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I wanted to write about imaginary worlds. Now that our whole planet has been explored other planets are the only place you can put them.
CS Lewis, A Reply to Professor Haldane.

Stories, nominally Science Fiction, set on a alien world described in lush detail. The world can be Earth in the far distant future, or an alien planet, but it is reached by science-fictional means, not magic.

However, the science is largely handwaving. Visitors may arrive on the world by spaceship, and there might be items of Lost Technology present, but overall the world will feel like Low Fantasy — a feudal society with small-scale magic but no Big Bad — and it will share most of the same tropes. Because the "romance" in the title stems from Chivalric Romance, a Love Interest is not in fact required.

May involve Weird Science. Prone to use Medieval European Fantasy tropes, or feature a Feudal Future. Overlaps heavily with the Dying Earth subgenre pioneered by Jack Vance's eponymous novel.

Space Opera is closely related, but more science-fiction-y. Usually it involves at least Interplanetary Voyage. One distinction is that Planetary Romances come from the Jungle Opera tradition whereas Space Operas come from the nautical tradition.

Contrast with Single Biome Planet. See also Pulp Magazine, Swashbuckler, Thud and Blunder, Two-Fisted Tales.

Examples of Planetary Romance include:


Comic Books

  • The Planet Hulk storyline was essentially a planetary romance, starring The Incredible Hulk.
    • After the Hulk returned to Earth for World War Hulk, his son Skaar received his own title, also a planetary romance... at least until Galactus showed up to eat the planet.
    • This wasn't the first time the Hulk had got a planetary romance; there were also his adventures in the Microverse in the 70s. The Hulk's other son, Hiro-Kala, visits the Microverse in a 2010 miniseries.
  • The Warlord.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars books were adapted into comics at one point.
  • Paul Pope's version of Adam Strange in Wednesday Comics. (Not the mainstream version, whose Rann has too much high-tech stuff.) John Carter was his main inspiration for the series.



  • Most of The Space Trilogy by CS Lewis, including Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra but not That Hideous Strength
  • The Dying Earth, Jack Vance
  • Majipoor, Robert Silverberg
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars. Between these and his Carson Of Venus books, pretty much the Trope Codifier.
  • Darkover, Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • Pern, the entire series by Anne McCaffrey, features dragons on an alien world.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert. The book, while perfectly serviceable as a straight example, is actually a Deconstructor Fleet of the genre's conventions. David Lynch's Film of the Book plays the tropes much straighter.
  • Gor, John Norman.
  • Kregen, Alan Burt Akers
  • Ivory, Doris Egan.
  • Sheri S. Tepper's True Game series.
  • Coyote by Alan Steele (though it's technically a moon, not a planet. Lunar romance?)
  • Leigh Brackett's Mars, Venus, and Skaith series, which are essentially Low Fantasy Darker and Edgier versions of Burrough's series.
  • The Lords of Creation series by S.M. Stirling is set in a present day Alternate History where Mars and Venus, thanks to the intervention of Ancient Astronauts, are similar to the worlds portrayed in Edgar Rice Burroughs novels.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin's SF novels tend to steer this way: Left Hand Of Darkness, Rocannon's World...
    • Perhaps in the sense of having the planets be a pseudo-feudal setting, but she generally avoided the more magical elements.
  • Gary Poulsen's The Transall Saga, although it has no magic and is not literature in any reasonable meaning of the term.
  • Brian Aldiss's Helliconia series.
  • Mary Gentle's Orthe series. Slightly different in that Orthe is an alien world, populated by a race who apparently destroyed the high-tech and highly advanced race who once ruled it, and deliberately regressed to a much less technologically advanced state.
  • The Darkangel Trilogy.
  • The Novels of the Jaran start this way, but become more sci-fi as the series progresses.
  • The Bunduki series by J. T. Edson.
  • L Sprague De Camp's Viagens Interplanetarias series is an attempt to do a semi-Hard SF version of Burroughs.
  • Many works by Jack Vance, in particular his stories set on Tschai or the "Big Planet" series.
  • Jane Carver of Waar, intended as a Distaff Counterpart to John Carter.
  • Terry Dowling's Wormwood, a compilation of short stories taking place on a future Earth, which explore the place of humans in a world long since conquered by — and modified to suit the needs (whims?) of — a technologically-superior alien race, as well as several client species.
  • Terminal World by Creator/Alastair Reynolds, is set in the far future on a planet hinted to be a terra formed Mars

Tabletop Games

  • Empire of the Petal Throne
  • Skyrealms of Jorune had almost unplayable game mechanics, but an overwhelmingly complex and facinating alien world setting that also incorporated After the End.
  • "The Iron Lords of Jupiter" was a scenario published in Polyhedron magazine for d20 Modern; its rules could also be adapted to Dungeons and Dragons. The setting posited that beneath Jupiter's cloud cover, the planet is solid just like Earth and home to hundreds of alien cultures with Iron Age-level technology, and the player characters are either natives or stranded humans. The reason for Jupiter having the same force of gravity as Earth was left as an exercise for the game-master.
  • Blue Planet from Fantasy Flight Games is set on the water world of Poseidon and exploring it and surviving its inherent dangers are major parts of most campaigns. As a twist to its obvious "new colony" setting it's actually inhabited by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens.
  • Space 1889 is Victorian planetary romance with a hint of Steampunk
  • GURPS Planet Krishna adapts L Sprague De Camp's Viagens Interplanetarias series, and GURPS Planet of Adventure is based on Jack Vance's Tschai stories.

Video Games

  • The Star Ocean series.
  • Ultima: Worlds of Adventure 2: Martian Dreams
  • The Iron Grip series arguably counts, but is sort of a subversion, since it averts Medieval Stasis (in favour of timeless Schizo-Tech) and combines Planetary Romance with the War Drama genre.
  • Lesbian Spider Queens of Mars.
  • Albion.
  • The first two "Metroid Prime" games have protagonist Samus exploring a single world each. She is tasked with saving each world from sheer destruction and can find in-depth information about the planets' rich history and wildlife through scanning lore, research and creatures. The third game becomes more of a space opera with the ability to explore and travel between multiple planets.
  • Caves of Qud


Western Animation