Sunday, May 28, 2017

Adapting “Outpost on Io” By Leigh Brackett, C.L. Moore's NorthWest Smith To The 'Old Solar System' Campaign Setting

So this holiday weekend I've been spending my time catching up with family & rereading classic sword & planet novellas by Leigh Brackett specifically Outpost On Io by Leigh Brackett. 
Is another of her post Colonial novellas set upon the hell moon of Jupiter, Io where a group of criminals & cut throats slaves away for jovium, an isotope that makes other metals explode. This is another almost but not quite lost outer world setting with a material that's an old school sword & sorcery alchemist's wet dream. This novella's masters & overlords sound exactly like the type of bureaucrats who would work without question for Leigh Brackett's Terran Exploitations Company. The stuff has got to be worth 6000 gold pieces for per gram because of the substance's unique properties. Which brings up the question how did they know the stuff was on Io in the first place?
That's because the true Lovecraftian history of the'Old Solar System is known to a select few among the Earth's interstellar government &  Leigh Brackett's Terran Exploitations Company. Because they're a mining corporation they know the real value of Io. The world was once a Hyperborean weapons development & weapons testing facility. Jovium causes
vibrations of a specific wavelength that break down the molecular bonds in other metals, causing them to liquefy. Its a perfect space borne weapon system able to be delivered to a wide variety of targets.
Io is one step away from Hell in this story where you can die with you boots on or let the planet slowly kill you. The fact is that this makes it a perfect R&D and testing range for a wide variety of super science weapon systems. Much of the life on Io looks like it came straight out of Advanced Dungeons & Dragon's Fiend Folio.
So what's this got to do with C.L. Moore's Northwest Smith? There's plenty of over lap as we see another of the old hold overs from when the Lovecraftian races roamed the solar system.

Outpost on IO appeared in 1942 in Planet Stories, Winter 1942 issue as a part of a great all star pulp line up of talent. In Outpost on Io the human colonists are treading on the coat tales of an older civilization & like the asteriod belt, Jupiter, etc. are going to be depending upon the independent contractor rocket jockeys like Northwest Smith. Ships like Northwest's 'The Maid' are going to be flitting from world to world right under the noses of the
Leigh Brackett's Terran Exploitations Company & the Earth government or Terran authorities. This issue of Planet Stories is full of various sword & sorcery or planet races that fit the 'Old Solar' system like a glove. Planet Stories, Winter 1942 is full of the kind of old school pulpy goodness that makes excellent fodder for an old school adventure or campaign one shot.

Planet Stories, Winter 1942  starts out with the Colossus of Chaos is by Nelson S. Bond & this novella contains exactly the sort of space borne weapon of mass destruction that the Hyperboreans of AS&SH would be scared of. Planet of No Return by Wilbur B. Peacock is a novella set on 'Old Venus' and gives a very unhealthy snap shot of that world complete with Hyperborean legacy monsters and more. Spoilers of Space is a salvage novella that comes complete with a Hyperborean crew and more. Doorway to Destruction features a perfect old school Hyperborean weapon by Garrold S. Hatfield. "Peril of the Blue World" by Robert Abernathy is perfect AS&SH fodder with a group of Martians facing down a paladin. The Man from Siykul by Richard Wilson is a typical adventurer finds himself pitted against aliens of the Outer Darkness. Galactic Ghost by Walter Kubilius is another Hyperborean artifact of the space lanes style story and points up some of the dangers of messing with artifacts and relics of bygone ages. Meteor-Men of Mars by Harry Cord and Otis Adelbert Kline perfectly illustrates the danger and alien weirdness of some of the horrors dwelling between the Boreas Winds.
You can read
Planet Stories v02n01 (1942 Winter) Here

There's no doubt that Outpost on Io's background seems straight out of Leigh Brackett or a dark dark corner of a Clark Aston Smith novel but many of the ideas are later foreshadowed in C.L. Moore's Northwest Smith stories. The legacy of a solar system much older then the new comer colonists settlements is something we see time and again in the various pulp magazines. Northwest Smith is going to be running all kinds of small and illicit cargoes to and from prison worlds like Io. The gold coins are going to far too much to resist for a smuggler like Northwest Smith but I think its the small antimetal amounts to be smuggled back that part of the temptation.
If the anti metal of Last Outpost on Io got back to Earth unchecked the results could be incredibly dangerous given the metal rich environment of the moon is it possible that Io is in fact home to some variety of AD&D rust monster? It begs the question of the other Gygaxian monsters found in the weird ruins of the novella.

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