amtor

anonymous asked:

Why is it you think Carson Of Venus isnt as Popular as John Carter of mars?

The short version is this: timing.

Popularity isn’t just a question of quality, but of timing, of being the right work at the right time. A bookshelf has a funny way of smushing time together; a Carson of Venus novel written in 1939 and a John Carter of Mars novel written 25 years before seem like the same kind of story when put side by side, but they were written decades apart, in totally different worlds.

John Carter of Mars was written in the early 1910s, when science fiction stories were often just reskinned westerns and swashbucklers. Carson of Venus was written over 25+ years later, in 1939, when tastes changed and science fiction moved on to tell different kinds of stories. Carson of Venus was almost a nostalgia piece, a deliberate throwback; it sounds strange to think of nostalgia being a thing at all in the late 30s/early 1940s, but there you go.

To understand why the reaction was different, you have to understand why the Carson of Venus novels were written at all. The reason that the Carson of Venus novels and later Barsoom books exist is due to Amazing Stories editor and Edgar Rice Burroughs superfan Raymond Palmer, who once he got actual power as an editor, was such a fanboy that he used his authority as a publisher to ask Edgar Rice Burroughs to write more Barsoom stories and create a new series for Amazing Stories. Now, the amazing thing is that this wasn’t some power move for new readers, since John Carter style planetary romances were starting to fall out of fashion in the late 1930s (more on that later). The reason they got ERB back to write more John Carter and create a new series is that Barsoom Superfan Raymond Palmer wanted to see more Edgar Rice Burroughs planet romance stories.

In the early part of this century, scifi was all about adventure stories that were reskinned Westerns and swashbucklers. John Carter of Mars fit right in, and emblemized the entire trend. Come the 1930s, however, the most influential writer was Stanley G. Weinbaum, who wrote a Martian Odyssey, with non-anthropomorphized and inhuman to the point of incomprehensible Martians, deliberately as a reaction to Burroughs’ hot babe girl martians. Even in the Burroughs-style Sword & Planet romance yarn, tastes had moved to writers like Leigh Brackett, who’s take on Mars was as an eerie nightmare landscape of bat-winged hordes assembling for battle, crumbling, labyrinthine cities, and hard, pragmatic miners and desperados. The straight good vs. evil yarn was out of style.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Carson of Venus was a low seller. Far from it – ERB was the best selling novelist of the entire 1920s and had tons of name value a decade later. Amazing Stories was the top selling science fiction pulp of its era, easily outselling Astounding Science Fiction, and the ERB stories were the top selling issues (at least until the Shaver Mystery in the mid-1940s that preceded the later mass hysteria over UFOs…but that’s a topic too bizarre to go into here). Saying that Amazing outsold Astounding won’t help you understand significant developments though. It’s a little like saying that Marvel Comics, until the 1970s, were outsold by DC Comics (DC books were viewed as quaint and old fashioned even in the 1960s). Yeah…but look what they were doing! Look who ended up being more influential.

Personally, I like the Carson of Venus books very very much, not just because they are so romantic, adventurous and wildly creative, with worlds of immortality, swordfights, pirates, and evil fishmen, but also because you can tell at that point in his life, Burroughs was getting tired of the formula he himself created and so he decided to have fun with it all. Burroughs’s most underrated attribute was his wonderful sense of humor. Compared to John Carter, Carson of Venus seems like a big goof; he screws up and ignores obvious things, like when he built a rocket and missed the Moon. For a guy who likes genteel gentlemen-athlete heroes, the overbred Amtorian aristocrats laugh at Carson, saying that his ancestry is unimpressive and that his bloodstream germs make him a menace to all life on Venus.

I think this is why people today don’t respond to the Amtor/Carson stories; people read ERB stories to feel awesome and powerful, and Carson of Napier doesn’t deliver on that well. It’s no coincidence ERB’s life story until he started writing was as a guy who was often unemployed and had trouble taking care of his family (he wrote John Carter of Mars and Tarzan on the back of letterhead from failed businesses). His stories are Walter Mitty hallucinations where Walter Mitty doesn’t wake up. They’re based on the appeal of pure, concentrated daydreams.