Every time I think I’ve discovered all the nooks and crannies of Bill Hillman’s ERBzine, something pops up which shows me there are more treasures there. This article by Den Valdron makes some very good points and creates some insights that have otherwise been elusive.
Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote Barsoom for Barsoomians. That is to say, except for the occasional interloper from Earth the stories of Mars were by and for Martians. Sure, there was the occasional interloper from Earth, John Carter or Ulysses Paxton, but these guys tended to go native pretty quickly, adopting the methods and mores of the culture around them. But for the most part, the Barsoom stories took Barsoom on its own terms, looking at life and existence as the natives saw it. It truly was another world, very distinct from our own. Earthlings became a part of it, but their earthly natures were not terribly significant.
There’s no story, for instance, where John Carter sets up a modern “Henry Ford” style industrial plant to mass produce fliers, for example, or where he single-handedly builds an industrial structure to get himself a working radio… Although there are other examples of such stories throughout science fiction, beginning with Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. That’s just a different kind of story.
There are, of course, lots of different kinds of stories in science fiction and literature. Spaceman’s Burden was another one.
Look at it this way. First come the explorers and adventurers, people who go out and discover new worlds, new realms. John Carter on Barsoom, Professor Challenger in the Lost World, Sinbad of the Seven Seas, Stanley and Livingston in Africa, Lewis and Clarke in America, Columbus and Magellan, the intrepids who ventured into India and China. The adventurers brought back tales and stories, exotic trinkets, the philosophies and techniques of new lands.
But on Earth, the adventurers and explorers of the European era were eventually followed by traders and armies, the companies came… The British East India Company, the North West Company, the Hudson’s Bay Company, the Congo Rubber Company, and with the companies, came white men, European cultures and values, commerce, fortresses, trade, armies and Empires.