Queen of the Martian Catacombs is a science fiction novella by Leigh Brackett. This is the first story to feature Brackett’s hero Eric John Stark.
Gaunt giant and passionate beauty, two dragged thirst-crazed across endless crimson sands in terrible test of endurance. One knew where cool life-giving water lapped old stones smooth — a place of secret horror, death to reveal.
An amazing first start in the stories of Eric John Stark — the Earthman from Mercury — a pulp hero in the tradition of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. Leigh Brackett’s Mars is a dying wasteland where Stark wanders, a Conan-like space opera hero.
Stark was born on Mercury. His parents were employees of the mineral extraction company Mercury Metals and Mining. After his parents died in a cave-in caused by a quake, Stark was adopted by a tribe of Mercurian aborigines who are described as hairy and possessing snouts. They gave him the name N'Chaka, meaning “the man without a tribe”. He believed himself to be one of them, rather than a human, and endured their rigorous way of life in the Mercurian Twilight Belt, surviving by hunting rock-lizards.
Before Stark was fully grown, another group of human miners exterminated his tribe, captured Stark and imprisoned him in a cage. They would ultimately have killed him if he had not been rescued by the police official Simon Ashton, who raised Stark to adulthood.
The stories of the adult Stark are fast-paced adventures, but Brackett manages to insert more pathos than most authors. Because of his background, Stark is keenly aware of the injustices visited on the planetary “primitives” by the colonialist Earth, and tends to side with them against official bodies.
Queen of the Martian Catacombs was first published in Planet Stories in 1949, expanded and published in book form as The Secret of Sinharat. E-book: ePUB, 22,000 words, reading time approximately 1 hours and 50 min. Unabridged full version.
Leigh Douglass Brackett (1915–1978) was an American author, particularly of science fiction, and has been referred to as the Queen of Space Opera. She was also a screenwriter, known for her work on such films as The Big Sleep (1946), Rio Bravo (1959) and The Long Goodbye (1973). She was the first woman shortlisted for the Hugo Award.