One of a Kline

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Otis Adelbert Kline, author of The Swordsman of Mars, is probably the author with the least name recognition on our current schedule.

And that's on purpose. You see, once upon a time, before we realized that we could actually get folks like Michael Moorcock, Piers Anthony, and Robert E. Howard, we set our sights on trying to bring back, not just the best authors of the genre, but the best forgotten authors. Yet once we opened our doors, we discovered a veritable horde of high-quality, big-name authors who'd been languishing out of print. As the roster started filling up with giants—both the folks I've already mentioned and people like C. L. Moore, the first female sword-and-sorcery author, or Leigh Brackett, who wrote the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back—I began to wonder if there was indeed still a place in readers' hearts for Otis Adelbert Kline. Then I sent the manuscript out to our typist, who's retyped all the old books in our line, from Moorcock to Howard. Shortly thereafter I received the typed manuscript along with a simple note saying:

"This one was my favorite by far!"

And why shouldn't it be? Though these days he's best known as the literary agent for Robert E. Howard and supposed rival of Edgar Rice Burroughs, at the height of the pulp era Kline was nearly as big a name as Howard and Burroughs himself. Though Kline's famous feud with Burroughs—in which Burroughs would publish a Mars book so Kline would publish a Venus one, prompting Burroughs to publish a Venus one, which in turn forced Kline to respond with a Mars saga, etc.—turns out to have been entirely the creation of imaginative fans, there can be no doubt that the two authors shared both style and subject matter. Indeed, Kline has frequently been called Burroughs's only true competitor. While he produced only a handful of novels before his death at the age of 55, Kline's presence on the original editorial staff of Weird Tales and his sword-swinging romances on the red and green planets did much to influence the genre, and his legacy lives on in the tradition of sword and planet novels to this day.

So will our grand experiment work? Can we fulfill the promise we made to our readers, not just to give them fun, historically significant works of fantasy and science fiction, but to give them great stories that they've never heard of before? Are today's audiences open to the Burroughsian derring-do of characters like Harry Thorne, the swashbuckling, Depression-era dynamo sent to the Red Planet in The Swordsman of Mars?

Buckle your seatbelts, folks. We're about to find out.

James Sutter
Planet Stories Editor

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Tags: Edgar Rice Burroughs Harry Thorne Mars Otis Adelbert Kline Planet Stories Swordsman of Mars
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