Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
In 1911, Edgar Rice Burroughs, now best known as the creator of the character Tarzan, began his writing career with A Princess of Mars, a rousing tale of pulp adventure on the planet Barsoom or Mars. Several sequels followed.
The novel tells of earthman John Carter who is mysteriously transported to the planet Barsoom (through a form of teleportation), and encounters both formidable alien creatures resembling the beasts of ancient myth and various humanoids.
As mortals knew him
Carter was 6′2″ tall with close-cropped black hair and steel-gray eyes. His character and courtesy exemplified the ideals of the antebellum South (the southern U.S. states just before the American Civil War). A Virginian who served as a captain in the Civil War, he struck it rich by finding gold in Arizona after the war.
While hiding from Apaches in a cave, he found himself mysteriously transported to Mars, where he subsequently had many adventures. The less intense gravity of Mars compared to Earth gave him demigod-like strength.
The immortal being
Actually, John Carter is an immortal being. In the opening pages of A Princess of Mars, Burroughs reveals to the reader that Carter can remember no childhood, having always been a man of about thirty years old. Many generations of families referred to him as "Uncle John," but he always lived to see all the members of the families grow old and die, while he remained young. After travelling to Mars, he seemed to find his true calling in life as a warrior-savior of the planet's inhabitants.
His "death" was actually his inanimate body left behind on Earth while he travelled about Mars in an identical body. Carter revealed that he mastered the process of travelling to and from Earth and Mars and could travel between the two at will. Thus, his Earth body lies in a special tomb that can only be opened from the inside.
The humanoid "Red Martians", "White Martians" and "Black Martians" resemble Homo sapiens in almost every respect except that they are oviparous. The warlike "Green Martians" are four-armed, tusked, and approximately four meters tall.
Many Barsoomians are generally warlike and honor-bound. The technology of the tales runs the gamut from dueling sabers to ray guns and aircraft, with the discovery of powerful ancient devices or research into the development of new ones often a plot device. The natives also eschew clothing other than jewelry, providing a stimulating subject for illustrators of the stories.
Although loosely inspired by astronomical speculation of the time that pictured Mars as a formerly Earthlike world now becoming more inhospitable to life, Burroughs' Barsoom tales never pretended to be anything other than exciting escapism.
The tales seem somewhat dated today, but they were innovative when they were written, and the exciting stories caught the interest of many readers, helping to inspire serious interest in Mars and space exploration.
Many later science fiction works, from the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers films of the 1930s, to Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, to the Star Wars films, to the Mars Trilogy of Kim Stanley Robinson can also be seen as a nod in Burroughs' direction. Barsoom is also directly referenced in Robert A Heinlein's novel The Number of the Beast and Alan Moore's graphic novels of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
- A Princess of Mars (1917)
- The Gods of Mars (1918)
- The Warlord of Mars (1919)
- Thuvia, Maid of Mars (1920)
- The Chessmen of Mars (1922)
- The Master Mind of Mars (1928)
- A Fighting Man of Mars (1931)
- Swords of Mars (1936)
- Synthetic Men of Mars (1940)
- Llana of Gathol (1948)
- John Carter of Mars (1964)
The American copyright of the five earliest novels has expired, and they can be found on a number of free e-text sites. The Australian copyright of the remainder, not including John Carter of Mars (1964), has also expired and they too can be found online.
- Free eBook of The Gods of Mars at Project Gutenberg
- Free eBook of Warlord of Mars at Project Gutenberg
- Free eBook of Thuvia, Maid of Mars at Project Gutenberg
- Free eBook of The Chessmen of Mars at Project Gutenberg
- The Master Mind of Mars (1927) Zip file Text file at Project Gutenberg Australia
- A Fighting Man of Mars (1930) Zip file Text file at Project Gutenberg Australia
- Swords of Mars (1934) Zip file Text file at Project Gutenberg Australia
- Synthetic Men of Mars (1939) Zip file Text file at Project Gutenberg Australia
- Llana of Gathol (1941) Zip file Text file at Project Gutenberg Australia
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