The Influence of Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of John Carter, on science and popular culture

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What those who have helped shaped the world, science, and pop culture have said.  (And thanks to Patrick Dearen for tracking these down.)


“The Mars novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs . . . aroused generations of eight-year-olds, myself among them, to consider the exploration of the planets as a real possibility.” (“Cosmos,” 1980)

“I can remember as a child reading with breathless fascination the Mars novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. I journeyed with John Carter, gentleman adventurer from Virginia, to ‘Barsoom,’ as Mars was known to its inhabitants.” (“Cosmos,” 1980)

“I can remember spending many an hour in my boyhood…imploring what I believed to be Mars to transport me there.” (“Cosmos” 1980)

“Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world. By giving romance and adventure to a whole generation of boys, Burroughs caused them to go out and decide to become special.” (Listen to the Echoes, 2010)

“Burroughs . . . probably changed more destinies than any other writer in American history.”

“I’ve talked to more biochemists and more astronomers and technologists in various fields, who, when they were ten years old, fell in love with John Carter and Tarzan and decided to become something romantic. Burroughs put us on the moon.” (Listen to the Echoes, 2010).

“Because of him we have [foot-]printed the moon.”—(Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Man Who Created Tarzan,” by Irwin Porges, 1975)

“With ‘Avatar,’ I thought, forget all these chick flicks and do a classic guys’ adventure movie, something in the Edgar Rice Burroughs mold, like John Carter of Mars.” (The New Yorker, October 26, 2009)

“We’re doing this story that takes place out in the rain forest, a very simple story, almost classic in a sense, almost an Edgar Rice Burroughs kind of adventure.” (regarding “Avatar”)

“It could have been an Edgar Rice Burroughs-type story.” (regarding “Avatar”)

“Ultimately he becomes a messianic leader who leads them into battle … in the old school Edgar Rice Burroughs, Rudyard Kipling, H. Rider Haggard way. Where a guy kinda wanders into another culture, then rises through the ranks.” (regarding “Avatar”)

“My inspiration is every single science fiction book I read as a kid. And a few that weren’t science fiction. The Edgar Rice Burroughs books, H. Rider Haggard — the manly, jungle adventure writers. I wanted to do an old fashioned jungle adventure, just set it on another planet.” (regarding “Avatar”)

JERRY SIEGEL, Superman creator:

“John Carter was able to leap great distances because the planet Mars was smaller than the planet Earth, and so he had great strength. I visualized the planet Krypton as a huge planet, much larger than Earth, so that whoever came to Earth from that planet would be able to leap great distances and lift great weights.” – (regarding how John Carter inspired Superman) (1983)

“I am amazed at how few people I meet today know that Burroughs also provided an introduction to science fiction with John Carter of Mars and the other books he wrote about John Carter and his frequent trips to the strange kingdoms to be found on the planet Mars.”— (1981 letter).

“I read them all.” (regarding Tarzan novels) (November 1974 interview, San Angelo Standard-Times)

TERRENCE WILCUTT, four-time shuttle astronaut, now a NASA administrator
“I really liked John Carter . . . Characters such as Tarzan . . . helped me be honest and morally strong. They were good examples to emulate when you are growing up. The same can be said for John Carter . . . I would never have gone into space had it not been for someone in the past who wondered one day if space travel was possible.”

“I’ve always wanted to bring a serial to life that blends . . . elements from Edgar Rice Burroughs.” (regarding “Raiders of the Lost Ark”)

“Originally, I wanted to make a Flash Gordon movie, with all the trimmings, but I couldn’t obtain all the rights. So I began researching and found where (Flash Gordon creator) Alex Raymond got his idea: The works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, especially his John Carter series of books.” ( Science Fiction Review 24, December 1977)

“In the grand tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ ‘John Carter of Mars'” – (Lucas’s May 1, 1975 synopsis of “Star Wars”)

LEIGH BRACKETT,  (novelist, writer of “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Big Sleep”):
“I was introduced to Edgar Rice Burroughs at a very young age . . . That changed the course of my life . . . My fascination for Mars came from the fascination for his Mars.” (interview, April 16-18, 1976)

“My entire world changed when I was given the Warlord of Mars at the age of 8.  I got onto Edgar Rice Burroughs . . . and the curtain went up. . . There was the universe and stars and comets and what-not, and I was never the same afterwards.” (interview, July 1975)

“I was jealous when he married that wimpy other Jane.” (regarding Tarzan)

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