Wednesday, August 10, 2011


With the upcoming John Carter movie, a new generation is about be introduced to Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars. I hope the franchise hype gets some of the kids to read the books. Burroughs also wrote a trilogy about the Moon in which he speculates on the future with some interesting socio-political ideas.

The Moon Maid starts 1967. Not our 1967 of the the Summer of Love, but one after the world had just ended a long war that has left the world in a peaceful state. The narrator doesn't know what men like him will do without war. On a transoceanic cruise, he meets a man who remembers his future incarnations because “there is no such thing as Time” – leave it to Edgar Rice Burroughs to not let things like space and time get in the way of a story.

The stranger tells of Julian 5th who goes to the Moon after radio communication is established with Mars and a spaceship called The Barsoomian is built. The Moon is hollow, and he encounters quadrupedal cannibalistic humanoids and meets a princess from a more civilized, “human” breed. Orthis, the commander of the Barsoomian, throws in with the Kalkars, a degenerate breed of bipedal lunar humanoids, who are responsible for the sorry conditions on the Moon that forces cannibalism for survival – even Julian's princess eats the flesh of the quadrupeds. Orthis and the Kalakars, with modern mechanized weapons, cause massive destruction. Julian and the Moon maid escape to Earth.

The Moon Men begins with the narrator working for the International Peace Fleet, helping out Eskimos. He runs into the man who remembers the future again, who tells him the story of Julian the 9th, who lives in a world that was invaded by Orthis and the Kalkars. Progress has been set back by their foolish policies. Americans live in poverty, marriage and religion are outlawed.

Like many dystopias, The Moon Men creates a nightmare world by having white people treated like slaves. As Ishmael Reed said in his essay, “300 Years of 1984” – “For Afro-Americans, it could be argued that every year they've spent in this country since they arrived in chains to perform forced labor has been 1984.” Burroughs did this decades before Orwell.

Fortunately, in the Burroughsian fashion, Julian 9th finds a princess – or at least a girl of proper “Yank” breeding – and leads a revolution, leaving his people free to practice Americanism.

There is no envelope in this one. The Red Hawk goes straight into the action. Julian 20th is the Chief of a tribe of Yanks in an America than has gotten even more primitive. They live like the Apaches in The War Chief and Apache Devil, with a horse/warrior society, with swords and lances. No complaints about decline of American manhood here.

This comes in handy, because the Kalkars are still around, in the Capitol, threatening to take over again. They also want to mix their genes with the Yanks, which would eventually do to the Earth what they did to the Moon. A lot is made of the treachery of half-breeds.

Julian 20th finds a girl from a good family and starts another revolution, in which he leads war- painted mounted troops into the Capitol, where the Kalkars and their half-breed allies are defeated once and for all. Americanism goes on, as Yanks worship the Flag and live like Indians in a world without mechanized warfare or decadent modern living. It seems to be Edgar Rice Burroughs' vision of utopia.

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