Barsoom is a fictional version of the planet Mars invented by author Edgar Rice Burroughs for a series of action adventure stories. In 1911, Burroughs, now better known as the creator of the character Tarzan, began his writing career with A Princess of Mars, a rousing tale of pulp adventure set on the planet. Several sequels followed, filling out his vision of Barsoom and developing it in more detail. A Princess of Mars was possibly the first fiction of the 20th century to feature a constructed language; although Barsoomian was not particularly developed, it did add verisimilitude to the narrative.
Richard A. Lupoff has advanced the theory that Burroughs was influenced in writing his Martian stories by Edwin Lester Arnold's earlier novel Lieutenant Gullivar Jones: His Vacation (1905), also known as Gullivar of Mars, though this has been disputed. Lupoff also speculates that Burroughs derived characteristics of his main protagonist John Carter from Phra, hero of Arnold's The Wonderful Adventures of Phra the Phoenician (1890).
Burroughs derived his concept of the Martian canals from the theories of Lowell and his predecessor Giovanni Schiaparelli. The few coordinates provided for Burroughs' canals differ from theirs, as their own differ from each other. In fact, the linear channel-like features Schiaparelli and Lowell mapped have been proven illusory. Some of Barsoom's other major physical features do correspond to albedo features of Mars known at the time, flipped upside-down in reflection of the images of the planet as seen through telescopes. For instance, Burroughs' snow-covered Artolian Hills can be roughly equated to the bright feature Hellas (actually a huge impact crater), and the Great Toonolian Marshes to the dark feature represented by the Valles Marineris.
The humanoid Martians are harassed and preyed upon by the semi-nomadic Green Martians, a separate species with four arms and tusks who stand approximately four meters tall. The Green Martians are organized into loose hordes ranging over the dead sea bottoms, each horde taking its name from that of a dead city in its territory, such as Thark and Warhoon.
The Chessmen of Mars introduces the Kaldanes of the region Bantoom, whose form is almost all head but for six vestigial legs and a pair of Chelae, and whose racial goal is to evolve even further towards pure intellect and away from bodily existence. In order to function in the physical realm, they have bred the Rykors, a complementary species composed of a body similar to that of a perfect specimen of Red Martian but lacking a head; when the Kaldane places itself upon the shoulders of the Rykor, a bundle of tentacles connects with the Rykor's spinal cord, allowing the brain of the Kaldane to interface with the body of the Rykor. Should the Rykor become damaged or die, the Kaldane merely climbs upon another as an earthling might change a horse.
A lesser people of Barsoom are the Kangaroo Men of Gooli, so called due to their large, kangaroo-like tails and remarkable ability to hop. Their moral character is not highly developed; they are devout cowards and petty thieves, who only value (aside from their lives) a "treasure" consisting of pretty stones, sea shells, etc.
Barsoomians generally display warlike and honor-bound characteristics. The technology of the tales runs the gamut from dueling sabers to "radium pistols" and aircraft, with the discovery of powerful ancient devices or research into the development of new ones often forming plot devices. The natives also eschew clothing other than jewelry and ubiquitous leather harnesses, which are designed to hold everything from the weaponry of a warrior to pouches containing toiletries and other useful items; the only instances where Barsoomians habitually wear clothing is for need of warmth, such as for travel in the northern polar regions described in The Warlord of Mars. This preference for near-nudity provides a stimulating subject for illustrators of the stories, though art for many mass-market editions of the books feature Carter and native Barsoomians wearing loincloths and other minimal coverings, or use strategically placed shadows and such to cover exposed genitalia and female breasts.
In addition to the naturally occurring races of Barsoom, Burroughs described the Hormads, artificial men created by the scientist Ras Thavas as slaves, workers, warriors, etc. in giant vats at his laboratory in the Toonolian Marsh in Synthetic Men of Mars and John Carter and the Giant of Mars. Although the Hormads were generally recognizable as humanoid, the process was far from perfect, and generated monstrosities ranging from the occasional misplaced nose or eyeball to "a great mass of living flesh with an eye somewhere and a single hand."
Representatives of other terrestrial-type animals can be briefly enumerated. The Sith is a giant, venomous hornet-like insect endemic to the Kaolian Forest. Reptiles are described as repulsive and usually poisonous, and include the Darseen, a chameleon-like reptile, the Silian, an Antarctic sea-monster found in the Lost Sea of Korus, and a kind of giant lizard able to consume a human being in one bite. Birds are said to be brilliantly plumed, but the only species described is the enormous Malagor, endemic to the Great Toonolian Marshes.
More common are the many-legged species of large animals unique to Barsoom, some of which sport fur or tufts of hair, making them apparently analogous to Earth mammals. A few are fully analogous, bearing only four limbs; these include the Apt, a large white-furred arctic creature with a hippopotamus-like head, walrus-like tusks, and faceted, insect-like eyes, the Plant Men, blue-skinned, one-eyed monsters found in the Antarctic Valley of Dor, the Rykors, headless but otherwise human-like creatures bred by the Kaldanes, and of course all the human races of Barsoom.
There is also a group of six-limbed creatures, consisting of the Sorak, the Barsoomian "cat," a small, domesticated animal; the White Ape, huge and ferocious, semi-intelligent gorilla-like creatures whose middle limbs, like those of the Green Martians, can be used as either arms or legs; and of course the Green Martians themselves.
Eight-limbed beasts include the herbivorous Thoat, or Barsoomian "horse." The Greater Thoat is used as a mount by the Green Martians and stands about ten feet at the shoulder; the Lesser Thoat bred by the Red Martians is the size of a large horse. The Thoat is described as a slate-colored animal, with a white underside and yellow lower legs and feet. The huge Zitidar, used as a draft animal, is possibly a larger relative of the Thoat, but is not well enough described in the literature to be certain.
Ten-limbed animals include (possibly) the Ulsio or Barsoomian "rat," described as a "many-legged" dog-sized burrower; the Calot, or Barsoomian "dog," a large beast with a frog-like mouth and three rows of teeth (easily the most famous of which was John Carter's own Calot, Woola); and the Banth, or Barsoomian "lion," which has a hairless, yellow hide, a maned neck, and many rows of teeth in a wide mouth.
Some Martian creatures are difficult to classify based on the available descriptions; in addition to the Zitidar and the Ulsio these would include the Orluk, an Arctic predator with a black and yellow striped coat, whose legs are not enumerated.
|Order||Title||Published as serial||Published as novel||Fictional narrator|
|1||A Princess of Mars||February-July 1912, All-Story||October 1917, McClurg||John Carter|
|2||The Gods of Mars||January-May 1913, All-Story||September 1918, McClurg||John Carter|
|3||The Warlord of Mars||December 1913-March 1914, All-Story||September 1919, McClurg||John Carter|
|4||Thuvia, Maid of Mars||April 1916, All-Story||October 1920, McClurg||third person|
|5||The Chessmen of Mars||February-March 1922, Argosy All-Story Weekly||November 1922, McClurg||third person|
|6||The Master Mind of Mars||July 15, 1927, Amazing Stories Annual||March 1928, McClurg||Ulysses Paxton|
|7||A Fighting Man of Mars||April-September, 1930, Blue Book||May 1931, Metropolitan||Tan Hadron|
|8||Swords of Mars||November 1934-April 1935, Blue Book||February 1936, Burroughs||John Carter|
|9||Synthetic Men of Mars||January 1939, Argosy Weekly||March 1940, Burroughs||Vor Daj|
|10||Llana of Gathol||March-October 1941, Amazing Stories||March 1948, Burroughs||John Carter|
|11|| John Carter of Mars: John Carter and the Giant of Mars|
(by John Coleman Burroughs)
|January 1941, Amazing Stories||July 1964, Canaveral||third person|
|John Carter of Mars: Skeleton Men of Jupiter||February 1943, Amazing Stories||John Carter|
John Carter appeared in one of the last Sunday Tarzan comic strip stories, drawn by Gray Morrow.
Then, in 1952, Dell Comics published three John Carter comic books, adapting the first three books, drawn by Jesse Marsh, who was the Dell Tarzan artist at the time. They were Four Color Comics #375, 437, and 488. They were later reprinted by the successor of Dell, Gold Key Comics as John Carter of Mars #1-3.
In about 1958 A Princess of Mars ran as a weekly serial in the UK comic The Sun, adapted by Robert Forrest.
DC Comics published John Carter as a backup feature in its Tarzan series, issues 207 — 209, after which it was moved to Weird Worlds, sharing main feature status alongside an adaptation of Burroughs' "Pellucidar" stories in issues #1-7; it again became a backup feature in Tarzan Family #62-64. (A non-John Carter Barsoom story also appeared in Tarzan Family issue #60.)
Czechoslowakia: First 4 books was printed as comics two series (together 51 pages) in ABC magazine in 1970-1972 (Written Vlastislav Toman, painters Jiří Veškrna and Milan Ressel). Reprinted 2001 in the comics book Velká Kniha Komiksů I. (ISBN 80-7257-658-5)
Until January 2007, the film, John Carter of Mars, had been in pre-production by Paramount Pictures. Tentatively scheduled for release in 2008, Jon Favreau had been signed to direct this movie, taking over from Kerry Conran. The original script by Mark Protosevich was re-written by Ehren Kruger.
This production was halted when it was announced by Variety Magazine and at SciFi.com on January 17, 2007 that the Disney Corporation had optioned the rights to the series as an intended franchise for the studio.
The tales seem somewhat dated today, but they showed great innovation for the time of writing, and the exciting stories caught the interest of many readers, helping to inspire serious interest in Mars and in space exploration. The John Carter books enjoyed another wave of popularity in the 1970s, with Vietnam War veterans who said they could identify with Carter, fighting in a war on another planet.
Numerous novels and series by others were inspired by Burroughs' Mars books: the Radio Planet trilogy of Ralph Milne Farley; the Mars and Venus novels of Otis Adelbert Kline; Almuric by Robert E. Howard; Warrior of Llarn and Thief of Llarn by Gardner Fox; Tarzan on Mars, Go-Man and Thundar, Man of Two Worlds by John Bloodstone; the Michael Kane trilogy of Michael Moorcock; The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath by H.P. Lovecraft, the Gor series of John Norman; the Callisto series and Green Star series of Lin Carter; The Goddess of Ganymede and Pursuit on Ganymede by Mike Resnick; and the Dray Prescot series of Alan Burt Akers (Kenneth Bulmer). In addition, Leigh Brackett, Ray Bradbury, Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Alan Dean Foster show Burroughs' influence in their development of alien cultures and worlds.
Robert A. Heinlein's novels Glory Road and The Number of the Beast, and Alan Moore's graphic novels of Allan and the Sundered Veil and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume II directly reference Barsoom.
In Philip José Farmer's World of Tiers series (1965-1993) Kickaha, the series' adventurer protagonist, asks his friend The Creator of Universes to create for him a Barsoom. The latter agrees only to make an empty world, since "It would go too far for me to create all these fabulous creatures only for you to amuse yourself by running your sword through them." Kickaha visits from time to time the empty Barsoom, complete with beautiful palaces in which nobody ever lived, but goes away frustrated.
L. Sprague de Camp's story "Sir Harold of Zodanga" recasts and rationalizes Barsoom as a parallel world visited by his dimension-hopping hero Harold Shea. De Camp accounts for Burrough's departures from physics or logic by portraying both Burroughs and Carter as having a tendency to exaggerate in their storytelling, and Barsoomian technology as less advanced than usually presented.
Furthermore, his Viagens Interplanetarias series of novels and short stories, especially those set on Krishna, one of Tau Ceti's inhabited planets, owe much to the premise of feudal co-existence alongside advanced technology pioneered within the Barsoom series.
Many other science fiction works, from the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers film serials of the 1930s, to the Star Wars films, to the Mars trilogy of Kim Stanley Robinson, also offer nods in Burroughs's direction. DC Comics character Adam Strange's method of transportation, the Zeta Beam, recalls the way Carter is transported to Mars. As well as this in the Commonwealth Saga novels by Peter F. Hamilton a group of humans who undertake unprecedented and often illegal genetic modifications of their own bodies are known as the Barsoomians, in apparent reference to Burrough's creation.
Richard Corben's Den series also appears to be inspired by the Barsoom series. It features a hero, Den, who mysteriously arrives naked on a (largely) desert planet where he becomes a great warrior and where the humanoids wear no clothes. Many of the creatures resemble the description of the white apes of the Gods of Mars. Like John Carter, he also receives great physical prowess from arriving in Neverwhere, although Carter's prowess stems from gravity, whereas Den undergoes a complete physical transformation.
In interviews, James Cameron has invoked Burroughs as one of the primary inspirations behind his 2009 space adventure, Avatar, whose lead character indeed has a strongly Carter-esque name: "John Sully". [reference to be provided; site down].
In the science fiction television series Babylon 5, Amanda Carter - a Martian citizen and advocate of Mars' independence from Earth - is revealed to have had a grandfather named John who was one of the first people on Mars. This has been confirmed by the series creator J. Michael Straczynski as a reference made by the episode writer Larry DiTillio to John Carter of Mars.