What delight! An entire anthology devoted to modern reimaginings of those glorious old school planetary romances, set on that long-lost imaginary planet of fetid swamps and humid jungles, of thickly overcast skies dripping hot rains, of slimy and slithery things that flourish in the warm, damp dimness, of scaled and webbed amphibious denizens of vast blood-hot oceans, and the ruins of ancient decadent civilisations overrun by thick, lush vegetation - the Venus of my youth, destroyed forever by the flyby of Mariner 2. Yes, I'm talking about George R. R. Martin and Garner Dozois' collaborative editorial effort, Old Venus.
It's a wonderful homage to the great pulp writers of planetary adventure, from Edgar Rice Burroughs and Otis Adelbert Kline to Leigh Brackett and C. L. Moore, a collection of stories with all the fast-paced action, adventure, and even at times terror of the originals, but infused with a modern, often post-colonial awareness. In many of these stories, lurking in the shadows behind the hard-boiled adventurer's narrative lies an acknowledgement of damage done by the bold colonising Earthmen, the exploitation of Venusian wealth and peoples, the question of who is the monster - the indigenous, adapted life form, or the alien writing the story. And in some, there is awareness of the hubris of the explorer, the belief that the indigenous peoples can not be as knowledgeable, even of the nature and history of their own world, as the ones who "discover" them. This is planetary romance, all grown up.
While all the stories have something to recommend them, I particularly enjoyed "Bones of Air, Bones of Stone," by Stephen Leigh, "Ruins," by Eleanor Arnason, "The Sunset of Time," by Michael Cassutt, "Pale Blue Memories," by Tobias S. Buckell, and "The Heart's Filthy Lesson," by Elizabeth Bear.
* This anthology contains 16 stories, 13 of which are written by men, and three of which are written by women