Barsoom, starring John Carter of Mars

Hello lovely fans,

It may surprise you to realize,  but Brian and I didn’t actually invent the genre of space fantasy.  No, actually, there may not be a lot out there now, but science fantasy has definitely been around since the pulp magazines of the early 20th century.

Lately we’ve both been reading the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs (yeah, the guy who wrote Tarzan!).  Burroughs wrote the stories serially between 1912 and 1943 (he died in 1950 at age 74). They were later collected into novels, and eventually rolled into public domain- nowadays you can  totally download the ebooks for free from any of a number of sites.

I find the books totally charming on a number of levels- they reflect that early-twentieth-century notion of Mars as a dying world, its seas dried up and its people hardy warriors with a strong sense of honor and nobility. Resources are limited, struggle and warfare is almost constant, and overall it’s just a great landscape for heroic adventure.

John Jusko painting of the Barsoom cast of characters. John Carter and Dejah Thoris in the middle there. Beautiful romantic dying Mars!

Those esteemed literary scholars over at Wikipedia label the Barsoom series as “sword and planet”, which honestly is a good description. It’s set on Mars, and they use laser pistols and flyers and such, but they also fight with swords and lances and ride massive brutal mounts called thoats. There’s no -and-sorcery attached to that sword, though all Martians are telepathic, and later on in the series a few more weird abilities come to light. And the plots tend to follow the same formulaic fantasy plots of hero meets heroine, love love love, heroine is captured by villain, hero battles villain, hero and heroine get together.

Beautiful 1976-era Boris Vallejo version of John Carter and Dejah Thoris. Damn, he so manly.

(Brian and I agree that our Astroarcane stories are the flipside of sword-and-planet: space-and-sorcery. Yeah, maybe we made that up, what of it? ;-) )

I’m also in love with the language: everything is gorgeous trappings, elegant this and that, fearsome beasts. And this delightful quote, which pretty much sums up heroic John Carter:

I verily believe that a man’s way with women is in inverse ratio to his prowess among men. The weakling and the saphead have often great ability to charm the fair sex, while the fighting man who can face a thousand real dangers unafraid, sits hiding in the shadows like some frightened child. (A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs)

Babes abound. And monsters.

Anyways, yes, it’s a really unique universe, with many gripping adventures, and each of them is a quick read. I am pretty sure that if John Carter was in the Astroarcane Universe, he would use his rocket boots inappropriately. And that Gahan of Gathol (Chessmen of Mars) would totally duke it out in a wizard duel.  So hey, check Barsoom out, and let us know what you think!

4 Responses to Barsoom, starring John Carter of Mars

  1. Steph says:

    Omigosh. There’s going to be a John Carter of Mars MOVIE out in 2012! It’s been in Production Hell since 1931- yes, 1931!- but is finally in post-prod!

  2. Chick J says:

    The last book in the series John Carter of Mars drove me crazy. The author dies before writing and ending. And they still published it.

  3. Good blog post, I’ve book marked this internet site so hopefully I will discover much more on this subject in the future!

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