The Best Sword and Planet Books [Updated for 2021]

What is Sword and Planet fiction?

“Sword and Planet” is a sub-genre of Science Fiction literature that is a subset of Science Fiction/Fantasy. Sword and Planet is also related to:

  • Planetary Adventure
  • Interplanetary Adventure
  • Planetary Romance
  • Space Opera
  • Pulp Science Fiction
  • Science Fantasy

Sword and Planet Science Fiction combines typical science fiction technology and elements (blasters, ray guns, spaceships, aliens) with elements that are typically found in medieval historical or fantasy novels (swords, swashbuckling, quests, treasure, rescues, etc.). Sword and Planet novels are typically romantic adventures where actual science is not as important as rousing fights, daring feats, escapes, and hand-to-hand combat.

Chart that compares Sword & Planet fiction to Science Fiction
Sword and Planet Fiction Compared to Science Fiction

The Origins of Sword and Planet Fiction

The godfather of Sword and Planet is Edgar Rice Burroughs who wrote the classic Sword and Planet adventure novel A Princess of Mars (Penguin Classics)  in 1911. Burroughs may have been influenced by Gulliver of Mars Illustrated  by Edwin L. Arnold which was published roughly six years before the first book in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars (Barsoom) series. Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard also tried his hand at Sword and Planet with the well-regarded adventure Almuric :By Robert E. Howard(Annotated) .

A Princess of Mars (Penguin Classics)
1,512 Reviews
A Princess of Mars (Penguin Classics)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Burroughs, Edgar Rice (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 200 Pages - 01/30/2007 (Publication Date) - Penguin Classics (Publisher)
Gulliver of Mars Illustrated
1 Reviews
Gulliver of Mars Illustrated
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Arnold, Edwin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 195 Pages - 07/04/2020 (Publication Date)
Almuric :By Robert E. Howard(Annotated)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • E. Howard, Robert (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 127 Pages - 02/13/2020 (Publication Date)

The name “Sword and Planet” is a play on “Sword and Sorcery” (fantasy) and “Sword and Sandals” (Greek/Roman adventures). The term was coined by editor Donald A. Wollheim in 1964 to describe his anthology Swordsmen in the Sky (1964).

Swordsmen in the Sky (Ace #79276)
3 Reviews
Swordsmen in the Sky (Ace #79276)
  • Poul Anderson (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 192 Pages - 11/28/1964 (Publication Date) - Ace Books (Publisher)

Kenneth Bulmer (writing as Alan Burt Akers) was the creator of the 52 book Dray Prescott series, which is generally held up as the spiritual successor to Edgar Rice Burroughs.

The Delian Cycle: The first Dray Prescot omnibus (The Saga of Dray Prescot omnibus Book 1)
25 Reviews
The Delian Cycle: The first Dray Prescot omnibus (The Saga of Dray Prescot omnibus Book 1)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Akers, Alan Burt (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 678 Pages - 08/31/2009 (Publication Date) - Mushroom eBooks (Publisher)

Some very well-known science fiction and fantasy authors wrote Sword and Planet books, including Lin Carter, Leigh Brackett, and Jack Vance.

Jandar Of Callisto
7 Reviews
Jandar Of Callisto
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Carter, Lin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 179 Pages - 03/16/2019 (Publication Date)
Eric John Stark: Outlaw of Mars
6 Reviews
Eric John Stark: Outlaw of Mars
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Brackett, Leigh (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 212 Pages - 02/21/2019 (Publication Date) - Phoenix Pick (Publisher)
The Chasch (Tschai Book 1)
16 Reviews
The Chasch (Tschai Book 1)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Vance, Jack (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 172 Pages - 03/15/2012 (Publication Date) - Spatterlight Press LLC (Publisher)

George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) edited a fantastic Sword and Planet anthology Old Mars  and modern authors such as Charles Allen Gramlich have also contributed to the Sword and Planet genre.

Old Mars
79 Reviews
Old Mars
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 512 Pages - 10/08/2013 (Publication Date) - Bantam (Publisher)
Swords of Talera (The Talera Cycle Book 1)
7 Reviews
Swords of Talera (The Talera Cycle Book 1)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Gramlich, Charles Allen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 180 Pages - 02/06/2011 (Publication Date) - Wildside Press (Publisher)