Tuesday, June 1, 2010
As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I am a huge supporter of Paizo's Planet Stories line of books, which brought back into print many seminal works of pulp fantasy and science fiction. I happily took out a subscription in order to support the company's desire, which I also share, to "provid[e] a better understanding of the genre with classic stories that easily stand the test of time." And, if you look at the early entries in the series -- C.L. Moore's tales of Jirel of Joiry and Northwest Smith, Henry Kuttner's Elak of Atlantis stories, Leigh Brackett's Eric John Stark adventures, and many others -- you can see that Paizo made good on that desire. As someone who has an abiding interest in the literary inspirations of our hobby, I was ecstatic to see a publisher putting out attractive, accessible, and reasonably priced editions of seminal authors as diverse as Abraham Merritt, Manly Wade Wellman, and Otis Adelbert Kline.
Lately, though, with exception of the Wellman Silver John collection about which I've been raving, my enthusiasm for Planet Stories has been waning. Early on, I remember hearing complaints from others that many of the authors whose works were highlighted weren't "worthy" of being included, as they were of interest only to weirdos like myself. Naturally, I disagreed and indeed was pleased to see that some more obscure authors were getting the chance to present themselves and their stories to the world once again, thanks to Planet Stories.
Ironically, I now share the opinion of those critics, even if the authors I wouldn't consider worthy are different ones. Yesterday, I received my latest Planet Stories volume, a monstrous tome (450 pages in length) called The Walrus & The Warwolf by an author I'd never heard of, Hugh Cook. If the length hadn't put me off, reading China Miéville's praise of it as "meta-textually adventurous and pulp-avant-garde" certainly did so. Doing some research, I discovered that the novel is the fourth volume of a 10-volume series that was intended to be part of a larger series that would have encompassed 60 volumes. I can't say this new information did much to decrease my wariness.
I'm willing to forgive an occasional misfire in a series of books. After all, even the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series had its fair share of clunkers. (And it may even be that The Walrus & The Warwolf is something I will actually like once I get round to reading it). But two other recent releases, both by Piers Anthony, an author I don't particularly like, have sort of shattered my faith in Planet Stories, with only November's The Complete Hok the Mighty collection exciting me (and Before They Were Giants really disappointing me) among the installments announced for this year.
Now, maybe I'm being overly critical. Or maybe I had false expectations for the line. I don't know. I had assumed that most, if not all, of the books in the series would be works of older pulp fiction (i.e. pre-1970 or thereabouts). It may well be that there's not much of a market for such stuff and Paizo is simply shifting ground in order to be able to keep Planet Stories going at all. I know that the change from monthly to bimonthly was a result of such concerns. I can't blame Paizo for wanting to make some money off their efforts, but, speaking only for myself, if they can't do that according to the original vision of Planet Stories, I'd just as soon see it end. Much as I appreciate being able to get nice, new editions of classic SF and fantasy, I don't want to have to pay for other stuff that doesn't interest me to do it.
So, I don't know. I've already gotten several books through my subscription that don't appeal to me as it is. Do I want more just so I can get a discount on The Complete Hok the Mighty at year's end? I'm increasingly thinking not and that saddens me.