SF/F Genre Glossary

What is Planetary Romance?

This is a continuation of the Science Fiction / Fantasy Genre Glossary Project posts! Wow that’s a mouthful. For the complete genre index click here.

Solar System
Solar System by KeepWalking07

What is Planetary Romance?

A subgenre of science fiction that focuses on adventures on an alien planet. The novels are not primarily concerned with travel through space, but with what happens on the planet. This subgenre has roots in pulp adventure novels.

Literary Examples:

  • The Pern novels by Anne McCaffrey
  • The Big Planet duo by Jack Vance
  • Darkover by Marion Zimmer Bradley

This genre was a bit of a surprise. My first idea was that it would be ‘romance in space’, but the subgenre is actually concerned with the romance of the alien world, rather than the steamy affairs of the heart.


  1. That’s because of the history of the word “romance”, I think. Originally, the word “romance” meant any writing in one of the “romance” languages – those languages that are derived from the language of the Romans, i.e. Latin, those being French, Spanish, Italian, etc. From there, it came to refer to large written works (and, in fact, the word for “novel” in many of the Romance languages is, in fact, something akin to “roman”).

    It wasn’t until later that the word gained the connotation, specifically, of a love story, but the older usage is still prevalent in a few phrases like this.

    1. T.S. Bazelli Author

      You’re right. The term romance has not always been used in the context it is commonly used for today. I love the little quirks of language like these! Digging into the etymology of words is fascinating!

  2. Great project you’ve got there! I’ll make sure to check up older and newer posts. 🙂

    Complementing Stephen’s comment, in most Latin based languages, the word “romance” is still used in its older meaning, i.e. as a novel and not a love story. Very interesting info on the origin of the word. Thanks for that!

  3. Great discussion here-both the post and comments! Got my daily dose of etymology and new word 🙂
    And it IS surprising, the real meaning behind the genre. I’d have the same initial idea as yours!


  4. “This is the first of the Science Fiction / Fantasy Glossary posts”. Is this a re-run of an older post? Just curious, I looked at the master glossary, but this isn’t linked in there yet. Just curious.

    Another one to possibly add to this list is: Robert Silverberg’s Majipoor series.

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