Ladies and Gentlemen,
Some of you in th land of ERBdom might know me as that 'weird guy who
writes pointless essays', some of you may have restraining orders, others
among you may simply automatically avoid my name. Some of you may
simply not be paying attention.
But for once, I'd like to call upon your attention, so sit up and look
A while back, I had an interesting notion. A way of attempting
to reconcile the geography of the real Mars with the fictional Barsoom,
not by simply laying one grid on top of another, but by finding common
geographical features and working from there. This became an essay
I wrote called "Matching Mars." It was very nice, but I couldn't
sell it, and I didn't know anyone who'd be interested in reading it, so...
I just tucked it away in my computer and forgot about it.
Then a few years later, I ran into Bill Hillman on the internet who
liked it a lot and offered to put it up on his web site. So, I looked
around and I'd had a few more pointless Barsoom essays cluttering up my
hard drive that no one had ever looked at. There was one on the history
of the Tur and Iss cults of Barsoom, there was another speculating that
Thuria was an artificial habitat, a long lost Orovar O'Neill colony.
Bill loved them all and asked for more. So, I wrote more, because
exploring odd facets of not just Barsoom, but Amtor, Pellucidar, Pal-Ul-Don
and Caprona, as well as other writers like Wells, Kline and Farley.
At this point, I think I'm up to around 40 essays and several hundred thousand
It's pointless stuff. But on the other hand, it's interesting
and fun, and at least some people like them. So who am I to argue.
To be honest, I've loved doing them.
Bill raised the subject of my trying fiction. I do write fiction,
but I have some dream of getting paid for it. So I generally stay
clear of 'fan-fictions' or non-commercial work. I'd rather invent
my own fantasy world and try and sell that. So, while it was flattering,
I didn't have any serious urge.
Now, I live in The Pas, Manitoba, in Canada. It turns out that
Bill lives in Brandon, Manitoba. We were both in the same province,
a few hours drive apart. What a coincidence!
Well, we had to meet in person. So, back in August, 2005, I believe,
I travelled to Brandon, Manitoba, to meet Bill Hillman. and say hello.
Bill and Sue-On proved to be charming and engaging hosts and we had an
As we left, Bill was feeling poorly and out of a desire to cheer him
up, and out of genial good spirits, I promised to write him up a fiction
piece set on Barsoom.
After we left, Bill's condition worsened. Since I couldn't do
anything to actually help him, I turned seriously towards doing some fiction
I decided to copy some of the key elements of the old master's style.
Well, obviously, I can't write like Burroughs. If I could, I'd be
raking in the cash. But I could figure out the sort of format he
used and copy that. And in fact, there was a very definite 'pulp
format' in his writing, and in the writing of others of his era.
Partly this was from deconstructing the Giant of Mars by Burroughs
and realizing that the reason it read so different from his other stuff
was because he was going with a Big-Little Book format, rather than the
What was the pulp format? I decided it was short chapters, 1500
to 2000 words, each ending in a cliffhanger. I worked out a story,
and started in. Originally, I wanted to send Bill a chapter a day.
That didn't work out well for either of us. But the thing proved
to be quite easy to write, taking on a life of its own.
The end result was that Bill's health recovered nicely, and he wound
up having to read a novel. A novel which turned out to be about 95,000
(not quite 100,000) words. Doesn't matter, at 95 to 100 k words and
53 chapters, this is out and out a full fledged novel. Pound for
pound, its equivalent to any Burroughs novel (of course, that's not an
assertion of style or quality... only poundage).
I called it "Lesbians of Mars." Why? I was being bad.
I wanted something risque, something attention getting, something fun.
And lets face it, everyone likes lesbians. It's a friendly, fun word.
It was suggestive of something more adult and naughty, and to tell you
the truth, perhaps I even had it in the back of my mind to include some
raunchy or pornographic scenes.
Torakar, or full name, Torakar Thor is a lesbian. If that's a
problem, don't read it. Torakar Thor has a girlfriend who is also
a lesbian, which works well for the two of them. Of course, if you
do read it, you'll find that Torakar Thor and her girlfriend are such remarkable
characters that being gay is only a small and minor thing.
As to the rest: On the good side, they have sex, a lot of it and
fairly early on in the book, and we can take it for granted, fairly regularly
throughout. I'm sorry, but this isn't 1912, and unlike John Carter,
our protagonist shouldn't have to suffer through an entire book in order
to get his groceries... if indeed he did wait the entire book (there's
an early chapter called 'Love Making on Mars' which hints that something
more may have been happening between scenes, but that's just me being evil).
I don't feel the need to adopt the prudery of a bygone age.
On the bad side, although there's sex, you'll hardly notice it.
The references are oblique and passing, there's no description, its not
overt and its not a huge part of the book. You'll get more graphic
sex on saturday morning cartoons. Those who were hoping to read this
with one hand will be disappointed. The relationship between Torakar
Thor and her girlfriend is a romance, not porn.
Perhaps someday there'll be a triple X version, but this isn't it.
Instead, what we've got is a story of Barsoom. It's a story of
two people who discover each other and fight their way across their world.
It's a story with Green Men, White Apes, Deserts, Monsters, Lost Cities,
evil henchmen, maniacal villains, lost princesses and noble causes.
Along the way you'll meet characters and settings from Burroughs own Barsoom
novels, and perhaps little nods and in jokes to other writers like Otis
Kline or C.S. Lewis, as well as completely new stuff.
Since the whole 'Lesbians of Mars' thing seemed a bit risque, we've
renamed it 'Torakar of Mars' just to be on the safe side.
Bill Hillman liked it enough to put it up on his site and invite people
to read it. That's flattering. In a tribute to the old serials,
we're putting up a few chapters at a time, each week, for thirteen weeks.
He's gone through a hell of a lot of work to do it.
A couple of you have already read a draft of it, no spoilers please,
but anyone whose read it and liked it please feel free to encourage others
to read it. If, on the other hand, someone doesn't like it... that's
cool, just don't spread it around.
Normally, I'll just write things and not be to pushy about whether people
read them. This time... Do me a favour and go give the thing
a chance, see if it grabs you.