of Mars a pair of rival Zodangan scientists build sealed airships
designed to travel into outer space. One of them is piloted by an
electronic brain susceptible to telepathic influence.
All right, if we accept the concept of Barsoomian airships it should
be an inevitable development that the Barsoomians should achieve near space
travel. Since their airship technology works on gravity repulsion,
there is no reason they cannot leave the atmosphere. In fact,
in Gods of Mars
an Airship which John Carter is on goes so high that the crew almost asphyxiates.
There is also Barsoomian folklore of an airship that made it all the way
up to orbital levels and remains there with its dead crew, a tiny third
satellite. So, it is no surprise that Barsoomians make it into
space, the only question is why didnít they do it sooner?
One answer might be propulsion. Barsoomian airship
technology works by essentially negating gravity, but out in interplanetary
space, there would be no gravity to negate. Barsoomian science
lacks an effective propulsion technology, and there is little evidence
apart from their radium pistols, that their technology ever developed in
directions which might allow such propulsion technology to evolve.
There is little or no evidence that Barsoomian technology, for instance,
ever had a fossil fuels or hydrocarbon stage. Rather,
other methods were so much more efficient that rival technologies
were strangled at the outset. Without such a technology, rockets
or the equivalent, there would be no hope of reaching Earth, Venus or Mercury,
or any other world. A Barsoomian expedition would flounder in space.
For Barsoomian technology, travel further than Thuria and Cluros would
Despite this limitation, Barsoomian scientists are able to monitor
Earth and to detect life on other planets. With respect to
Earth we are told the Barsoomian instruments can capture Earthly images
as small as blade of grass. With respect to Venus and Mercury, we
are told that Barsoomians are well aware that life and intelligence exists
on those worlds, but little else is known.
This poses an interesting question. Why wasnít the life
John Carter found on Thuria known of on Barsoom? Surely a telescope
camera capable of photographing blades of grass on Earth fifty million
miles away should have been able to spot signs of life, and of intelligent
life on Thuria, a bare few thousand miles away.
However, when John Carter arrives on Thuria, he discovers not
just life, but civilization, and at least two races of sentient beings.
What theyíre doing on such a tiny world is another mystery.
There is an interesting bit of discussion prior to the voyage
where John Carter and Fal Sivas discuss the merits and hazards of Thuria.
Carter argues that proportionately, Barsoomians should be thousands of
times stronger or larger than any hypothetical Thurians, adjusting for
differences in size and gravity between worlds.
Fal Sivas responds that they will shrink upon approaching Thuria,
until they are proportionately sized to that world. What an
odd contention! It suggests that Carter and other Earthmen
must have shrunk going to Barsoom, and that a Barsoomian might grow going
to Earth. More to the point, it makes absolutely no sense,
it is physics for imbeciles, and certainly not borne out by any science
existing in Burroughs time or after.
Are we looking at a duel of scientific illiterates here?
In John Carterís case, certainly. He is a fighting man, not a scientist.
In the case of Fal Sivas, we might have less confidence, but taking into
account his rivalry, his cowardice, his insane schemes, we must conclude
that he is not a true scientist, but that all too common related species:
A crackpot. He has had a couple of good ideas, and no shortage
of bad ones.
Allow me to offer an alternate theory of Thuria.
There is no special reason that Barsoomians could not have traveled
to Thuria ages before before John Carterís time. All the critical
elements of technology were there, from anti-gravity, to artificial life
support for a long long time. The artificial life support domes of
Okar and Panar, and the atmosphere plant, for instance, date to the time
of the collapse of the Barsoomian ecology and civilization.
In fact, there is substantial evidence that Barsoom had passed
its technological apex and deteriorated by John Carterís time. There
are references to a number of feats which current Barsoomian technology
could no longer duplicate, such as indefinitely glowing lights, or the
Given this, it is likely that Barsoomians did in fact travel to
Thuria, or at least to outer orbits around Barsoom. And in
fact, there is one slight bit of folklore that suggests such travel might
in fact have taken place - the myth that the Black Pirates are derived
If they did travel, what did they likely find out there?
Probably nothing, barren rock.
But letís speculate a bit here. Perhaps the ancient Barsoomians
were a little more ambitious. Remember, even on its deathbed,
with the environment in a state of collapse, oceans evaporating and green
hordes making war, the besieged Orovars were still able to construct a
gigantic atmosphere plant to stabilize the planet. The Okars
were able to construct at least one polar dome with its own atmosphere
plant, as did the Panars. These are the accomplishments of
a desperate civilization literally collapsing as it was building.
What could such a civilization do at the height of its powers?
I would argue that the ancient Barsoomians created the Thuria
that John Carter encounters.
How? Well, letís be realistic. Thuria
is far too small to hold an atmosphere or any significant amount of water.
Life on the surface of Thuria is a dead letter from the start.
But how about inside? Life could exist in pockets
or hollows found or created inside Thuria. Burroughs certainly had
no problem with hollow worlds, as we have seen with Pellucidar. Life
might exist in a hollow Thuria. All the Barsoomians would have
had to do would be to make sure it was sealed, install a sufficiently effective
airlock, and pump in whatever they needed.
With an adequate rate of spin, centrifugal force would have created
enough gravity to be Barsoom normal. Again, Burroughs was aware
that centrifugal force could alter the effect of gravity. The
gravity of Jupiter at its equator is reduced to manageable levels by this
effect in The Skeleton Men of Jupiter.
What Iím suggesting is that ancient Barsoomians took Thuria, converted
it into an OíNeill colony and populated it. They may well have
done the same with Cluros.
This is obviously a titanic effort. Why should they do something
like this? There are several possible explanations.
Perhaps Thuria was already hollow. Thuria and Cluros,
or Phobos and Deimos are probably captured asteroids or comets.
They, or Thuria may well have been hollow naturally. Or, they may
have begun as comets, essentially snowballs of ice, rock, hydrogen and
other volatiles, which over billions of years accreted a hard shell of
rock and metal. In either case, the Barsoomians would have
found a near ready made project.
Alternately, Thuria may well have begun as a mining project,
hollowed out to give Barsoomians a cache of special heavy metals not found
normally on their world. In this case, the creation or re-creation
of Thuria as an OíNeill colony would have followed a lengthy period of
How much space would we be looking at inside Thuria. Difficult
to say for sure. But assuming Thuria was a cylinder 21 miles long
and 7 miles diameter, we would be looking at a maximum interior space of
approximately 460 square miles. At 15 by 5 a maximum of 235.
And at 10 by 3.5 a maximum of 110.
These space estimates are only estimates. Some adjustments
have to be made for the thickness of the skin of Thuria. Perhaps
these estimates should be reduced as much as 30% for this reason. It is
likely that some measures must have been taken to allow light in, large
window slits as conceived in modern versions of OíNeill colonies would
have reduced surface area by another third. This gives us a minimum
range of 150 to 30 square miles internal area.
Alternately, Barsoomians might have arranged the internal geography
to be folded or scalloped or looped, potentially doubling the surface area,
giving a maximum range of 900 to 220 square miles internal area.
might have been considerably larger than Phobos or Deimos. Consider
that John Carter describes Thuria as appearing round from the viewpoint
of the surface of Barsoom. But we know it is actually oblong.
Is Thuria orbiting with its long axis parallel to Barsoom? If so,
it should appear oblong. If it is orbiting in a tumble, it will grow
and shrink. If it is orbiting with its long axis at right angles
to Barsoom, then a Barsoomian would only see the end, would only see the
width, not the length. A Thuria with a 15 mile wide base, 45
miles long (much larger than either of the current Martian satellites,
but perhaps viable if an existing satellite was used as the raw material
to construct a new, hollow one, would have a maximum internal area of approximately
2100 square miles.
These are all tiny by planetary standards, but at the same time,
it is comparable to the surface area of the Kamtol valley, or the northern
domes of the Okar and Panar. In short, just large enough to
sustain a viable pocket ecology and culture. And large enough
to sustain an adventure.
As to the life found on Thuria, it is difficult to say for sure
whether it is related to Barsoomian life, Burroughs barely describes most
of it, and tends to describe it mostly in general and vague terms.
Thuria has forests, plants, animals and sentient creatures.
Only one animal is described. A four-legged creature
with membranous wings and scaly skin. Although not apparently
known on Barsoom, it would not have appeared out of place there
There is one suggestive overlap in the botanical sphere.
A man-eating vine, similar to the man-eating plants of Barsoom.
The Tarids are simply Orovars with blue hair. Whether this
is a mutation which spread through an isolated population or whether this
was actually a part of the Orovar genome is uncertain. We know that
bluebirds on Earth are not actually blue, their colour is actually light
refracting through a lack of colour. The Orovar appear to lack pigment
compared to other Martian races, so perhaps this is the cause.
Tarid society seems to be organized roughly on the same lines as Barsoomian
society, even to the point of the titles of Jeds and Jeddaks. And
like the Barsoomians, the Tarids have strong telepathic abilities.
A particularly interesting overlap is that the Tarids have mastered
the art of psychic invisibility. Down on Barsoom, the denizens of
the cities of Invak and Onvak appear to have also mastered a form of invisibility.
The biggest obstacle are the Masena. Simply put, there is
nothing like them on current Barsoom. The plant men are one
eyed, like the Masena, but so biologically different as to be unrelated.
The ears are set high up, as with the Green men and White Apes, but otherwise
they share no characteristics. The Masena are distinguished by a
double mouth, a single central eye, and prehensile hands and feet.
The prehensile hands and feet can be dismissed quickly as an arboreal
evolution, or possibly an adaptation to lack of gravity. The
Masena may have originally been low gravity or zero gravity labourers on
the early stages of mining and excavating Thuria.
The other features are more difficult. The upper mouth may
simply be a modified enlarged nose, perhaps with a flexible lips to seal
around breathing tubes.
The single eye seems unique. Such creatures could not have
effective binocular vision. Does the comparatively huge single
eye provide for a more detailed visual picture? It is likely
that the Masena, with its huge lens and cornea has a strong visual sense.
But there is little to explain it on Barsoom.
My best guess is that the Masena may, on the evidence of the high
set ears, be a modified dwarf version of the Green man/White ape stock.
Certainly the six limbed stock have substantial variations in eyes - we
have the bizarre compound eye of the apt, the protruding eyes capable of
independent movement of the Green men. So, this may have been a variant.
We also note that many of Ras Thavas' hormads possessed variant
features, including asymmetrical eyes, which may imply that the Masena
may be a form of hormad that bred true.
Finally, Rykors who are effectively headless, and the Kangaroo-like
Marsupials demonstrate the extreme plasticity of Barsoomian humanoids.
This theory gives us a fascinating glimpse into the heights reached
by the Barsoomian Orovar civilization, and leads us to speculate further.
Did the Orovars make it to Earth? Are there Martian genes in
terrestrial humans? Perhaps this explains why, despite differences
in anatomy and apparent evolutionary antecedents, John Carter was able
to interbreed. Did the Barsoomians make it to the Moon?
To Venus? To Mercury? To Jupiter? Each of these
worlds share human normal populations with unquestionably alien local populations,
and even non-human intelligences. Are the human appearing populations
of those worlds transplanted Barsoomians, or at least, host to Barsoomian
Consider the similarity of Poloda, the name of the world system
in Beyond the Farthest
Star to Polodonna, the Barsoomian term of Equator.
Or, consider humans faculties for transmogrification between worlds.
At least two humans, John Carter and Ulysses Paxton, have been able to
transport themselves from Earth to Mars. And there appears
to be at least one case of transport from Earth to Venus. Perhaps
terrestrial DNA has influenced the emergence
Irregardless, we must contemplate that Thuria means the ancient
Barsoomians were able to extend themselves and their technology into space,
and there are more than a few suggestions that ancient times saw some greater
degree of interplanetary travel.
~ Den Valdron