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Could Disney’s John Carter help inspire a comeback of classic adventure lit for kids and young adults?

Barsoom

The list of major creative minds who, in their boyhood, discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs’ world of Barsoom and were inspired by it are legion: Ray Bradbury, Arthur Clark, Carl Sagan, and James Cameron are just a few who are on record as having been mightily influenced by the master.  And so I was struck by these comments, just posted today on an movie message board by the test screening viewer who, somewhat famously at this point, wrote a glowing review of John Carter. She’s still on the board, still answering questions. Today she wrote this in response to apologies that have been posted by various of those who doubted her when she first posted:

Thanks guys (I assume you are all men, forgive me if you’re not)for the apologies. As an educator, I think people forget that movies (and all types of film medium for that matter) have the power to inspire people to read. After watching the Tudors mini-series, I went on a King Henry VIII kick for nearly a year. Never once was I interested in the guy or the time period before that series. I pretty much loathed 7th grade because of medieval world history.

On a more embarrassing note, I read the Twilight and Sookie Stackhouse series after seeing the movies and True Blood mini-series. I studied all about pirates after The Pirates of the Caribbean. I had to make a file-cabinet for my (useless) pirate research. How many middle schoolers are now reading Rick Riordan after seeing the Percy Jackson series?

Even if this movie doesn’t do well, many people like me, will pick up a Burroughs book for the first time and read it (or 11 more in this case). And if we’re lucky many of those readers will be children. Classic literature making a come-back. Awesome.

She has a point. Every one of the Martian novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs is available to read for free at the click of a search bar — it’s as easy as click here to download the entire Edgar Rice Burroughs 11 book John Carter of Mars Series. Seriously, if you clicked — you just got 11 books that, as a “tween” in the 1960’s, a lot of us would have committed mayhem to get.  Or if you don’t want to download but would rather read online — just google: “project gutenberg edgar rice burroughs mars” and they will all pop up.

But how do you get today’s 12 year old or 15 year old to try it? Is there any way they will?

I know that for me – if I had to isolate one thing in my youth that I treasure more than anything else, and which has continued to float in my consciousness all these many years later, it was the exquisite immersion into the world of Barsoom that transported me from wherever I was in the world, to someplace that I longed to be. It was Edgar Rice Burroughs who turned me into an avid, voracious reader — and while I progressed to more “serious” reading as I evolved, it is his work that I remember with the most fondness, like an old friend — like home.

The great scientist Carl Sagan said it extremely well in this video:

9 comments

  • @ Raja… you said

    “There’s also a burgeoning fad for retro-70?s YA, along the likes of “The Pigman” and “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” etc.”

    That cracks me up because when I taught 5th grade, the school had no money for books in our classroom library. So we went on a scavenger hunt around the school and picked up “unwanted” books from other teachers’ classes.

    We had several copies of the aforementioned titles and the kids got way into ‘Mixed up files” and we had so many copies of it that it became one of our Lit. Circle titles.

    That would be hilarious if it was a burgeoning fad because there is nothing else to read in the classroom;)

  • I have a lot of experience with publishers and basically they don’t follow trends in movies. I doubt there’s going to be a stampede to reproduce the style of adventure story that Burroughs was imitating. One reason is that publishing is already in the grips of a steam-punk fad, which is retro. There’s also a burgeoning fad for retro-70’s YA, along the likes of “The Pigman” and “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” etc. There also just a huge “prates” and “retro robot” phase. So I can tell you it’s more likely that publishing will be going in the opposite direction next.

    One reason I read all those books as a kid was that I was piss-poor & all I had to entertain myself was a library card, black & white tv (so I watched a lot of old movies) and my imagination. Kids today have too many options. To them “Raider of the Lost Ark” is “old”!

  • I cant tell if you are trolling, or if you dont know english or what . . . so I will just answer your question

    yes, John Carter is being made into a film by disney!

    here is the trailer

    and no they really didnt ruin tarzan, tarzan was ruined long before disney got their hands on it!

  • Good point about Burroughs being more popular and more well remembered elsewhere than in the US. Very true.

  • I also hope for the movie’s success (I am thoroughly pissed off at the trolls who want it to fail). Plus, there will be new editions of the Barsoom novels, and hopefully-hopefully, there will be news reports about the life and works of ERB.

    If this film brings renewed interest in ERB, then that will be its greatest success. The funny thing is, ERB’s works are known all over the world, but here in the US, there seems to be cultural amnesia amongst some…

  • G’Day! Johncarterfiles,
    Thanks for that, Is “John Carter” sequence by Edgar Rice Burroughs now a motion picture?

    I hear that in 2012 The “John Carter” Sci-Fi series by Edgar Rice Burroughs (who wrote Tarzan series) is coming out – by Disney?

    Has any individual observed anything at all about this? Any important information on it?

    Me and my sister utilised to examine these guides when we ended up kids. I typically wondered if they would be manufactured into a motion picture. With any luck ,, it will be handled very much healthier than the TARZAN series was!! They ruined that!
    Kindest Regards

  • I hope .. . . I really hope

    This movie is going to have a slow opening, but word of mouth is going to have it shoot up there I think . . . and young men like to talk about how radical things are

    I hope this movie is a success . .. I REALLY DO

  • Don’t overlook a boy who visited Barsoom and grew up to become president: Ronald Reagan. He’s on record crediting those books as the inspiration for the Strategic Defended Initiative (aka Star Wars). There are those who argue that SDI brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union. Very few novels have that kind of historical impact. The only other one I can think of is UNCLE TOM’S CABIN.

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