Edgar Rice Burroughs
By: David Smay | Categories: HiLo Heroes, Radium Age SF

burroughs-tarzan

There’s a case to be made that the 20th Century begins in America when EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS (1875-1950) published his first story, “Under the Moons of Mars,” in All-Story Magazine in 1912. Burroughs trafficked in all the dominant pop literary tropes of the late 19th century — hollow earth adventures, lost races and cities, Martian canals, astral projection to other planets, and feral children — but stripped them clean of their fusty, Victorian values. His lost race yarns aren’t nearly as racist as those of A. Merritt or H. Rider Haggard. Burroughs doesn’t need to deform science to explain his hollow earth, and his astral projection doesn’t drag in Madame Blatavsky in order to launch a cavalryman to Mars. Burroughs doesn’t give a shit about the ideologies of the genres strip-mines for stories; and he streamlines 19th-century pseudoscience into pure sensation and thrills. What’s more 20th-century American than value-free sensationalism, I ask you? Kreegah Bundolo!

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Each day, HiLobrow.com pays tribute to one of our favorite high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes on that person’s birthday. Click here for more HiLo Hero shout-outs.

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In 2012–2013, HiLoBooks serialized and republished (in gorgeous paperback editions, with new Introductions) 10 forgotten Radium Age science fiction classics! For more info: HiLoBooks.

MORE RADIUM AGE SCI FI ON HILOBROW: HiLoBooks homepage! | What is Radium Age science fiction? | Radium Age Supermen | Radium Age Robots | Radium Age Apocalypses | Radium Age Telepaths | Radium Age Eco-Catastrophes | Radium Age Cover Art (1) | SF’s Best Year Ever: 1912 | Radium Age Science Fiction Poetry | Enter Highbrowism | Bathybius! Primordial ooze in Radium Age sf | War and Peace Games (H.G. Wells’s training manuals for supermen) | J.D. Beresford | Algernon Blackwood | Edgar Rice Burroughs | Karel Čapek | Buster Crabbe | August Derleth | Arthur Conan Doyle | Charlotte Perkins Gilman | Cicely Hamilton | Hermann Hesse | William Hope Hodgson | Aldous Huxley | Inez Haynes Irwin | Alfred Jarry | Jack Kirby (Radium Age sf’s influence on) | Murray Leinster | Gustave Le Rouge | Gaston Leroux | David Lindsay | Jack London | H.P. Lovecraft | A. Merritt | Maureen O’Sullivan | Sax Rohmer | Paul Scheerbart | Upton Sinclair | Clark Ashton Smith | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Olaf Stapledon | John Taine | H.G. Wells | Jack Williamson | Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz | S. Fowler Wright | Philip Gordon Wylie | Yevgeny Zamyatin

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David Smay is the co-editor of two books about pop music, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, and Lost in the Grooves. He's also the author of Swordfishtrombones, the 33 1/3 series entry on Tom Waits. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children.