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Volume 3912
.
A READERS' COMPANION TO THE BARSOOMIAN MYTHOS
The Eighteenth Runner-Up in the Seven Wonders of Barsoom
THE MARTIAN APOCRYPHA
by
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
Amazing - January 1941 - John Carter and the Giant of MarsReed Crandall: John Carter of Mars - 8 interiors


 
apocrypha: writings or statements of questionable authorship or authenticity.
–American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3d ed.

INTRODUCTION

And now we come to the art of deception. We are here to scrutinize the alleged Barsoomian installment known as John Carter of Mars, consisting of two stories allegedly written by ERB (“John Carter and the Giant of Mars,” and “Skeleton Men of Jupiter’), included in the Mythos after some years and considerable controversy.

DATA

Best to let Richard A. Lupoff sum it up in his Introduction to the Ballantine 1965 release of its edition of John Carter of Mars. Lupoff is, of course, a famous American science fiction writer, a winner of the prestigious Hugo award in 1963 for the fanzine “Xero,’ which he coedited with his wife, and author of the most influential biography of ERB ever, Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure. Lupoff, writing from New York City, Jasoom, in June 1964 states:
“The publication of JOHN CARTER OF MARS is an historic event for a number of reasons.
“First and most obviously, is the long and eagerly awaited ‘eleventh’ book of the Martian series by Edgar Rice Burroughs. For sixteen years, ever since the appearance of LLANA OF GATHOL, the tenth book in the series and the last of Burrough’s work to see print during the author’s life, there has been a constant desire by his many followers to see two remaining Barsoomian adventures appear in book form. They are at last available, in the present volume, to Burroughs’ myriad fans and admirers.
“The second historical aspect of JOHN CARTER OF MARS is its very name. Although JOHN CARTER OF MARS is a ‘natural’ title for a book in the Martian series, it was never used by Burroughs himself. It has been applied to a number of adaptations of the Barsoomian tales, including two completely different children’s books and a comic magazine, but has never before been used as the title of ‘real’ book.
“Regarding the two short novels (or novellas, or novelettes, or even long short stories, the title is not worth the quibble) that make up JOHN CARTER OF MARS, each has a fascinating tale of its own, quite aside from the story content itself.” (JCM/Introduction.)
Alternate Canaveral Cover designed by Phil NormandYou can view the publishing histories and editorial comments of the two stories at ERBzine # 0740 (“John Carter and the Giant of Mars”), and ERBzine # 0739 (“Skeleton Men of Jupiter”). The ERBzine site correctly attributes the authorship of “Giant” to John Coleman Burroughs. But this story was first published under ERB’s name and was caught out by attentive fans and critics. Not only is the style unlike ERB’s standard style – he writes from John Carter’s point of view, but in the third person – but there are horrible mistakes made about the Mythos that anyone who followed it would have immediately spotted.

A good example is the Great White Ape that sexually molests Dejah Thoris. First the ape is described as fully hairy, whereas every true ERB fan knows that the apes were hairless except for a shock of bristly hair on top of their heads. Besides ERB would never allow anyone to molest Dejah Thoris; regardless of how close she came to being actually violated: she was always rescued in time to keep her pure for her Chieftan. Lupoff discusses this point and its objections more fully in his Introduction.

Lupoff admits his goal in planning the new release was to lay to rest once and for all the true authorship of “Giant.” He wrote to both the editor Ray Palmer and ERB’s son, Hulbert, asking whether it had been written by ERB; if it had, whether Palmer or anyone else had tampered with it; and if it had not been written by ERB, who was the real author. Palmer was the first to respond, stating that the story was really written by ERB and that nobody had changed it in any way. Perhaps he had that response run by his lawyers first, since he had originally published the story under ERB’s name.

Hulbert, however, discovered that John Coleman (Jack), his brother, had actually been the author. This should come as no surprise. Jack had already been expanding the Mythos in the funnies with his “John Carter of Mars” comic strip, which debuted on Sunday, December 7, 1941: Pearl Harbor Day, and had taken over his father’s duties on the children’s adaptations of his books. The fact of the true authorship is revealed at the get-go at ERBzine #0740.

That leaves us with “Skeleton Men of Jupiter.” Lupoff describes that this story was supposed to be like the series of four stories that made up Llana of Gathol, to wit, four separate stories all linked by a common thread – getting Llana back to Gathol. However, this idea soon breaks down under close scrutiny in light of what facts we possess.

The first installment ends, not as the completion of a separate adventure, but as a continuation of a regular story, the standard serialized adventure. Perhaps I am nitpicking, perhaps ERB had turned his back on Barsoom and the rich Mythos he had created. But this single adventure lacks one thing that all other stories in the Mythos do not: a Foreword, or Prologue, that explains to the reader the means by which ERB received the story. Sure, “Skeleton Men” has a Foreword, but it is so unlike all of ERB’s other Forewords, that it raises immediate suspicions.

There are no Epiphanies of John Carter to set up the stories of the alleged new series beginning with “Skeleton Men of Mars,” or a narrative detailing how ERB received the story by means of the Gridley Wave. Instead we get an odd, generic Foreword that is allegedly supposed to assuage the readers that this story was not written by his son, but by ERB himself.

I don’t know why Lupoff was so quick to accept Palmer’s explanation that this series was like Llana of Gathol or the Carson Napier series Escape on Venus, but he readily accepted the explanation, even though Palmer had so clearly lied to him about “Giant.” As Lupoff puts it:

“This form of quasi-serialization was one with which Burroughs’ experimented quite successfully the early 1940s.
“However, wartime service as a correspondent in the Pacific reduced Burroughs’ fiction output nearly to zero, and after the end of the war his health prevented ERB from resuming his former pace. As a result, the continuing episodes of John Carter’s Jupiterian adventure were never written.” (JCM/Introduction.)
But in my opinion the dead giveaway is the Foreword ERB allegedly wrote at the beginning of “Skeleton Men.” Ironically, this is precisely the detail that convinced Lupoff of its authenticity, although after personally receiving it from Hulbert with a photostat of the original manuscript, I will admit is very convincing evidence. But when the Foreword is studied in light of everything else ERB had written in the Mythos, it really strains my credulity. Here it is:
“Particularly disliking forewords, I seldom read them; yet it seems that I scarcely ever write a story that I do not inflict a foreword on my long-suffering readers. Occasionally I also have to inject a little weather and scenery in my deathless classics, two further examples of literary racketeering that I especially deplore in the writings of others. Yet there is something to be said in extenuation of weather and scenery, which, together with adjectives, do much to lighten the burdens of authors and run up their word count.
“Still, there is little excuse for forewords; and if this were my story there would be none. It is John Carter’s story. I am merely his amanuensus.
“On guard! John Carter takes his sword in hand.
“EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS.”
(JCM/Foreword, SMJ.)
Anyone who paid attention to the 17th Runner-Up to the Seven Wonders of Barsoom knows that ERB had a completely different purpose for writing his Forewords in the Barsoomian Mythos. This Foreword is a joke in comparison. This fake ERB brags of his techniques of bleeding every last nickle out of a story, effectively mocking all of the rich detail in the Mythos (weather, scenery, and plenty of adjectives), which lead to the believability of the story – what is called the suspension of disbelief, or belief, or however you would like to call being caught up into a fictional story.

Note also that this Foreword could be about any book ERB wrote. There is absolutely no mention of the series to which it allegedly relates. Perhaps Lupoff didn’t notice, too involved with the “insight into the personality of Edgar Rice Burroughs”:

“The Foreword of Skeleton Men of Jupiter, by the way, is published here for the first time. When the magazine version of the story appeared twenty-one years ago, the editor may have felt that a Foreword would serve only to put off readers, while a policy of ‘On with the story’ above all else, would have greater commercial appeal.
“He may well have been right for the pulp magazine audience of a generation ago, but assuming the readers of books to have a slightly more serious and patient outlook on literature, I have restored the Foreword, obtaining its text from a photostat of ERB’s original manuscript, kindly furnished by Hulbert Burroughs.” (JCM/Introduction.)
Frankly, this flabbergasts me. ERB’s readers would naturally have expected a Foreword before a new John Carter adventure. If they are like me, they would prefer the Epiphanies most of all. Palmer’s reasons to Lupoff for authenticity ring about as true as his normal bullshit, like titling a story about Okar, “The Yellow Men of Mars,” when in fact, the Okarians in the story are unlike all other Okarians – naturally having yellow skin – in that they have red skins. (See “The Hothouse Cities of Okar,” the Third Wonder of Barsoom, ERBzine #3306.) It turns out from a close study of the cover to the August 1941 edition of Amazing Storres, that the “Yellow Men” are actually Apts, the pure white arctic monster that just happened to be painted on the cover with a yellowish tint. Yes, anyone in their wrong mind would have good reason to take Palmer’s word as gospel.

I mean, if ERB truly wrote this generic Foreword to “Skeleton Men,” he was getting senile, or on a binge, and this state should be reflected in other stories he was working on at the same time, like, for example, I am a Barbarian – but it is not. In fact, the fake ERB style reflected in “Skeleton” lacks exactly those things pointed out in the Foreword, to wit, adequate descriptions of scenery, weather, and adjectives. The style is noticeably more breezy and modern, unlike ERB’s standard story English which always sounds as if it has been translated from Latin or Greek. This was a style ERB readily admitted to. To me, the best title for this collection is The Martian Apocrypha. With such a title, there is no attempt to deceive the reader into believing he or she is reading an authentic Barsoomian tale for the true believers, the ERB Chosen Ones – as the title John Carter of Mars insinuates.


CONCLUSION

The books of the Bible’s Apocrypha have much of the same problems. There is the Roman Catholic Apocrypha, the Reformation Apocrypha of Martin Luther, and, of course, the fundamentalist Bibles with no Apocrypha at all. I wish I had the skills to run a computer analysis comparing the words and style of all the other books in the Mythos in order to have a valid comparson to the words and styles of “Skeleton Men.”

I will admit that at first read, it does sound authentic, but on closer inspection, I hear alarm bells ringing deep in my gut. Again, my gut instinct is insufficient proof to overcome’s Richard Lupoff’s expert conclusion, but I believe that even those closest to their subjects can make important errors. Oh well, at least that is my opinion. Lupoff goes on his introduction to give a summary of the entire Barsoomian Mythos, and at the end, it is nice to know that he still retains some of the same suspicions as me:

“A final note now concerning John Carter and the Giant of Mars. In the magazine version of two decades ago there were a number of footnotes, signed ‘Ed.’ It is not known today whether this ‘Ed.,’ was Raymond A. Palmer, editor of AMAZING STORIES, or Edgar Rice Burroughs, who sometimes described himself as merely the ‘editor’ of John Carter’s true adventures, rather than as an author.
“These footnotes are retained in the present edition, the reader is free to form his own opinion regarding their authenticity.
“To the reader who regards science fiction as a sugar-coated course in chemistry and physics equally as to the one who seeks only serious sociological extrapolation, Burroughs’ Martian novels will prove unsatisfactory.
“But to the reader who seeks magnificent adventure in an endlessly imaginative, exotic setting, these books without question represent an all-time high in the field.” (JCM/Introduction.)
Which is a good place to end, wouldn’t you say? So, here I am on the evening of February 29, 2012, with less than five hours until midnight. Should I go ahead and email this installment to Bill Hillman before the Midnight Hour, before the aliens have a chance to abduct me? My February countdown is running out of time. Or should I wait till the last second of the last minute of February before sending it?

One amusing coincidence that you might enjoy is the calendar I bought at the local Barnes and Noble last fall. The calendar is a bunch of posters made as part of the Work Projects Adminstration (WPA) under FDR, called “The Ranger Naturalist” series, looking like most propaganda posters from the Thirties. And wouldn’t you know it, the poster for February 2012 is known as “America’s First Monument,” the Devil’s Tower, made famous in Steven Spielberg’s, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The irony of this just came to me last night as I contemplated the countdown staring at the poster. This caused quite a bit of chuckling. I mean, what a coincidence. ERB is often criticized for the amazing coincidences that occur in his stories, but the ones that occur in my life are mindblowing. Lately, I’ve begun a Donald Trump routine of hiring and firing people that appear out of nowhere all day long every day in my life, causing me to have to take notice or perish, especially when driving or walking next to busy roads. If someone makes me stop, they’re hired, for they are obviously people that do their jobs well in the conspiracy of fate. Those that are just a little bit too late to make a hassle out of my life are fired on the spot. And, like Mitt Romney, the Mormon candidate for President of the United States, I find that I enjoy firing people. I’m sure most readers can relate to that.

Anyway, I have decided to wait until the Midnight Hour, when my love comes tumblin’ down. 

After all, “I still live!”

THE SEVEN WONDERS OF BARSOOM SERIES
7 WONDERS: I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII

RUNNERS UP: I.a | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII.2.2b.3a.3b | IX | X.2.3.4
|.XI.2.3.4.5.6.7 |.XII.2.| XIII.|.XIV.|.XV.2.3.4.5.6.7.| XVI.2.3.4.5.| XVII..2.3.4 .| XVIII



 
WEB REFS
www.johncarterofmars.ca
www.cartermovie.com
A Princess of Mars
Gods of Mars
Warlord of Mars
Thuvia, Maid of Mars
Chessmen of Mars
Mastermind of Mars
A Fighting Man of Mars
Swords of Mars
Synthetic Men of Mars
Llana of Gathol
Skeleton Men of Jupiter
John Carter and the Giant of Mars
“John Carter of Mars” comic strip



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