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Volume 3640

It's Always the Story that Counts
An essay by Charlie Madison
 No one of the modern age seriously believes, as most people, including Edgar Rice Burroughs, once did, that Venus is a swampy sauna, defined by its rain forests and vast wetlands. Today, we know that if there is a real analog to biblical Hell, Venus is probably it -- 800ºF, air pressures 92 times Earth normal, and a runaway greenhouse effect.

 However, when you read a Burroughs Venus-series adventure, none of that matters, because Burroughs knew what all good authors know: the story is everything. If the story is well done the reader will enter a state of belief-suspension that for a while allows him or her to put aside known fact to accept the fictional reality described.

 When setting, plot, and character work together in a great story, to the reader, fact just doesn't matter. Robert Heinlein, when writing his classic Red Planet, knew full well that Mars was not the place described by astronomers Giovanni Schiaparelli and Percival Lowell with their defunct notions of Martian Canals. Heinlein knew the science of his day, but knew also that reality wouldn't serve his tale of survival and interspecies cooperation nearly as well as the Schiaparelli/Lowell fantasy in which this very popular novel is set. Since Red Planet was first published in 1949, millions of readers know he was right.

 In 1912, when Burroughs wrote A Princess of Mars, the Schiaparelli-Lowell speculations ruled scientific and popular ideas about the red planet. At the time, setting an adventure story there wasn't all that far-fetched. However, by the time Burroughs wrote later Martian novels theoretical science had discarded any notions of ancient Martian civilizations. However, to our benefit, Burroughs probably didn't care, he went right on writing novels set in the universe established in A Princess of Mars.

"John Carter defending Dejah Thoris in the Zodangan throne room"
Artist: Robert Abbett - January 1963,
the front cover for the Ballantine Books paperback release of A Princess of Mars.

 It's the story that has always mattered most. Burroughs' stories are often set in impossible worlds --lost cities scattered around the globe, the Mars of princesses and canals, a swampy Venus.  Yet readers worldwide have made Burroughs one of the best-selling and most beloved authors in history. They don't care if the real Africa isn't the place about which they read in the Tarzan stories or that Barsoom could never have existed. To them, Carson Napier and Duare are still seeking a home on a wet, lush Amtor. Tarzan is alive and living on his estate somewhere on the dark continent, and John Carter is still fighting for honor, friendship, and the love of an incomparable woman in a Mars real only in their hearts and souls.

A Few of the Special Alternate Dust Jackets
Available at Charlie's ERB Graphics Site


About Charlie Madison

I am a retired Army Sergeant Major and a retired high-school teacher.  I began reading the ACE Books editions of ERB in my teens, but much as I loved them, couldn't start collecting until about five years ago, a few years prior to my retirement.  After my discovery of Phil's and the subsequent inspiration that came with that discovery, I began to tinker with making facsimiles for my collection.  Phil makes the highest quality facsimiles created anywhere on this planet.  I'll never approach his standard, but I keep trying.  Today I operate a website,, where I sell my own line of facsimiles. 

 I am also a member of the Burroughs Bibliophiles and am active on erblist and the ERBCOF-L. Although I am an omnivorous reader, as a hobbyist I'm interested only in the reading and collecting of the books written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I have some side interest in the movies, comics, and other collectibles, but am really enthusiastic about the novels and shorter works only. As a part of this interest, I've also began to study the history and scholarship associated with the works of ERB.

 I have loved these works since I discovered them at the age of fifteen.  I no longer try to explain my love for the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the master of adventure.  If a person has never read ERB, explanation is impossible.  With a fellow ERB reader, it's not necessary.  I am, and will always remain, an unrepentant apologist for these great novels of adventure and romance.  As they say in that old theme song to a James Bond movie "Nobody does it better," and they never will.


Charlie Madison's ERB Graphics Site

A Princess of Mars: ERB C.H.A.S.E.R

Robert Abbett Tribute

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