Blogging Brackett: “The Dragon-Queen of Venus”

“The Dragon-Queen of Venus”
Originally published as “The Dragon-Queen of Jupiter”
Planet Stories, Summer 1941

This one is an early tale by Brackett, one of her first. And while it isn’t as polished as some of her later work, and certainly doesn’t have the depth of her longer and better known stories, you can still see the writer she would become.

The story concerns a group of soldiers manning a besieged outpost in the early days of Terran settlement on Venus.  They’re running low on everything:  food, fresh water, ammunition, personnel.  They’re sort of a French Foreign Legion in space; at one point the commander makes a statement that no one knows anyone else’s real name.  The viewpoint character is from Texas, and of course everyone calls him Tex.

The Venusians attack from both the ground and the air (mounted on dragons), and are led by a gorgeous woman.  In many ways, “The Dragon-Queen of Jupiter Venus” is a space western, with the Earthmen the soldiers trapped in the fort surrounded by hostile Apaches.  It very much has that feel at times, but Apaches didn’t have poisonous snakes they could send through water pipes or grenades that would erupt into flesh eating insects.

This is a good story of a fort under siege, but if you’ve read some of Brackett’s more mature works, such as “The Vanishing Venusians” or “Shannach the Last” or “Enchantress of Venus“, you’ll most likely be a bit disappointed if you’re expecting something of that caliber.  I’ll be looking at a more mature story tomorrow.

There’s also the attitude that the planet exists to be conquered and tamed in spite of it already having inhabitants.  That might not sit too well with some more sensitive modern readers.

I’m not sure why the title was changed.  The ISFDB page for this story shows that the only differences between the two versions are changing all references from Jupiter to Venus, or vice-versa.  I’m not sure if Malcolm Reiss, the editor of Planet Stories, changed the setting or if it was changed later.  Stephen Haffner reprinted the story in Martian Quest, he used “Venus” in the title.  I doubt he would have played fast and loose with the story.  Venus makes a lot more sense than Jupiter, so my guess is that Reiss changed the setting for some reason.

“The Dragon-Queen of Venus” is available in the ebook collection Swamps of Venus from Baen Books for $4.

2 thoughts on “Blogging Brackett: “The Dragon-Queen of Venus”

  1. deuce

    “Venus” makes a LOT more sense than “Jupiter” and I’m glad it was changed. If nothing else, just to lessen the whining from “Secret Kings” attempting to score points and tear down a far better writer than they could hope to be.


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