the recent death of Edgar Rice Burroughs, it is interesting to recapitulate
his work in light of the fact that this magazine was among the first to
recognize his genius. It is hard for any admirer of Burroughs to be objective
about him, but we can try.
Burroughs works are not only read -- they are re-read and digested again
and again, because they are so real. Literally they are not classics --
though there are spots where the writing is superb by any standards --
scientifically they are mush -- and even science-fictionally speaking they
do not quite classify. What then is the basis of their tremendous fascination?
The answers are two: characterization and superb story-telling. In the
first case, there is hardly one Burroughs' character who is not as real
to a reader as his best friend. Burroughs had the faculty of being able
to create within his imagination a dream world peopled not by fantasies
but by flesh and blood creatures who moved in a world whose atmosphere
was as real as the room you're sitting in.
The story-telling art, which is really difficult was a natural to Burroughs
as eating. The world of Tarzan, of Barsoom, of Pellucidar, was so convincingly
described along with all the bug-eyed monsters, that to all intents and
purposes you automatically visualized a three-dimensional, living breathing
world. This is the aim of most story-telling, but it is an aim rarely achieved.
When you look at the pathetic attempts at scientific explanation which
Burroughs was prone at time to engage in, you laugh, that is, you laugh
when you look at the explanation alone. In light of, and surrounded
by the mythical creations and characters of Burroughs' mind, those "scientific"
concepts seem more real than the electric light. No higher praise can be
given an author.
It is an interesting fact that the Burroughs stories do not date. They
will be read as eagerly thirty years from now as they were thirty years
ago. Most of the characterizations of Burroughs were relatively black-and-white
affairs with good and evil clearly defined. In no way did this detract
from the story.
It was as if Burroughs were sitting down before you -- and indeed he
was in his introductions found in a number of his books -- and said: "Now
listen, I'm going to tell you an utterly incredible tale of people and
creatures and places you will hardly believe -- but they exist. Even if
they're in my mind they exist. Listen to my story and judge me..."
Well, Edgar Rice Burroughs, we've listened and we've judged -- and we
believe. Your stories will live and we'll read and re-read them. Hail and
From Amazing Stories, Vol 24, No. 12, Dec. 1950, pages 94-95 (Ziff-Davis