Thursday, March 8, 2012

John Carter Sci-Fi Classic Still Inspires

At least according to Discovery News in this new video which takes a look at John Carter of Mars and Edgar Rice Burroughs' influence on writers and scientists. Take a peek while we count down the hours.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

found this article - thought it was lovely.

The new movie “John Carter” is getting mixed reviews from critics, but the film’s source material, the novel “A Princess of Mars,” has long been hailed as a groundbreaking work of science-fiction fantasy. The author of the 1917 book, Edgar Rice Burroughs, was also the creator of Tarzan, and first wrote about John Carter, a civil war veteran who travels to Mars (aka Barsoom), in the pages of The All-Story magazine in 1912. Pulitzer-prize winning author Junot Díaz (“The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”) wrote the introduction to a new edition of “A Princess of Mars” that’s due out on April 12 to mark the centenary of Carter’s debut. An excerpt.

“A Princess of Mars” may not have exerted the same colossal pull that Tarzan had on the global imagination but its influence on generations of readers cannot be underestimated. The novel became a seminal text in the early science fiction canon, inspiring a slew of imitators and even a pair of related genres, the planetary romance and the sword-and-planetary, practiced by the likes of Leigh Brackett and Michael Moorcock and which you still find examples of being written today. (“Paragaea,” anybody?)

Walt Disney Co./courtesy Evere
Actor Taylor Kitsch in “John Carter.”John Carter was also one of our first recognizable superhumans and there is little doubt that his extraordinary physical feats inspired Superman’s creators. Remember: before Superman could fly or turn back time he was nothing less than an earthbound crime-fighting John Carter in tights. (And what is that skintight muscle-man costume really if not one standard deviation from nudity?) Even the original source of Superman’s powers–Earth’s weaker gravity–was a direct swipe from Burroughs. Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and George Lucas all have acknowledged the influence Burroughs’s Mars had on their creativities. Planetary astronomer Carl Sagan has freely described “the lasting impact” that Barsoom’s “towers, domes and minarets” had on his imagination. In fact when the state of California honored Sagan with a vanity license plate he preferred one that read BARSOOM.*

Then there’s “Avatar,” one of the biggest blockbusters in movie history, which owes more than a Third-world debt to “A Princess of Mars.” And perhaps tired of watching all the influenced-by’s have all the fun (and make all the loot), Disney has gone back to the original and made “A Princess of Mars” into a live-actioner, with Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon, an avowed John Carter fan, sharing script duties. A hundred years after John Carter first materialized on the dead sea-bottom of a dying Mars, Burroughs’s Barsoom still calls to us across the gulf of time and space.

An excerpt from Junot Díaz’s introduction to “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs (A Special Publication of The Library of America). Used with permission.

* Both the “lasting impact” quote and the license plate bit came from Robert Markley’s Dying Planet: Mars in Science and the Imagination, p. 182.