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 alert.
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 words.
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 excellent time.
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 he'd enjoy.
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
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 pulp format.
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
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
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
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.