Ace Books first came out with the Venus series, the cover I liked best
was Frank Frazetta's painting for Carson of Venus. The sight of
that huge sea monster rising out of the depths next to the man in the frail
sailboat, and the over-riding golden tones of the color, drew me to buy
and read this book.
But there was no such scene in the story!
Carson went for a few sailboat rides and spoke of sometimes
seeing huge sea monsters. Near the end of Carson, he sailed from
Sanara to Vepaja in quest of Duare, whose father, Mintep, had forced her
to fly there in the anotar after Carson had rescued him from a Zani prison.
Frazetta's painting shows the sea monster that Carson
described on that voyage:
"the waters teamed with
fish and occasionally I saw monstrous creatures of the deep... the most
numerous of these larger creatures must attain a length of fully a thousand
feet. It has a wide mouth and huge, protruding eyes between which a small
eye is perched upon a cylindrical shaft some fifteen feet above it head.
The shaft is erectile; and when the creatures is at rest upon the surface
or when it is swimming normally beneath, it reclines along its back; but
when alarmed or searching for food the shaft springs erect.... The Amtorians
call it a rotik, mean-ing three-eye. When I first saw one, I thought it
an enormous ocean liner as it lay on the surface of the ocean in the distance."
Frazetta painted the beast according to Carson's description,
but nowhere does Carson state that it nearly stood on its hind fin out
of the water, as the Frazetta cover painting depicts, nor does it attack
Carson, as one might think from looking at the cover. Frazetta may have
gotten his idea from John Coleman Burroughs' frontispiece in the ERB Inc.
and Canaveral editions, which took similar liberties, and Burroughs made
it even more obvious that his beast was attacking.
Frazetta liked his version so well, though, that he repainted
the scene in tones of blue instead of gold for a later Carson cover.
It's pretty universal for artists to put an angan, carrying
Duare, on the cover of Pirates of Venus. That was the cover of the
ERB Inc. hardback editions, the cover of the first, small-size Ace and
the cover of one of the later larger size Ace editions. Thomas Floyd, the
artist for the Bison Books edition, depicted an angan flying alone over
a city. Richard Hescox, artist for the Del-Rey paperback, also used an
angan but had it just sitting beside Carson and Duare rather than in flight.
original magazine appearance of the story featured a cover of Carson fighting
a giant Venusan spider-like creature, though, as did the cover of the Canaveral
Somewhere in the world, there may be a cover that actually
shows Carson as a pirate, to go along with the book title.
Burroughs fans would probably agree that the most ridiculous
cover was the taller Ace edition in which the cover of ERB's A
Fighting Man of Mars was transplanted to Pirates. The
cover shows one man attacking another while at least four Martian flyers
are in the background. Aviation didn't make its advent on Venus until the
second book in the series, and even then the anotar probably didn't look
much like a Barsoomian airship.
Around that time, Ace had also played mix and match with
a lot of other ERB covers in a similarly nonsensical move!
A huge mistake was made in the Del-Rey editions. The cover
for Carson shows our hero and Duare being pursued by kloonobargan, but
there are no kloonobargan in Carson. That cover should have been
on Lost on Venus.
The Del-Rey cover intended for Carson, showing
Carson and Duare on parade atop a giant gantor in Sanara, is the one that
ended up on Lost on Venus.
One would love to be a mouse in the room listening to
the conversation when the publishers and the artist discovered that mistake!
Somewhat like Earth
Flying along in the anotar, the lovely and daring Duare
by his side, Carson Napier summed up ERB's entire Venus series:
"Venus is a world of contradictions,
anomalies, and paradoxes. In the midst of scenes of peace and beauty, one
meets the most fearsome beasts; among a friendly, cultured people exist
senseless and barbarous customs; in a city peopled by men and women of
super-intelligence and sweetness the quality of mercy is utterly unknown
to its tribunals. What hope had I, then, of finding a safe retreat for
Duare and myself?" CV, Chapter 1
Eventually, Carson and Duare did find friendly places, such
as Japal; and a place to stay permanently, such as Sanara, and even a place
to return for a visit, such as Havatoo which, according to Ero Shan, had
reversed it decision that Duare had to be destroyed.
Although Carson's travels never took him there, one speculates
that one might also find a friendly city in the mountains of Andoo, the
home of Nalte, who became the love woman of Ero Shan.
But mostly, Venus was full of the exact kinds of dangers
of which Carson spoke: Wild tribes, man-eating beasts, devilish torturers,
and Dr. Frankensteins.
So death still lurked everywhere on Venus, as Carson noted
while flying with Ero Shan: "With throttle wide we raced above that vast
expanse of heliotrope and lavender foliage which, like a beautiful mantle
of flowers across a casket, hid death beneath." WV, Chapter 2
Many of us have a spirit of adventure that would motivate
us to visit other worlds, but we can't. And so, we visit them vicariously
through the eyes of characters like Carson Napier, John Carter, Julian
the 5th, David Innes and others.
But we can always explore our own back yard. Because,
is our Planet Earth that much different from Venus?
All of the things that Carson described in that paragraph
about Venus are true of Earth as well.
On this planet, there are places of great beauty -- the
Alaskan wilderness, the tropical jungles, the Rocky Mountains, the Sonoran
Yet, in these places of stunning beauty, one might find
oneself in sudden and mortal danger with the appearance of a huge brown
bear, a deadly snake, a stalking mountain lion, a venomous Gila monster,
searing heat, or marrow-freezing cold.
And we have people who can be friendly and cultured, and
yet practice the barbaric customs of stoning or beheading someone for crimes
that aren't even crimes in other countries, or for merely avowing conversion
to another religion, or simply for being an innocent traveler from another
And while one may throw himself or herself upon the "mercy
of the court" in many civilized and intelligent lands, such mercy can still
be withheld even in circumstances where the greater part of common sense
calls for it.
The difference between Earth and a fictional world like
Amtor is that all of the negatives are in much greater supply there, rather
than here. On Earth, our negatives seem far outweighed by our positives.
Carson built a rocket
To travel to Barsoom;
But when he filed his flight plan,
He overlooked the Moon.
The pull of Luna gripped his ship
And flung it toward the Sun.
Long before he got there,
He knew he'd be well done.
But Venus smiled on Carson
And in its orbit sped
To make the rocket land upon
The Shepherd's Star instead.
Because he knew his vessel
Was certain to be bashed,
He jumped out with a parachute
Just before it crashed.
He landed in the mammoth trees
Which played host to Vepaja.
Before too long he knew he loved
The daughter of their Rajah.
Alas, the course of love, true love,
Is seldom without slip.
Klangan captured Carson
And dumped him on a ship.
Duare was the girl he loved,
But she'd been kidnapped, too,
And taken to another ship,
Now what's a guy to do?
Well, Carson led a mutiny,
And took the ship's command
And stormed the other ship and took
The princess by the hand.
But it would be too easy
For things to end right there;
Carson took a swim to shore;
Duare went by air.
Carson was condemned to choose
From doors that led to death;
Or he could use a hangman's noose
To take away his breath.
Instead he found his own way out
Then, by the sheerest chance,
He rescued his Duare
But it got him no romance.
They crossed the land of Noobol,
Where dwelt the nasty Skor,
They fled from him to Havatoo,
Then had to flee once more.
Airborne in the anotar
They cruised the Amtor skies;
Duare finally pledged her love,
To no ERB fan's surprise.
They helped to win a righteous war
Against an evil jong,
And in Sanara they were loved,
But they weren't there for long.
No, back aboard the bird ship,
They got caught in a storm,
That blew them clear to Mypos,
Where fish breath was the norm.
The king fish liked Duare
And took her for a swim.
Carson took the plunge and put
An R-ray into him.
They fled from there to Timal,
Where tails and horns were worn.
The people couldn't help it,
It's the way that they were born.
A brief sojourn in Japal
Which Carson helped defend
Until the foemen captured him
(This seemed to be a trend!)
In Brokol (short for broccoli?)
Where children grew on trees,
The local fire goddess
Kept green men on their knees.
The fire goddess disappeared
With all her English jargon,
And Duare rescued Carson
From hungry kloonobargan.
The anotar was grounded when
They lost an engine doodad,
And so they hung around among
The half-wits down in Voo-ad.
Then on to fight for Falsa,
In ships that sailed the land,
Escaping o'er the mountains as
The Cloud Folk lent a hand.
Carson capped his saga
With the power of his brain,
To best the wizard, Morgas,
Who seemed a bit insane.
Thus ends the tale of Carson;
There's no fact left to bare.
He kept in touch for ten long years
Then vanished in thin air.
Note: An earlier version of this poem appeared in ERBapa
106 and also was posted to ListServs Sept. 17, 2011, as part of an "ERB
on this day" post on ERB's Venus. The version above has been tweaked in
a few spots and a few verses have been added, so this version is now "the