With Disney’s trailers and announced March release of the movie John Carter, readers of the books that inspired the movie are at once hopeful and fearful: hopeful that the movie will actually capture the imagination as well as the initial reading of Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom series did; fearful that the movie will be an unfaithful adaptation, or, at worst a lemon in the tradition of pulp movie adaptations like the Doc Savage movie.
Though never a large Tarzan fan, I, like many readers my age, tore through the other worlds created by ERB. But Barsoom was always the cornerstone. Here, then, is a Primer on John Carter and the Barsoom series of novels.
SPOILER ALERTS – for those readers who have not read the books and would like to be surprised at the movie plot (which hopefully doesn’t stray to far from the book plot line), this primer is written with the potential spoiler pieces at the end. Feel free to read the Author section. The John Carter section contains a bit of preview, but stay away from the sections below that if you want to go into the movie fresh.
Born September 1, 1875, Edgar Rice Burroughs held numerous non-writing jobs before breaking into the world of print in 1912 (at the tender age of 37). He is better know as the creator of Tarzan, but he also created many other worlds and characters. And the very first one he created was called Under the Moons of Mars, the original name of the story that would be known as A Princess of Mars, the first novel in the Barsoom/John Carter series.
The legend of ERB says that he held a job checking the advertisements in the pulp magazines of the day, and dreamed that he could write on better. This first attempt was one crazy daydream, and contained a fairly fully conceived world within it.
When initially submitting the story to The All Story magazine for publication, he was concerned that its plot was so fantastic that publishers and the public of 1912 would think him quite mad. So he submitted it under the pen name Normal Bean. The publisher presumably thought this was a typo and changed the author’s name to Norman Bean. Thus Barsoom and John Carter were born.
ERB created many more worlds and characters than just Tarzan and the Barsoom of John Carter. He imagined the adventures of David Innes in Pellucidar At the Earth’s Core; Carson(Napier) of Venus; The Land That Time Forgot trilogy; the Moon Maid and others. And the success he had with these inspired the pulp writers of Doc Savage and The Spider, who themselves inspired the science fiction writers that we all know and love.
In all, through 1967 with the release of I Am A Barbarian, ERB published almost 70 books of these worlds and others.
In his later years, ERB spent time in Hawaii, and was living in Honolulu during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He volunteered to be a war correspondent, and was the oldest one in the Pacific Theater. He died in 1950.
The rest of the article covers John Carter, Barsoom, the rest of the books in the series and a link to other sources.
Read the full article here.
My review of READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline has been posted on SFSignal.
REVIEW SUMMARY: A fast-paced story in a bleak future, where escape into virtual worlds is driven by a contest based on 1980s trivia and culture and the winner gets billions.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Wade Watts hides from the nasty real world of the mid-21st century inside the virtual world/MMORPG called OASIS. Like many, he searches for the clues that will grant the solver the fortune left by the will of the founder of OASIS. When he is the first one to solve the first of three main puzzles, the real world and the virtual starts in hot pursuit.
PROS: Any book that ties in Rush, Zork, Monty Python and other relics from my past into a Second Life meets World of Warcraft virtual reality gets my vote.
CONS: A made-for-Disney-movie ending; if you don’t like 1980s trivia and culture, you may not dig this book (if it’s too loud, you’re too young)
BOTTOM LINE: With a high geek and 80s factor, this book won’t appeal to everyone. But Cline lays down a well paced-plot with some good twists, and doesn’t spend too much time buried in the minutia of 80s trivia, making this an enjoyable read.
I do not propose to trivialize any book with an outline, but let’s do a quick plot summary exercise:
- Guy builds virtual reality, combination of Second Life/World of Warcraft/(insert name of fave MMPORPG here); guy makes billions;
- World has energy crisis meltdown;
- People get poor, depressed, escape into virtual reality.
So far, sounds like lots of other books and movies, don’t it? Tron, Surrogates and many others come to mind (and while we are talking Surrogates, can we all just agree that any SF movie Bruce Willis is in rocks?).
Author Ernest Cline adds the following twists to this well used base plot:
- Guy who built virtual reality dies. But his last email to all users of this world, he describes a contest in which the winner will get all of his billions;
- Contest is built on 1980s trivia, and involves finding three keys;
- People get excited, dive into virtual reality world;
- Corporations are formed, just to get expertise and win the prize;
- Little guys versus big guys, in reality and in the game.
Read the full review here.
My article on how to gift Kindle ebooks, nook books and Apple App Store apps has been puslihed on the JoSara Media web site.
You can use the following shortcuts to get to each separate guide (with screenshots):