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MEET ALAN HANSON
My introduction to Edgar Rice Burroughs and Tarzan came in the summer of 1963, when, at the age of 14, I was spending a few weeks with my grandparents in Portland, Oregon. My grandmother came home from the grocery store one day with Ballantine paperback editions of Burroughs’ first two Tarzan books. After listening to her vividly describe her love of reading the Tarzan books when she was a girl, I decided to give one a try.
Just what it was in that first reading of a Burroughs book that made me an instant and life-long aficionado of the author’s stories, I can’t say. Over the years, I have clung to them, I suppose, to retain both the pleasant memories of when I first read his stories and the shield they provided against life’s predicaments. In a sense, Edgar Rice Burroughs provided a shelter from adolescence’s storm for me. Through Burroughs’ characters, most notably Tarzan, I found a retreat and confirmation that one person can matter in a seeming impersonal world.
I read the Tarzan stories first in Ballantine editions, although I had to turn to a few of the Ace paperbacks when I got impatient for Ballantine to issue volumes #13-22. The Mars, Pellucidar, and Venus books, and all the rest followed in rapid succession. I searched the used bookstores continually, looking for copies of the Burroughs titles that hadn’t been recently reprinted. One glorious day in particular, I found a hardback copy of “A Girl From Hollywood” at Powell’s Books in Portland. It was beat up, held together by black tape along the spine, but it was an absolute treasure to me.
Other ERB Avenues Opened Up
The Spokane Public Library soon played a critical role in opening up another phase of my interest in Edgar Rice Burroughs. One day, while checking the card catalog to see if the library had any books by Burroughs, a card reading, “A Golden Anniversary Bibliography of Edgar Rice Burroughs” caught my eye. After an hour of looking through that incredible volume, I knew I had to have a copy. I wrote to Reverend Heins inquiring if copies were still for sale. He replied that the book was sold out, but he had seen an advertisement by a New York bookstore that had three copies for sale at $20 each. He provided the address, and a couple of weeks later I had a copy of that special book in my hands.
Reverend Heins’ bibliography opened the door for me to both collecting Burroughs books and subscribing to the fan magazines. The first copy of ERB-dom I received was #14, and in it I first began to see the potential for an intellectual connection with Burroughs’ fiction instead of just escapism. I soon subscribed to all the other fanzines. Surely those were the golden days of ERB fan magazines with ERB-dom, ERBANIA, Erbivore, Jasoomian, Barsoomian (my favorite), and some great one-shots like Oparian and ERB Digest. Of course, I joined The Burroughs Bibliophiles as soon as I heard about the club.
ERB Interlude: College, Military, and a Career
The door slammed shut on my expanding interest in Burroughs when I entered college in 1967. My studies at the University of Washington, along with the many cultural and social opportunities offered by the university and a city like Seattle, left little time for hobbies. During those four years, I seldom read a Burroughs book. However, I did keep my subscriptions current, and back home in Spokane the fanzines were piling up.
The next four years from 1971 to 1975 were spent in the Air Force. Then my interest in Burroughs revived. My favorite fanzine writers had been John F. Roy and John Harwood, who both wrote well-researched articles based on Burroughs’ fiction. Having been taught how to write by the Air Force (something I learned neither in high school nor college), I decided it was time to fulfill a long felt desire to write and submit an article to a Burroughs fanzine. In 1974, while stationed in the Azores, I wrote “The Allegory of the Ape Man” and submitted it to Pete Ogden, editor of ERBANIA. It took awhile, but Pete finally published the article in ERBANIA #41/42 in the summer of 1977.
By that time, I was out of the Air Force and had started a teaching career in my hometown of Spokane. In the early 1980s, some changes in my life allowed me to give more time to my Burroughs’ interests. I bought a house and put an end to the continual moving from apartment to apartment. I got married and dropped some of my coaching duties at school so that I could spend more time at home with my growing family. I started rereading Burroughs books again, taking notes on certain subjects. If an idea for an article came to me, I’d stop and write it up. Pete Ogden published two more of my articles during that time.
ERB-APA Opens a Portal to Fandom
In December 1983, the following notice in an issue of Tarzine #17 caught my eye. “John Guidry is starting a new ERB fan club, The Edgar Rice Burroughs Amateur Press Association (ERB-APA). There will be only 36 members, and the cost is $6.00 per year. For full details write to: John Guidry, One Finch St., New Orleans, LA 70124.” It sounded a little strange, but whatever it was, I was not going to be left out. I got the details from John, sent in my $6, and became one of the 18 charter members whose contributions appeared in ERB-APA #1 in the spring of 1984.
ERB-APA provided me a portal into the wider world of Edgar Rice Burroughs fandom. I have remained a member of ERB-APA through the years. Taking notes while continually reading and re-reading Burroughs’ stories became a habit in the coming decades. Writing articles about aspects of Burroughs’ fiction became a staple of office work. While many of those articles were published in ERB fanzines, including The Burroughs Bulletin, most of them became my contributions to the quarterly mailings of ERB-APA. My contributions have appeared in every issue of ERB-APA for nearly four decades now. From 1992 to 1994, I served as the group’s official editor for eight quarterly issues.
Waziri Publications and Fan Gatherings
In 1990, I created Waziri Publications, an amateur self-publishing brand to produce and sell Burroughs related books. The first book that same year was “A Chrono-log of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan Series.” (Re-titled “A Tarzan Chrono-log,” it was updated and published in a second edition in 2003.) Waziri Publications also issued “The Wondrous Words of Edgar Rice Burroughs” in 1998 and “Heritage of the Flaming God: A Classic Essay” in 1999.
Hanson and Mick Winger, co-editors of "Heritage of the Flaming God"
Scattered through the years, I’ve been able to attend a number of Burroughs fan gatherings. The first, and most memorable, was the 1989 “Edgar Rice Burroughs Chain of Friendship” (ECOF) event in Tarzana. There I met for the first time many of Burroughs fandom’s long-time leaders and publishers, among them Bob Hyde, Pete Ogden, and George McWhorter. At the Burroughs’ gathering the following year in Louisville, I had the honor of moderating a panel discussion featuring legendary Burroughs dignitaries Darrell C. Richardson, Sam Moskowitz, and Burne Hogarth. At the 2005 Dum-Dum gathering in Oak Park, Illinois, I received the Burroughs Bibliophiles annual award “For Outstanding Achievement and Devotion to the Memory of Edgar Rice Burroughs.”
Alan Hanson, Burne Hogarth, Darrell C. Richardson, Sam Moskowitz. Louisville 1990 panel discussion
In closing, full disclosure requires me to admit that Edgar Rice Burroughs has had to share my devotion through the years without another idol of my youth—Elvis Presley. My retirement from teaching in 2005 allowed me to write extensively about Elvis. I launched the website elvis-history-blog.com in 2007, and posted nearly 400 blogs on the site over the next decade. In addition to writing two books about Elvis—“Elvis ’57: The Final Fifties Tours” and “Elvis: the Movies”—I’ve written dozens of articles about the King that have been printed in books, magazines, and CD liner notes. Still, as it has been through the decades since my grandmother handed me that first copy of “Tarzan of the Apes” when I was 14, the most peaceful and pleasant moments of my life today are still those spent reading a book by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Alan Hanson 1992
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