Edgar Rice Burroughs

By: David Smay
September 1, 2009

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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