials by mail. "Subscriptions are an easy way for readers and collectors to stay abreast of the series without having to remember to go to the store every month," Mona said. While the subscription model was mainly for customers' convenience, Paizo offers a 20% discount to subscribers. However, Mona was quick to clarify that traditional methods of buying the books still work, with the series available online and stocked at bookstores. "Even major chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble have gotten in on the action," he said.
With vast reserves of classic stories to draw from, anchored by offerings from such authors as Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, and E. Gary Gygax -- not to mention all-new fiction starting next year -- Planet Stories seems destined for a long run. "Working on Planet Stories has been a real career highlight for me, and I hope to keep producing the line for years and years to come. There is certainly no shortage of great material waiting in the wings!
For more information or to subscribe, see Paizo's Planet Stories page.
Here are all the books in the series thus far:
The Anubis Murders by E. Gary Gygax. Originally published in the early '90s as a companion to Gygax's Dangerous Journeys RPG.
City Of The Beast by Michael Moorcock. Originally written under a pen name!
Black God's Kiss by C. L. Moore.
Elak of Atlantis by Henry Kuttner.
The Secret Of Sinharat by Leigh Brackett. Her pulp cred got her a gig writing the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back.
Northwest of Earth by C.L. Moore.
Almuric, by Robert E. Howard.
Lord of the Spiders, by Michael Moorcock. (March)
The Samarkand Solution, by E. Gary Gygax. (April)
The Ginger Starr, by Leigh Brackett. (May)
Masters Of The Pit, by Michael Moorcock. (June)
Infernal Sorceress, by E. Gary Gygax. (July)
Worlds Of Their Own, a series of short stories written by well-known RPG authors such as R. A. Salvatore, Ed Greenwood and Monte Cook. (August)
The Swordsman Of Mars, by Otis Adelbert Kline. (September)