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Volume 7875

Horror and Beauty
in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Work:
An Interview with Robert Allen Lupton
Sunday, May 26, 2024 with SE Lindberg
Black Gate Reference:

We have an ongoing series at BLACK GATE on “Beauty in Weird Fiction,” where we corner an author and query them about their muses and methods to make ‘repulsive things’ become ‘attractive to readers.’ Previous subjects have included Darrell Schweitzer, Anna Smith Spark, Carol Berg, C.S. Friedman, John R. Fultz, and John C. Hocking (whose Conan and the Living Plague novel is finally due out this June 2024, so you should read that too to get psyched). Anyway, see the full list of interviews at the end of this post.

This interview focuses on the legendary Edgar Rice Burroughs and an aficionado of his work, Robert Allen Lupton. The latter has published an amazing 2000 articles on, the Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute and Weekly Webzine Site. Robert Allen Lupton is also a writer of 200 short stories, four novels, and six collections of adventure fiction, so this forum serves as a great opportunity to learn about past and present storytelling with a touch of horror in it.

1. Tell us about your fascination for Edgar Rice Burroughs' work

RAL: My father had a collection of Big Little Books, several of which were Tarzan stories. My mother had about 30 OZ books. I found both to be fascinating. I didn’t know there were Edgar Rice Burroughs novels at the time. I only knew about the films, the Jesse Marsh illustrated comic books, and those old Big Little Books.

One day I found a paperback version of The Chessmen of Mars on a spinner rack in a drug store. I bought it and read it that day. I bought three more the next day. That first paperback grew into a collection of several thousand items. Burroughs, who was also a newspaper columnist and a war correspondent, wrote stories of good and evil, love and betrayal, and adventure. His heroes were heroes, his women were beautiful and brave, and his villains were villains. There was no confusion. For those who don’t know, Tarzan of the novels is a well-educated English Lord who speaks several languages. He’s not the monosyllabic creature of the movies.

2. ERB is known for Tarzan, but many have not read his work (i.e., and they form visions of Tarzan via contemporary movies instead). Did ERB write horror?

Almost everything Burroughs wrote contained horror. The aforementioned Chessmen has creatures called Kaldanes, which are gigantic heads with spider legs and no bodies. They can control minds. ERB’s The Monster Men is a tale about a scientist who is creating the “perfect warrior” by blending humans and animals into new creatures. What could possibly go wrong?

The Moon Maid contains centaur-like creatures from the moon, the Kalkars, who dine on human flesh.

The Mastermind of Mars is the tale of a scientist who can move human brains from one body to another. The same scientist later grows undying, but poorly formed humanoids in vats. The Land That Time Forgot gives us winged creatures who prey upon human women.

Every Tarzan book has elements of horror that range from the pedestrian (being eaten by a lion), to the exotic (A tribe that butchers young women for organs to brew a portion of eternal life.)

However, Ed never wrote about traditional vampires, but some stories contain blood drinkers. He covered most of the other horror bases in one story or another, but if you’d have asked him, he claimed that he wrote scientific romances, not horror. Joe Jusko illustration.

3. How would you describe ERB’s approach to incorporating wonder in his adventure fiction?

Burroughs’s approach to wonder in his stories was to present the fantastic as if it were commonplace. He describes the wonders of Mars, the jungles of Pellucidar, and the dangers of Venus in detail, but he doesn’t gush about it. He describes the tailed humans and the dinosaurs that occupy the lost land of Pal-ul-don directly and succulently. The reader finds the ‘wonder’ in the novels to be believable because of their almost casual presentation.  The illustration below is by Burne Hogarth.

4. I caught a commentary from one of your posts that alluded to the beautiful and horrific imagery within The Land that Time Forgot (illustrated by Mahlon Blaine). Can you share insights into the associated art (cover art, illustrations) of ERB’s work?  Would be tough to not recognize Frazetta’s take. But there must be many others to highlight.

Several hundred artists have illustrated Edgar Rice Burroughs’s characters in pulp magazines, books, comics, and newspapers. I’ll mention three of them. J. Allen St. John illustrated most of the Burroughs’ novels until Ed began publishing his own work. Ed was likely the most successful self-published author in history.

Burroughs’ nephew, Studley Oldham Burroughs illustrated four of the novels and his son, John Coleman Burroughs did the art for several more. John Coleman, a lieutenant during WW2 also drew a Sunday comic strip, John Carter of Mars. The strip had the bad luck to have its first page published on the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked.

5. Thoughts on John Carter (horror/beauty in space)?

I always considered the John Carter novels to be romantic adventures, not unlike the works of Raphael Sabatini (Captain Blood) and Baroness Orzy (The Scarlett Pimpernel.) As I said earlier, every Burroughs novel has a touch of horror. In the novels, Carter and his kin have to deal with cannibalistic tribes, mind control, body theft, artificial humanoids, false religions, giants, skeleton men, and I’m sure a lot of things I’ve left out.

As for beauty, Carter’s Basoomian bride, Dejah Thoris, is always described as “The Incomparable Dejah Thoris,” as though the phrase were a single word. Their daughter, Tara of Helium, and their granddaughter, Llana of Gathol, are extremely beautiful. The combination of beauty and horror is almost a cliché – especially in Hollywood. King Kong’s It Was Beauty Killed the Beast, Dracula’s brides, his victims, and even The Attack of the Fifty-Foot Woman come to mind.

It seems as though horror is more horrifying when beauty is threatened. It goes the other way as well, would we enjoy Buffy, the Vampire Slayer as much if she was 50 years old and overweight with a skin condition. No sexism, weightism, or ageism intended, just asking the question.

    The combination of beauty and horror is almost a cliché – especially in Hollywood. King Kong’s ‘It Was Beauty Killed the Beast,” Dracula’s brides, his victims, and even The Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman come to mind.  It seems as though horror is more horrifying when beauty is threatened. – Robert Allen Lupton

6. What scares you? Is there any beauty in it?

One tough question. You never know what you’re really afraid of until you have to face it. It’s easy to talk about facing the lion when you’re safe at home. Facing fears is a way of life. I taught scuba diving, flew hot air balloons for 35 years, ran marathons, climbed mountains, and worked on water towers. I’ve performed on stage and participated in politics. Was I afraid, almost always, but fear is also caution. Someone smarter than me said that courage is understanding the danger and doing it anyway.

I said all of that to say this. Are those only compensation for fear? I don’t know. Maybe. Is there any beauty in the things I listed? You bet. Sunrise from 2000 feet in the air is beautiful, the sea creatures’ silent fight for survival on a coral reef is beautifully terrifying. The reaction or non-reaction by the audience to a line uttered on stage can be gratifying and terrifying at the same time.

What am I afraid of now? I can’t say old age, because I’m there and it isn’t nearly as bad as I expected. Is it being forgotten? Well, I’ll be dead and I won’t know, will I? I have friends who’ve suffered from illnesses that either left their mind working in a non-functioning body or a body working with a non-functioning mind. Both are terrifying and I don’t see any beauty in either one.

    Is there any beauty in the things I listed? You bet. Sunrise from 2000 feet in the air is beautiful, the sea creatures’ silent fight for survival on a coral reef is beautifully terrifying. The reaction or non-reaction by the audience to a line uttered on stage can be gratifying and terrifying at the same time. – Robert Allen Lupton

7. Do you detect beauty in art/fiction that appears to be repulsive (weird/ horror)?

Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I rarely find the combination of beauty and horror repulsive. The cover of a recent anthology with one of my stories might be an exception. Here it is. One more, the cover of Uncommon Evil, by Fighting Monkey Press is alluring and repulsive at the same time. The book contains my short story, “Dark Cloud Over Ladysmith” – pure horror.

8.  Do you find beauty in your weird fiction or someone else’s?

Never thought directly about that, but yes. I write a lot of females coming-of-age and facing the bad guy stories. There’s beauty in overcoming the obstacles and/or the monsters and winning. I started using female protagonists because I’d read that women buy more books, but I soon discovered that female characters were more interesting to write about. Robert E. Howard had some beautiful women characters. Right now, I enjoy novels by Patricia Briggs, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Kim Harrison, perfect examples of beauty and the beast, or sometimes beauty is the beast.

9.  What other muses inspire you, and does that creativity inform your writing?

There are so many. I mentioned Sabatini and Orzy earlier. H. G. Wells and Jules Verne make the list. So do Robert E. Howard, Mark Twain, L. Frank Baum, John Sanford, Arthur Conan Doyle, Mike Resnick, Robert Heinlein, Stephen King, Anne McCaffrey, Bram Stoker, Philip Jose Farmer, and Frank Herbert. I never cared for anything by Lovecraft, but I enjoy Frank Belknap Long, August Derleth, Ramsey Campbell, and Clark Aston Smith.

\10. Any current or future endeavours we can pitch?

Yes, my newest novelette was just released in paperback, hardcover, ebook, and audio. “The Misadventures of Ssorak: An Alien Warlord on Earth

SSarok conquered his own world, a world ruled by violence and strength, a world where might makes right, and bored with his success, traveled to Earth seeking new challenges and literally, a new world to conquer. All he knows about Earth is what he read in Shakespeare’s play, but the world changed since the Bard wrote Hamlet. Ssarok hadn’t counted a society of rules, media, fragmented governments, protest groups, and lawyers. Especially lawyers. A planet where you can’t just kill people was a whole new world. And the money thing, that was different. Survival of the fittest may still apply, but how can you tell when the rules keep changing. He has to adapt or go home.

The next anthology, The Trouble with Time, is time-travel-themed. Submissions open on June 1, 2024. Send them to . 3000 to 5000 words. No rape, no child abuse, and if you hurt any dogs, we’ll find out where you live and hunt you down.

My next short story collection, “In Restless Dreams,” is scheduled for October of this year. This cover is a work in progress.

Robert Allen Lupton

Robert Allen Lupton is retired and lives in New Mexico where he was a commercial hot air balloon pilot. Robert runs and writes every day, but not necessarily in that order. Over 200 of his short stories have been published in various anthologies, magazines, and online magazines. He has four novels in print, Foxborn, Dragonborn, Dejanna of the Double Star, and The Misadventures of Ssarok, An Alien Warlord on Earth. He’s edited three anthologies, Feral, It Takes a Forest, Are You A Robot?, and  Witch Wizard Warlock. He has six short story collections, Running Into Trouble, Through A Wine Glass Darkly, Strong Spirits, Hello Darkness, Visons Softly Creeping, and The Marvin Chronicles. All eleven books are available from Amazon. Over 2000 of his Edgar Rice Burroughs-themed 100-word drabbles and articles have been presented DAILY since 2018 in . . . ALL previous drabbles/articles are featured at

Like or follow him on Facebook, Amazon, Author Blog, Twitter/X.

S.E. Lindberg
Interviewer S.E. Lindberg is a Managing Editor at Black Gate, regularly reviewing books and interviewing authors on the topic of “Beauty & Art in Weird-Fantasy Fiction.” He is also the lead moderator of the Goodreads Sword & Sorcery Group and an intern for Tales from the Magician’s Skull magazine. As for crafting stories, he has contributed eight entries across Perseid Press’s Heroes in Hell and Heroika series, and has an entry in Weirdbook Annual #3: Zombies  He independently publishes novels under the banner Dyscrasia Fiction; short stories of Dyscrasia Fiction have appeared in Whetstone, Swords & Sorcery online magazine, Rogues In the House Podcast’s A Book of Blades Vol I and Vol II, DMR’s Terra Incognita, and the 9th issue of Tales From the Magician’s Skull.

Robert Allen Lupton's Work in ERBzine
ERBzine Weekly Webzine
The Chessmen of Mars
Tarzan and the Ant Men
Land of Terror
The Mucker
The Monster Men
The Moon Maid
The Mastermind of Mars
The Land That Time Forgot
Synthetic Men of Mars
Apache Devil
John Carter of Mars BLB
A Princess of Mars
Llana of Gathol
ERB Comics
ERB Artist Encyclopedia

J. Allen St. John: Illustrator of ERB Novels and Pulps
Joe Jusko Tarzan Art
Burne Hogarth Tarzan Sunday Pages
Frank Frazetta ERB Art
Mahlon Blaine ERB Art
Studley Oldham Burroughs
John Coleman Burroughs

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