Thursday, January 22, 2009

SF authors born 1874-83: 1875b

Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950)

For all other Radium-Age SF authors born in 1875, click here.

Post 1 of 3 about Burroughs: BARSOOM SERIES.
For PELLUCIDAR series, click here.
For VENUSIAN series and other Radium-Age SF by Burroughs, click here.


Burroughs is a science fiction writer in externals only, not in inner essence. Most of his work is really a fantasy of eroticism and power.... Science per se plays little part in the work of Burroughs, and it is safe to say that he knew and cared little about it... The Martian novels, even if one admits as much poetic license as is necessary for creating a story, are closer to occultism than to science, and the paleontology of The Land That Time Forgot involves more fangs than facts. Where inventions or scientific discoveries enter Burroughs' fiction, they are usually thin-air results, rather than processes, and usually are simply symbolic mechanisms for abuse of power... [Still, many] scientists, engineers, and writers have stated that the Martian novels of Burroughs first stimulated them to look further into science, even thought they soon discarded Barsoom and the sexual-sword antics of John Carter... He was among the first to place adventure stories on other planets, and his technique of associating action with elements of environment and his concept of erratic, structured decadence (swords versus ray guns) have had wide diffusion in both science fiction and high fantasy. — Brian Stableford, Science Fiction Writers, 2d ed., edited by Richard Bleiler.

Burroughs was born in Chicago, the son of a businessman. He attended the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and then the Michigan Military Academy. Graduating in 1895, and failing the entrance exam for West Point, he ended up as an enlisted soldier with the 7th U.S. Cavalry in Fort Grant, Arizona Territory. After being diagnosed with a heart problem and thus found ineligible for a commission, he was discharged in 1897. He held a series of short-term jobs (gold miner, policeman, storekeeper), spent time drifting and working on an Idaho ranch, married in 1900. By 1911, after years of low-wage jobs, he was working as a pencil sharpener wholesaler and began to write fiction. He began reading pulp fiction magazines and later claimed "although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lot more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines."

His first novel, Under the Moons of Mars, was serialized in All-Story Magazine in 1912; it was published pseudonymously, as Norman Bean. Burroughs took up writing full-time. Tarzan of the Apes, which was published from October 1912, and appeared in hardcover in 1914, would be his most successful series — a cultural sensation, in fact.

Burroughs wrote popular science fiction and fantasy stories involving Earthly adventurers transported to various planets (notably Barsoom, Burroughs' fictional name for Mars, and Amtor, his fictional name for Venus), lost islands, and into the interior of the hollow earth in his Pellucidar stories, as well as westerns and historical romances.

In 1923 Burroughs set up his own company, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., and began printing his own books through the 1930s. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor he was a resident of Hawaii and, despite being in his late sixties, he became a war correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, spending four years in the Pacific theater. After the war ended, Burroughs moved back to Encino, California, where he died in 1950. The towns of Tarzana, California and Tarzan, Texas were named after Tarzan. The Burroughs crater on Mars is named in Burroughs' honor.



* A Princess of Mars (Chicago: McClurg, 1917; serialized in All-Story, February-July 1912, as Under the Moons of Mars). 1st of the Martian series. Attracted little attention, when first published, until the success of Tarzan of the Apes. It's a historical romance set on another planet. John Carter, a Virginia gentleman trapped in a cave by southwestern Indians after the Civil War, is transported to Mars (a fictionalization of the planet described by Percival Lowell's books and articles: Once a wet world with continents and oceans, Barsoom's seas gradually dried up. Abandoned cities line the former coastlands. Barsoomians distribute scarce water supplies via a worldwide system of canals, controlled by quarreling city-states which have grown up at the junctures of the canals. The thinning Martian atmosphere is artificially replenished from an "atmosphere plant" on whose smooth functioning all life on the planet is dependent.) Thanks to his terrestrial strength, Carter is a mighty figure on the Red Planet, a fairy-tale world in which he battles multi-armed foes, wins a princess, and then apparently dies in a heroic effort to repair the planetary air-conditioning plant. The dominant culture of Barsoom is that of the humanoid Red Martians, who are organized into a system of major imperial city-states such as Helium, Ptarth and Zodanga — which control the planet-wide canals, as well as other, more isolated city-states in the hinterlands. Some of these are effectively lost cities, permitting Burroughs to utilize Barsoom as a stage for the same kind of lost race yarns he favored in earthly settings. The Red people are the interbred descendants of the ancient Yellow Martians, White Martians, and Black Martians, remnants of whom continue to persist in isolated areas of the planet, particularly its poles. All of these races resemble Homo sapiens in almost every respect except for their mode of reproduction and extended lifespans. The humanoid Martians are harassed and preyed upon by the semi-nomadic Green Martians, a separate species with four arms and tusks who stand approximately four meters tall. The Green Martians are organized into loose hordes ranging over the dead sea bottoms, each horde taking its name from that of a dead city in its territory, such as Thark and Warhoon. Barsoomians generally display warlike and honor-bound characteristics. The technology of the tales runs the gamut from dueling sabers to "radium pistols" and aircraft, with the discovery of powerful ancient devices or research into the development of new ones often forming plot devices. The natives also eschew clothing other than jewelry and ubiquitous leather harnesses, which are designed to hold everything from the weaponry of a warrior to pouches containing toiletries and other useful items; the only instances where Barsoomians habitually wear clothing is for need of warmth, such as for travel in the northern polar regions. In addition to the naturally occurring races of Barsoom, Burroughs described the Hormads, artificial men created by the scientist Ras Thavas as slaves, workers, warriors, etc. in giant vats at his laboratory in the Toonolian Marsh in Synthetic Men of Mars and John Carter and the Giant of Mars. Although the Hormads were generally recognizable as humanoid, the process was far from perfect, and generated monstrosities. NB: A Princess of Mars was possibly the first fiction of the 20th century to feature a constructed language; although Barsoomian was not particularly developed, it added verisimilitude to the narrative. Possibly influenced by Edwin Lester Arnold's novel Lieutenant Gullivar Jones: His Vacation (1905), also known as Gullivar of Mars.

* The Gods of Mars (Chicago: McClurg, 1918; All-Story, January-May 1913). 2nd of the Martian series; many consider the first three books of the Martian series to be a trilogy. At the end of the first book, A Princess of Mars, John Carter is unwillingly transported back to Earth. The Gods of Mars begins with his arrival back on Barsoom after a 10-year hiatus, separated from his wife Dejah Thoris, his unborn child, and the Red Martian people of the nation of Helium, whom he has adopted as his own. Unfortunately, Carter materializes in the one place on Barsoom from which nobody is allowed to depart: the Valley Dor, which is the Barsoomian heaven. A party of Green Martians arrives by boat on the River Iss, and is ambushed by a previously unknown Barsoomian species, the Plant Men. Carter comes to the aid of the Green Martians, and the lone survivor of the attack is his good friend Tars Tarkas, the Jeddak (roughly equivalent to king) of Thark. Tarkas has taken the pilgrimage to the Valley Dor to search for Carter, who disappeared 10 years earlier while saving Barsoom. Carter and Tarkas discover that the Therns, a white-skinned race of self-proclaimed gods who rule the Valley Dor, have for eons deceived the Barsoomians of the outer world by disseminating the myth that the pilgrimage to the Valley Dor was a journey to paradise. But many of the pilgrims are actually killed by plant men or the white apes of Barsoom upon their arrival in Dor. Those that escape the beasts are captured by the Therns and kept as slaves. Carter and Tarkas rescue Thuvia, a slave girl, and try to escape the Therns. They capitalize on the confusion caused by an attack by the Black Pirates of Barsoom upon the Therns, but are separated during their escape: Tarkas and Thuvia hijack an unoccupied Black Pirate flier, and Carter fights his way aboard a manned flier, killing all but one of the Pirates, and rescuing a captive Thern princess. Carter, talking with the captured Pirate Xodar, discovers that the Black Pirates, or "First Born," also think of themselves as gods, and prey upon the Therns as the Therns prey upon the races of the outer world. He also finds that the captive Thern is Phaidor, daughter of the "Holy Hekkador" (high priest) of the Therns. When their flier is surprised and recaptured by the First Born, they are taken to the land of the First Born, which is built around the underground sea of Omean, which is turn lies directly below the lost sea of Korus, located in the Valley Dor. The land of the First Born is literally underneath the land of the Holy Therns, and both are located at the South Pole of Barsoom. Carter is taken before Issus, the goddess of Barsoom. Issus in an ancient, evil woman who has manipulated her own people, the Therns, and the rest of Barsoom into maintaining an hierarchy with the First Born on top. Issus sets the policies of the Therns through secret communications with them. The Therns, thinking they are receiving the divine communications of their goddess, do not realize that they are the dupes of the First Born, their hereditary enemies. Issus takes Phaidor into her service as a handmaiden for one Martian year. After a year of slavery, handmaidens are sacrificed in the arena at the monthly games of Issus. Carter is taken to prison, and Xodar is to be treated as his slave as punishment for being defeated by Carter. However, Carter treats him with honor, thus winning a friend. In prison, they meet a young Red Martian captive from Carter’s home country of Helium. Soon thereafter, Carter and the youth are taken to the monthly games of Issus. Carter goes on a rampage and leads a revolt of the prisoners/gladiators. Carter and the youth escape the arena via underground tunnels, and cleverly give themselves up to guards unacquainted with the revolt to be returned to their prison island. Upon hearing the story of the revolt, Xodar is able to reject the notion of Issus’ divinity. Carter, Xodar and the youth hijack a flier and succeed in a mad escape. Soon after, Carter discovers that the youth is actually his son, Carthoris, whom Carter has never met. Their stolen flier is damaged in the escape and must be abandoned, so the three land in unknown territory. They soon encounter Thuvia, the former slave of the Therns, who escaped with Tars Tarkas. She describes the capture of Tarkas by the green warriors of the Southern Warhoons. Carter goes alone to rescue Tarkas, but is discovered. After being chased, some mounts collapse, and Thuvia is sent on alone mounted while the men stay for a last stand against the Warhoons. They are rescued by the timely appearance of the Heliumetic navy. Commanding one of the warships is Carter’s old friend, Kantos Kan. But the fleet is commanded by Zat Arras, the Jed (roughly equivalent to lord) of the somewhat hostile client state of Zodanga (which was conquered by Carter and Tarkas in A Princess of Mars). There is suspicion that Carter has returned from Dor, which is punishable by death, and Zat Arras is threatening, and perhaps ambitious himself. It seems that Tardos Mors, the Jeddak of Helium, and Mors Kajak, the Jed of Hastor (the grandfather and father, respectively, of Dejah Thoris) are absent from Helium because they led fleets in search of Carter, and are now years overdue. Finally, Carter receives the news that his beloved Dejah Thoris is missing, and is thought to have taken the pilgrimage to the Valley Dor to find him. Upon returning to Helium, Carter is tried for heresy by a rigged jury of hostile Zodangans, led by Zat Arras. But the masses of Helium will not stand for it. As a compromise to avoid civil war, the judgment of Carter is deferred for a year. Then Sola, the daughter of Tarkas, arrives. She had taken the pilgrimage with Dejah Thoris, and they had been captured by the Black Pirates; Sola escaped. Carter realizes that Dejah Thoris will be selected as a handmaiden of Issus, and thus will have only a year to live. He and his comrades begin a campaign to take a fleet to the land of the First Born to rescue her. They uncover evidence that Thern spies are monitoring them, and then Carter is kidnapped by the Zodangans. Carter refuses Zat Arras’ offer of freedom in exchange for endorsing Zat Arras as Jeddak of all Helium, and is imprisoned. After half a year in a dungeon, Carter wins his freedom through a ruse, and the mission to the land of the First Born is launched, with secretly raised troop levies, ships, and many troops from their Green Martian ally, Tars Tarkas. Upon approaching the South Pole, a fleet of Therns challenges Carter’s fleet. Then behind Carter’s fleet arrives a fleet led by the Zodangan, Zat Arras. And finally, a fleet of First Born arrives. The rescue mission for the rescue of Dejah Thoris is in dire straits. Wherever possible, Carter maneuvers Therns and First Born to engage in combat, since they are hereditary enemies. Then the Heliumetic crews of the Zodangan fleet mutiny to support Carter, thus negating that threat. Carter takes his remaining fleet with Tharkian troops to the underground sea of Omean, to attack the First Born and rescue his princess. The combined Heliumites and Tharks surprise the First Born and soundly defeat them. Issus is shown to be a fraud in front of her nobles, and they lynch her. But Carter is too late to save Dejah Thoris. The fiendishly clever Issus locked Dejah Thoris, Thuvia, and Phaidor, each of whom loves John Carter, in a room of the Temple of the Sun. Each room of this revolving temple opens only once a year, and they are imprisoned with insufficient food to last the year. Carter is able to talk to Dejah Thoris through the doorway bars, and slip them sufficient food supplements to last them the year, but the room cannot be opened. Just before the room is closed, Phaidor proclaims that if Carter will not love her, he will not be allowed to love another. She strikes at Dejah Thoris with a dagger, and the last thing Carter sees through the narrow crack is Thuvia lunging in front of the dagger. He hears a scream, but the door is closed, and he is unable to see who was struck by the dagger.

* The Warlord of Mars (Chicago: McClurg, 1918; All-Story, December 1913-March 1914). 3rd of the Martian series. Still attempting to regain his wife, John Carter travels to the North Pole of Mars, where he finds another hidden culture. Carter is proclaimed warlord, or emperor, of Mars. This novel continues where the previous one in the series abruptly ended. John Carter discovers that a First Born knows the secret of the Temple of the Sun and he and the Holy Hekkador Matai Shang want to rescue the Holy Thern's daughter who is imprisoned with Dejah Thoris and another Barsoomian princess, Thuvia of Ptarth. John Carter follows them in the hope to liberate his beloved wife. His antagonists manage to stay ahead of him and flee to the north, taking the three previously imprisoned women along. No ordeal can detain John Carter from his quest to be reunited with his wife. He follows them untiring into the undiscovered north polar regions where he discovers more fantastic creatures and ancient mysterious Martian races.

* Thuvia, Maid of Mars (Chicago: McClurg, 1920; All-Story, April 1916—TK). 4th of the Martian series. In this novel the focus shifts from John Carter, Warlord of Mars, and Dejah Thoris of Helium, protagonists of the first three books in the series, to their son, Carthoris, prince of Helium, and Thuvia, princess of Ptarth. Helium and Ptarth are both prominent Barsoomian city state/empires, and both Carthoris and Thuvia were secondary characters in the previous two books. Carthoris is madly in love with Thuvia. This love was foreshadowed at the end of the previous novel. Unfortunately Thuvia is promised to Kulan Tith, Jeddak of Kaol. On Barsoom nothing can come break an engagement between man and woman except death, although the new suitor may not cause that death. Thus it is that Thuvia will have none of him. This situation leaves Carthoris in a predicament. As Thuvia suffers the common Burroughsian heroine's fate of being kidnapped and in need of rescue, Carthoris' goal is abetted by circumstances. Thus he sets out to find the love of his life. His craft is sabotaged and he finds himself deep in the undiscovered south of Barsoom, in the ruins of ancient Aaanthor. Thuvia's kidnappers, the Dusar, have taken her there as well and Carthoris is just in time to spot Thuvia and her kidnappers under assault by a green man of the hordes of Torquas. Carthoris leaps to her rescue in the style of his father. The rescue takes Cathorsis and his love to ancient Lothar, home of an ancient fair human race gifted with the ability to create lifelike phantasms from pure thought. They use large numbers of phantom bowmen sided with Banths (Barsoomian lions) to defend themselves from the hordes of Torquas. The kidnapping of Thuvia is done in such a way that Carthoris is blamed. This ignites a war between the red nations of Barsoom. Will Carthoris be back in time with Thuvia to stop the war from breaking loose? Will Carthoris' love ever be answered by the promised Thuvia?

* The Chessmen of Mars (Chicago: McClurg, 1922; Argosy All-Story Weekly, February-March 1922). 5th of Martian series. Bodiless human heads with hypnotic ability and a chess-like game (Jetan) played with living pieces who fight to the death. The Chessmen of Mars introduces the Kaldanes of the region Bantoom, whose form is almost all head but for six vestigial legs and a pair of Chelae, and whose racial goal is to evolve even further towards pure intellect and away from bodily existence. In order to function in the physical realm, they have bred the Rykors, a complementary species composed of a body similar to that of a perfect specimen of Red Martian but lacking a head; when the Kaldane places itself upon the shoulders of the Rykor, a bundle of tentacles connects with the Rykor's spinal cord, allowing the brain of the Kaldane to interface with the body of the Rykor. Should the Rykor become damaged or die, the Kaldane merely climbs upon another as an earthling might change a horse.

* The Master Mind of Mars, (Chicago: McClurg, 1928; Amazing Stories Annual, July 15, 1927). Fantastic organ transplants. 6th of the Martian series. In this novel Burroughs shifts the focus of the series for the second time, the first having been from early protagonists John Carter and Dejah Thoris to their children after the third book. Now he moves to a completely unrelated hero, Ulysses Paxton, an Earthman like Carter who like him is sent to Mars by astral projection. On Mars, Paxton is taken in by elderly mad scientist Ras Thavas, the "Master Mind" of the title, who educates him in the ways of Barsoom and bestows on him the Martian name Vad Varo. Ras has perfected techniques of transplanting brains, which he uses to provide rich elderly Martians with youthful new bodies for a profit. Distrustful of his fellow Martians, he trains Paxton as his assistant to perform the same operation on him. But Paxton has fallen in love with Valla Dia, one of Ras' young victims, whose body has been swapped for that of the hag Xaxa, Jeddara (empress) of the city-state of Phundahl. He refuses to operate on Ras until his mentor promises to restore her to her rightful body. A quest for that body ensues, in which Paxton is aided by others of Ras' experimental victims, and in the end he attains the hand of his Valla Dia, who in a happy plot twist turns out to be a princess.

* A Fighting Man of Mars (Metropolitan Books, 1931; Blue Book, April-September, 1930). 7th of the Martian series. The story is relayed back to earth via the Gridley Wave, a sort of super radio frequency previously introduced in Tanar of Pellucidar, the third of Burrough's Pellucidar novels, which thus provides a link between the two series. The story-teller is Ulysses Paxton, protagonist of the previous novel, The Master Mind of Mars, but this story is not about him; rather, it is the tale of Tan Hadron of Hastor, a lowly, poor padwar (a low-ranking officer) who is in love with the beautiful, haughty Sanoma Tora, daughter of Tor Hatan, a minor but rich noble. As he is only a padwar, Sanoma spurns him. Then Sanoma Tora is kidnapped, and Tan Hadron crosses Barsoom searching for her. He encounters some of Burroughs's most ferocious beasts — huge, many-armed, flesh-eating white apes, gigantic spiders, and the insane cannibals of U-Gor. He also meets the mad scientist Phor Tak, who cackles "Heigh-oo!" and is crazed with the desire for revenge. Hadron rescues an escaped slave, Tavia, from a band of six-limbed green Tharks. Tavia is an atypical Burroughs heroine; depicted as self-reliant and competent with weapons, witty and intelligent. With the addition of Nur An, a disaffected Jaharian warrior, and another escaped woman slave, Phao, Hadron's quest becomes more collaborative than Burroughs' usual, although Tavia, in an unsurprising plot development, is revealed to be a princess at the end.

NB: Swords of Mars (1936), Synthetic Men of Mars (1940), Llana of Gathol (1948), John Carter of Mars (1964).

No comments:

Post a Comment