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Volume 1405

It's ALL The Same Mars
Den Valdron
Part of the Exploring Barsoom Series


. . .. . . 
Part 1 of a 16,700-word article by Den Valdron
Barsoom is Mars, and Mars is a Shared World
Other Writers and Other Stories on the Shared World of Mars
A Note About Space Travel
The Story
Where on Barsoom?
The Story
Is this Barsoom?
MacCOLL 1889
Is this Barsoom?
On John Carter’s World?


In the Biblical terms, the Apocrypha are the unofficial books that are not part of the formal bible, yet they were contemporary religious documents of the Christian or Jewish faith.   As such, they’re not part of the "official" religious canon, but represent a semi-legitimage body of external lore.

Burroughs Barsoom stories constitute the nine novels and six novellas written by Edgar Rice Burroughs.   This is the ‘canon’ or the ‘true and official’ Barsoom.    In a larger sense, the canon includes the Moon Maid, which references Barsoom, as well as Carson’s Venus, which also references John Carter, though more indirectly.   The Barsoom series makes use of the Gridley Wave, which means that it connects to Pellucidar, and Pellucidar connects to Tarzan.   Thus, the larger canon is all of Burroughs inter-relating series, all of which, including Caspak and Poloda, must be deemed to be taking place within the same Burroughs universe.

Everything else, including fanfiction, comic strips, comic books, pastiches, artwork,  movie treatments, etc. is ‘unofficial’ stuff, outside the formal canon.   The stories of George Alec Effinger, the strips of John Coleman Burroughs, the work of Alan Moore and discussions of Dick Lupoff are all Apocryphal.   And by and large, it’s troublesome apocrypha that doesn’t fit well with the canon. John Coleman Burroughs' Green Martians, for instance, are drawn to conform to the requirements of a newspaper strip and look nothing like the written descriptions.   Comic book stories either tell the official stories but get them wrong, or tell new stories, but make such changes in characters that they’re not consistent with the original works.   But then again, this is why the Apocrypha are Apocrypha, because they don’t quite mesh with the Canon.

But there’s also another vein of Apocrypha I propose to mine here.   And that is, the Mars stories of other writers from Burroughs time period between 1880 and 1940.   There is a basic commonality to most of the Mars stories by different writers.   They were, after all, writing about the same world, and sharing the same assumptions.

Barsoom is Mars, and Mars is a Shared World

Mars was well established both in science and the popular imagination.   The moon was originally the world on which fantasists had set their journeys to outer space.   As late as the 1830's, hoaxes and stories about life on the surface of the moon were being published.   After all, the moon was pretty huge in the sky.   But through the 17th and 18th century as telescopes improved it was increasingly clear that the moon was a dead, waterless, airless world devoid of life.   The possibilities of imagination were closed off for the moon.

For Mars, those possibilities were opening up.   Telescopes, from Galileo on, showed Mars as a globe.  Moreover, features were discernible.   In the 18th century, astronomers clocked the Martian day, discovered the polar caps and watched them swell and shrink.  Mars was a world with a day the same length as our own, with seasons like our own, divided into discernible regions of light and dark, ice and snow.   Clouds and storms were observed, proving that Mars had an atmosphere and weather.  Reputable astronomers speculated about the possibilities of life and habitation.

Meanwhile, around this time, theories of evolution and cosmic formation were developing and mixing in popular consciousness.    A kind of cosmic theory of evolution, of life progressing ever upwards was emerging.   Darwin’s theory of natural selection was morphed into a sort of inevitable progression, from fish, to frogs, reptiles, dinosaurs, mammals and ultimately humans.  In popular imagination ‘man’ was the inevitable ultimate result of evolution, at least up to this point. 

Thus, the thinking was that the beings of other worlds would themselves be human, or reasonably close with slight variations.   The notion that alien beings might be radically unlike ourselves was, if not heretical, certainly not unquestioned, though people like Percival Lowell and H.G. Wells and the more strictly rational argued like this.
The notion that life went through a cycle of birth to death.  Life began, grew, evolved to its pinnacle as humans and animals were born, grew, and reached their peak.   And then, humans and animals, over time, aged, grew weaker and eventually passed away, as did Life in general and even planets.   This shifted into a kind of notion explaining the solar system.   Venus the young world full of wet rains and primeval beasts, likely hot and lush, full of oceans and primitive jungles.    Earth was the ‘just right’ world, in its prime, with the proper balance of ocean and land, of rains and sun, sporting the sophisticated pinnacle of life, man itself.   Mars was the older world, past its prime.  Its air, self evidently thinning, its mountains and continents wearing away, its oceans drying up, the whole planet cooling off.   It seemed logical that if Mars was further along than Earth in the cosmic life cycle, that it would have life and intelligence, and that these would be further advanced than ours.   But further advanced was not necessarily superiority, Mars was in its decline, and thus the intelligences of Mars were in decline.

Apparent proof of intelligence on Mars, and of the decline in that world, came in 1877 when Schiaparelli announced his discoveries of Canals.    Canals were big during this time, the Suez canal bisected Africa and Asia, uniting the Mediteranean with the Red Sea.   The Eerie and St. Laurence canals of North America extended shipping for hundreds of miles.   The Panama and Nicaragua canal projects promised to separate North America from South and unite the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.   Schiaparelli’s ‘canali’ included 66 razor straight lines, some of them parallel, some of them crossing each other, running from presumably wet dark areas, through dry regions.  While people might argue over whether they were natural or not, it was hard not to see them as the work of intelligent beings engaged in irrigation on a dying, drying world.

It was also the same year that Mars' two moons were discovered, moons unlike any others in the solar system.   It was a year of conjunction, of close approach, which happened only once or twice every few decades, so most telescopes were engaged with Mars.   Mars was very big and very big news in popular consciousness.

For scientists and for writers and the public, Mars was hardly a blank place.  It was a very well defined world, no more or less mysterious than Africa or Asia.   We knew what it looked like from a distance, we knew its size, its day, its weather and seasons.   We knew the light areas were likely deserts, we knew it was an old world so that erosion had worn away its mountains and continents.  We knew that its seas were diminished remnants (as Schiaparelli believed), though that perception evolved to the belief that its seas were entirely gone (as Lowell believed), but still, moisture survived in the sea bottoms.   We knew it had life, probably much like our own.   And from the evidence of Canals, people assumed that there were intelligences, a civilization probably much like our own, but trapped upon a dying world, undertaking great works.


The result is that it was quite natural for writers writing about Mars to essentially be writing about a very similar place.    As I’ve said, it's not a blank slate, but rather a well known territory and writers wrote within the knowledge of that territory and the science and pseudoscience beliefs of the time.   Mars, from the very beginning was a shared world, much the same way that the American west was a shared world for different writers fictional and non-fictional characters.   Writers who wrote the west took a shared setting, they weren’t dropping samurai and gorillas in, but working with cowboys and gunslingers.   Mars, in its own way, was almost as rigourously defined for writers.  So, they tended to use the same ideas, and the same tropes over and over.  And it wasn’t just a dry dying world of deserts crossed by canals, with evaporating seas and sheltered valleys.

The faculty of telepathy, for instance, is almost universal.   Telepathy was considered an advanced mental faculty, a higher faculty, so it was only natural that the Martians, being from an older world, should possess it in some degree.  Besides which, it got us neatly and quickly around the language barrier.

A great many, perhaps most of the Martians encountered, including Burroughs, were human.  Their skin colours might vary, but they were basically human beings, though usually from a culture more technologically or intellectually sophisticated.   Because Mars was believed to be a dying desert world, there was a subtle tendency to draw upon elements of Arabian culture or 1001 nights by many writers.   The Arabian culture, or bastardized visions of it in Europe, were seen as an old civilization, past its prime and in decline.   So often bits of that would get mixed up in various ways.

Alternately, writers might choose to emphasize the ‘evolution’ of Martian society, of a race whose intellectual attainments choked off its moral or its emotional side.   There were a number of stories depicting Martians whose intellectual sophistication was balanced by a lack of emotion and often a lack of will or motivation.   These Martians were apathetics, accepting the fate of their world, lacking the will to struggle.   Of course, others were depicted as being made monstrous for logic without emotion.   H.G. Wells invaders were the ultimate expression of this.

Apart from humans, interestingly enough, winged manlike creatures were the next most popular.  Partly, of course, this was the apple not falling far from the tree.   Angels lived beyond the earth in Heaven.   So it’s not rocket science to imagine angel-like winged beings living beyond the earth on worlds in outer space, like Mars or Venus.   And it did make a certain kind of sense, after all, the gravity was lighter so flying creatures were more plausible.  Between 1890 and 1920 there were at least eight stories or novels featuring this sort of Martian, including the creatures of H.G. Wells’ “The Crystal Egg” and Gustave LeRouge’s “Prisoner of Planet Mars.”

ustave LeRouge’s “Prisoner of Planet Mars.”
Other mythical or semi-mythical creatures, often variations of human forms were seen.  There were four Martian stories between 1890 and 1920 which featured dwarves of various sorts, often cave-dwellers.   Giants showed up a few times, though usually these were human giants.   Even H.G. Wells’ creatures began to show up repeatedly.

Mars was considered to be an Earthlike world, so writers filled it with earthlike plants, mosses, trees, grasses, shrubs, and usually mixed the colours up, adding red and purple after the planet’s colour.   Earth was a green and blue world, Mars was obviously a world of reds and rust.   And of course, it was presumed to have its own animal life, both similar and different from Earthly fauna.   Again, sometimes the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, both Wells and Arnold included apes on their Mars.

So, Gustavus Pope’s Journey to Mars, Edwin Arnold’s Gulliver Jones and Gustav LeRouge’s Prisoner of Mars weren’t the sources of Burroughs' A Princess of Mars.  Rather, they were all shaped by the same planet, including the views of the planet, the beliefs in ‘inevitable evolution’ and life cycles on planetary scales.   In a similar way, the Cisco Kid wasn’t the inspiration for other fictional or real gunslingers, they were all products of the same setting.

It’s all happening on the same Mars.   It may be an imaginary Mars, and each writer may go off in a different direction, but in a sense, the Mars of novels and stories of 1880 to 1940 was a shared universe, a shared world.

Burroughs just called his Barsoom, but the reality is, that he was simply writing in the same metafictional Mars that everyone else was.   But here’s the thing about Barsoom.   There was just so damned much of it.   Burroughs Barsoom stretched out to nine novels and six novellas, thousands of pages and hundreds of thousands of worlds, and within that, swamps, rivers, mountain ranges, dried sea beds, cities, races, religions, cultures and history.  In short, Barsoom overwhelms all the other renditions of the fictional Mars of this day.   In contrast, Matthew Arnold wrote only one Mars novel.   Otis Adelbert Kline wrote two and a novella.  H.G. Wells wrote a novel and short story, but only the short story depicted the actual planet.   Gustave LeRouge wrote two novels, but only one was actually set on Mars.   Pretty much everyone else wrote single novels, short stories or included Mars visits as parts of larger works.   Many of the other works, because of their smaller volume also tended to describe smaller slices of Mars.   Arnold’s Gulliver Jones wanders about in a relatively small area, Wells’ story describes only a single valley.   So the result is that on any composite vision of Mars, Barsoom tends to occupy a lot of the territory.   So why not just call it all Barsoom, since Mars is no longer the world we dreamed of.

Other Writers and Other Stories on the Shared World of Mars

That old shared Mars, the one that endured from 1877 to 1950, the one of science and myth, popular consciousness and writers fantasy, has vanished now.   The Mars revealed by space probes has largely replaced it.    So Barsoom is, for better or worse, a good a name as any for that older shared Mars.   Now the thing is, if you’ve got a shared meta-world, then the natural temptation is to locate it all together.  Thus famous real and fictional gunslingers crossed paths in the old west, and H. Rider Haggard’s Africa rubbed shoulders with Burroughs. 

More recently, there have been literary pastiches by people like A. Bertram Chandler, George Alec Effinger and Alan Moore placing John Carter in conflict with Wells' Martian invaders, throwing Gulliver Jones or Otis Albert Kline’s Mars into the mix.   In part because of the connections to Burroughs between Wells, Arnold and Kline, I’ve explored and tried to place each of these writers' "Mars" on the same world as Barsoom.

But anyway, if these three writers' works can be incorporated into Burroughs Barsoom, what about others?   Are there other writers stories or novels about Mars that will fit in too.   Actually, there are.   Now mostly obscure and forgotten, there are a number of stories and novels from between 1880, after the discovery of the canals and moons of Mars, and 1940 when the vision of Mars as a live world had faded.

Most of these works are out of print and quite hard to find.   This poses some problems and if you want to track them down and read them you may well be out of luck.   Moreover, because I myself haven’t read most of them, I can only go by brief descriptions.  Descriptions which are extremely tantalizing, but which, unfortunately do not allow the sort of detailed and thorough analysis of geography, biology or culture, which would allow us to place a work in context on either Barsoom or the geography and geology of real Mars.  Unfortunately, I’ve only got the broadest strokes to work with, and thus, my comments are wholly speculative and I can hardly place too much weight on the poor delicate things.

Finally, I must note that in some, perhaps in many cases, some of stories will not and cannot fit on Barsoom at all, or contain elements that are completely inconsistent with what we know of Barsoom.  For instance, the Human Pets of Mars features Martians who are essentially ten-legged octopi, or decapods, who have no resemblance to anything, and who breeze back and forth easily seem completely incompatible with Barsoom.  There’s also Thomas Edison’s Invasion of Mars and Nikola Tesla’s Invasion of Mars about either of which, the less said the better, but feature fleets of Earth spaceships travelling out to wreak devastation on the red planet.  Inspired originally by H.G. Wells, these were simple potboiler newspaper serials, bereft of imagination or intelligence, but which presumed technology and actions that simply cannot have taken place in Burroughs universe.

And of course, this work ignores the Burroughs inspired Mars stories of the 50's and 60's, like Michael Moorcock’s "Michael Kane,"   Leigh Bracket’s Sword of Rhiannon and "Eric John Stark," and A. Bertram Chandler’s Alternate Mars.

This obviously cannot be complete.   There are doubtless novels and stories that would fit that I’ve missed, as well as many that won’t fit.   But that’s okay.   Mostly, it just has to be interesting and entertaining.

A Note About Space Travel

Initially, I was going to dismiss any mention of Earth or Martian spaceships as being completely contradictory to the Burroughs universe.   Where Earthlings or Martians travel back and forth by spaceship seemed at first to be quite contradictory to the established Burroughs canon.

After all, in the Moon Maid, Burroughs establishes that the first official Barsoomian space expedition to Earth is launched in the 21st century, in 2015, and is lost.   This is followed, a few years later by Earth’s first expeditionary ship to Barsoom in 2024, which makes it only as far as the moon.

So talk of rocketships or spaceships in the late 19th or early 20th century seems ludicrous in the Burroughs universe.   Didn’t, oughtn’t, can’t and ain’t happening.   If they can’t manage it well into the 21st century, there’s no chance in the late 19th.

However, I’ve reconsidered.   Carson ‘Wrong Way’ Napier builds himself a rocket and flies to Mars in 1932, nearly a full century prior to the ‘Moon Maid’ expedition.   Now to be fair, he doesn’t get to Mars, but he does wind up on Venus, so there’s proof that local interplanetary distances can be traversed by Earthlings in the earlier part of the 20th century, and perhaps even slightly earlier. 

And further, given that we’ve borrowed War of the World and "The Crystal Egg" from Mr. Wells, we must assume that technology from the Martian invasion was in fact cannibalized and might have made it into the hands of intrepid space explorers or inventors.   We might also consider that in his writings, anti-gravity is a fact of at least one of his novels, First Men in the Moon, where his protagonists encounter insectlike beings who occupy the outer (but not inner) surface of the Moon.   Anti-gravity shows up in quite a few space voyages.

The question of course, is why there’s such a huge gap between Carson’s lone expedition of 1932 and the Moon Maid expedition of 2024?   This problem, on its first look, seems insoluble.  But I think a couple of factors come into play.

First, it is likely that the Martian invasion of the War of the Worlds put a damper on any thoughts of official space travel.   Earth had survived an invasion, there was no future invasion apparently forthcoming, why go looking for trouble?   Space travel was not an official priority, and was unofficially discouraged.   This left only the occasional wealthy malcontent or consortium of intrepid and financially secure explorers to take a chance.

Secondly, we must note that the Barsoom was not only an official, but a major expedition.  It had a large crew, provisions for years, staterooms, etc.   The Moon Maid's Barsoom was the equivalent of a Battleship or of Admiral Perry’s Great White Fleet.   Meanwhile, Carson’s attempt was in comparison, the equivalent of a relatively small sailboat crossing the Atlantic or Pacific.   Yes, it’s theoretically possible to cross the Atlantic in a sailboat, but there’s a very good chance of not making it at all. 

Those space travellers of Earth of the late 19th or early 20th century were probably sailing against the odds, and for those few who managed to reach a neighboring world and live to tell about it, there were likely many who set off and were never heard from again.

Out in space, even in the mid-19th century, Barsoom’s civilization definitely possesses anti-gravity technology, through its mastery of the eighth and ninth rays, and during the reign of the Warlord, in Swords of Mars, begins to make exploratory flights to Thuria.   Yet, the trips to Thuria are not so much new or revolutionary technology, as the application of technologies (environment seal, life support, anti-gravity etc.) that Barsoom has had lying around for thousands of years. 

Further, with respect to Barsoom, we note that technology is not uniform but varies locally.   Helium’s flyers are the most advanced known.   The First Born’s flyers, however, are designed for submersible flight.   Jahar’s flyers are technologically inferior compared to Barsoom.   Kaol has no flyers at all, though they later acquire them.   Meanwhile, isolated regions such as Manator, Ghasta and Bantoom have no flyers and no firearms.   Even more isolated societies, such as the Orovars of Horz, have even lower technology.

Yet, we must note that once upon a time, the level of technology on Barsoom was higher even than that of Helium today.   Indeed, in another paper, I’ve speculated that Thuria may actually be an artificial world, created tens or hundreds of thousands of years ago by the fallen civilization of the Orovars.   So it’s possible that somewhere on Barsoom, some lost and isolationist city still possesses the capacity to travel through interplanetary space, should it wish to.

So, theoretically, we might have isolated spaceships from Barsoom, the products of isolated and isolationist cities, which manage to make it to Earth.   So, in the context of Burroughs universe and Barsoom, we might be prepared to accept some limited occasional normal space travel between worlds.


In 1880, one of the first Mars novels was Percy Greg’s Across the Zodiac: Story of a Wrecked Record. Allegedly, this chronicled and event taking place 50 years before, which would place it in 1830. 

The Story

Illo by H. Lanos
In this account the Astronaut, a privately-built ship of 150 feet long, 50 feet wide and 20 feet high, was the first human spacecraft to travel to Mars.    The Astronaut was propelled by Apergy, but a force that had to be generated and controlled, something more similar, perhaps to the Barsoomian bouancy rays.  The electrical generators recycled the ship’s air and powered the Apergy machines which directed atomic force  to repel the Sun's gravity.    Which seems like a very, very anomalous technology for 1830's Earth. 

Mars, the ship's destination, had an "advanced race" practicing polygamy and atheism; the Martians also had dirigibles, poison-gas guns, electric tractors, 3-D talkies, and the duodecimal system.  His Martians had developed a form of utopia based on advanced technology and telepathic ability, which enabled them to punish people for wrong thoughts.  However, they did not have resistance to a disease of earthly origin "contracted from rose-seeds," so the hero left in a hurry.

Actually, the Greg Martians don’t seem all that much like Barsoomians.   They aren’t fun loving enough.   The telepathy thing, of course, is shared with Burroughs, Arnold and Wells, but they didn’t get that from Greg, or from each other.   Rather, all four authors, and many others, picked up on a pseudo-science notion that was floating around.

Greg’s Martians are an ancient civilization, so ancient, and so intellectually evolved, that they have lost touch with feelings.   They are passive and apathetic, with little interest in the world around them.

This sort of "listless ancient decadence" shows up again and again in Mars novels of the era.   Before Wells put his spin on things, the ultimate result of intellectual development at the expense of emotions was apathy.   The super-intelligent civilizations of the Martians were frequently depicted as passionless, placid and lifeless.   The super-civilizations of these Martians had no gumption, no motivation.   In the end, they had not the motivation to fly their own spaceships.

Wells of course put a different spin on it.   His super-intelligences were highly motivated, the loss of emotions simply made them more ruthless and relentless.   Burroughs, for his part, restored vitality to his Martians, depicting them as struggling valiantly if fatalistically as their world died slowly.   In a sense, in Burroughs, Barsoom is dying more quickly than its inhabitants, so they’re kicking up a fuss.

Where on Barsoom?

Does this mean that the passive Martians are incompatible with Barsoom?   Perhaps not.   Barsoomian civilization, the dominant cultures that John Carter knows, are shaped by the great collapse.   Everything from semi-feudal slavery, city-state political organizations, the rule of war-chiefs in the form of Jeds and Jeddaks , the emphasis on war and warriors over science or trade, were all formed in the great collapse of the previous Barsoomian civilizations.   And the thing is, that although Barsoom is no longer in a state of active collapse, these societies have not changed.  They are still shaped by that disaster.

But was this the only response to the great disaster?   Perhaps some societies, partially sheltered from the ongoing collapse, simply turned inwards.   They made fatalism a religion, becoming intellectual, unemotional, passive, taking very little part in the affairs of the planet.   For convenience, we’ll call them Apathetics.

On Barsoom, cities of Apathetics, some of them conceivably preserving extraordinary levels of technology, may exist in remote locations, uninvolved with the lands around them and isolated from the mainstream of Barsoom’s warrior cultures.

So, conceivably, these Martians might well tuck away neatly in some corner of Barsoom.


1884 - Camille Flammarion - Les Terres du Ciel (The Worlds in the Sky) (Marpon-Flammarion).

Camille FlammarionUranie by Camille FlammarionMars Canals from Les Terres du Ciel

A man and woman who died at the top of a mountain find themselves reincarnated on Mars, a touching reunion that includes a few descriptions of martian flora and fauna.    Then a few years later, we have in 1889, Camille Flammarion writing -Uranie (Marpon-Flammarion) wherein a man awakens on Mars and meets his reincarnation.

I’m not sure if this fits into Barsoom or not.   Forget about any geographical description, and I have no idea whether the flora and fauna is at all compatible.   However, Camille Flammarion is worth a couple of Burroughs footnotes  (see ERB's Personal Library).  First, because as an astronomer, he was noted for compiling all of the observations of Mars over two centuries, a landmark and pivotal work of scholarship which both Schiaparelli and Lowell built upon  (See the Valdron Barsoomian Geography Series).

Second, and for some purposes, much more interestingly, Flammarion in his fiction popularized a notion that people were reincarnated, not on Earth or Heaven, but on Mars.   This was apparently a fad.   The significance of this shouldn’t be underestimated, as arguably, John Carter, Ulysses Paxton and Tangor appear to die, or are brought near death, before going off to their respective worlds.   I’ve called the phenomenon Astral Teleportation, but quite possibly, it is actually death on this world and reincarnation on another world.   Burroughs once, talking about religion, expressed a hope of being reincarnated on some other world, so perhaps he took this critical idea directly or indirectly from Flammarion.


1889   Henry de Graffigny & Georges Le Faure - Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'un Savant Russe [The Amazing Adventures of a Russian Scientist] - Volume 2: "Le Soleil et les Petites Planetes" [The Sun and the Small Planets] (Edinger). 

The Story
Air cities of the MartiansVoyage to Phobos from Mars
A team of French and Russian scientists explore the Solar System on the Ossipoff.    Through three volumes, they explore the inner planets, the moon, and then the outer solar system.   In the second volume, they make a short trip to Mars, where they meet the inhabitants.

The heroes arrive on Phobos, which is atmospherically connected to Mars, and travel in a balloon down to the Red Planet, wearing pressure suits. During the next five chapters, they meet winged humanoids, masters of an aerial technological civilization.   Artists drawings depict bald, insect-winged human-like creatures wearing robes, as well as a remarkable floating city in the sky, hung from box kites.

Is this Barsoom?

All right, in John Carter’s Barsoom, Thuria is not normally atmospherically connected to Mars, no iffs ands or butts.   On the other hand,  in Beyond the Farthest Star, Burroughs' Poloda solar system features a ring of worlds all sharing an atmosphere, so that one can literally fly an airplane from one world to the next. 

Well, if this is the normal state for Poloda, then obviously, this is one more peculiarity of physics in Burroughs universe.   Mars and Thuria are extremely close bodies, among the closest in the solar system, so its possible that this same kind of phenomena may appear between Barsoom and Thuria under freakish special conditions.  Our explorers may well have been mistaken when they took it for a permanent state.

As for the winged humanoids, these are not part of Burroughs writings, but they do seem similar to the flying Martians of Wells’ ‘The Crystal Egg’, as well as to the butterfly winged ‘little people’ of Otis Adelbert Kline’s Swordsman of Mars as well as a handful of other similar creatures as you will see in the subsequent reports.


In Mr. Stranger's Sealed Packet, MacColl was also something of a pioneer in his choice of subject. It was the third novel in English about Mars to be published. In 1880 Percy Gregg published Across the Zodiac, and in 1887 Hudor Genone published yet another novel with Mars as its subject, Bellona's Bridegroom: A Romance. MacColl's Mr. Stranger's Sealed Packet then followed in 1889, and before the turn of the century, another eleven novels about Mars were published in English. 

McColl flies off in an armed and armoured spaceship to visit Mars.   Once he gets there he discovers that Mars is quite habitable.   It possesses gigantic prehistoric seeming animals, and vegetation similar to Earth except that it tends to be scarlet or purple.

McColl’s stranger describes spectacular scenery, including an Ocean:

“It was a glorious spectacle. A majestic ocean lay before me, rolling its heavy swell against the rocky bases of a long, sweeping range of precipitous mountains underneath me. This range was broken and indented in many places by deep ravines, down which foaming torrents rushed headlong, forming numberless cascades and waterfalls, the confused noise of which was almost deafening. The sea ran in among the clefts and fissures of the rocky shore in long and narrow streaks--in some places cutting whole portions off and forming them into islands.”
The Martians turn out to be human, a race or nation of people calling themselves the Gremsun.  Their skin colour is bluish  and  they have large hazel eyes. Both features are caused by the food they eat.   The Martians, including men women and children dress uniformly in what looks essentially like a Victorian bathing suit--a single garment, exposing only  the head and neck, the arms below elbow, and the feet and legs to about the knee, red for men and green for women.  Both sexes had short, black, curly hair.  They all speak and act like Victorians, they’re civilized to a fault.   These people are dull, dull, dull.  Their technology is sophisticated, they distill their food from the air. Though the society is technologically advanced in that it has self-propelling carriages, electric light and phonographic machines that can register speech as writing, it lacks totally the technology of war.

This is unfortunate for the Gremsun because Mars also has barbarians, who are called the Dergdunin. The war with the barbarians gives Stranger the opportunity to play the hero, as the spaceship is also equipped for defence and attack, and so he saves the peaceful civilized Gremsun from the barbarian hordes.

The Stranger also winds up falling in love with and marrying the daughter, Ree, of the Martian family he has been staying with.   The Stranger eventually brings his Martian wife back to Earth for sightseeing, but it turns out, in a plot development that anticipates Wells, that she has no resistance to earthly bacteria and dies.  This by the way, is not a particularly shocking development, Englishmen in the colonial days were always travelling to foreign colonies and dying of local bacteria.   It was one of the known hazards of colonialism.   The Stranger, touched by tragedy, drops off his story with earthlings, and returns to Mars to spend his life.

Is this Barsoom?

If this is Barsoom, then we can only say that Mr. Stranger has landed upon the dullest and most repressed and inbred part of the planet.  We can only place this as a Barsoomian society in an extremely isolated and apathetic enclave.
That having said, many of the elements of Burroughs Barsoom are present.   The civilized nation with its super science, the barbarians prepared to tear the whole thing down, the romance with a Martian debutante.

Further, the blue skin of these Martians is remiscent of Gustavus Pope’s blue-skinned Martians of Journey to Mars.

The biggest obstacle, apart from the Gremsun being so weeny and pathetic, and the tedious pace of the novel is the fact that the Stranger records a Martian ocean.   Not on Barsoom buddy!   Still, it may be that the Stranger has been mistaken in his observations, he may have surveyed one of the surviving seas, like Korus or the Opal Sea.  Or he may have observed a rush of water following the polar melt. 

Without the actual text, it’s hard to say.   Still, given other similarities, we might, for the time being, provisionally locate this on Barsoom, although it’s not clear where exactly.


1890.     Robert Cromie's A Plunge into Space (prefaced by Jules Verne) 

The Story

Steel Globe   This tale also featured a spaceship, the Steel Globe, a jet black metal sphere, 50 feet in diameter, powered an electrically-generated form of anti-gravity. It was secretly built on an undisclosed site in Alaska, and its destination was, once again, Mars.

The more highly developed Martian reason had made Mars a paradise even though growing conditions had gotten worse. But their reason had also been developed at the expense of their emotions. They had lost their vitality and motivation too. In this novel, that meant the Martians could not get enthusiastic about anything. Not only could they not get enthusiastic about arrivals from Earth; they could not get enthusiastic about their own space travel. They had it and lost interest in it.

In short, they were our second great example of that stream of Barsoomian culture we choose to call the Apathetics.


Pope was an American doctor living in Washington D.C., who wrote both fiction and nonfiction. He followed up his Journey to Mars with Journey to Venus, introducing some of the same characters. He also did an inner world novel, and a fairly well received book about Shakespeare. 

Arnold's Gulliver Jones was never published in the United States during Burroughs' time. It only appeared in England. Pope has a leg up in that his books were published in the US. But of course, we've no evidence that Burroughs ever saw either. 

Still, Pope's book has his adherents who argue that its possible claim to have inspired A Princess of Mars is as good or better than Gulliver Jones. Among the proponents was noted SF critic and historian Sam Moskowitz.   The novel begins with our protagonist Frederick Hamilton, a Lieutenant in the US Navy, serving on the USS Albatross in the Antarctic seas when it wrecks. Hamilton and a Maori seaman (a comic relief racist stereotype, unfortunately) are cast up on a barren rocky island, although at the ends of his strength, he manages to rescue a weird looking stranger and then passes out. 

When he wakes up three weeks later, he's on his way to Mars. Hamilton has encountered an expedition of red, yellow and blue Martians, who use telepathy to communicate with him, and who travel space by riding the magnetic lines between the two planets' poles. The blue-skinned Martians are the "Nilata," and the yellow-skinned men are the "Arunga," though this may refer to their cities or nations, rather than their races. 

Obviously, these three races are fairly suggestive, since Burroughs Barsoom also has its red and yellow Martians. Coincidentally, Burroughs yellow Martians are inhabitants of the north pole, and are shown to have mastered magnetic technology, areas that figures prominently in Pope's story.

Travel between Earth and Mars in Gustave's story, involves travelling along magnetic pathways, a sort of cosmic short cut, which begins and ends at the north pole of each planet. This is why Hamilton meets his Martians at their base at Earth's south pole, and why he winds up in the sea around the pole. 

As for Blue Martians, well, Burroughs does not record any. But Burroughs does have blue haired Thurians, who I've argued in Secret of Thuria are actually an isolated Barsoomian colony from their previous civilization. So it might well be that this expedition includes Okars, Red Men and Thurians.  Alternatively, at least one of the other Martian novels, McColl’s Mr. Stranger’s Sealed Packet provides for a race of 'blue' Martians, so this may simply be a race  undiscovered by John Carter. I wonder if they sing? 

Interestingly, Hamilton at first does not realize these people are Martians. Why would he? His first theory is that they are inhabitants of Pellucidar, or at least, of a hollow inner earth, and have come into the surface through the polar opening. It's a weird little overlap with Burroughs, notable because, as I said,  I believe Hamilton also wrote an inner world novel, which further identifies us with Burroughs universe.

Anyway, on arriving at Mars, the spaceship, riding lines of magnetism, splashes down near one of the poles, winding up in a shallow polar sea. This is, itself, not necessarily inconsistent with Barsoom. The Martian poles are the final great bodies of water on Mars and feed the canals, so it stands to reason that in the summer, their edges might be slushy and produce a rim of lakes or seas. 

Hamilton finds that the Martians, like John Carter's Barsoom, combine a feudal society and swordsmanship with high technology. They have crystal globes (shades of Wells and Arnold), 'ethervolt cars' which use anti-gravity batteries, and spindle-shaped aircraft, both of which are fairly reminiscent of  Barsoom's flyers. 

I'm not too concerned with differences in names and terminology, after all, both Hamilton and Carter are translating their respective Martians into English, so its quite possible that they might take the same terms in the same language and render it differently in English. 

Hamilton discovers, like Carter, that his strength on Mars has doubled, though he attributes this to more oxygen in the air, rather than gravity. He observes that the Martians travel on giant birds, much like the Malagors that appear in two of Burroughs Martian adventures, or the Gawrs that appear in Kline’s two Martian adventures.

Anyway, once he arrives on Mars, Hamilton travels about a bit, visiting Mars wild seas and encountering sea monsters within, traveling through kingdoms, enjoying banquets and festivals. He learns many interesting things about Mars, including that the population is eight billion, that the canals visible from space are actually densely packed urban areas, and other cool things which are apparently quite incompatible with Barsoom. 

During one festival, he rescues the beautiful yellow-skinned Princess Suhlamia from drowning, and of course they fall in love. This introduces the worm of intrigue, since Prince Diavojahr also had his eye on Suhlamia. Diavojahr is a bad egg, since he's half Plutonian. He challenges Hamilton to a duel and is soundly beaten. Diavojahr then conspires to have Hamilton accused of treason and condemned to death in order to blackmail Suhlamia into marrying him. Luckily, some of Suhlamia's friends rescue him. 

But there's a bigger problem. Phobos and Deimos, Mars Moons, are about to fall on it. Or perhaps the danger is a rain of asteroids or meteors. This isn't really clear from my internet searches. But the imminent threat is the reason for the original expedition to Earth. The Martians are looking to relocate. So off Hamilton goes to Earth to look for a tidy place to pack eight billion Martians. 

While he's gone, disaster strikes, but not in the form of asteroids. Rather, Prince Diavojahr has instigated a palace revolution and is trying to take over Princess Suhlamia's nation. He threatens to shut down the magnetic transmitting station to make it impossible to return to Mars. The novel ends with Hamilton passing on the manuscript he has written, preparing to return to Mars. 

But things must have worked out all right because when next we see Hamilton in Journey to Venus he's with his Princess Suhlavia, time has passed and they're heading off to Venus. I can only assume that the Phobos and Deimos, or the asteroids and meteors missed Mars after all. 

Anyway, that's as much as I've been able to glean from internet researches. The book is described as slower paced than Burroughs' book. Critics have noted that it's often dragged down by expository travelogue stuff, or Jules Verne technobabble. Hamilton, as a protagonist, is too perfect and therefore dull. And of course, the racist treatment of the Hamilton's Maori companion is offensive.

Alas, there's only one Burroughs, and if his predecessors had had his touch, we would have remembered them better. 

On John Carter’s World?

Sounds familiar?   Published some 18 years before A Princess of Mars and 11 years before Gulliver Jones, science fiction historian Sam Moskovitz has written a paper suggesting that it may well have been the real inspiration for Burroughs' work.   The similarities lead to the novel being re-published in the '60s, with a foreword by Moskovitz, setting out his theory.   Apart from the many similarities, this novel was actually published in America.  Gulliver Jones was published only in England.

Is Frederick Hamilton's Mars really John Carter's Barsoom?   Setting aside the hard kernel of apparently contradictory material which I'll address later, there are endless remarkable similarities. The red and yellow races, the polar/magnetic thing, the high culture/feudal society, the princess, the derring do, the giant birds, swordplay and anti-gravity ships. 

The one really difficult thing to swallow is that these Martians have space travel, or at least, some limited and special type of space travel involving riding magnetic lines. This seems beyond the technology we know of in Helium. But then again, Helium may not be the technological apex. It may be that some isolated and isolationist city has preserved some of the space travel technology of the previous age. In any event, its clear that the space travel of the Martians depicted here is not conventional space travel, but a sort of special loophole, which may not be very easy and in fact which may only exist under certain conditions. 

In fact, if we wanted to play it this way, we could suggest that this isolationist city of either Blue, Red or Yellow Martians may be the willing or unwilling, direct or indirect source of the anti-gravity, space travel technology used by Earthlings in the late 18th and early 20th centuries. 

Unfortunately, with the information that we have, we can't really locate Hamilton's journeys on Mars or Barsoom with any reasonable certainty. It's likely, given the yellow Martians, that he's mixed up with the North Pole. He clearly is landing in one of the polar regions during the height of the summer melt in that hemisphere, and he does seem to go on a bit of a tour through the populated regions. But unlike Wells, Arnold or even Le Rouge we don't have enough geographical information to work with. 

So, what about the apparent contradictions? The seas Hamilton describes, the eight billion Martians he reports, Diavojahr's half-plutonian ancestry, the heavily populated canal regions and so forth? If these things, any of them, are absolutely literally true, then there's no way that Hamilton's world could be Barsoom. 

Now, I suspect if I keep slagging the Wold Newton types, I'm going to get into a fight sooner or later. But what the heck, eh? The Wold Newton types start with the assumption that their core works are all fictionalized and modified versions of adventures that really happened. Names have been changed to protect the innocence, writers have omitted certain facts, added certain ones in to liven up or fill in blank or dull spots in the narrative. So, they're dedicated to excavating the 'true' story from the fictional ones. Which means that they can do nifty things like cross the works of different authors, something that I'm dabbling with here. But it also means that they freely mix and match their mediums, taking bits and pieces from everything from books to comic strips to movies and television, without worrying as to the 'authenticity' or 'canonical' nature of a story. Thus, as far as James Bond goes, an Ian Fleming novel, a movie and a cartoon are all on the same level for instance. Of course, when you're casting your net this wide, you pick up all sorts of contradiction, but since these are fictionalized versions of real events, that means that the contradictions are obviously invalid. And since there are gaps, one is entitled to fill in the gaps between various fictional works by inventing new facts, or even substituting the fictional facts for your new ones.  The result, occasionally is a towering incandescent mess which all too often collapses under its own weight. The Wold Newton stuff works best when it tries to stay tightly confined within a particular set of defined canonical works. 

For my own approach to these crossovers, I use a different tactic. I assume that the events and information depicted in a work are true, at least so far as the narrator or protagonist goes (a fine but important point). And I try to be more stringent in defining my canons. One of my favourite devices is the 'unreliable narrator.' 

I'll give you an example: John Carter is a vicious, vicious, vicious bastard. Now, the thing with Carter is that it's hard to realize. All of his stories are narrated by him, and he sets great store by the chivalric virtues. Yet while dueling a Thern in Gods of Mars, he casually breaches Barsoomian chivalry by pulling out a pistol and shooting him. Later in Warlord of Mars, dueling a superb Okarian, he distracts the man and runs him through while his back is turned. Even later, while
spending time in the First Born Valley of Kamtol, he sadistically and slowly cuts an inferior swordsman to pieces in a duel.   This is not a nice guy. It's true John Carter puts great store by chivalry and has many fine qualities. But he's also got a mean streak a mile wide. This is a man, after all, who went from being a slave to a chieftain of Tharks in record time. The lesson: There are subtle discrepancies between what John Carter tells us and what he actually does. 

A similar case is Gulliver Jones, a man who is clearly a petty thief. When you read Gulliver, one of the things you'll notice is he's always casually and innocently tucking small valuable objects into his pocket and then forgetting about them. Gulliver is also clearly not one for long range thinking, despite several warnings of Ar-Hap's plans to invade the Hither city of Seth, he never stops to realize or even thinks to warn anyone. In short, the text of the novel presents to us, a picture of Gulliver slightly at odds with, and substantially less flattering than the Gulliver who narrates. 

Then there's Julian of the Moon Maid, who works quite hard to explain the Moon's inner world to us, but speculating with only limited evidence and without a lot of background, it's quite likely he gets quite a few things wrong. 

And of course, the most practical example is Carson Napier, a self-styled interplanetary explorer of boundless confidence, who, we discover over and over, couldn't navigate his way out of a paper bag. When you're with Carson, you're about to get lost, is the running theme of his books. 

All of this shows us is that the narrators are, to some degree unreliable... Although that's an ugly word. The better term, perhaps, is fallible. They can make mistakes, they can get things wrong, they may misunderstand, misinterpret, jump to the wrong conclusions. Often their observations are limited or partial, they, like the rest of us, must rely upon what they are told. 

So, in Journey to Mars, consider our protagonist, Frederick Hamilton. Is he unreliable? Fallible? Consider this: On a planet with only 40% gravity, Hamilton concludes or accepts that his strength has apparently doubled because the oxygen content in the atmosphere is slightly richer in oxygen.... 

Hello? Duh! But let's be gentle with poor Hamilton, he's not a scientist, he's a 19th century naval man transported to another planet. Sure, he got it wrong, but he made an honest mistake. So the question is: Is it possible he really is on Barsoom and that the discrepancies we see are merely mistakes or misinformation on his part. 

Here's another. The Martians believe, and thus Hamilton believes, that Phobos and Deimos, Thuria and Cluros, are about to fall from orbit. (Which might explain the participation of blue haired/skinned Thurians on the Earth expedition). But, obviously, both in Hamilton's succeeding novel, on Burroughs Barsoom, and in real life Mars, this doesn't happen. Thuria and Cluros remain happily in place. Hamilton's Martians, and therefore Hamilton himself, have simply gotten it wrong.  Or Hamilton may have misunderstood the time frame by twenty million years or so. 

Does Hamilton's Mars really sport eight billion people, or did he make a mistake transliterating Martian numerical terms into earth ones? In fact, Burroughs himself made such a mistake when chronicling Martian measurements, he left a critical unit out. Or possibly, did the Martians themselves exaggerate their numbers, possibly to discourage him from thoughts of Earth conquest, or to persuade him they were unstoppable or some other reason. 

They show him seas. Well, there are a few small seas left on Mars. Omean, Korus, the Toonolian Marshes and Gulliver Jones Opal Sea. We note that John Carter had returned to Barsoom in 1886 and had his adventures in the Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars between 1886 and 1892. So by this time, Korus is no longer a lost sea, and hypothetically, might be a well known tourist destination for a certain class of sightseers. Has Hamilton simply misinterpreted what he saw, taking Korus or the Opal Sea for far larger bodies of water? 

Hamilton believes that Martian cities are built up along the canals. Perhaps he really did see a few instances of this, and generalized it to the whole planet. If he really does believe that there are eight billion people, well they've got to go somewhere. So, a few limited observations and some wrong information could build up some erroneous pictures of the planet for him. 

Diavojahr is described as half plutonian. Given the difficulties Hamilton may have translating Martian into English, perhaps he's misunderstood Instead of being from Pluto, perhaps his parentage is really partly from an a 'plutonian underworld'.... Omean? 

Unfortunately, without being able to read the novel itself and analyze it in detail, it's hard to really make a firm argument that Frederick Hamilton is on Barsoom. The best that I can say is that despite apparent damning contradictions, it may be possible to resolve those contradictions, and that the potential historical importance and the other close similarities should entitle this story to a place on Barsoom. It may or may not fit, but it seems a decent and even attractive possibility. 

Unfortunately, for Gustavus Pope's posthumous reputation, it appears that Richard Lupoff was a stronger champion than Sam Moskowitz, and it was Gulliver Jones that claimed the glory and the reflected 'half light' immortality. That said, I'd really love to find this some day and go through it carefully, to see whether and how or if it might be fully integrated into Barsoom, and whether we can identify the locations clearly on Mars.

Continued in ERBzine 1406


A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
War of the Worlds
Lupoff of Mars by Dale Broadhurst
Arnold’s Gulliver Jones
Lost Canals of Percival Lowell by Den Valdron
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