Thursday, January 3, 2008

Eric John Stark, Martian Adventurer

Paizo Publishing’s reprint of The Secret of Sinharat, by Leigh Brackett (1964), starring Martian adventurer Eric John Stark, with an introduction by Michael Moorcock, has been released. The title seems a bit misleading, as the book also contains a reprint of People of the Talisman (1964), another Brackett novel featuring Stark.

Here's a description of the new Paizo reprint: “Enter Eric John Stark, adventurer, rebel, wildman. Raised on the sun-soaked, savage world of Mercury, Stark lives among the people of the civilized solar system, but his veneer of calm masks a warrior’s spirit. In the murderous Martian Drylands the greatest criminals in the galaxy hatch a conspiracy of red revolution. Stark’s involvement leads to the forgotten ruins of the Martian Low Canals, an unlikely romance, and a secret so potent it could shake the Red Planet to its core. In a special bonus novel, People of the Talisman, Stark ventures to the treacherous polar icecap of Mars to return a stolen talisman to an oppressed people. The Secret of Sinharat and People of the Talisman make an excellent introduction to the work of Leigh Brackett, a pillar of science fantasy and one of the greatest writers to work in the genre."

The bundling of these two novels is not a new development, as they comprise “Book One” and “Book Two” of Brackett’s single-volume Eric John Stark: Outlaw of Mars (New York: Del Rey/Ballantine Books, 1982).

Also, the two works were bound together as an Ace Double novel (New York: Ace Books, 1964; Series M, #101), in which Edmond Hamilton, Brackett’s husband, wrote an introduction, noting that “her stories about Mars had their inspiration in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martian novels.”

Tracing the ink back a bit further, The Secret of Sinharat is an expansion of Brackett’s story “Queen of the Martian Catacombs,” which was published in Planet Stories magazine in 1949. And, People of the Talisman is an expansion of Brackett’s story “Black Amazon of Mars,” which appeared in Planet Stories in 1951. Sci-Fi critic Rich Horton discusses these expansions in his review of the Ace Double novel.

For a larger perspective of Brackett's Red Planet, see Wikipedia's article “Mars in the Fiction of Leigh Brackett.”

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