Another installment in the Appendix N series is here:
RETROSPECTIVE: Pirates of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs
It’s funny, but my son is at this point more familiar with the literature that inspired D&D than he is with the games themselves. As a consequence, he immediately notices connections that would not as quickly occur to me. Flipping through my trusty Moldvay basic the other day, he pointed out to me that this otherwise underwhelming monster was an homage to A Princess of Mars! How many kids that bought this set would have known that this creature is not only fundamentally awesome, but also that it should have four arms?
Yeah, I’ve spent four weeks looking into Edgar Rice Burroughs and I’ve written about ten thousand words on the guy. I’ll be moving on to other authors now and I know my internet acquaintances are tired of hearing about how awesome he is. If there was one thing I wish I could have articulated effectively… it’s that the guy is not important just for retrospectives and game design ideas. Really, if you have a son or a nephew, you really should consider leaving a stack of Mars books out where he can “discover” them. Edgar Rice Burroughs can give him something that the schools, the churches, the libraries, the book stores, the movies, and the video games just won’t impart:
“Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world…. I’ve talked to more biochemists and more astronomers and technologists in various fields, who, when they were ten years old, fell in love with John Carter and Tarzan and decided to become something romantic. Burroughs put us on the moon. All the technologists read Burroughs. I was once at Caltech with a whole bunch of scientists and they all admitted it. Two leading astronomers—one from Cornell, the other from Caltech—came out and said, Yeah, that’s why we became astronomers. We wanted to see Mars more closely. I find this in most fields. The need for romance is constant, and again, it’s pooh-poohed by intellectuals. As a result they’re going to stunt their kids. You can’t kill a dream. Social obligation has to come from living with some sense of style, high adventure, and romance.” — Ray Bradbury
“Burroughs did not quite invent, but he refined and codified a robust popular masculine narrative, which, while celebrating heroic character, also promulgated the values of literate knowledge and philosophic inquiry. Burroughsian narrative also provides the locus for a non-systematic but incisive critique of the standing culture, as it became increasingly emasculated, regulated, and anti-intellectual in the middle decades of the Twentieth Century. This same masculine narrative entails, finally, a conception of the feminine that elevates the woman to the same level as the man and that – in such characters as Dian of the Pellucidar novels or Dejah Thoris of the Barsoom novels – figures forth a female type who corresponds neither to desperate housewife, full-lipped prom-date, middle-level careerist office-manager, nor frowning ideological feminist-professor, but who exceeds all these by bounds in her realized humanity and in so doing suggests their insipidity.” — Thomas F. Bertonneau
Oh, and one last thing… I completely missed what was going on in the opening frame of Pirates of Venus. The Black Gate has my back on this one:
“The story begins with a fictional version of the author relating how he came across the remarkable story you are about to read. Pseudo-ERB receives a visit from Carson Napier, a relative of the famed John Carter, a former Hollywood stuntman, natural telepath, and now a rocket-designer with the intention of visiting Mars. Later, he uses his telepathy to send his incredible story to Mr. Burroughs.”