Connections with the Other Fantasy. . . and Real Worlds. . . of ERB
Edgar Rice Burroughs devised connecting threads through
most of the stories of his various fantastic worlds. He peppered the introduction
to his Venus series with many references to already established characters,
places and events. The hero, Carson Napier, is son of a British Army officer
and a woman from Virginia. The choice of the name Napier was a nod
to an old military friend. He makes mention of Jason Gridley of Tarzana,
California, who had invented the Gridley Wave communications device already
used in the Pellucidar and Mars stories. Burroughs, himself appears
in the opening chapter of the first book of the series. Carson Napier visits
him and secretary Ralph Rothmund in the ERB, Inc. offices in Tarzana. Napier's
original plan is to travel to John Carter's Mars in a rocket ship.
Rice Burroughs: Grandfather of American Science Fiction
There are those who claim there
is very little that would qualify as actual science fiction in Burroughs'
books -- that he wrote only fantasy adventure stories. He certainly
cast the mold for this type of story with his first novel -- A Princess
of Mars of 1911 -- and inspired countless imitators in this genre.
A closer look at his body of work, however, makes a strong case for bestowing
the title: The Grandfather of American Science Fiction upon
this author. His Mars and Venus books especially, are rife with descriptions
of incredible futuristic inventions, many of which we now take for granted
as everyday devices. We have already compiled a list of the Barsoomian
"inventions and prophecies" in ERBzine
0459 In this second entry of the series we shall look at
the imaginative inventions, societies and flora and fauna he created for
his fantastic world of Amtor.
Early passing reference is made to the Gridley Wave --
a means of communication invented by Tarzana's Jason Gridley and used in
many of the Burroughs series, including the Amtor titles. Also mentioned
is the 0-220 Dirigible made of the super-strong and light metal called
Harbenite. This air ship had carried Tarzan and others to the hollow Earth's
core (Pellucidar) through the north polar opening.
Napier spins his experiences as a movie stuntman and the
resources from his family fortune into research on Rocket Cars. To facilitate
this research he pilots a very modern amphibious aircraft between the US
and Mexico. Eventually he perfects a one-man rocket space ship and plans
an interplanetary trip to Mars. He builds a rocket base on Guadaloupe
Island off Lower California. Necessary trajectories are calculated and
the rocket is launched off a 1-mile-long track. The launch is successful
but he is diverted off course to Venus by the unexpected gravitational
pull of the moon.
Carson Napier, who was raised in India by the mystic Chand
Kabi, has acquired a telepathic ability which enables him to converse with
people at a distance or to project mental images through space. He uses
a Thought Shape Projector to make his first contact with ERB. Later
he sends images and thoughts by telepathy across millions of miles of space.
He uses this as a means of sending his Venus adventures to scribe Burroughs.
Napier's Interplanetary Rocket
The ship contains a cabin with a heavily-stuffed chair
on a framework and track equipped with shock absorbers to absorb the g-forces,
a control panel, berth, table, chair, writing materials ? bookshelf, and
a galley behind the cabin. There is a wide-angle telescope/periscope and
port holes in the keel and port and starboard sides.
A compartment next to the cabin serves as a battery room,
containing storage batteries for lighting, heating, cooking, dynamos, and
The stern of the ship contains rockets with an intricate
mechanical device by which they are fed to the firing chambers by means
of controls in the cabin.
A compartment in front of the cabin houses water and oxygen
tanks as well as odds and ends to make the journey more comfortable.
The ship is also equipped with parachutes to retard its
speed as it enters the atmosphere for landing. Carson descends through
the heavy cloud cover of Venus by means of a parachute -- this means of
descent would become the norm for real-life returning astronauts and cosmonauts
many years later.
Ships guns are mounted on disappearing carriages behind
sliding hatches and have 15-foot-long barrels of 8-inch diameter with finger-size
bores. They have ingenious and complicated sights and no breech opening.
A rotating crank opens a shutter permitting radiation from element 93 to
meet with element 97, which releases a deadly T-ray that destroys all matter,
unlike the R-rays that destroy only animal tissue. Eventually the T-rays
destroy the gun itself, even though the metal in them is somewhat impervious
to the T-ray. This metal is, in fact, also used as armour under various
situations to defend against the T-ray.
Ship propulsion results from the meeting of Element 93
(Vik-Ro) with a substance called Lor which is made up mostly of Element
95 (Yor-San). This interaction results in the absolute annihilation of
Lor, releasing all of its energy. This is 18,000,000,000 times as much
energy than what would result from ordinary combustion. The fuel for the
life of a ship can be carried in a pint jar.
There are onboard instruments of extreme precision that
can locate land masses at great distances -- accurately indicating the
distances. Other instruments determine speed, mileage and drift as well
as depth soundings anywhere within a radius of a mile from the ship. All
of these instruments utilize the radioactivity of the nuclei of various
elements to accomplish their readings. "What we know as the gamma ray,
being uninfluenced by the most powerful magnetic forces is the ideal medium
for this purpose. It moves in a straight line and at uniform speed until
it meets and obsruction, where it is retarded. The instrument records this
retardation and the distance at which it occurs."
Amtorian Inventions and Conventions
Anti-aging, longevity serum
injections kill bacteria and allow people to live for hundreds of years
or forever. This "serum of longevity" was perfected on Venus a thousand
years before Carson's arrival. " It is injected every two years and not
only provides immunity from all diseases but insures the complete restoration
of all wasted tissue."
Strict birth control is enforced so as to keep the population
Salves are used to prevent the growth of beards. The heads
of criminals are treated with this salve -- they are all recognized by
their bald heads.
Doctors have to file records of their cases that are accessible
to the public. No one goes to unsuccessful doctors.
Cloth and cords are made from the strong silky fibre called
Tarel collected from the webs of the giant Targo spider. Targo hunters
use javelins with attached Tarel cords so that they can be retrieved.
Ray handguns fire R-rays. The weapons contain an
element that emits a destructive ray of extremely short wave length when
it comes in contact with another rare element. When fired they give off
a sound similar to that of an x-ray machine. Several metals impervious
to these rays are used in shields and as small shutters in the weapon.
The ray is destructive to animal tissue.
The most popular game on Amtor is Tork.
Burroughs imaginative description
of the Amtorian city of Havatoo:
The city of Havatoo practices selective breeding. Child
raising is only allowed by those fit to raise children -- only those physically,
morally or mentally fit. No defective infants are allowed to live in an
attempt to eradicate bad genes and to promote good genes.
Politicians have been replaced with the greatest minds
of Havatoo. The government has no laws and no single ruler. It is ruled
by a Quintumvirate that just guides and judges. The Sanjong (5 Kings) consists
of a biologist, psychologist, chemist, physicist and soldier. Since they
write exams every two years, any citizen can become a member. They are
governed without laws -- only natural law -- because they have bred a race
of people, who know the difference between right and wrong. Everyone is
equal and they all take turns doing harder labour.
A great deal of imaginative thinking has gone into city
planning. Cities are laid out in districts of specialized hubs. Pedestrian
traffic is limited to second level walkways connected by viaducts at all
The motors of the cars require no warm-up period and are
silent and vibrationless. Vehicles are energized from a central power
station from which power is transmitted in four frequencies.
The rooftops of the buildings are reserved for gardens.
Illumination in Amtorian buildings comes from small suspended
devices which provide light as bright as sunlight but with no glare. The
streets are lighted by brilliant but soft artificial lights with no apparent
source. They give off no heat and only soft shadows.
War has been replaced by stadium blood sports -- a result
of the realization that aggression and violence are natural human emotions
and that it is better to channel these passions through being spectators
of violent sports. "Our pyschologists discovered that man must have some
outlet for this age-old urge. If it be not given him by wars or dangerous
games he will seek it in the commission of crimes or in quarrels with his
fellows. It is better that it is so. Without it man would stagnate, he
would die of ennui."
The Chemists of Havatoo have produced lightweight synthetic
wood and steel and fabrics of incredible strength and durability. Using
these materials, Carson was able to build an amazingly light and powerful
aircraft -- the Anotar -- which he powered by the elements vik-ro and yor-san.
Their interaction brought about an atomic type reaction which totally annhilates
the substance lor that is contained in the yor-san. Carson claims that
he could hold enough fuel in the palm of his hand to last 50 years -- the
projected lifetime the ship.
The communications system is wireless, transmitterless
A rival jong, Skor, in his search for the secret of life,
reproduced body cells which instills synthetic life into the dead taken
from graves. There is no blood in their dead veins. Their dead minds are
automated only by thoughts Skor sends to them through telepathic means.
He has made himself jong and created his own subjects.
In Carson of Venus the Amlot theaters were of
a most unusual nature. The audiences, seated with their backs to the stage,
observed the action as it was reflected in a huge mirror placed on the
back wall: "[This action] by a system of very ingenious lighting
stands out brilliantly. By manipulation of the lights the scenes may be
blacked out completely to denote a lapse of time or permit a change of
scenery. Of course the reflections of the actors are not life size, and
therefore the result gives an illusion of unreality reminiscent of puppet
shows or the old days of silent pictures." This odd method of watching
a play had originated in the past when the acting profession was in disrepute;
to be seen on the stage was considered a disgrace, and accordingly, this
system was devised so that nobody could stare directly at the performers.
Burroughs also hinted at
the airplane bombing raids that played such a major role in WWII a few
years later. Both Carson and Duare, whom he teaches to pilot a plane, fly
over the Zanis (Nazi-like attackers) and drop the deadly R-ray and T-ray
bombs. His description of the Zanis is a biting satire of Hitler's Nazis
that would plunge the world into global conflict a few years later.
Setting: ERB's Fantastic World of Amtor
of Amtor by ERB (click)
Amtor (Venus) is a hot, cloud-covered, greenhouse-like world
covered with huge towering trees and lush vegetation. The inhabitants,
the Amtorians, believe that Amtor, a vast disc, floats on a sea of
molten rock which occasionally penetrates the surfact through volcanoes.
They are also convinced that there is fire above since when there is a
break in the cloud cover they glimpse the fiery sun and feel its consuming
heat. When rents in the clouds occur at night they believe that the myriad
stars are sparks from the eternal fiery furnace. "The relative proximity
of the sun lights up the inner cloud envelope brilliantly, but it is a
diffused light that casts no well defined shadows nor produces contrasting
highlights. . . . the result is a soft and beautiful pastel."
"There is no Amtorian word for "universe," neither is
there any for "sun," "moon," "star," or "planet" as they cannot see beyond
the thick cloud cover that envelopes the planet. Their maps
of Amtor show three concentric circles. "Between the two inner circles
lay a circular belt designated as 'Trabol,' which means warm country. Here
the boundaries of seas, continents, and islands were traced to the edges
of the two circles that bounded it, in some places crossing these boundaries
as though marking the spots at which venturesome explorers had dared the
perils of an unknown land. . . . [Trabol] entirely surrounds Strabol, which
lies in the center of Amtor. Strabol is extremely hot; its land is covered
with enormous forests and dense undergrowth and is peopled by huge land
animals, reptiles, and birds, its warm seas swarming with monsters of the
deep. No Man has ventured far into Strabol and lived to return." The outer
band beyond Strabol, called Karbol ". . . lies in the cold country.
There it is as cold as Strabol is hot. There are strange animals there,
too, and adventurers have returned with tales of fierce human beings clothed
in fur. But it is an inhospitable land into which there is no occasion
to venture, and into which few dare penetrate far, for fear of being precipitated
over the rim and into the molten sea." . . . "Amtor is a huge disk with
an upturned rim, like a great saucer. It floats upon a sea of molten metal
and rock, a fact that is incontrovertibly proved by the gushing forth of
this liguid mass occasionally from the summits of mountains, whenever a
hole has been burned in the bottom of Amtor. Karbol, the cold country,
is a wise provision of nature that tempers the terrific heat that must
constantly surge about the outer rim of Amtgor. Above Amtor, and entirely
surrounding her, above the molten sea, is a chaos of fire and flame. From
this our clouds protect us. Occasionally there have occurred rifts in the
clouds, and at such times the heat from the fires above, when the rifts
occurred in the daytime, has been so intense as to wither vegetation and
destroy life, while the light that shone through was of blinding intensity.
When these rifts occurred at night there was no heat, but we swaw the sparks
from the fire shining above us."
Gravity is about 12% less on Venus than on earth.
"Hundreds of years ago the jongs of Vepaja ruled a great
country. It was not this forest island where you now find us , but a broad
empire that embraced a thousand islands, extending from Strabol to Karbol.
It included broad land masses and great oceans; it was graced by mighty
cities; and it boasted a wealth and commerce unsurpassed through all the
centuries before or since."
The Amtorians have a strange alphabet with which ERB has
added for decoration in the margin around the Amtor map he has drawn and
included as an illustration in the books. The alphabet consists
of twenty-four characters, five of which represent vowel sounds, and these
are the only vowel sounds that the Venusan vocal cords seem able to articulate.
All the characters of the alphabet have the same value, there being no
capital letters. Their system of punctuation differs from ours, and is
more practical; for example, before one begins to read a sentence, he knows
by the mark which precedes it whether it is exclamatory, interrogative,
a reply to an interrogation, or a simple statement. Characters having values
similar to the comma and semicolon are used much as we use these two punctuation
marks; there is no colon; the character that functions as does our period
follows each sentence; the question mark and exlamation point precede the
sentences, the nature of which they determine. A peculiarity of the Venusan
language that renders it easy to master is the absence of irregular verbs.
The verb root is never altered for voice, mode, tense, number, or person;
distinctions that are achieved by the use of several simple, auxiliary
The Amtorian day consists of 26 hours, 56 minutes, 4 seconds
of earth time. This is divided into twenty equal periods called te, roughly
equivalent to the earth hour (80.895 earth minutes). On shipboard the hours
are sounded by a trumpeter with a distinguishing bar of music for each
hour of the day. The first hour, or one o'clock, corresponds to sunrise.
One of the common units of time measurement is the Vir, which is equivalent
to four Earth minutes.
"The Amtorians divide the circumference of a circle into
a thousand parts to arrive at their hita, or degree; and the kob is one
tenth of a degree of longitude at the equator (or what the Amtorians call
The Small Circle), roughly about two and a half earth miles; therefore
a thousand kobs would be about two thousand five hundred miles."
The Amtorian greeting
is "Jodades" which means "luck-to-you."
The response to this greeting is: "Ra jodades."