Monday, April 16, 2012

A Princess of Mars: Classic Sci-Fi.

A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel of extra-terrestrial adventure was originally supplied to The All-Story magazine in 1912 as a serialization of a novel that had been recently accepted for publication. Initially it was called 'Under the Moons of Mars' and written with a pseudonym, Norman Bean.

The story which centers around the strange Martian exploits of a confederate Civil War veteran called John Carter.
Carter finds himself inexplicably on Mars, after experiencing a kind if 'mental transference'. He is almost immediately captured by the 'green race' of Martians called Tharks, who marvel at his immense strength and agility.
He rises to a place of honor among them, and soon falls in love with a captured princess of the humanoid 'red race' called Dejah Thoris, who is, in fact the Princess of Mars.

Initially, Burroughs worried how his writings would be accepted, as standard 'realistic fiction' was the norm, and novels of fantasy or Gothic style were unpopular and looked down upon by the general readers of the age.
However, his popularity with the 'Tarzan' novels secured him into a position of respect and readability which provided him with more acceptance than he or his publisher expected.
He wrote eleven novels within the series and enjoyed much popularity during their initial release due to a late Victorian Era fascination with the planet Mars brought about by the book 'Mars' by Percival Lowell.
Burroughs' story deals with several major themes, each hotly debated at the time of its publishing. The question of race is heavy in the story, as there are divisions among the humanoid Martians, based on skin-color, but also based on physiological differences. The Tharks having four arms, and being fifteen feet tall, and non humanoid are not recognized as being part of the community of humanoids dwelling there.
There are also the 'great white apes' and other livestock, which all heavily portray earthly counterparts.
The other questions raised by the book are those common to the turn of the twentieth century literary period, namely, politics, borders and countries, technology, politics and love.
Although not strictly a Science Fiction work, being more a 'planetary romance' popular at the time for using alien landscapes and monsters as the setting for human love, the work deals heavily with technology and social commentary; two themes found in almost every example of Science Fiction writing.
Men in Black Book Club will be meeting to discuss 'A Princess of Mars' on Thursday, April 19th at 12, noon in the Asheboro Library Meeting Room.
Feel free to join as at that time.

1 comment:

  1. I wasn't at all filmilair with original novel or even interested in it until I saw the recent Disney movie -- ashamed to admit that :/ As a huge sci-fi nut, I feel I've really missed out and I'm def going to add the series to my summer reading list. If you're interested, I heard a really good review of "Princess of Mars" yesterday on this literary AM radio show I like to try to follow called "The Book Report" -- its aired locally here in Boston, but also I think in other cities. The "Book Report" ( website keeps an update archive of past broadcasts so its worth a listen since the host, Elaine Charles, tends to bring a lot of insight to her reviews.