Saturday, May 2, 2009

Savage Barsoom Apocalypse

Edgar Rice Burroughs is best known for his character Tarzan, which elevated Burroughs' career as a writer. While I enjoyed Tarzan of the Apes (which was written in 1912), the ending kinda put me off and, from what I've heard, the following books aren't really worth my interest. Before Burroughs wrote Tarzan, he was working on another project that would cement him as one of the founding fathers of the planetary romance/sword and planet genre. It was originally serialized as "Under the Moons of Mars" in pulp magazines, but became known later as A Princess of Mars, Burroughs first foray into the world of Barsoom and it's most notable champion, an earthling named John Carter. This artwork, by acclaimed fantasy/sci-fi artist Michael Whelan, was what drew me to A Princess of Mars in the first place. It evoked a strange, savage world where a man could slay a six-armed green alien in battle and claim a scantily-clad hot woman as his own. Okay, so I'm being the captain of the S. S. Obvious here, but let's just say the artwork did a damn good job of advertising. This has got to be one of my favorite series of books (next to Robert E. Howard's Conan stories). Every one of these books has gallons of action bleeding from the spine. It's got everything a savage tale could ever need: Daring feats of strength and skill, bloody and lethal battles, bizzare, bloodthirsty monsters, heartless mad scientists, devious cults - the list goes on and on. I will say, since the series of novels was written during the first half of the 20th century, that it does have an old fashioned view of the sexes, as most women are usually depicted in more of a passive role or as the target for slavers, kidnappers, and horrendous science experiments. So some of you gals out there might see this as archaic at best. Doesn't stop me from loving it, though. It's called the Barsoom saga because that's what the native races call the planet. It's better known as the John Carter of Mars series, although Burroughs never wrote a book with that title. A book with that name was published after Burroughs' death, containing two separate stories, but most consider that book an afterthought to the series. So far, I've read: A Princess of Mars The Gods of Mars Warlord of Mars Thuvia, Maid of Mars (noticing a pattern here?) and The Master Mind of Mars I also have: Swords of Mars (which I'm reading now) Synthetic Men of Mars and Llana of Gathol (no "of Mars" here) Which leaves for me to get: The Chessmen of Mars A Fighting Man of Mars and John Carter of Mars Anyway, this series got me into delving deeper into the genre. Though the only sword and planet book I read outside of Burroughs was Robert E. Howard's Almuric, which, surprisingly, dissappointed me. Nonetheless, if you like good, pulpy stories, then Barsoom will satisfy. And if you think that this would make for a great roleplaying game, you're not alone. Adamant Entertainment made a game simply called MARS, which they just released for Savage Worlds (hey, hey). Though it does take liberally from numerous sources of martian fiction, including H. G. Wells, it's main inspiration is the Barsoom books. If you're more of a purist, check out Savage Barsoom, a blogger page dedicated to converting the world of Barsoom into Savage Worlds as well as other resources (online books from the series and a link to a company that does Barsoom miniatures). Until next time, Kaiser out

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