illustration by Iker Serdar Yildiz

Planet Stories and Pathfinder: Together at Last

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Science fiction and fantasy. To much of the literate world, they're the same thing—they even get shelved in the same section at all but the most enlightened bookstores. Yet among those who enjoy these genres the most, the lines between the two are sharp and expansive (even if no two people agree on where that line is drawn). Many of the friends whose book recommendations I take to heart scoff at the idea of getting science fiction chocolate in their fantasy peanut butter—they'll read one but not the other. It's a sort of literary apartheid.

For me, though, there's never been that divide. Science fiction and fantasy are two great tastes that taste great together, and I don't mind rocking some boats to keep the ampersand in SF&F.

Sometimes, of course, the purists are right. Every time Wes and Jacobs comb through one of my manuscripts to make sure I'm not slipping hidden particle accelerators or robots into Pathfinder, I'm forced to admit that they're correct to do so—it's important to keep a world internally consistent, and getting too hung up on science in a magical setting can break the feel (or the author). Never mind how cool it might have been to make Varisia's towering Spindlehorn a space elevator for ancient thaumateurgic astronauts... it just doesn't fit.

Which is why I was so happy to get a chance to write the "Into the Black" support article for Pathfinder #14, a gazetteer of Golarion's solar system and the diverse cultures which inhabit it. These days, I spend a lot of my time buried in Planet Stories manuscripts, visiting worlds like Leigh Brackett's exotic and dying Skaith in the Eric John Stark books, or Robert E. Howard's Almuric, not to mention swashbuckling Burroughsian pulp like the Mars novels from Michael Moorcock and Otis Adelbert Kline. With this article, I (with significant influence from publisher Erik Mona) got the chance to finally bring hardcore Planet Stories SF into the Pathfinder Chronicles setting.

While I included many more modern SF tropes, from the terminator-line society of Verces to the irradiated liches of Eox the dead or the Jovian floaters of Liavara and Bretheda, Golarion's closest neighbors are straight out of the sword and planet genre epitomized by the Planet Stories books. The green planet of Castrovel, with its steamy jungles and beautiful telepathic matriarchs, meshes completely with the 1930s image of Venus, and any fan of Burroughs or Brackett will quickly recognize their Mars in Akiton's four-armed warriors and desert strongholds.

If you're like me and already enjoy mixing and matching your genres, I hope Pathfinder #14 hits the spot. And if you're a Pathfinder or Planet Stories purist, well, this might be a good point to give the other camp a shot and see what you've been missing. After all, despite what Dr. Egon Spengler might say, sometimes it's good to cross the streams...

James Sutter
Planet Stories Editor

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