Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote Barsoom for Barsoomians. That is to
say, except for the occasional interloper from Earth the stories of Mars
were by and for Martians. Sure, there was the occasional interloper
from Earth, John Carter or Ulysses Paxton, but these guys tended to go
native pretty quickly, adopting the methods and mores of the culture around
them. But for the most part, the Barsoom stories took Barsoom
on its own terms, looking at life and existence as the natives saw it.
It truly was another world, very distinct from our own. Earthlings
became a part of it, but their earthly natures were not terribly significant.
There's no story, for instance, where John Carter sets up a modern "Henry
Ford" style industrial plant to mass produce fliers, for example, or where
he single-handedly builds an industrial structure to get himself a working
radio... Although there are other examples of such stories throughout
science fiction, beginning with Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee in King
Arthur's Court. That's just a different kind of story.
There are, of course, lots of different kinds of stories in science
fiction and literature. Spaceman's Burden was
Look at it this way. First come the explorers and adventurers,
people who go out and discover new worlds, new realms. John
Carter on Barsoom, Professor Challenger in the Lost World, Sinbad of the
Seven Seas, Stanley and Livingston in Africa, Lewis and Clarke in America,
Columbus and Magellan, the intrepids who ventured into India and China.
The adventurers brought back tales and stories, exotic trinkets, the philosophies
and techniques of new lands.
But on Earth, the adventurers and explorers of the European era were
eventually followed by traders and armies, the companies came...
The British East India Company, the North West Company, the Hudson's Bay
Company, the Congo Rubber Company, and with the companies, came white men,
European cultures and values, commerce, fortresses, trade, armies and Empires.
And as it went in the real world, so it went in science fiction, particularly
the unconscious science fiction of the thirties and forties, even into
the fifties and sixties. It was the science fiction that said
that men of Earth would reach out to other worlds, savage worlds, wild
worlds, or civilized but less advanced worlds, and would rule them.
Because, after all, what else was there to do with them? And wasn't
it the best thing, for them and us? Although, on second thought,
perhaps it wasn't such a good thing at all, some might aver.
But it was basically all a version of the belief in "White
Man's Burden," written in an era when Europe and America ruled, directly
or indirectly, the whole of the rest of the world. It was a
time when you could look at a map of Africa and sea practically every bit
of it dotted with the colours of Europe. A time when India
was British, Indochina French, Indonesia Dutch and China a prostrate giant
where local citizens stepped into the gutters to let European and Americans
filled with purpose stride by. White Man's Burden dies hard,
it's become the last reason for America to try to hold onto Iraq...
the ‘moral obligation’ to protect the Iraqis from each other.
So it's no surprise that the science fiction of the day should reflect
the world it lived in, and White Man's Burden should have its literary
equivalent in Space Man's Burden. If anything, it was kind
of late. The ‘space man's burden’ stories really only began
to show up in the thirties and forties, whereas the colonial empires had
been building since the 17th century and probably had peaked out at the
turn of the 20th. I don't hold it against the literature for
being late to the party. Science fiction as a mass commercial form
really only dated back to the 20's at best. So they were pretty on
Sometimes it was
fairly unconscious stuff. H. Beam Piper's
Uprising features a local race of aliens trying to throw off the
rule of human empire, and self-righteously getting a nuke down the throat
for daring to threaten white men and women. Other later works,
including Poul Anderson's Palesotechnic league stories had a much
more conflicted view of the morality of empire.
Interestingly, Burroughs never really wrote this kind of story.
For all that it may be fashionable to diss the man for racism, its worth
noting that his protagonists joined and triumphed within the societies
they encountered. They didn't overrun it. Tarzan was
always 'of' the Apes. Imperial aspirations or pretensions were
absent from Burroughs work, there was no divine or racial right to European
or American rule, no 'White Man's' or 'Space Man's' burden.
Possibly Burroughs writing formed before this genre really caught on.
Remember that he started off with many of his key series, Barsoom,
Tarzan, Pellucidar and Caspak, begun and often several books written between
1912 and 1920. But almost certainly, Burroughs would have been well
familiar with hoary old imperialists like the author of Mowgoli, Rudyard
Kipling, and his period of productive writing extended through the 1930s
and 40s. So there was ample opportunity for him to get into it.
But he didn't.
I suppose that for whatever reason, Burroughs just wasn't interested.
Empire invariably is like the Holiday Inn. No matter what far
flung exotic realms it penetrates, the Imperial aesthetic is simply to
reproduce a version of home far, far away. Just as Holiday
Inn hotel rooms are pretty much the same from Nepal to Tierra Del Fueggo,
Imperial life in Kinshasha and New Delhi are pretty much the same...
Only the colour of the waiters differ. For better or worse,
that just didn't seem to do it for Burroughs, the notion of imposing middle
America on the Jungles of Africa or the deserts of Barsoom was fundamentally
repellent. Barsoom was for Martians, and if an Earthman went
there, well, he could darned well don a harness, pick up a sword and try
and fit in.
It's just me, but I think that this says something about Burroughs'
racism or lack thereof. Let's face it. Tarzan and
John Carter were white supermen in lands of black Africans or red Martians.
But the simple fact that they were white supermen didn't translate to the
notion that all white men were supermen, or particularly super, or that
white society had any innate superiority.
Of course, now that I think of it, David Innes with his Empire of Pellucidar
is a bit of an exception isn't it... Well, perhaps an exception
that proves the rule. Abner Perry was nobody's idea of the
Aryan superman, and his notion of bringing the benefits of civilization
to Pellucidar through the re-invention of poison gas suggests that someone's
tongue was firmly in their cheek.
Besides, if David Innes was playing at White Man's Burden in Pellucidar,
Carson Napier on Venus was discovering that the folk of the jungle world
considered him something of a rube. And in Pellucidar, as with
Barsoom, Burroughs was more than happy to hand the reins of the protagonist
over to local heroes, like Gahan of Gathol, Tan Hadron of Hastor, or Tanar
But where was I?
Oh yes. Burroughs never brought Space Man's Burden to Barsoom....
His Mars would always belong to Dejah Thoris and Tars Tarkas and their
cities and tribes....
Which brings us to Leigh Brackett....
and the Universal Mars
Leigh Brackett, born 1915, died 1978, was one of the more talented and
influential writers in the field of science fiction. In addition
to the genre, she wrote mystery novels, and was even a notable screenwriter
-- among her scripts are The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo, The Long Good-bye
and remarkably, The Empire Strikes Back. Her body of
SF work consisted of some sixty short stories and a dozen novels between
1940 and 1978, including collaborations with Ray Bradbury and with her
husband, Edmund Hamilton.
And Bracket wrote Mars. Her first story published, in 1940,
was Martian Quest. She would follow that up with ten
stories and four novels set principally on her Mars, and another half dozen
set on or around other planets of the solar system which touched on Mars,
as well as over a dozen more set on Venus, Mercury, the Jovian moons or
other regions, all of which constituted a kind of interlocking solar system.
Leigh Brackett and Edmund Hamilton
Indeed, you can look up Leigh Brackett's Solar System on the Wikipedia,
as well as separate entries for her Mars, Venus, Mercury and Jupiter.
Brackett's Solar System
in the Fiction of Leigh Brackett
in the Fiction of Leigh Brackett
in the Fiction of Leigh Brackett
in the Fiction of Leigh Brackett
Did Brackett set out to write a coherent solar system, did she sit down
and design herself a universe? Probably not. As the Wikipedia
says, it reflected an ‘accumulating use of detail and setting from one
story to the next, until a reasonably coherent universe had been built
up after the fact.’
It's sort of a natural thing that writers do, borrowing from oneself.
You put all that work into coming up with a scene or setting, it offers
multiple possibilities, you find yourself referencing or re-using it.
Stories or ideas inspire each other, and a writer often tips the hat to
other stories or characters.
You get any writer who accumulates a body of work, and quite often,
you'll start to see internal references between one story or novel and
another, that applies to everyone from Shakespeare to Faulkner, from Burroughs
to Lovecraft to King. I don't know why, maybe it's a natural
in-joke for writers to slip characters or settings from other stories,
perhaps there's an element of laziness, or a kind of economy of creativity
at work. But just about any writer with a real body of work winds
up doing it to some extent. Building worlds in your head seems to
bring an urge to connect them up, and a literary universe of sorts comes
Of course, it doesn't just stop there. Writers are influenced
by other writers, they're influenced by predecessors and friends.
They're definitely influenced by the culture around them, by the stories,
the narratives, the movies and films, the politics and politicians of the
day. A lot of this winds up in their writing, sometimes in
subtle ways, sometimes in obvious ways, and sometimes in little tip of
the hat 'in jokes' or references, sort of like cameos in the movies.
For instance, without looking too hard, you can find a few Lovecraft
references here and there in the works of Steven King. Deliberate
and direct references. Does Lovecraft's Chtulhu mythos include
the oeuvre of King? Well, possibly, if you're willing to go
there. Or perhaps just a few of King's stories fit in Lovecraft's
world, and most in his own world, and a few more inhabit a strange borderland.
But anyway, Leigh Brackett's stories featured a Mars whose landscape
she found herself re-using. Not just the larger vision of a
Mars, but specific things -- cities like Valkis and Jekkara are mentioned
again and again, Madame Kan's house of pleasure comes about, the lost city
of Sinharat is revisited, Rhiannon is a part of ancient Mars.
And it expands, Eric John Stark is reused for a second Martian story, and
then goes to Venus, meanwhile, the setting of his first story is recycled
for another story. The Venus stories accumulate as well, and
the milieu extends to Mercury and Jupiter.
In some ways, its not a terribly coherent universe. As the
Wikipedia article notes, good frikking luck trying to establish a timeline.
There's gaps and problems, as there usually is when you're basically making
it up as you go along.
But Brackett's Mars and Venus did not spring whole from her imagination.
As I've noted in other essays, both Mars and Venus were already well established
landscapes with their roots deep in the science of the late 19th and early
20th century, and even more deeply rooted in the social myths and narratives
of the age. I don't propose to go over it in detail, that would
be tedious. If you're interested, feel free to take a look
at my other articles about Mars and Venus.
The short version is that between 1860 and 1940, there was a powerful
imaginary or cultural ‘landscape’ of Mars as an ancient, dying, desert
world. A place that had once had oceans and continents, but
which had gradually turned into a desert. In the narrative,
the Martians, if they existed, were an equally ancient and decadent race,
extending their civilization's life by building elaborate networks of canals.
This had developed through the work of astronomers like Schiaparelli, Flammarion
and Lowell, it had emerged through social philosophers, speculation, and
indeed, through the works of writers like H.G. Wells and Edgar
During this time, a second narrative emerged of Venus as a young hot
world, filled with oceans and teaming jungles, any civilization on it would
be new and raw, all but primitive. In between the two, of course,
was Earth, always the happy middle between too hot and too cold, too young
and too old, between oceans and jungles on the one side and deserts and
ruins on the other, between the ancient decadence and decay of Mars and
the squalling primeval riot of Venus.
Mars and Venus were not just planets for which a limited set of astronomical
observations existed, but they were psychic landscapes in the culture,
freighted with ideas and narratives that were embedded in the culture.
They were landscapes that were as real and vivid, or as unreal and archetypal
as the wild West, the mysterious Orient and darkest Africa.
Brackett did not invent her Mars or Venus, for the most part, she inherited
It makes a bit of sense when you think about it. It takes
a heck of a lot of work to create a brand new world, and having done so,
the odds are it will be so strange and foreign that no one will get into
it. It's always much easier, and much more tempting, for a
writer to slip into a known world, a known milieu, a place that the audience
is already familiar and with and willing to go. The truth is that
often, people don't like things to be too strange. They like familiar
places where they know the ground rules.
And Brackett didn't simply inherit a generic Mars of bare bones narratives,
something that takes off from the writings or speculations of a Percival
Lowell. This would only give us an ancient race, perhaps in
decline, huddling around or along a few canals.
There was more to it: She was influenced, guided, by the
literary Mars. And let's face it, there were more than a few
variations on literary Mars, including Wells. But the one that stood
out, the one that she drew most heavily on, was Barsoom.
Consider the following parallels between Barsoom and Brackett's Mars.
Both feature dominant races of Human Martians, all but indistinguishable
from Earth humans, physically, emotionally and sexually. Brackett's
Martians tend towards amber or yellow eyes, often have olive or weatherworn
skin colours, but they could walk the streets of Helium or New York without
attracting too much notice.
It's also society that revolves around personal honour and shame, and known
and notable for swordsmanship and personal weaponry.
It's also an equestrian society. Nope, they don't have horses.
But to get around, the Martians ride around on large, bad tempered, somewhat
reptilian beasts. By and large, Brackett never really describes
them, I don't think she even awards them a name. They're simply
‘mounts’ ‘beasts’ ‘steeds’ etc.
In some of the stories, particularly Beast Jewel of Mars, the elite
city state Martians seem to have their own fliers, perhaps from the Earthmen,
or perhaps indigenous. The warriors walk around in kilts and
It's a Mars with lost races and hidden enclaves, especially around the
north pole, relics from bygone ages.
City states, Martian
Princesses, sword wielding, honour-driven, half-naked heroes riding around
on ungainly beasts, discovering lost enclaves.... Come
on, this is Barsoom. This ain’t nothing but Barsoom.
Bits and pieces of this, tropes from here and there can be found in other
Mars novels. Otis Adelbert Kline's Mars books are like this
of course, but those draw directly from Barsoom. Arnold's Gullivar
Jones has a lot of this, as does Pope's Journey to Mars.
Both have been argued as candidates for Burroughs inspiration.
There are other stories and novels about human identical Martians, even
human identical Martians inhabiting city states. There were other
major Mars writers, like Wells and Bradbury, or C.S. Lewis.
But the sheer volume of parallels is inescapable. It seems
mischievous to argue that Brackett could have come up with all of these
things independently, or that she might have drawn from other writers or
‘common’ ideas. The truth is that Barsoom was just the biggest
and most obvious thing on the Martian landscape.
Brackett's first few stories were of Mars, and to a lesser extent, Venus,
and then the other planets of the solar system. She began publishing
in 1940. We can presume that she was reading intensively in
the genre before that. The entire Barsoom canon up to Swords
of Mars was published by 1936, and would have been available to her.
The romance themes implicit were probably attractive and appealing to a
young girl. In 1940, when her first two or three published
stories were about Mars, Burroughs was publishing Synthetic Men of Mars.
Between 1940 and 1943, when Brackett published eight Martian stories, five
venus stories and six other solar system stories, Burroughs was publishing
through magazines on the same newsstands the novellas that would be collected
as Llana of Gathol, Escape on Venus and Savage Pellucidar.
Brackett's Mars was literally shoulder to shoulder with Burroughs' Mars,
appearing literally in the same magazines or on the same newsstands, perhaps
at the same times or within weeks or months of each other. We have
a young writer doing stories in the face of this large cultural narrative,
and in the face of this huge body of work. I think that
there's no question that Brackett's Mars was based largely upon Barsoom.
That's just the fact of the matter.
Brackett herself freely admitted the inspiration, as did her husband
Edmund Hamilton, in a forward to one of her short story collections.
Barsoom shaped Brackett's Mars.
Barsoom (Yeah, my subtitles suck.
Live with it.)
Barsoom may have been the starting point for Brackett's Mars, but she
really didn't write typically Barsoomian adventures. Perhaps
there was simply no point. Burroughs Martian adventures were
in a class by themselves, there was no point in trying to write in that
vein, at least, not on Mars. There's clones and then there's
Even Lin Carter, wanting to do Barsoom style adventures, didn't have
the nerve to set them on Mars. The comparison would be inescapable,
and so he relocated to Thanator. A lot of 'Burroughsian' adventures
tended to be set on other worlds, just as many Jungle Man adventures tended
to be set away from Africa.
Instead of ripping adventures, or sword and planet, or planetary romance,
as the genres are called Brackett opted for more personal and more conflicted
stories. The characters were rougher, more ambiguous and often
a lot more talkative. Instead of simple plainspoken heroes,
she shifted to hapless innocents and cynical thugs. Her renditions
of Mars were in their own ways, more complex but more primitive, it was
a world of mysteries and age, but one which did not suffer the brash interlopers
from Earth very well. Brackett's stories, on the whole, are
less about adventure than about fatal and futile culture clashes.
You won't see Burroughsian heroes in Brackett's Mars, or if you do,
the idea of them gets chewed up pretty quick. Eric John Stark comes closest,
but in many ways, he's an amoral anti-hero, chewed up, spat out and as
likely as not to be working for the wrong side or doing the wrong things.
He's a lot closer to Clint East wood's 'Man with no name' than he is to
John Carter, and a lot closer to being an occasionally principled thug
than either of those.
Indeed, that's basically his role in the Secret of Sinharat.
He's a renegade on the run, persuaded to infiltrate a gang of thugs, which
he can do, largely because he is a thug himself. There's a
gritty spaghetti western quality to Stark that's a marked contrast to the
wholesomely sociopathic John Carter.
Rick Urquhart of The Nemesis From Terra is another testosterone-choked
thug, a powerful force, but ultimately a barbarian. In his first chapter,
he shoots a little old lady who has given him shelter. Rick's nemesis are
Jaffa Storm and Ed Fallon, colonial exploiters. You have the impression
that Rick would have been happy enough working right alongside them, had
circumstances been different, and that his real objection to them is that
he's not running things. Rick's nominal allies recognize a potential thug
and tyrant and are at best ambivalent. In the end, Rick realizes that the
best thing he can do for Mars, once he's disposed of other would-be tyrants,
is to leave it.
Burk Winters of The Beast Jewel of Mars comes close to being
a John Carterish hero. He's a man so in love with his girl, Jill Leland,
that he risks everything... But in this case, risking everything does not
involve lots of heroic derring do, but rather volunteering himself to the
seamy underworld of Mars and addiction to an exotic drug, which causes
both mental and physical regression. There is, as with Burroughs, an exotic
and beautiful alien princess, Fand (option: evil). But Burk's single act
of courage and daring is to kidnap the Princess and expose her to the same
drug that is regressing him and his fellow Earthlings. What does the Princess
"In spite of himself, he cried out.... It had
eyes, that was the worst of it. It had eyes, and it looked at him."
So, he kidnaps a Princess and mutates her into a hideous degenerate
slug thing. Yikes. I don't think John Carter ever imagined
being that vile. In the end, Winters is regressed to a bestial
ape man who beats a swordsman to death with his bare hands... And
oddly you get the sense, he hasn't degenerated very far.
Only Matt Carse
from Sword of Rhiannon escapes being a violent thug, largely because
he's transported into the remote past where that sort of thing is much
Heroes are mostly ineffectual. Or perhaps ineffectual is
the wrong word. Rather, all too often, their heroism, their struggles
seem irrelevant to the real personal or moral issues. Burk Winters
in the Beast Jewel shatters the drug trade, brings down the royal
house of Valkis and escapes with his girl. A typical Burroughsian
resolution? On the other hand, it's clear that he could not
save his girlfriend Jill from her drug addiction, and probably can't save
her or himself from its effects. At the core of Winters' adventure is a
deeper sense of futility and helplessness.
Similarly, Stark witnesses the defeat of evil Rama in Secret of Sinharat,
but can't quite destroy their technology, instead, the temptation to evil
remains. The heroes of Mars Minus Bisha, the Last
Days of Shondakor, and Purple Priestess of the Mad Moon all
stumble into situations they cannot change. Their efforts, when they
make them, prove futile. They're either irrelevant, or they make
the situation worse. They come away with souls blighted by tragedy.
Carey, the hero of Return to Sinharat goes on an epic quest to
prove that the situation cannot be changed... and in fact, shouldn't be
changed. Matt Carse of Sword of Rhiannon turns out to be a pawn
of greater forces, the 'god' Rhiannon seeking revenge on lapsed followers.
Even Eric John Stark in the People of the Talisman (Black Amazon
of Mars) presides ineffectually over not one, but two doomed races.
Travelling to the city of Kushat with a magic talisman, he's unable to
get his warnings of invasion heeded, nor is he able to beat back the invasion.
Fleeing with some Kushati, they seek out lost race of primeval Martians
only to find they're more decadent and helpless than the Kushat.
These lost Martians give out super-weapons when asked, but the weapons
no longer work, their civilization no longer functions, and they're simply
playing sadistic games in the boredom of their twilight. Stark's
only contribution is to hasten their extinction. In a conversation, Stark
reveals himself to be an aimless, purposeless drifter.
Indeed, to the extent that they have any effect at all, Brackett's protagonists
tend to wind up hurrying the inevitable fate along, their own efforts to
survive or change things accelerating the pace of doom. The destruction
of the Talisman Martians by Stark is one example, the fall of Shondakar
another. Even Rick Urquhart in Nemesis From Terra is often
trapped helplessly, watching allies or enemies die around him.
In the end, Brackett's Martian heroes seldom really win. At best
they survive, often burdened with painful and hard won knowledge, events
surge past them, good intentions lead to disaster, a strong sword arm is
overwhelmed by tides of circumstance and naive optimism and good nature
is broken on the rocks of bitter wisdom.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is not cheerful reading.
Brackett's Mars is not really about heroism or adventure.
Rather, its about tensions.
In her Mars, the Earthmen have come, not as isolated adventurers joining
the society, but rather, in the phase of traders and conquerors.
John Carter and Ulysses Paxton go native, finding a place within Martian
society. But Brackett's new generation is a different breed, and
her new age is a different place.
Eric John Stark is a rootless wanderer, rejecting Earth, he finds no
real home on Mars. Burk Winters is an Earthman through and through.
Rick Urquhart is a grifter and hard man, born in space he doesn't belong
on Mars, or on Earth, or anywhere. But the real interloper
on Mars is not the individual Earthmen, who are struggling along.
Rather, it's civilization.
Earth has come
to Mars, and particularly, Euro-American Earth. Kahora is established
as a trade city, a vast domed town created as an outpost of Earth and Commerce
upon Mars. Spaceports are built. Trading corporations
are established. Sometimes the intervention is well meaning,
as with the Doctor in Mars Minus Bisha, and the archeologist in
Priestess of the Mad Moon. But always, it is an intervention,
it is Earth imposing its ideas, its values, its way of life on Mars.
Earth is in charge. In Secret of Sinharat, Eric John Stark
is enlisted by colonial police in a plot to meddle in Martian politics.
The city states are allowed their nominal independence and isolation, but
commerce on the planet, the reins of the economy, and interplanetary trade
are all firmly in the hands of Earthmen. Martian ways and institutions
survive. But the true measure of real power is seen in Return
to Sinharat, where the Earth colonial government is beginning an ambitious
planet-wide scheme of water diversion which would require relocating entire
cities and peoples.
Nope, the locals are definitely not running things. Rather,
they are shouldered aside, to stew in impotence and resentment.
Indeed, in The Nemesis From Terra, the remnants of the Martian old
guard are outright murdered.
And the Martians resent it. In Beast Jewel of Mars,
the hatred and resentment of the Martian nobility of Valkis is clearly
on display, as is a sort of anti-Earth underground movement.
Hatred or dislike for terrestrial humans is a running theme, showing up
in almost every story and novel. Secret of Sinharat, The
Nemesis From Terra and Road to Sinharat all feature attempts
at planet wide rebellions against Earth and Earth influence.
In short, the landscape of Brackett's Mars is the familiar landscape
of the British East India Company, French Indochina, the Dutch East Indies,
the European ‘protectorates’ in Africa and the Middle East.
It's a landscape of colonial traders and armies, co-existing uneasily with
a subjugated but still functioning local civilization.
Her stories are about the politics of Empires and slaves, of the tensions
and twisted relationships between the strong against the weak, the foreign
versus the local, the interlopers versus the natives, the advanced against
the primitive. There's an uneasy, queasy dynamic, full
of arrogance and resentment, a vibe where even good intentions can amount
to futile gestures, where heroism is irrelevant and hatred is an undercurrent.
Indeed, perhaps in some ways, the sorts of dynamics and tensions that
fuel her stories may find their roots in more primal tensions -- the conflicts
inherent in being a woman in a male dominated patriarchal society.
Yes, Brackett's version of Barsoom really is all about Space Man's Burden,
but she's not nearly so jingoistic as H. Beam Piper in Uller
Uprising, or other more unconscious galactic empires.
Rather, her work seems fascinated with the intractable emotional tensions
inherent in these situations, tensions that paralleled her own situation.
I don't think that Brackett saw her Martian stories in terms of her
personal sexual/social dynamics. To the extent she seemed to
identify with anyone, it was with people like Eric John Stark or Matt Carse,
people whose situations had put them on the fringes, not accepted in the
dominant society, but not truly fitting into the subordinate society either.
I don't think she identified fully with her Martians, not in the way that
Burroughs did. But rather, I think she sympathized with them,
seeing a similar dynamic to social tensions around her.
Burroughs to Brackett
It strikes me that the similarities are so profound between Burroughs'
and Brackett's Mars, that it might be more productive for us to try to
explain the differences between the two versions of Mars.
I think that the biggest difference between the two is in the eye of
the beholder, it's one of perspectives.
Burroughs, I think, fully identified with his Martians.
His stories are very much on the inside, looking out, and they accept without
questioning the Martian values and views of life. His characters
took it for granted that they should fight half way around the world for
love, or duel to the death for a personal slight.
Brackett's stories contain more distance. We still see much
of Barsoom in the world that she draws, but now it's from the eyes of a
foreigner. ‘What's with all these swords? These people
are way too willing to kill each other. What's with the resentment?
The clannishness? Seriously, you want to duel to the death over ...that???’
Brackett's Mars is often depicted at arms length, the strangeness and insularity,
the clannishness of the Martian society is viewed by people who are remote
from it, and viewed by people the society resents.
What it amounts to is a point of view. If we looked at the
adventures of Tan Hadron in Fighting Man of Mars from the same sort
of perspective that Brackett employs, Hadron's adventures become darker
and more conflicted, his motives become almost middle eastern and feudal,
his actions more fatalistic. He isn't a young man off on an
ill-considered adventure, but a feudal zealot on a mission of honour so
culturally ingrained it's barely conceivable for us.
This sort of leads me to argue that Brackett's Mars basically is Barsoom,
it's merely Barsoom from a different point of view, and different point
Brackett's Martians seem more clannish and tribal than Burroughs Martians.
Things seem rougher and more hard bitten. Is it simply that
difference in the observer's perspective?
Yes. But there's more going on.
Look at who Burroughs writes about: Princesses and Fighting men,
nobles and heroes, the scions of Helium and Gathol. He writes
about men who can simply commandeer flyers and warships, men and women
at the upper levels of their society and whose societies are at the top
of the Barsoomian heap.
Brackett on the other hand, sets her sights considerably lower.
Basically, it's Thug Life. Eric John Stark is no John Carter.
Rather, he's a self destructive loaner and low life, out on the fringes
of society. His friends are thieves and brigands, literally.
His milieu, the world he moves through, are mercenaries, barbarians and
cutthroats. With no real direction, he's an aimless wanderer.
The cities he visits, dead Sinharat and isolated Kushat, are at best backwaters
In both of his adventures on Mars, Stark hangs out with or deals with
the nomadic barbarian tribes. They show up a lot. Barbarians
surround doomed Shondakar, and confront Rick Urquhart in Nemesis From
Terra. Mars Minus Bisha features a child dropped
off by nomads. Road to Sinharat has the protagonist sneaking
past nomads and seeking shelter with an old grave robber pal. Matt Carse
from Sword of Rhiannon is a low life bullying other low lifes. Only
in a few stories, The Beast Jewel of Mars, Nemesis From Terra
and People of the Talisman do we encounter the Martian nobility
and royalty. It's not a long acquaintance, they're foreign
to and removed from the protagonists. In Beast Jewel they're drug
runners, in Nemesis they're bitter exiles plotting a return to glory and
getting slaughtered in the process, and in Talisman they're simply petty
fools completely out of touch.
Mostly, what Brackett writes about is the seamier sides of Martian life,
the more archaic and traditional peoples on the margins of the Martian
mainstream. Basically, she's just writing a different class
Let's face it, John Carter would never be found in Madame Kan's house
of pleasure. I think he'd be shocked it exists.
Despite all this, it really does seem that the Martians of Brackett's
world are a more dour, more hard-bitten, more tradition bound and in many
ways more primitive or less technologically or socially sophisticated people
than those of Barsoom. Their culture seems narrower, and the
people more intrinsically hostile and suspicious. Perhaps they really
are subtly different from John Carter's people?
Even if we accept this, in the following chapter, I think that we can
explain the process by which Barsoomian culture shifts subtly from that
known by John Carter to that seen by the Earth Colonialists.
However, before we get into that, I just want to make a few observations.
There's no sign of Green Men of course. But then, there doesn't
need to be. Their ranges and areas are well defined, and they're
probably rare outside their tribal territories. I could see
that their ferocious prowess and implacable natures might leave Earthmen
giving them a wide berth.
That still leaves a lot of space for human nomadic tribes in some areas.
Indeed, in Otis Adelbert Kline's Outlaws of Mars, we see that there
are human nomadic tribes around the hinterland areas of Khalsifar and Xancibar.
So the existence of such tribes is not a barrier to Barsoom.
The Brackett Martians
seem to be ethnically different. Let's face it, Burroughs doesn't
spend a lot of time on eye colour, so we don't know what the colours or
ranges for the Barsoomians are. Brackett's Martians often sport
yellow or golden eyes, which seems an obvious Bradbury reference.
Brackett and Bradbury actually collaborated on a Venus story, Lorelei
of the Red Mist.
(Looked at another way, Brackett's Mars straddles a midpoint between
Burroughs' Mars full of Martians and Bradbury's Mars in which the Martians
have passed away leaving ruins and memories, and humans are left to confront
themselves. She straddles a border where the Barsoomians and
Earthmen uneasily contemplate sharing a world with each other.)
Burroughs writes that the dominant population is copper skinned or ‘red’
but then spends a lot of time discovering races and enclaves that prove
him wrong. So I've argued, and it's quite likely that there's
more racial variation than we've seen. So the olive skinned
or weather darkened Martians might simply be a different regional blend
of the Red race.
There's no indication of Barsoomian longevity. Or is there?
In The Secret of Sinharat, there's a throwaway line:
"Kala might have been beautiful once, a thousand years ago as you reckon
sin." Perhaps fact, perhaps hyperbole.
The critters that they ride may be thoats. Or perhaps not.
Brackett never bothers to give them a name, or any sort of description.
All we know of them is that they're scaly hided, bad tempered, hissing,
or squealing and large enough to ride or for a team to draw a canal boat.
In another spot, they're referred to as rangy beasts with padded hooves.
Another point there's a reference to a flesh comb that serves as a forelock.
It's possible that in some remote areas of Mars different animals than
thoats may be domesticated for riding. In Synthetic Men
of Mars and the Giant of Mars for instance, the Malagor, a giant
swamp bird, replaces the Thoats.
There is one reference
to a clearly Burroughsian creature: A Martian Sand-Cat or Sand-Leopard
appears in The Halfling. The creature is described as
feline in appearance or nature, about the size of an earth leopard, and
it has six legs.
Fliers are occasionally seen, but never described. The most significant
aspect of this is that the term used is the Barsoomian ‘flier’ rather than
airship, spaceship, aircraft, plane, etc.
Although she writes frequently of Mars, Brackett shows us relatively
few of the cities and towns. Barrakesh straddles the equator.
Barrakesh, Valkis and Jekkara are all cities on the same canal in the Southern
Hemisphere, near a former sea. Valkis and Jekkara were originally
on the shores of the ‘White Sea’ and Jekkara has hills behind it to the
east. Barrakesh straddles the equator, and to the north of
them there are the barbarian tribes of Kesh and Shun. Within the
territory of the Barbarians are the dead cities of Shondakar and Sinharat.
There is a city called Ruh, capital of some ancient long gone Empire.
Kahora is a trade city built by Earthman. Somewhere in the far north
is a small, isolated city of Kushat, surrounded by the barbarian Mekh,
and its neighbor the more substantial city of Narissan. Taarak are
a northern hemisphere Barbarian tribe on the other side of the world from
the areas of Shondakor.
Okay, cool. The thing is, Burroughs gave us new cities with
every book. There seems no obvious reason that we cannot fit
these into Barsoom somewhere. Indeed, Jekkara might well be
a sister city to Jahar, as we'll explore later.
Of course, the question arises as to why we hear about Jekkara, Valkis
and Ruh as dominant cities in Brackett's stories. If Brackett's
world really is Barsoom, where is Helium, Ptarth, Kaol and Gathol?
I think that the real explanation there may go back to these being the
cities that Earth has the most access and most influence in.
Helium is around, but like Thailand or Japan or Persia, keeps Earth and
Earthmen at arms length. Earth's influence tends to be strongest
at vulnerable points.
We don't find Tharks on Brackett's Mars. Brackett never
mentions a race of giant four-armed green Barbarians. Fair
is fair, if she had, the copyright lawyers would have been right on her
tail. Tharks are just too distinctive for anyone else but Burroughs
to use and get away with.
Instead, Brackett's barbarian nomads, as with Kline, are standard Martian
humans. Hard-bitten, a bit wild, but definitely human and part
of the greater culture. Her nomadic tribes include the Kesh,
the Shun, the Mekh and the Taraak. Let's think Mongols and
leave it at that.
But interestingly, The Nemesis From Terra does have a counterpart
to Burroughs' Great White Apes. Rick Urquhart is pursued
by black apes, strange martian anthropoids, no larger than human, but clearly
non-human and dangerous. Their description...
"A black anthropoid from the sea bottom
pits, one of the queer inhabitants of an evolutionary blind alley you were
always running into on Mars. Some said they had once been men, and
degenerated in their isolated barren villages. Others said they were
neither man nor ape, just something that got off on a road that went nowhere.
Rick didn't care much. All that interested him was that the black
apes were trained now like hounds.... Four black shadows came
slipping on silent paws... He went down under a weight of sinewy
bodies, beast quick, strong, with the musky smell of the furred animal..."
So are these the four-limbed or six-limbed variety of apes? Regular
apes, or relatives of Burroughs Great White Apes? Mutated degraded
descendants of Caer Dhu? Or perhaps relatives of the black
apes found in Gullivar Jones? She doesn't say. That's
all we get. Typically, Brackett stints on the description, perhaps
encouraging the reader to fill in the blanks themselves, depending on how
close or how far they feel they are from Barsoom. This sort
of thing actually occurs fairly often in Brackett, the woman just ain't
big on description, which suggests that she's relying on our familiarity.
Writers like Otis Adelbert Kline, Ralph Milne Farley and Lin Carter,
if they did not place four-armed giants on Mars, still managed to sneak
races of four-armed giants, some of whom bore very suspicious resemblances
to or ancestry from Martian Green Men, onto other planets.
I've touched on some of these elsewhere, particularly in Tharks in Space.
Do we find races of four armed giants in other planets in Leigh Brackett's
solar system? Not quite. But we do find apparently two
races of four-armed humanoids. Quoting from the Wikipedia:
Not much is known about this rare reptilian species; they live in the Lohari
swamps, have four arms each, and crawl like serpents. (The Citadel of
It's notable that both of these races appear or are mentioned in the same
story. Without actually having the story before me, I can only speculate
that they may be related. It's possible that someone has misread
the story and that there's only one four-armed race. Although smaller
than humans, they Callistan humanoids do have some psychic talent which
might imply that there's relationship with the telepathic green martians.
Callisto: Callisto possesses two quite distinct
intelligent species. One type is humanoid, though smaller and thinner than
humans, and with four arms. These Callistans have scarlet eyes, white fur,
and scarlet feather-like antennae atop their heads. They possess psionic
abilities that they can project through the music of specially designed
instruments (The Citadel of Lost Ships).
Another story, the Halfling contains six-armed, mentally deficient
‘geeks’ with armour-plated backs, and a reference to six-armed geeks with
antenna. As always, we wonder if the reference isn't mistakenly
six-armed for six-limbed.
Not much, but there it is. The question with regard to Callisto is,
can we reconcile these local aliens with the Thanator depicted by Lin Carter?
Well, yes and no. Certainly Carter never mentions such creatures
on his Thanator. But then again, he's also carefully left large parts
of his planet unexplored.
Connections to Barsoom
Following up on Linguistic
Archeology and Orovars, an essay I wrote here, (somewhat related to
an essay I wrote on the evolution
of religion on Barsoom).
A word or two about this subject. I think I'm getting a
bit carried away at points. It's a fun bit of gamesmanship,
but really, how much weight can we put on it?
First, let me say that Burroughs himself put quite a bit of time and
effort into manufacturing his Barsoomian language, and using it consistently
and reliably. Burroughs was big on notes and world building, and he was
hardly reckless in doing so. He created not just a Barsoomian
language, but a fairly full vocabulary for Mangani and Pal-Ul-Don, and
even dabbled a bit with language in Pellucidar, Venus and Caspak.
He created elaborate glossaries or dictionaries for both Pal-Ul-Don and
Barsoomian, which means that he actually did sit down and work these things
He was not a stupid man. He knew and understood English
very well, and he was exposed to other languages and had an opportunity
to grasp that languages operated with fundamental underlying rules, that
words were often cobbled together out of other words, and that a single
word might form a root going off in all sorts of directions.
He could see the influence of history on words and names, and indeed, on
the naming of geography and places.
What this resulted in, was that he tended to use his fictional languages
very consistently, and that he seemed to be employing or applying rules
and constructions which might not be articulated out loud, but that nevertheless
showed up over and over. This was consistent, not just within his
language, but within the world that he built. I'm not saying that he sat
down and crafted the whole thing overnight, or indeed engaged in a systematic
process. I think that Barsoomian was kind of an evolving thing
for him, he just kept making notes, and reviewing notes to make sure that
his new words and concepts were consistent with the old ones.
Tor, Tar, Thur and Thar came up a lot, simply because he liked the sound
of them, and perhaps some inspired others. It's not a stretch
to decide that relatives of the Thark green men might have cousins with
similar sounding names like Thurd. After a while, he needs
to come up with a name for an archaic God.... Well, he's already
used a lot of Tur sounding words for archaic place names, and this suggests
the name for the archaic god. It's a backwards effect, but
it's a real process, which also tends to support analysis.
The point is that whether Burroughs language process was deliberate
or unconscious (and I'd argue for a mixture), it produced a coherent body
of language and linguistic rules that was consistent enough that we can
analyze and deconstruct it, as we did in Orovars and Linguistic Archeology.
Now, here's where it gets interesting. What I've found through
other works, is that we can take the linguistic rules of Barsoom and apply
them to other Martian novels and stories, such as Otis Adelbert Kline's,
and they seem to work. That is, place names, words and terms
found in writers, including Arnold, Tolstoy, Kline, Lewis and Carter, seem
to harken back and make sense when we apply Barsoomian rules.
Partly, this is because the units are often so basic. I'm
working with syllables and phonemes. Partly there's a certain
amount of cheating going on, because I'm prepared to be flexible, allowing
for both different written versions of the same or similar sounds, and
for natural linguistic drift.
In some cases, as with Arnold and Lewis, this is probably (but only
probably) coincidence. In other cases, I'm not so sure.
The thing is, that when we look at writers like Kline, Carter, Brackett
and even Tolstoy, we can say with certainty that we know they were exposed
to and heavily influenced by Burroughs and Barsoom. Absolutely
no question of that. So when they write their own Mars novels
or stories, that writing is itself influenced by Barsoom, and they find
themselves automatically or unconsciously coming up with words that are
‘barsoom friendly,’ words that feel right for Mars.
I don't think that they sit down, pore through Barsoom glossaries, dope
out syntax, deconstruct the linguistic rules and apply them to make new
words, or place their old words properly. That's just silly. But what I
do think, is that in reading the Barsoom stories, they absorb the flavour
of the words and unconsciously absorb meanings and linguistic rules, which
become part of how they think creatively about this world and develop their
own ideas and words.
That's not a big stretch. I've caught Otis Adelbert Kline using a mangani
word in his own universal primate language in Tam, Son of the Tiger.
Lin Carter in his Callisto series winds up using a Barsoomian word for
unit of measurement as a measurement word on his Thanator, and he makes
no bones about seeking phonetic resemblances to harken back to Barsoom
in his fantasy series. So I think it's pretty well established
that it does go on.
Of course, writers make up their own words and linguistic rules unrelated
to Burroughs Barsoom, but that's fair. The point is not to
say that it all has to derive from Barsoom, but merely to say that we can
find Barsoom in it.
So what about Brackett? Can we find Barsoom's linguistics
in her own Mars?
Well, first, take a look at some of her places: Barrakesh, Kesh, Jekkara,
Vishna.... Yeah, these are obvious plays on Marrakesh, Cush,
Sahara, Vishnu.... Middle eastern or Oriental names or places.
What does this tell us? Basically, that Brackett isn't reaching
very deep, she's basically working off the top of her head, picking up
whatever sounds exotic. Much has been made of the gaelic influences
in her Martian names, but really, this is just more of the same.
She's just reaching for whatever is easy and obvious for her.
So this includes gaelic and middle eastern or oriental words. She's
not busting her ass coming up with words, or with linguistic rules.
She's basically skimming off the upper levels of her subconscious, or the
lower levels of her consciousness.
Well, follow that thought. The more unconscious your process,
the more likely it is that you're just going to be picking up on whatever
is lying around and handy, isn't it? And we've already shown
that Barsoom was incredibly influential on her picture of Mars. At
least as, and likely far more influential on her Mars than her knowledge
of gaelic history or middle eastern culture. And Barsoom has
a large set of words and linguistic rules that would have seeped easily
into the back of her mind.
So, logically, what we'd expect to find would be a close linguistic
affinity between Brackett's Mars and Barsoom. We should be able to
find words all over the place which employ Barsoomian concepts and constructions.
And in fact, we do...
I should acknowledge, on Brackett's behalf, that she never employs a
bona fide discrete Barsoomian word that I can find. On
the other hand, she's pretty cagey with her Martian language.
Although the Martians are clearly depicted as an alien culture, and with
a distinct psychology, values and outlook, we don't get a lot of alien
words to represent that distinctiveness.... Practically none.
Her Martians refer to Mars as ‘Mars’ and not by a local word.
Phobos and Deimos have Martian names, but in most stories, even the Martians
refer to the moons by their Earth names. We don't get the Martian
word for Princess or King. We're never told the name of whatever
the hell that reptilian bad tempered thing is that Eric John Stark and
others are riding around the desert on, or if we are told, it's not used
In short, we get very little Martian language from her at all, amazingly
enough. I sat down and made a count, and through four novels
and six short stories I found a total of four, only four, Martian words
which were not personal names, place names or tribal names. This
is particularly remarkable when we realize that in terms of number of stories
or word counts, she's somewhere in the vicinity of Barsoom itself in terms
of sheer volume.
But then, this is an irritating, or perhaps helpful thing with Brackett.
She seems more than content to rely upon the audience's knowledge of and
assumptions about a world that, if it is not actually Barsoom, that is
close enough that an audience will fill in the blanks themselves.
So she doesn't go out of her way to clutter up things with descriptions
which might undermine that ‘filling in the blanks as Barsoom or pseudo-Barsoom.’
So if the warriors wear harnesses, well, we don't hear much more about
it, they ride about on steeds which aren't described, and their fliers
are vague references.
Of course, the thing is, if you're resting that heavily on Barsoom,
and leaving so many things blank, well, don't blame me if I find it very
easy to fold your fictional Mars back into the fictional landscape that
you took it from originally.
You know, it occurs to me that since I've written Linguistic Archeology,
I've peppered these sorts of linguistic analysis as chapters into a handful
of other essays. Same thing with the geography of Greater
Barsoom, a few core essays, and then subdiscussions in a bunch of other
essays. I think perhaps one of these days, if there's any interest,
I should go back and pull them all together and put out a couple of comprehensive
essays on the Language of Greater Barsoom, and Geography of Greater
Barsoom. Perhaps throw in a Greater Venus, and Greater
Pellucidar essay. Ah well, not here, not now.
But onwards, back to Leigh Brackett and Barsoomian linguistics:
As I was saying, I think we can actually find connections between the words
and word roots in Brackett's Mars and Barsoom to suggest that they may
well be the same place...
The key in Linguistic Archeology was to examine Burroughs Barsoomian
language for recurring patterns. Repeated uses of root words that
could be found in prefixes or suffixes or in the body of a word.
Some of these were given to us directly by Burroughs, who seems to have
clearly intended that adding a suffix 'a' or 'ia' to a name meant that
it was a daughter. Thus 'Thuvia' is the daughter of 'Thuvan.' This
is the most obvious and commonly remarked observation about the Barsoomian
language. But there are other things we can figure out, which
suggests that Burroughs was using consistent linguistic rules consciously
Other words or word roots were used consistently enough that we can
dope them out fairly easily. 'Than' is a warrior. Panthan or 'Pan Than'
is a mercenary, Gorthan or 'Gor Than' is an assassin. To this
we could probably add Utan or 'U Than' which is a rank of command, assuming
that the 'Tan' is a modified 'Than'. And working from that, Jetan becomes
'Je Than' about a game of warriors Barsoomian chess.
See the pattern. There's a common root, 'Than', which clearly means
fighter or warrior. If we assume some degree of pronunciation drift (regional
accents, differences in pronunciation over time, etc.), we can relate it
reasonably to usages in other similar words where the fundamental meaning
of 'warrior' seems to be continued. So, with 'Than' we've got a useable
root word of original Orovar (an ancestral race of Barsoom).
From there we could look at 'Pan' or 'Gor' to determine if these roots
show up elsewhere, and if we could derive a common meaning.
Take 'Pan'. This shows up in the northern polar nation of Panar and
its city, Pankar. It also shows up in the personal name Pan Dan Chee (a
relic Orovar from Horz), and Pandar (a phundalian warrior), its use in
names being found in archaic cultures.
From there, we make a guess, that Pan may be a very ancient word, perhaps
meaning wanderer, or in some uses, refugees. Which suggests that Panar
may be Pan R or 'Refugees of R', and the city of Pankar may be 'Children
of the Refugees'. Pankar is a domed city of Red Men, similar to the domed
cities of the yellow O Kar. The O Kar cities were founded by refugee yellow
men fleeing north. So Pankar and Panar were themselves likely refugees,
'wanderers' as in people fleeing. Possibly, Pankar was originally
a yellow city of different name, overwhelmed by a nation of red refugees.
It does seem to fit.
Sometimes, we might not be able to guess at a meaning in a root, but
we can see it showing up often enough or consistently enough to identify
it as a significant root word without quite knowing what it means.
Anyway, in Linguistic Archeology and Orovars, we found certain recurring
linguistic themes or artifacts, which we can apply to Brackett's Mars,
suggesting that there are is a linguistic connection or identity between
the two versions of Mars.
As I've noted, frustratingly, or conveniently, as you choose, Brackett
gives us almost no Martian words. There's Shanga, a reversion
ray; Yril, a sort of wood; Getak, a game, and Thil, a narcotic drink....
And that's it for the stuff I've managed to read. There are no words
for animals, clothes, common objects, special rituals, whatever.
She never even gets around to naming the riding beast.
Apart from those four words, there are only a scattering of place and
tribal names and a score of personal names. So, most of this
discussion will tend to focus on place names, with a few allusions here
and there to personal names.
One of the most common and crucial words in Barsoom relates to the ancient
religion of Tur. A great many place names, numbers, titles and personal
names can be related back to Tur or its variants, Thur, Tor, Thur, Tar,
Thar... With Brackett, we see a few examples of 'Tur-ism' in place names
for cities and tribes:
Kathuun = Ka Thu (Tur) N
Taarak, Tarak = Tur A k (Thark?)
Tur-ism also shows in at least a few personal names: Thord
(Tur-D), Tor-Esh (Tur-Iss), Otar (O-Tur), Thorn (Tur-N)
There seemed, in Barsoomian, to be a caste of derivative words or roots
that may have originally related to and drived from Tur. These include
Zar (meaning loosely, sky, sun or home), Kar or Kor (children or perhaps
followers), Far and/or Var (meaning people), Tar or Ther (possibly holy,
people or holy people), Bar (ground, land), Hor (city), Dar (great
or many, large number).
So, looking at some of Brackett's place names, we can break them
down into Barsoomian roots and analogues. This allows
us to take a hard look at some of Brackett's cities and tribes:
Jekkara Ja Kar A. We've established
that the 'a' denotes daughter, and Kar denotes people. The 'Ja' is also
found in Barroom's Jahar (Ja Hor, City of Ja), Tjanath (Ja Nat), Jasoom
(Ja Soom or Earth).
Ja or Jah is also a very very common name component, as in Dejah or
Sarkoja. 'Je' may be a variant pronunciation, which shows up in Jetan,
Jed and Jeddak. The implication might be that Ja or Je could mean 'high'
or 'noble' or perhaps ‘king.’ Thus, Jekkara would translate
into Barsoomian as 'Noble People's Daughters'.
And by extension, this would give us a full translation for the Barsoomian
Chess game of Jetan: Ja-Than = Ja (Noble) + Than (Warrior)
or Nobles & Warriors. Sort of literal, kind of like ‘Snakes
and Ladders’ or ‘Dungeons and Dragons.’ Brackett's story
‘The Halfling’ refers to a Martian came called Getak (Je-Tak or Ja-Tak?)
which may be a variation on Jetan.
This deconstruction suggests that Jekkara may well be related both geographically
and culturally to Jahar or 'Noble City', and Tjanath. Indeed,
it may have inherited regional hegemony from Jahar after the sack of that
city and the catastrophe of U-Gor in Fighting Man of Mars.
Then there are the two cities of Caer Dhu (the Caer Dhu of the serpent
men from Sword of Rhiannon, and presumably a later Caer Dhu occupied by
humans which was destroyed by shanga reversion as noted in the Beast
Jewel of Mars), and Caer Hebra, a surviving city of winged people.
The ‘Caer’ is obviously a gaelic allusion, but I'd translate it phonetically
as either ‘Kar’ or ‘Sar’. So, basically, it's a dressed up
version of what has become some very familiar Barsoomian terms.
Caer Dhu is also interesting because its suffix, Dhu (or Du), is reminiscent
of Burroughs Barsoomian cities of Duhor (Du-Hor) and Dusar (Du-Sar).
Otis Adelbert Kline's Swordsman of Mars also features a third city,
probably in the same general region, Dukor (Du-Kor). We might
be able to infer some sort of broad relationship in geography or history
between the four cities of these three writers.... Though clearly,
three of them are humans unrelated to the extinct Dhuvians.
The prefix ‘Du’ also appears in The Last Days of Shandakor, in
a personal name, Duani, or Duani. Shandakor, in mind of nothing in
particular, is also close to the name of a city of Lin Carter's Callisto,
which has its own Barsoomian connections.
Sark (Sar K), is an ancient empire in Sword
of Rhiannon, so it seems to be an old and traditional name.
Sark also shows up in Otis Adelbert Kline's Sarkiss in ‘Outlaws of Mars.’
Meanwhile, Lin Carter's ‘Flame of Iridar’ features a character named Sarkand,
also from ancient times. Sar or Zar features prominently in
Tolstoy's 'Aelita: Princess of Mars'.
There are a few other interesting place names in Brackett, which seem
to use Barsoomian roots or Barsoomian constructions.
Kahora (Ka Hor A) (Kar Hor A?) (People's
City of Daughters?)
Varl (Var L)
Quiri (Kar E)
Kharif (Kar If)
Karadoc (Kar A Doc)
There are also a few Barsoomian names: Kor Hal, Kardak (Kar-Dak),
Corin (Kor-In), Narrabar (Nar-A-Bar), Penkawr (Pan-Kor or Pan-Kar)
Interestingly, where in many of the place names of Burroughs Barsoom,
we found frequent references to Tur (including variants: Tor, Thor, Thur,
Thar, Tar); many of Brackett's Martian cities seem to contain variants
of Iss. We might actually expect this, when you think about
it. After all, if Tur really had such influence in the naming of
geographical features, we might expect the later Iss cult to have its own
Valkis (Val K Iss)
Barrakesh (Bar A K Iss) This is interesting
because of the root Bar, which seems to be Land. The translation would
be 'Daughter Land of Iss'.
Narrissan (Nar Iss An) (Nar-Iss-Zan?)
Kesh (K Iss) A barbarian tribe in the southern
Shun (Iss Un) A barbarian tribe in the southern
Of course, although Brackett doesn't give us the local Martian name
of Mars, she does give us the names of the moons, and uses them once or
twice. And they're not Thuria and Cluros. They're Denderon
and Vishna. Problem...?
Well, even on Earth, we have different names for our satellite
'the moon' and 'luna', so perhaps its not entirely fatal.
It may well be that Barsoomians may have multiple names for their own moons.
Phobos is, in Burroughs world, called Thuria, or Ladan by its inhabitants.
On Brackett's Mars its called Denderon. Meanwhile, the second
moon, Deimos, is called Cluros by Burroughs and Vashna by Brackett.
Let's deconstruct this a bit. Cluros breaks down into two words: 'Clur'
or 'Klur', which may be a variant of 'Kar' meaning child or children; and
'Os' which may be a variant of Iss. Thus, while Thuria can be easily translated
as 'Daughter of Tur', Cluros might translate as 'Child of Iss.'
Vashna may have a very similar meaning. Its central syllable, 'Ash'
may be another variant of 'Iss.' The 'a' attached as a suffix denotes female
or daughter. So Vashna might translate loosely as 'Daughter of Iss',
which is very close the meaning of Cluros, and related to the meaning of
On the other hand, Brackett's counterpart to Thuria is Denderon. Here,
we are not on solid ground in finding a true parallel, though there are
some interesting things.
'Den' doesn't appear at all in Burroughs, though 'Dan' appears as a
root in Zodanga and in personal names like U Dan and Pan Dan Chee, but
unfortunately, a meaning eludes us. Most significantly, 'Dan' appears most
significantly in the place name, Ladan or La Dan, the Tarid (local inhabitants)
word for Phobos. So, possibly it's a significant word, but we can't quite
figure it out.
'Der' may be related to 'Dar' which seems to be a religious root for
large. Perhaps a reference to Thuria's distance or being the larger moon?
At best, we might find a loose parallel to the Thurians own name for their
world, Ladan or 'La Dan' to 'Dan Dar N'
In Brackett's stories, there are occasional references to ruins left
behind on Phobos. As we know, in Burroughs stories, Phobos
(Thuria) is actually inhabited. This implies that sometime
between John Carter and Eric John Stark, something very unpleasant and
final may have happened to the inhabitants of Thuria. Itself
a hint that greater and more wide ranging changes have been at work.
What does this all amount to? Well, obviously, Brackett's
Martian places and names seem to fit neatly into Barsoom without much trouble
at all. Which only goes to emphasizing that Brackett's Mars
and Burroughs Mars are essentially the same place, though at different
times and through different viewpoints.
Future History of Barsoom
The critical difference between Burroughs' Barsoom and Leigh Brackett's
Mars, the difference that everything else flows from, is time.
Burroughs Barsoom chronicles the adventures of John Carter and his allies
from approximately 1865 through to about 1945. Essentially,
they're told in contemporary time, encompassing the late 19th and early
Leigh Brackett's Martian stories take place much later.
Her short story collection, 'The Coming of the Terrans' gives a series
of dates on each story title, ranging from 1998 to 2038. On
the other hand, these dates aren't referenced in the stories themselves,
which seem to connect to or relate to stories much later. At
the earliest, we can set Brackett's Mars stories as beginning in the 21st
century, several decades after John Carter.
Eric John Stark occupies a cluster of stories set on Mars and Venus.
Stark's other Martian story, seems to refer indirectly to the events of
the Beast Jewel of Mars, dated 1998. One of the stories in the 'Coming
of the Terrans' collection is 'Road to Sinharat' dated as 2038. But
this story seems to occur later in Brackett's history, years after the
events of the Secret of Sinharat, featuring Eric John Stark.
If we go by the dates set in 'Coming of the Terrans' this seems to suggest
that Stark's period of activity is somewhere between 2010 and 2020.
This really does seem way too early, perhaps by as much as a century.
Stark would have to have been born in the 1980s. His history was
an orphan raised on Mercury, which suggests that early exploration colonization
of the inner solar system by Earth probably dated as far back as the 1960s.
That simply doesn't seem feasible. Given this, I'd tend to
regard the dates given in the story titles as interpolations and unreliable.
I'm prepared to accept the order of stories, but not the specific dates.
It's possible, I just tend to regard it as unlikely.
The only dates which are actually given in any of Brackett's stories
are for the Water Pirates, set in the 25th century, and Interplanetary
Reporter, set in the 26th. These stories feature a Mars
well integrated into the interplanetary trade and political network, and
relatively independent of Earth. So they're at the end of the colonial
Given this, I'd suggest that the Barsoomian colonial period probably
ran from the 22nd century to the 24th. Potentially, it was
much shorter. On Earth, the Colonial period for India dated
from roughly 1700 to 1950, or about 250 years, give or take.
On the other hand, the Colonial period for much of Africa ran from 1890
to 1960, or perhaps five to seven decades.
So what happens to turn Burroughs Barsoom into Brackett's Mars?
Well, Earth does, obviously.
In the intervening decades of centuries, John Carter may well have died.
There are indications that he is immortal or quasi-immortal. But
an accident with thoat or flyer, a lucky shot or a quick sword thrust,
might well end the life of the Warlord of Helium. John Carter
Or possibly, John Carter is still around on Brackett's Mars, defending
and preserving Helium and his allies from the intrusions of the yankee
bandits from Earth. There's nothing in Brackett that would
demand Carter start pushing up daisies. Indeed, if we look
to European colonialism, we find several states, Ethiopia in Africa, Persia
in the Middle East, Thailand in the Orient who were able to preserve their
independence from the Colonial Europeans. One of these states, Japan, even
managed to push back.
So its not unlikely that Carter is still around, and that Helium and
other allies are still maintaining some degree of autonomy and independence.
Many of Brackett's stories seem to revolve around the weaker or prostrate
city states, the vulnerable or colonized territories, such as Barrakesh,
Valkis and Jekkara. So we may simply have a situation where
some parts of Mars are more thoroughly dominated by the terrans than other
parts, and Brackett's works focus on the places where colonial domination
is most obvious.
Indeed, Brackett repeatedly refers to Mars ‘Confederation of City States’
suggesting that something resembling the Heliumatic league might still
be around, although weakened and attenuated.
Still, its clear that with the coming of the Terrans, Barsoom falls
on hard times. So, what is probably happening?
Probably a number of things.
First, we have to consider that Barsoom during John Carter's era is
undergoing all sorts of major changes. The Iss religion has
been overthrown and discredited. But Carter himself notes that
some groups of Therns are refurbishing the cult and touting a ‘Reformed
Iss’ faith with a decidedly more mystical and user friendly angle.
It's likely that the fall of the Iss faith would open the door to a resurgence
of the Tur cult, or even to new religions and religious impulses.
Ethnically, the O-Kar, the First Born, the Therns and even relict populations
of Orovars have all been re-discovered and re-united with the mainstreams
of Barsoomian life. Therns have left Valley Dor and now wander
freely around Barsoom. The past suggested that the ethnic makeup
of Barsoom was fairly uniform. Now, in John Carter's era, there
is an increasingly more diverse ethnic background, there's more likelihood
of more colours and kinds of persons in different areas. And
the breakdown in Barsoomian's splendid isolations suggest that we may discover
that even Barsoom's red race was not so uniform as we had thought.
There are downsides of course, the empire of Jahar pretty much lies
in ruins, and if the rest of the planet is looking good, things are probably
pretty bad for Jahar and its satellite cities. They probably
represent the weakest and most vulnerable areas. There may
be other areas of Barsoom equally devastated by wars and conflict.
The economies of the Therns and First Born were completely destroyed as
a result of Gods of Mars, and that of the O-Kar didn't do so well
out of Warlord of Mars, so its possible that all of these societies
are still struggling. Indeed, in Llana of Gathol, John Carter
mistakes Pan-Dan-Chee for a Thern, because so many of them have taken up
the trade of the Panthan... Clearly, if the Therns are turning in
large numbers to the way of the Panthan, the bedrock Thern society is probably
not able to offer them a reason to stay home.
It's worth noting that with improved fliers (Thuvia, Maid of Mars),
improved weapons (Fighting Man of Mars) and an increasingly powerful
Heliumatic league that the stage is set for more ferocious and devastating
wars. Helium will do well. Its enemies will do
very, very badly, suggesting perhaps, a lot more vulnerability to outside
influences... Such as enterprising Earth traders and imperialists.
Finally, we have to wonder at the economic changes wrought in the era
of the warlord. New technology, more communication and more
trade between the cities should allow for an expanding growing economy.
And there are all sorts of signs of this. But there's a downside.
A stable economy may not grow dramatically, but it doesn't experience contortions
Barsoom may be experiencing a cyclic boom and bust, expanding and contracting
economy. What does this mean? Well, it means
that if Earth traders and imperialists come along at the right time, then
Barsoom could well be very vulnerable.
The bottom line is that between economic cycles, and local disruptions
from wars or other crises, Barsoom, or parts of Barsoom, would be very
vulnerable to economic infiltration and political, even military, domination
from Earth. Places like Helium or Ptarth might be strong enough
to keep the Earthlings at bay. Places like Jekkara or Valkis
might have little choice but to jump.
Meanwhile, what's likely to happen when Earth clashes with a vulnerable
Disease? Don't sell that short. Barsoom hasn't
had all that much experience with Earthmen, and the ones who have come
over have been pretty healthy. But there's every reason to
think that the Barsoomian population might be vulnerable to Earthborn bacteria
(Wells Martians certainly were). Disease did much to depopulate
the Indians of the American continents, and isolated populations like Japan,
recorded successive waves of plagues and social upheavals from visitors.
The initial introduction of large scale contact with Earth might have loosed
a series of plagues or illnesses that could have reduced populations and
destabilized many cities and social orders.
Did this happen? Brackett gives no evidence of this.
But then again. We don't really know what happened at this initial
stage. It might well have been, given the lives of Barsoomians,
that a plague might not have been noticed.... For instance, a disease
which is not virulent enough to produce overt or debilitating symptoms,
might still kill lots of people by starting the aging process prematurely,
wiping out whole classes (probably the most stable and technically essential
classes of Barsoomian society). Other illnesses might induce
fatigue, weakness, perhaps mildly slow down reflexes... the effects might
be so subtle that they aren't really noticed.... except that people are
dying in duels and accidents at a much higher rate. Or perhaps something
as simple as making injuries unaccountably more lethal. Even
subtle effects might destabilize Barsoomian societies.
But even without disease, Barsoomian society is in trouble when it encounters
the Earthmen. There's an economic mismatch.
Here, let me quote the excellent article, Thoughts
on Barsoom by Seldan Christian. Christian's given the
matter of Barsoom's economy and population considerable thought, and his
conclusions are extremely well reasoned. I highly recommend
this to any serious student of Barsoom:
Notably, I'd like to quote Christian at this point:
"Barsoom isn't a consumer society, but
a very long-lasting product-keeping one. Their producers don't know planned
obsolescence. Buildings for example, although the science of the Orovars
has faded away, still last really long: not 1 million years but 20,000
surely – see MMM. In a city of say, 1 million people, you have maybe 300,000
buildings. Well if they last 20,000 years and the population is stable,
it means only 15 have to be built every year. Which means a very small
workforce is needed in the construction industry. Many everyday objects
are in stone or strong metal (PM). Furniture can last millennia as well.
Textiles, they don't use many, not even for the beds – they use furs and
skins mostly, which are much longer lasting and can be worked by few people
in big quantities. Even light bulbs last for millennia. And so on and so
forth. Practically, only the sandals and the harnesses, and of course the
food and the armament wear fast. The ships for example, if a ship of 100
years is old and one of 15 is at the limit, since Helium has 1000 or 1500
ships it means it builds 100 of them a year. The industry of warships is
probably by far the most active and the biggest activity upon Mars. But
anyway, this sort of economy requires much less people than upon Earth."
Okay, so the point is that Sildan is basically seeing Barsoom as a stable,
long term, crafts-oriented economy which produces relatively low volumes
of goods, but probably balances off with expense and quality of good.
Planetary trade is relatively low. It's a stable system, but
not a manufacturing system, or a high volume system. It's the sort
of economy that many middle eastern or third world countries had.
"Is there mass industry upon Barsoom? I don't
think so, except for ships and probably pipes and weapons. When you produce
things that last for millennia, you don't really need Fordism, not to speak
of informatics and such. A single talented individual with a handful of
apprentices can craft many things, even fliers for example, for many thousands
of customers. Inventive and skillful people able to put together complex
machinery exist upon our orb as well."
What happens when a high volume, industrial manufacturing economy impinges
on Barsoom? A lot of new money, a lot of new goods flood into the
system. There's a huge flush of apparent wealth, as all sorts
of new toys come available for everyone at low low prices.
Credit is introduced to support the purchases, and debt begins to accumulate
throughout the system.
Meanwhile, the traditional economy begins to shudder and shake, contracting
and contorting as the impinging economy produces much larger volumes of
goods at cheaper prices. Perhaps the products aren't as good,
but the advantage of volume and price more than makes up for it.
But Earth comes to Barsoom with some seriously advanced technology.
Which means that not only are the goods being sold cheaper, and more bountiful,
they may well be better.
There's no opting out of Earth's economics. As with the
Maori and their gunpowder wars, the Barsoomian societies that don't play,
find themselves left far behind and at the mercy of their competitors.
In the 19th century, Europeans introduced western goods, particularly firearms,
to the Maori of New Zealand. Maori with firearms wiped out
Maori who did not. No Maori had the choice not to trade.
During the early fur trade in North America, Indian tribes who obtained
superior medicine, goods, and weapons from Europeans inflicted the same
sorts of damage on their neighbors. Many Barsoomian city states find that
they have no choice, they have to play the game in order to keep up.
The trouble is that the Barsoomian economies cannot keep up, they aren't
designed to produce at a rate that will keep up with the Earth economy
and its trade. The only restriction on Earth is the bottleneck
of interplanetary shipping, which probably is the only thing that saves
Barsoom from utter economic collapse. But still, with its lower rates
of activity, Barsoomians find themselves selling off their accumulated
surpluses, their seed corn, their wealth and entitlement, participating
in the new Earth industrial economy. Forests which might
last centuries or millennia are cleared away in years, mines are brought
on line and worked intensively, herds of thoats are slaughtered.
Any resource which generates capital in order to trade with the Earthmen
is harvested ruthlessly. Any product which is valued by Earth
is bid up rapidly, resources are committed disproportionately to producing
that product. Productive capacity is exceeded, and as raw materials
or fundamentals get exploited past renewable levels, local economies collapse.
The Kaolians wonder what the hell happened to their forests all of a sudden,
they find themselves rich in toys, but the key underpinnings of their economy
And after that, or perhaps during this, they find themselves accumulating
debt rapidly. This applies throughout Barsoomian society, from
warriors, to nobles to Jeddaks, isolated wanderers to city states and empires.
With debt comes political vulnerability. The Barsoomians find
themselves having carved their own economic foundations out from under
them. Barsoom experiences worldwide depression, the Bankers
and financiers from Earth wind up running the show. Earth businesses
dictate their own terms, setting conditions, establishing operations.
In short, whether John Carter is around or not, Barsoom's planetary
economy, and a large number of local economies, become road kill when they
meet the Merchants of Earth. If we assume that Barsoom's economy
is only partially integrated, then its simply that much more vulnerable.
If we suppose that Barsoom's economies might have been in a slump when
or at some point where Earth comes along and gears up, then its that much
And the Barsoomians simply will not understand. They'll
understand virtue and honour, they'll understand loyalty, the traditional
virtues and values, they'll see their city states and nations.
And it will all be as they have always understood it. But for
the most part, the operations of economics will take them by surprise.
Their economies, and from there, their societies, will be divided, impoverished,
subjugated, even dismantled before their eyes, and they won't have a clue
as to how it could possibly be happening.
Terrifying? But it's happened dozens of times over the last three
or four centuries to traditional economies which encounter the west.
Hell, its happening even today. All you have to do is look
at Africa and Latin America to see entire societies being ground to powder
by the operations of market forces.
Large parts of the Barsoomian economy or technology might simply drop
Right now, in Haiti, because of free trade agreements with the United
States, it is cheaper for Haitians to import rice, than it is for Haitian
farmers to grow it. What's the result? The devastation
of the Haitian agricultural economy. Basically, farmers can't
make a living, so they walk off the land and go to the cities.
Without the farmers to sustain the local economies, those economies collapse.
With the collapse of the local economies, the national economy shudders,
shakes and limps. It's not a good thing.
With the local economies going, and large numbers of landless former
farmers looking for work, the governments tax base dwindles away.
To function, it must take loans from international bankers. The bankers
in turn dictate Haiti's economic and political policies. Haiti becomes
a bankrupt state, unable to resist foreign interests. Its only
option is to throw open for investment, sell off the rest of its heritage,
and beg for foreign investment to hire the now starving citizens in slave
labour factories for pennies a day. It's a desperate situation.
The traditional Haitian economy, traditional agriculture, factories, skills
and products are gone. Now, everyone dances to the tune of
foreign money, sewing shirts or sneakers for Wal-Mart. For
many Haitians, the traditional way of life is gone, and what has replaced
it is poverty, misery, starvation and rootlessness.
This is probably what happens on Barsoom. Or at least some
version of this happens on Barsoom. Possibly not so disastrous,
but its easy to see parts of the Barsoomian economy simply disintegrating.
It's hard to say what gets lost, or how it is lost. Would the
Barsoomians still be manufacturing or producing flyers, or would that technology
and industry be lost? What about radium weapons? Who knows.
We might well see a Barsoom that seems to be moving backwards technologically,
no longer producing, or no longer able to sustain the traditional industry.
Flyers may be rare in Brackett's Mars simply because the portions of the
Barsoomian economy that produced them may no longer exist.
The lifestyle of Barsoomians in Brackett's colonial era may be apparently
simpler and more primitive than even a century before.
As I've said, there's nothing radical or unique about this.
It's happened on Earth many times, and its happening on Earth right now.
Then of course there's the military and technological gap.
Simply put, Earth technology is likely more ferocious and more advanced
by this time than a lot of Barsoomian tech. For instance, the
Barsoomian flyers are nice and impressive. But clearly, they're
not fast compared to Earth vehicles that can travel between planets, or
cruise at supersonic speeds. They're also not heavily armoured
enough to stand up to Earth's blasters, lasers and space artillery.
Helium's mighty war fleet, impressive on Barsoom, might be about as effective
against Earth's weapons systems as the Polish Cavalry was against Nazi
Even in economic terms, it's not clear that the local flyers would be
able to compete effectively against Earth transportation.
Indeed, from what we know of Barsoom, it's not clear that flyers are used
economically. In all the Barsoomian tales, I can't recall a
single instance of a flyer being used as a freighter, they're almost invariably
one or two man scouts, or warships of different sorts. And
it's clear that not all Barsoomian city states have fliers, even a sophisticated
state such as Kaol, did not have an aerial navy. We can expect,
at the very least, that the size and quality of aerial navies varies considerably
over the surface of the planet, and that few, if any, are anywhere close
to Barsoom in size or quantity.
The radium rifles and pistols are impressive, of course. But how
do they stack up against Ray Guns and Energy Blasters. Moreover,
there may be vulnerabilities in the supply and production train that supports
radium rifles or pistols. Would a well-placed attack on a radium
mine or mines, or processing plant cause a fatal shortage of radium bullets?
What's the production capacity for radium bullets.... What happens
when you need tens of thousands of bullets, but can only manufacture at
the rate of hundreds?
Worse, Barsoom's military culture resembles that of Bushido in Japan.
All very well when you've got enemies who think like you do.
But Barsoom's Martial culture focuses on swordsmanship, honour and personal
courage. Earth's Martial culture focuses on machine guns, saturation
and standing way back out of danger while you incinerate the opponent in
a ‘kill zone.’ The difference in Martial cultures between Barsoom
and Earth might well provoke a lot of Barsoomian resentment and hatred.
But its also a recipe for Earth kicking Barsoomian ass.
It's not likely that the Earthmen would come as conquerors. They'd
show up as traders. But as their interests grew, as their numbers
increased, as the resentment fostered, sooner or later they'd realize that
there would be a confrontation. And when that happened....
Well, let's just say that they, or their local allies would be ready for
it... and the results wouldn't be pretty.
The result is that while the Barsoomians retain their nominal independence
in tribes and city states, real power erodes dramatically.
The Barsoomians continue to rule where the Earthmen see no interest and
no profit. Barbarians are left alone so long as they stay out of
the way... as are royal families.
But the reality is that power and control, influence, takes new forms
and all of this is in the hands of the Earthmen. Worse, the
ultimate power, the power of war and violence is firmly in Earth's hands,
a power that they're willing to use brutally or slyly as the case may be.
Martian society becomes withdrawn and resentful. Hatred and anger
towards Earth and Humans intensifies. Under siege in ways they
do not understand, Martians withdraw to traditional family and clan structures,
becoming more conservative and more taciturn, emphasizing and holding to
values, and contemptuous of those who do not share them.
Earthmen are a fact of life. A new language, ‘low Martian’
comes into being, a pidgin tongue used to talk to the Earthmen.
But large parts of the technological and cultural heritage are lost, or
at least suppressed, the marvels of the fliers and flying warships pass
Earth's influence begins in the most vulnerable societies, probably
in the devastated ruins of Jahar's former Empire. Jahar, having
fallen, is displaced by its sister city, Jekkara. Influence
extends to other vulnerable cities, Ruh, Valkis, Narrisan.
More dominant cities find their influence curtailed, or become isolationist,
or have to make their own compromises.
There are all sorts of variables of course. How strong the
Barsoomian societies were, where they were in economic cycles, what the
bottleneck of interplanetary trade was. But it's pretty
straightforward that the expansion of Earth and regular commerce with Barsoom
would tend to reduce Barsoom from the world known by Burroughs to the Mars
of Leigh Brackett.
Did Brackett actually work all this out for herself? Not
a chance. But then again, she didn't need to. The examples
of colonial societies were everywhere for her to see: Central
America, Latin America, the Caribbean, South Africa, Algeria, Egypt, India,
China, Indochina, Africa, the Middle East... You name it.
All she had to do was open a newspaper, talk to an immigrant grocer, read
any modern history.
Oh, and just for the record, don't get too worked up by the degradation
and fall of Barsoom. If we go by Brackett's stories, the colonial
era lasts only a few centuries at most. Mars eventually throws
off the yoke of Earth's domination and by the 24th and 25th centuries it
is an equal partner in the Solar System along with Earth and Venus.
Empires don't last, as America is now finding out.
~ Den Valdron