Planetary romance


Cover of Imagination, August 1953.

Planetary romance is a subgenre of science fiction in which the bulk of the action consists of adventures on one or more exotic alien planets, characterized by distinctive physical and cultural backgrounds. Some planetary romances take place against the background of a future culture where travel between worlds by spaceship is commonplace; others, particularly the earliest examples of the genre, do not, and invoke flying carpets, astral projection, or other methods of getting between planets. In either case, it is the planetside adventures which are the focus of the story, not the mode of travel.[1]

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction mentions two caveats as to the usage of the term. First, while the setting may be in an alien world, its nature is of little relevance to the plot, as is the case of James Blish's A Case of Conscience. Second, hard science fiction tales are excluded from this category, where an alien planet, while being a critical component of the plot, is just a background for a primarily scientific endeavor, such as Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity,[2] possibly with embellishments.

A significant precursor of the genre is Edwin L. Arnold's Lieut. Gullivar Jones: His Vacation (1905).[2]

In Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels (1985), editor and critic David Pringle named Marion Zimmer Bradley and Anne McCaffrey two "leading practitioners nowadays" for the planetary romance type of science fiction.[3]

There is a significant overlap of the genre with that of sword and planet.


Cover of Planet Stories, Fall 1947.

In fiction

In comics

In film and television

  • Aquaman - film adaptation of Aquaman franchise primarily set in the fantastical and technologically advanced five kingdoms of Atlantis at the bottom of the sea
  • AvatarJames Cameron film set exclusively on the fictional world of Pandora.
  • Defiance – TV series set exclusively on a terraformed, altered version of Earth itself.
  • Earth 2 – TV series set exclusively on an Earth-like planet known as 'G889'.
  • Forbidden Planet — an early film in the genre (1956), set entirely on the planet Altair IV.
  • Irandaam UlagamIndian Tamil language film
  • John Carter – A film depicting a romanticized version of Mars (Barsoom).
  • Thor: Ragnarok - A film based on Planet Hulk, primarily set on the planets of Asgard and Sakaar


See also


  1. ^ See Science Fiction Citations: Planetary Romance Archived 2008-01-08 at the Wayback Machine; and John Clute, "Planetary Romance", in Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, ed. John Clute and Peter Nicholls, 1995, ISBN 0-312-13486-X.
  2. ^ a b "Planetary Romance"
  3. ^ David Pringle, Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels: An English-language Selection, 1949–1984, London: Xanadu Publ., 1985. p. 17. Pringle does not include any Bradley or McCaffrey novels. Introducing his selections, he says, "I admit to blind spots—for example, I have little affection for the type of sf story which has been called 'planetary romance'".

External links