A New Work In An Old Genre
Ignoring the flares of the energy beams, I dove at my foe, seeking to lodge my blade in his throat!
Swords! Rayguns! Airships! Strange vistas, odd civilizations, lost secrets, brightly colored princesses!
That's what Planetary Romance is made of.
I love the genre. It's driven a lot of my gaming work, directly or by inspiration. I like the casual blend of high and low technology, I like worlds populated by many species, worlds filled with terrible carnivorous beasts that can be slain by a man with a sword, worlds with lost cities and forgotten secrets, worlds where something new and mysterious can be found under every rock -- or in every sequel.
Edgar Rice Burroughs didn't entirely create the genre, but he defined it. For a long time after him, countless writers turned out countless variants on the themes he originally codified... some great, some not so great. Today, there's a dearth of new material in the genre. A lot languishes in the void of eternal copyright, neither reprinted nor freed to the public domain.
Well, it's time to do something about that.
I want to write the kind of book I like to read -- and I'm hoping there's enough people out there who would also like to read it, and will give me the support I need to write it.
So, How Long Is It?
Uhm... oh, the book! I am aiming at roughly 50,000 words, give or take maybe 5%. If I meet my minimum funding goal, there will be just text and black and white cover. If I meet my first stretch goals, there will be a color cover, and some interior black and white art -- minimum of 4 interior illustration. Later stretch goals will include a map
Not A Parody, Not A Deconstruction
This is the important bit. I'm not intending to write a campy satire that laughs at the genre, and by implication, anyone who enjoys it. There will be humor, witty dialog, and sarcasm -- I can't write without sarcasm, I've tried, it just doesn't happen -- but it's not going to be a parody, it's not going to oh-so-cleverly send up all the assumptions and implausibilities, as if the fans of the genre were somehow unaware of them until the brilliant satirist pointed them out.
No, this plays it straight. I'm not going to deliberately include nonsensical science (except as needed for the plot), wooden dialogue, or one dimensional characters in the name of being "true to genre", either. This is a new book in the genre, not an attempt to write the story as it might have been written in 1920 or 1970, but to take the concepts, themes, and tropes that define planetary romance and use them in a novel written in 2013.
Not Great Literature
Also, to be clear, I'm not aiming at writing a Hugo winner, or something that will cause the reader to profoundly address their place in the universe. I intend to write something fun, enjoyable, and entertaining. I'm going for exciting, action packed, and amusing -- not deep. Not an insult to the reader's intelligence, not dumbed down, not inane tripe, just a good, solid, book, that delivers on the promise of keeping you entertained while you read it.
Not (Necessarily) "To Be Continued..."
No one wants to pay money for half a book. While I would like this Kickstarter to be a success and to lead to future books in the same setting, or perhaps in a different setting in the same genre (hey, it worked for ERB...), this book will have an ending with the major plot threads resolved. It will be open for more, but it will be complete in itself, and no one needs fear that they'll never get the rest of the story.
What's It About, Anyhow?
(Warning: May contain spoilers. Which leads to a problem -- how do I tell enough to entice you to read it without telling too much?)
It's yet to be written, so, details may change, but the upshot is this: I started with trying to find a way to explain some of the most common genre tropes that would make just enough sense that disbelief could be willingly suspended. A world filled with a multitude of humanoid and non-humanoid races. Technology that included many advanced tools and weapons, alongside primitive arms and armor and cultural patterns, with little in-between. (Rayguns and rapiers... but no revolvers. Flying vehicles and feudal governments.) A biosphere heavily overladen with gargantuan apex predators whose anatomy is based more on "awesome!" than on evolution. Lastly, where would it be? No world in the solar system can really be hoped for as habitable. Sure, you can always assume a distant world and some kind of teleporter, but I figured that would be a last resort.
As it turns out, the galaxy seems to be filled with "rogue planets" -- planetary bodies drifting, not attached to any star, impossible to detect except under extraordinary circumstances. Such a world might have drifted close enough to Earth that it would be within reach of a space program just a bit more advanced than the government has let on. Of course, such a world should be a frozen rock.. but it could be modified by some advanced species to make it habitable.
What about the rest? Well, if we assume the inhabitants are not, originally, natives, but were transported there from multiple systems, and then placed into different portions of the planet, we can solve that. Species have varying territories, some widespread, some very isolated.
Why? The world is, or was, a prison. A galactic Australia, filled with the undesirables of some ancient and forgotten culture. The wilds of the world are filled with hideous monsters, genetically modified to form a stable ecosystem, and instinctively compelled to hunt down and kill anyone who ventures into their realm.
At some point, long ago, the planet was lost or forgotten. The empire collapsed. The natives, descendants of the prisoners, adapted. There were some advanced tools and technologies left over, but none of the knowledge needed to manufacture them or even understand how they worked. The revolutions needed to rediscover advanced technology may come someday... but they haven't, yet. Life is nasty, brutish, and short.
There was never supposed to be a landing; an orbital reconnaissance was all that was planned. Something went wrong. And that's where the story really begins...
The base funding goal is for me to write the book, and to cover the cost of a black-and-white cover illustration. Beyond that...
$850.00: Color cover! Anyone getting an electronic or paper edition will also get a full-color cover! The cover, and interior art, will be done by the talented Josh Diffey, who is responsible for the current image on this project. (This is a rough sketch, and not a finished, polished, piece.) A nice collection of his art is here.
$1000.00: Interior art! At this funding level, in addition to the color cover, there will be three black and white interior illustrations.
$1100.00->$1300.00: Even more interior art! Each additional $100.00 buys one more piece of art, up to a total of six scenes at the top tier.
$1500.00: RPG material. A PDF supplement, written after the book itself is done, which will contain statistics and mechanics for the setting. If we reach this level, anyone who has pledged at the $20.00 level or higher gets this free, when it's produced. This will be using D20/OGL mechanics, based primarily on the Pathfinder SRD. It should be trivial to convert them to other systems. The exact length and contents are hard to pin down at this point, but it ought to be at least 5000 words.
What Makes You Think You Can Write?
Well, people keep paying me. That's usually a good sign. I've done work for Steve Jackson Games, White Wolf, Paizo, Pelgrane Press, Mongoose, Fantasy Flight Games, and many others. My fiction has been professionally published by Blackwyrm Press.
Some of my short fiction is available on my web site. While none of it is specifically in this genre, it ought to give you a good sense of my "voice" and style. Since my site contains free content, posted as I'm inspired, it is pretty much first-draft stuff with only minor editing or tweaks, so there may be a few typos and the occasional awkward sentence, as compared to a final draft submitted to a publisher -- or produced for this Kickstarter.
Alfie Saves The Day -- Some good old fashioned World War I adventure, by jingo!
Ye Olde Magik Shoppe -- A story of the thrill-a-minute life of a used magic items dealer.
The Name Of His Wife -- In which a generic NPC meets some Heroes.
Learning The Ropes -- An uplifting tale of a talented young woman's rise to the top of a competitive industry.
Risks and challenges
Writing the book text is unlikely to be an issue. My typical writing rate for fiction is about 1,000 words per hour, and I'm giving myself a 100% cushion -- that is, I'm planning my writing time for 500 words an hour, allowing extra time for editing, delays, and so on. All other aspects of the product tie into well-established services for things like print-on-demand and so on. There are no inventions to design, software to write, or people to recruit. Setting up and ordering the printed books may involve more hoops to jump through than I currently expect.
The most likely delay, if any, would be with shipping of physically signed print books. Some of the stretch goals, such as game statistics, might take more time than I expect, but they will be begun only after the book itself is written, produced, and in people's hands/devices for their enjoyment. Other than that, there's the obvious risk I could be hit by a truck or something.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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