Mash together fantasy’s sword-swinging heroes, and the far-out alien civilizations of early science-fiction, and you’ve got Sword and Planet fiction. Arguably the brainchild of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sword and Planet tales usually features human protagonists adventuring on a planet teeming with life, intelligent or otherwise. Science takes a backseat to romance and derring-do in Sword and Planet stories, with little if any consideration given to the actual conditions on Mars, Venus, or wherever else the story takes place.
It isn’t as popular of a genre as it once was. Honestly, like the fanciful canals that we once thought crisscrossed Mars, Sword and Planet is all but extinct as an idea. So little was known about our planetary neighbors in the days of Edgar Rice Burroughs, so It was easier for readers to imagine intelligent life on Mars, or Venus. Reading tastes have changed, too. Episodic, pulp-flavored fantasy has fallen in favor, replaced in the public imagination by epic fantasies that stretch across multiple volumes.
Where Sword and Planet can really be seen today is in the influence it has had on popular culture. The lightsabers, blasters, and planet-hopping heroics of “Star Wars” probably wouldn’t exist were it not for Sword and Planet. Neither would “Avatar” or “Stargate”. Regardless of its current status, the classics of Sword and Planet literature are still very much worth seeking out, and with this list we hope to provide you with a good starting point.