Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute Site
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Here is an article which represents a challenge to all those millions in whose mind Tarzan still lives. And along with Tarzan, all our other friends, such as John Carter of Mars; La of Opar; Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark; Manu the Monkey; The Great White Apes; Numa, the Lion; the Holy Therns; the Waziri; the Firstborn… and many more, none of whom will ever die within our memories where we cherish their wonderful adventures, never before equaled, and unequalled since. But Edgar Rice Burroughs, their creator, is dead. His typewriter is silent. And down the musty corridors of the world’s bookstalls stalk the ghosts of adventure, at bay at last, trapped in the past, never more to battle for their lives against impossible odds, nevermore to rescue their mates from dangers unmentionable, nevermore to thrill us, except in retrospect, with red-blooded adventure exciting beyond all imagination. Aye! It is a prospect to make even the gods weep!
I knew John Carter personally. That’s how I knew how real he was. I met him much later than Tarzan, for I grew up with Tarzan. There never was any question in my youthful mind that Tarzan was real. Had anyone asked me, I could have answered triumphantly with his real name, Lord Greystoke, of England, and none could have swayed me from the conclusiveness of this proof! Today I might feel a bit sheepish about it, but the knowledge that I was not alone comforts me, nay, makes me proud. For here is vindication. Here is proof of the real talent of the greatest of all writers, Edgar Rice Burroughs. He fooled me! Completely. Along with hundreds of thousands of others. George Washington may have been a myth, but Tarzan really lived!
When I first met John Carter, he was equally vivid in my mind, and perhaps I loved him more than I loved Tarzan, because the bent of my mind was toward more fantastic imaginings, toward other worlds, lands beyond the stars. Yet, knowing he was fiction bothered me not a whit. When he lost his Dejah Thoris, I wept. When he found her, I cried with joy. When he carved his way to her side with his mighty broadsword, I screamed with excitement. And when he clasped her once more in his arms, I almost swooned with passion, such was my happiness. So, imagine, if you can, my pleasure at meeting him!
Yes, I met John Carter. Not only did I meet him, but I planned with him his next adventures! And at my behest, novel after novel rolled from the typewriter of Edgar Rice Burroughs, all of those last famous books that mark the end of a great writer’s career. Yes, I treasure those last days. I was editor of Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures then, and as editor, I persuaded Edgar Rice Burroughs to write these new novels for me, novels that never have been written otherwise. I persuaded him, some think, to obtain the famous man for my magazines, to increase their circulations to the (then) world’s greatest in the fiction field. But I’m going to tell you a secret now that I’ve never told anyone before. The real reason I worked so hard to convince Edgar Rice Burroughs to write for Amazing Stories, was because I was hungry for more John Carter. I, personally, wanted to read more of those magnificent novels! It was the most selfish action in the world, in one respect, and as it turned out, the most generous – for millions the world over enjoyed wit me these new adventures of those characters who can never die. The thought of that pleases me more than any memory of my past activities. To link my name with that of John Carter, in actuality! To be responsible for some of his adventures! What greater ambition can a boy have! What more tremendous attainment!
Today, when I pick up my tattered copy of The Gods of Mars, I am overwhelmed with emotion. I handle the book as tenderly as though it were the most priceless of rare editions. To me, technically, this book is the best of all Burroughs’ creations. It is his masterpiece. It is within its pages that Mars becomes more real to me than my own planet! This book, and The Moon Maid, I consider the epitome of story-telling, true literature, examples of the writing art which can stand the assault of time, and which stand as targets for every writer who has his soul in his writing, and who desires to attain perfection. How many times have I re-read them both? You would smile and say: “He must know them by heart!” That I do! Oft in the night, I walk through the Valley Dor, musing upon the heroic deeds that once transpired here. Again, in my mid, I see Tars Tarkas, the giant Thark, as he battles beside John Carter, against the great white apes while the death call of the Holy Therns rings out from the high cliffs all about. And sometimes, after I drop off to sleep, my subconscious mind devises new fantasies so engrossing that awaking enrages me.
Today I am still hungry for more John Carter. Oh what I wouldn’t give to pick up new novels and follow new adventures of all those wonderful characters I love so well, and who are more than characters, but real, living people. In my mind they stand beside the memory pictures of other living people, as equal as flesh and bold – and they will be ever so. In my mind’s eye, I can see Tars Tarkas’ great eye, twinkling upon me with ferocious humor, and a wave of affection sweeps over me.
It is not enough to say Tarzan can never die! That is small solace for the fact that his is a living death! Forever, like a puppet, he must now swing through the trees only on the vines of the past. All he can do is re-enact what he has already done. Not one more banth can John Carter slay, but only those already stiffened in their dried blood! The pity of it!
For Tarzan is not dead! Nor are hundreds of questions we can ask that remain unanswered. One example: what about La of Opar? Is she never to attain any true happiness? Is that incredibly lovely woman doomed forever to remain among the troglodytes of Opar, with no prospect for a mate save a beastly half-human? You could, in ten minutes, phrase five hundred such questions. What about the ninth Barsoomian Ray; or the tenth? What about Kar Komak, that one lonely Phantom Bowman who became flesh? What about the religion of Mars, now left without one? Will the Holy Therns one day try to restore the ancient religion of Issus? The Great White Apes; what about them? Several times we saw them trying to become men – and almost succeeding. Will they ever succeed, and what will happen if they do?
For years these questions have plagued me. The realization that they could never be answered caused an actual sense of sorrow, of loss. Sometimes I half-hoped when I saw a new Tarzan movie announced – and returned from it so sadly disillusioned that I swore never to go to another. No one, it seemed, could take up where the great Edgar Rice Burroughs left off. John Coleman Burroughs, his son, tried it. With all respect to a great man’s son, it just didn’t jell.
Many times I visited with J. Allen St. John, the famous illustrator of the Tarzan and Mars stories, a personal friend of ours. There I saw several new pieces of Tarzan art. A new painting of Tarzan, a thrilling, nostalgic thing. But always it is the same – we talk of the glorious past. To St. John, Dejah Thoris IS the most beautiful woman two worlds have ever known. He has painter her many times. Her image is always in his mind as a mental model for any woman he paints. He loves her as much as John Carter does!
Turning to platitudes, we say that in that Land where we’ll once more meet Edgar Rice Burroughs, perhaps he’ll continue the adventures of his characters for our enjoyment. How could it be Heaven otherwise! And on this last mournful note we sink back, reach for our tattered copy of The Gods of Mars, and retrace our steps into the past, for that is all we have left. And like introverts, we retreat into ourselves, and look out upon a world that has taken so much anticipating from us with a snarl of futility.
Tarzan can never die, but he might just as well! Twould save the poignant pangs of longing that assail us always.
And yet, the other day it happened. I could hardly believe my eyes, but when I realized what I had in my hands, I questioned not, or hesitated, but plunged into what has since become the prime adventure of my reading life – for what my eyes beheld, in words, was a familiar character, La of Opar, for whom the High Priest, patient no longer, had come to make her his mate. At last her most feared hour was upon her – and in her heart she knew she would not live the night through, for rather than mate with this horribly stunted, hairy beast, she would die at her own hand.
One hundred thousand words later I was in ecstasy, the happiest man alive – for all my questions had been answered, and I knew at last what had happened to Kar Komak, who was the true Issues, and how Mars got back its ancient religion! No longer was The Gods of Mars the best of the Burroughs books – here at last was a better! Here at last was the supreme novel, the book for which all the others were only preparation, only plot-shadows casting before them the portent of the giant to come! Here was the book that welded the whole series into one complete, magnificent plot, cohesive in every unit, from the Apeman himself to Jason Gridley.
And on the heels of this came the most unkind barb of all – for to read this great novel is forbidden! No man may read it. It cannot be published, for to do so is plagiarism. And this is one plagiarism that nobody could get away with. Legal action would be swift and relentless.
Is there no way! we demanded. And the answer was as cold as ice: No, there is nothing to be done.
If a man writes a novel for his own enjoyment, he can write what he will. He can use any character he pleases. It is legal. It is not plagiarism. But let him sell it, or publish it, and he faces the law. If a man wishes to build himself a patented machine, he can do so, for use in his own home. Even to the label. None can stay him. But let him try to sell it, and the patent law is invoked upon him.
There is only one way: to get permission from the copyright owners or the patent owners.
This novel that I have read (I cannot say who wrote it); would you like to read it? Is there a Tarzan or John Carter fan the world over who would not? Would you like to read this, and many more? There is only one way it will ever come about and that is to convince the copyright owners of a proposition I am about to make in the following words. It is presented to you readers as a challenge. The results will be up to you.
I hereby propose that the Edgar Rice Burroughs interests nominate a successor to Edgar Rice Burroughs to continue the adventures of all his famous characters. I further propose that they nominate a man who has proved he can continue in the high standard and tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs, as based on 100,000 words already written. I propose that Tarzan and all his friends be allowed to live again, and walk once more through the pages of the books of the land, for the enjoyment of the millions of fans everywhere.
Certainly the Burroughs interests stand to profit immensely. All the author requires is a fair remuneration for his work. He is willing to sacrifice all personal rights in the stories he shall create, except those which come under the fair remuneration already mentioned.
In the interests of perpetuating these beloved characters, and making possible their future adventures, which I am now more hungry than ever to read, I propose to handle the task of convincing the Burroughs interests of their proper course, and of the huge fortune such a decision can and will make them. The way to accomplish that task is simple – that of public opinion. If enough public interest can be demonstrated, the rest should be easy.
Therefore, to begin with, I am asking every Burroughs fan who reads this to send me his name and address with these simple words: “I’ll back you up on Tarzan!” When I have enough names and addresses, I will contact each and every one of you, and instruct you as to the next step. Can I get 100,000 names on my desk within the next 60 days? If you’ll send me yours, it will be a start – and if you’ll go out and contact every other Tarzan fan you know of, who might not read this magazine, and get him to do the same thing, it won’t be any trick at all!
Naturally this is going to cost me money, and I’m prepared to spend it. I must spend it! It cannot be that this wonderful novel never become more than a pile of manuscript pages written for the personal satisfaction of one Burroughs fan who so loved his characters that he did a thing never heard of before – wrote his own novel, for his own pleasure, knowing it could not profit him a nickel! He has the world’s largest cross-file of information, concerning every book, every incident, every character in Burroughsiana. He is, to my mind, the only man who has both the ability, and the familiarity with the characters, necessary to continue the Burroughs stories in a manner indefectible from that of the master himself!
If I fail, none of you will ever read what happened to La of Opar, and to Kar Komak, and to Tarzan and John Carter as they fight back to back on Mars. Nor will you ever know the identity of the man who has written it, for there is but one manuscript, and it is his. And it will be a great pity.
If any of you care to assist me in the cost, say by sending a dime, I will put it into a “Dimes for Tarzan” fund, and use it to create the gigantic wave of public opinion which is the only possible way to convince the proper person that what I have proposed is the thing to do.
But it is not really necessary, for I will do it alone if you do not wish to help. My own prayers have been answered, and my joy has overwhelmed me. For me, Tarzan is far from dead! Deeds unknown to millions of his fans, are already familiar parts of my memory of him – and what great deeds they are! I shall never forget that fantastic leap that Tarzan made that saved the armies of La, and of Tars Tarkas, from certain death in the rising waters of the Gorge of Tarnath. Nor shall I ever forget… but why speak of it? The mention can but whet an appetite that may never be satisfied.
Send me your name and address, and tell me you are willing to help. If it were Tarzan, he would spring instantly to your aid. And all you have to lick is a 3-cent stamp!
Do it now, and round up everybody else you can find. Write to: Ray Palmer, Amherst, Wisconsin.
Read more about this project in ERBzine 1967
Who Is S. J. Byrne AKA John Bloodstone?
An Autobiography by Stu Byrne
GANYMEDE OR BUST By Den Valdron
Part 1: Intro - Tarzan On Mars