For my last Kirkus Column, I talked about E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith and his stories that kickstarted Space Opera. This week, we’re going back a little further and looking at pulp author Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the characters for which he’s known: John Carter and Tarzan.
I had a passing familiarity with Tarzan as a kid, but I wasn’t really introduced to John Carter until last year, when the movie was released. I thought it was decent, a bit long, and a bit directionless, but that seems to be the case with Burroughs and his stories. But, it’s not the only story to be found from Burroughs that’s been adapted, and while researching, I got to do delve into some of his books a bit more, and found them to be perfectly entertaining, even if I found him to be a bit of a racist git.
Here’s the sources that were used:
Billion Year Spree, Brian Aldiss: Aldiss spends a considerable amount of time (an entire chapter), talking about Burroughs’ stories and his influence after the fact. It’s an interesting and critical look at ERB’s writings and legacy.
A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs: Junot Diaz introduces this volume, and like all other Library of America editions, this one comes with a very good biography at the end, as well as a detailed timeline of the John Carter stories. It’s a little complicated, because the timeline ONLY covers the John Carter stories, which requires a little puzzle-work when coming up with a fuller chronology.
Tarzan of the Apes, Edgar Rice Burroughs: Thomas Mallon introduces this one, and like the John Carter edition, this comes with a biography and chronology that was extremely helpful.
Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Created Tarzan: Irwin Porges: This tome is much like Burroughs himself: it’s overly long and winded, but it’s a near-exhaustive biography of Burroughs and his life, recounting extreme details into the man’s life. It’s not entirely critical, but it’s probably one of the best resrouces out there.
A People’s Guide to Los Angeles, Laura Pulido; Laura Barraclough; Wendy Cheng: I try and avoid Wikipedia for hard facts, and I only use it to get a thumbnail sketch of a person during my initial stages. However, it does have its uses, and the entry on Tarzana linked me to this book when I started seeing things about ERB and his fairly racist views towards anyone not white. None of the other sources seemed to contain this information, which I thought was strage, but important.
The History of Science Fiction, Adam Roberts: Roberts’ history is a trusty stand-by, and provided a good overview of ERB’s work.