I wanted to write about imaginary worlds. Now that our whole planet has been explored other planets are the only place you can put them.
Stories, nominally Science Fiction
, set on a alien world described in lush detail. The world can be Earth in the far distant future, or an alien planet, but it is reached by science-fictional means, not magic.
However, the science is largely handwaving
. Visitors may arrive on the world by spaceship, and there might be items of Lost Technology
present, but overall the world will feel like Low Fantasy
— a feudal
society with small-scale magic but no Big Bad
— and it will share most of the same tropes. Because the "romance" in the title stems from Chivalric Romance
, a Love Interest
is not in fact required.
May involve Weird Science
. Prone to use Medieval European Fantasy
tropes, or feature a Feudal Future
. Overlaps heavily with the Dying Earth subgenre pioneered by Jack Vance
's eponymous novel
is closely related, but the action and adventure tend to take place more in space and on differing planets. Usually it involves at least Interplanetary Voyage
. One distinction is that Planetary Romances come from the Jungle Opera
tradition whereas Space Operas
come from the nautical
Contrast with Single-Biome Planet
. See also Pulp Magazine
, Thud and Blunder
, Two-Fisted Tales
- Last Exile
- The Vision of Escaflowne: Though it initially appears to be fantasy, all examples of "magic" in the series turn out to be highly advanced (read: reality-altering) technology, and no wizards or sorcerers appear, only super-scientists.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars books were adapted into comics at one point.
- The Incredible Hulk:
- The Planet Hulk storyline was essentially a planetary romance.
- After the Hulk returned to Earth for World War Hulk, his son Skaar received his own title, also a planetary romance... at least until Galactus showed up to eat the planet.
- This wasn't the first time the Hulk had got a planetary romance; there were also his adventures in the Microverse in the 70s. The Hulk's other son, Hiro-Kala, visits the Microverse in a 2010 miniseries.
- The Warlord.
- Paul Pope's version of Adam Strange in Wednesday Comics. (Not the mainstream version, whose Rann has too much high-tech stuff.) John Carter was his main inspiration for the series.
- Den by Richard Corben.
- A lot of the early, world-hopping stories in X-Men and Excalibur are like this, usually written by Chris Claremont and/or Alan Davis, and of course usually centering around Nightcrawler (and sometimes Shadowcat or Wolverine).
- Most of The Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis, including Out of the Silent Planet (set on Mars) and Perelandra (set on Venus) but not That Hideous Strength, which takes place on Earth.
- Dying Earth, Jack Vance
- Many of Vance's other works in these kinds of settings, in particular his Planet of Adventure series or the Big Planet series.
- Majipoor Series, Robert Silverberg
- Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars. Between these and his Carson of Venus books, pretty much the Trope Codifier.
- Darkover, Marion Zimmer Bradley
- Dragonriders of Pern, the entire series by Anne McCaffrey, features dragons on an alien world.
- Dune by Frank Herbert. The book, while perfectly serviceable as a straight example, is actually a Deconstructor Fleet of the genre's conventions. David Lynch's Film of the Book plays the tropes much straighter.
- Gor, John Norman.
- Kregen, Alan Burt Akers
- Ivory, Doris Egan.
- Sheri S. Tepper's The True Game series.
- Coyote by Allen Steele (though it's technically a moon, not a planet. Lunar romance?)
- Leigh Brackett's Mars, Venus, and Skaith series, which are essentially Low Fantasy Darker and Edgier versions of Burrough's series.
- The Lords of Creation series by S. M. Stirling is set in a present day Alternate History where Mars and Venus, thanks to the intervention of Ancient Astronauts, are similar to the worlds portrayed in Edgar Rice Burroughs novels.
- Ursula K. Le Guin's SF novels tend to steer this way: The Left Hand of Darkness, Rocannon's World, etc. At least in the sense of having the planets be a pseudo-feudal setting — she generally avoids the more magical elements.
- Gary Poulsen's The Transall Saga, although it has no magic.
- Brian Aldiss's Helliconia series.
- Mary Gentle's Orthe series. Slightly different in that Orthe is an alien world, populated by a race who apparently destroyed the high-tech and highly advanced race who once ruled it, and deliberately regressed to a much less technologically advanced state.
- The Darkangel Trilogy.
- The Novels of the Jaran start this way, but become more sci-fi as the series progresses.
- The Bunduki series by J.T. Edson.
- L. Sprague de Camp's Viagens Interplanetarias series is an attempt to do a semi-Hard SF version of Burroughs.
- Jane Carver of Waar, intended as a Distaff Counterpart to John Carter of Mars.
- Terry Dowling's Wormwood, a compilation of short stories taking place on a future Earth, which explore the place of humans in a world long since conquered by — and modified to suit the needs (whims?) of — a technologically-superior alien race, as well as several client species.
- From the same writer: the Tom Rynosseros stories, featuring a sandship captain in a far future Australia, now reclaimed by the Aboriginal nations.
- Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds, is set in the far future on a planet hinted to be a terraformed Mars.
- Old Mars and Old Venus are two (forthcoming) anthologies edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois homaging old planetary romance stories set on Mars and Venus.
- The Book of Ptath by A.E. van Vogt.
- Ray Cummings' Tama of the Light Country is a surprisingly feminist work for 1930. It also zilches the one-culture-per-planet rule. Tama is a very young woman who leads a revolt of "winged virgins" against a long-established law that women must have their wings amputated (sans anesthesia) upon marriage.
- Some Doctor Who stories have fit this genre, particularly in the early years when the show was more heavily influenced by Burroughs-like fiction:
- "The Daleks" - the crew land on the post-apocalyptic jungle planet Skaro, and go to explore the gleaming city in the distance to find a vital component for the TARDIS. They accidentally spark war between the Noble Savage Thal race, and the Little Green Man in a Can Dalek race, and lead the Thals into the Dalek city to attack them for good and get the TARDIS back.
- "The Keys of Marinus" - written by the same writer as "The Daleks". The crew land on the planet Marinus, with seas of acid and strange hostile aliens called the Voord. An old man blocks off the TARDIS and tasks them as heroes destined to return four Keys, which they have to explore four different areas of the world to retrieve. There's a Lotus-Eater Machine city, an ice city, a jungle, and a Kangaroo Court culture...
- "The Web Planet" - probably the most clear example of this. The TARDIS is ensnared in a web and when Ian and the Doctor leave to investigate, Barbara becomes possessed and the TARDIS console is stolen, seemingly by giant ant creatures the Zarbi under the instructions of their Queen. The Menoptera save Barbara and befriend the rest of the crew, and they set off on a journey exploring their planet, encountering various different kinds of insect people, and battling the Animus (a sinister Plant Alien that has taken control of the Zarbi). Has lots of very dreamlike imagery such as the Menoptera flying in space through an Alien Sky, the surreal sounds made by the Zarbi and their larva that they use as weapons.
- Empire Of The Petal Throne
- Skyrealms Of Jorune had almost unplayable game mechanics, but an overwhelmingly complex and facinating alien world setting that also incorporated After the End.
- "The Iron Lords of Jupiter" was a scenario published in Polyhedron magazine for d20 Modern; its rules could also be adapted to Dungeons & Dragons. The setting posited that beneath Jupiter's cloud cover, the planet is solid just like Earth and home to hundreds of alien cultures with Iron Age-level technology, and the player characters are either natives or stranded humans. The reason for Jupiter having the same force of gravity as Earth was left as an exercise for the game-master.
- Blue Planet from Fantasy Flight Games is set on the water world of Poseidon and exploring it and surviving its inherent dangers are major parts of most campaigns. As a twist to its obvious "new colony" setting it's actually inhabited by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens.
- Space 1889 is Victorian planetary romance with a hint of Steam Punk
- GURPS Planet Krishna adapts L. Sprague de Camp's Viagens Interplanetarias series, and GURPS Planet of Adventure is based on Jack Vance's Planet of Adventure series.
- Pathfinder's Golarion is set up to facilitate this. The elves left for another planet through portals. Some creatures such as nightgaunts can fly through space. Spells which allow this kind of travel are listed. The entire Distant Worlds source book was designed to facilitate this.
- Bungie's upcoming Destiny
- The Star Ocean series.
- Ultima: Worlds of Adventure 2: Martian Dreams
- The Iron Grip series arguably counts, but is sort of a subversion, since it averts Medieval Stasis (in favour of timeless Schizo Tech) and combines Planetary Romance with the War Drama genre.
- Lesbian Spider Queens Of Mars.
- Albion kicks off with the heroes crash landing on a planet. They first arrive in an alien world inhabited by cat people who use magic and Organic Technology, but later regions accessed in the game could easily look like medieval europe, complete with celts as inhabitants who worship ancient celtic deities.
- The first two Metroid Prime games have protagonist Samus exploring a single world each. She is tasked with saving each world from sheer destruction and can find in-depth information about the planets' rich history and wildlife through scanning lore, research and creatures. The third game becomes more of a space opera with the ability to explore and travel between multiple planets.
- Star Fox Adventures
- Oddworld series