UK Sci Fi Novelist Geoff Ryman has a nice piece at the SFX Book Club on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1912 “A Princess of Mars” which I think is worth sharing here. Also read the comments — some good ones there. Here are a couple of the comments, then the article. The comments quoted here are about Burroughs’ writing, not the article per se.
It has a real sense of adventure missing from a lot of modern fiction. The excitement is tangible. The whole thing reads like classic pulp (which I love) but is so intelligently written you feel a bit mean labelling it as such. It’s HG Wells meets Lester Dent.
And one more:
One of the nice things is the lack of the casual racism (and sexism) you get in a lot of books of that era. The Green Martians are weird-looking with unpleasant habits, but Carter regards them with interest and sympathy rather than as some kind of lesser species.
And now the article.
EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS 1912
Geoff Ryman enjoys a buck-naked vision of life on Mars
Chicago is the secret creative capital of the USA. The Future was invented there – skyscrapers and elevated railways; Frank Lloyd Wright and L Frank Baum. From a Chicago suburb in 1911, Edgar Rice Burroughs sold the very first thing he ever wrote, the serial that became A Princess of Mars.
It used to work like this: from about age five you read the Oz books and, if you had a phantasmagorical turn of mind, when you got older, you read Burroughs. They formed a chain that led on to Wells, Verne and Amazing Stories.
A Princess of Mars starts out bristling with authority. A nephew remembers his mysterious uncle, who died and specified that he be buried in a vault that could only be opened from the inside. Chapter two starts with Uncle John Carter’s memoirs:
“I am a very old man: how old I do not know. Possibly I am a hundred, possibly more; but I cannot tell because I have never aged as other men, nor do I remember any childhood. So far as I can recollect, I have always been a man…”
I challenge anyone not to read on.