Stan Galloway’s Interview of Frederick Pohl on “Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Development of Science Fiction”

Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Burroughs Bulletin, published by the Burroughs Bibliophiles, is a fanzine that had its origins in 1947 with the blessings of Edgar Rice Burroughs himself.   Here is an interview of Frederick Pohl by Stan Galloway, a scholar and member of the Biblophiles, and a member of the John Carter Sequel Facebook Group.  (You can contact the Bibliophiles via this link)

Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Development of Science Fiction

 (Editor’s Note: Frederik Pohl is the author of more than thirty novels and short fiction collections, including the Hugo and Nebula award-winning GATEWAY and CHERNOBUL. He is the only person to have won the Hugo Award as both author and editor. He published the first series of anthologies of original stories in STAR SCIENCE FICTION and edited two leading science fiction magazines: GALAXY and IF. A noted teacher and lecturer, he has also received the American Book Award, the annual award of the Popular Culture Association, and the United Nations Society of Writers Award. We are much indebted to Stan Galloway of Lawrence, Kansas for this interview with Mr. Pohl for THE BURROUGHS BULLETIN.) 

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    I met a lot of the major writers of the early period of science fiction, but never Burroughs … a man named by Brian Aldiss as “a dinosaur of science fiction.” In 1919, TARZAN THE UNTAMED ran in THE RED BOOK, McClurg brought out THE WARLORD OF MARS, and I was born. I grew up in Burroughs’ heyday and began my own writing as Burroughs himself left the scene.

    I was introduced to Burroughs in the way of countless other fans … through his stories. I read the Mars and Pellucidar and various other odds and ends, partly because Bur-roughs was about the only American science fiction writer available at the public library.

    While today’s readers of science fiction deal largely, though not exclusively, with paperbacks, in the past the pulp magazines had a much more important impact on the field. My personal introduction to science fiction came about as follows: When I was maybe ten, someone left an issue of SCIENCE WONDER STORIES at our house and I read it because I read everything I could get my hands on. I don’t remember the story but the cover showed a monster from another planet knocking the tops off illuminating gas tanks … big ones … and I read it and loved it.

Read the full article at Burroughs Bibliophiles


  • “Wells is a much finer writer. And some of the English writers like S. Fowler Wright and Stapledon had much more profound thoughts than Burroughs ever allowed to appear in his novels. But Burroughs had the imagination and the color and the adventure and the excitement.”

    I haven’t read all the authors he mentions there, but from the general sentiment I’ve gleaned from comparisons between Burroughs and the more “literary” sci-fi writers, I’ll offer a hearty “Yep!” in agreement. ERB is the kind of writer who gets people to love reading in the first place, and his books are so fun that he kinda spoils us a bit in regards to the other writers of the genre.

    “astronomically he was describing Mars the way a lot of astronomers described it at the time. It wasn’t that he was wrong; he was right and the authorities were wrong.”

    So, Burroughs was writing fairly responsible science fiction for his time. And now, even though the authorities have caught up with the Mars we discovered via the Viking missions, I still think that ERB was right and the authorities are still wrong. ERB gave us a Mars that is much more fascinating and inspiring than the real one, and thus, through science fiction, gave us something that science could not.

  • Yet Burroughs stories are still around, and I see no danger in them being left behind in the wake of high-tech developments or changing tastes because the stories are still fine. The Barsoom stories survived the changes in literary criticism, or the changes of the critical attitudes of the readers. They survived the fact that now we know what Mars is like, and it isn’t that way at all because they’re such damned good stories.

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