by Paula Stiles for Golden Gazette News
Many pulp writers made a living and had good reputations in their time. Fewer were influential outside of the pulps. And even fewer are remembered today. One of these enduring greats is Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950), creator of Tarzan, Carson of Venus and John Carter.
Like L. Ron Hubbard, whose first story, “The Green God” (1934), has a naval intelligence officer battling with cultists over the missing idol of the title in China, Burroughs set his stories all over the world, and not infrequently on other worlds, with a heady emphasis on color and romantic adventure. Burroughs’ works have aged so well because they are exciting and, most of all, fun. Others had written about these subjects before, but Burroughs successfully drew on his own wide-ranging experiences to infuse even the most outlandish situations with a sincerity and sense of authenticity that attracted readers.
Burroughs was born in Chicago and grew up there. In 1895, he enlisted in the SeventhU.S. Cavalry after failing the West Point exam, but a heart ailment ended his military career only two years later. This did not stop him from making a living working on ranches for a few years before getting married, fathering two children and going to work for his father. His motivation for starting to write in 1911 was the time-honored reading of a terrible story and thinking, “I can do better than that!” He was not wrong. His first story, “Under the Moons of Mars,” was serialized in All-Story Magazine in 1912 from February to July and later republished as a novel, A Princess of Mars, in 1917.