Feb 22 2012 4:00pm

John Carter: Futuristic... and a Century Old

John Carter of MarsYou probably saw the trailers during the Super Bowl and the Grammys. As Disney ramps up its advertising for John Carter, how many people realize it is based on A Princess of Mars, a pulp fiction classic written a hundred years ago? Some fans may be familiar with the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs (yes, he created Tarzan, too!) but others may see this as a new world created by Disney. Hopefully, both will be satisfied when the movie opens March 9.

A Princess of Mars follows Civil War veteran John Carter as he is transported from Earth . . . only to find himself in the middle of a war between the Red and Green Martians. Luckily he also finds his battle skills greatly enhanced due to the lesser gravity of Mars. While battling to stay alive and save the planet, Carter crosses paths with Dejah Thoris, the Princess of Helium, and a Red Martian. After a daring rescue, he returns her to her people and wins her hand in marriage.

Tantor Audio has just released a new recording of the original novel, narrated by the talented Scott Brick. Brick has won over forty AudioFile Earphones Awards, received two Audie Awards, and was proclaimed a Golden Voice by AudioFile magazine. The new audiobook — which includes a free ebook of the full text — is out just in time for fans old and new to explore the story (and its sequels). A free first chapter download is available now at Tantor for a limited time. The full digital download is specially priced at $9.99.

To get the free first chapter you must have an account at Please note that the free first chapter may not be available in all areas.

Cassandra McNeil is on Earth, for now.

Stefan Jones
1. Stefan Jones
I hate to admit it, but based on the trailers I saw last weekend, I'd much rather see The Three Stooges than John Carter. I'm deeply apprehensive.

One: My impression of Barsoom comes from wonderful 70/80s book covers, and my imagination. I picture a ruddy red world with a dark sky and strange vegetation. The movie's Mars looks like the desert Southwest. Not nearly alien enough.

Two: They seem to have spliced in a high-tech interstellar threat. Something that would threaten Earth after Mars is conquored. Nggggghhhhh. Is that really necessary?

I want barbaric splendor and baroque, retro strangeness.
Stefan Jones
2. Wizard Clip

I'm not so concerned about the movie's look. ERB spent a lot of time in the southwest, and I think that's what inspired his vision of mars. However, I do share your fear that the plot will bear little resemblance to anything Burroughs wrote
Stefan Jones
4. JohnnyMac
BTW, Amazon has "A Princess of Mars" available as a free download for the Kindle.

As for the movie, the trailer has me interested enough that I am planning on seeing it. I just hope that it will not be yet another case of Hollywood turning a fond childhood memory into a form of toxic waste.
Mike Conley
5. NomadUK
I just hope that it will not be yet another case of Hollywood turning a fond childhood memory into a form of toxic waste.

People with hope are just so cute.
Stefan Jones
6. Gumslinger
Yet Another Example of Disney raiding the Public Domain with one hand, while reducing it steadily with the other. I don't know that it will be worth watching this movie - consider the recent retread of Lost In Space as the reason why we need the Toxic Avenger.
Wesley Parish
7. Aladdin_Sane
I'm puzzled - John Carter wins Dejah Thoris' hand in marriage ... is this marriage on the installment plan? How long till he gets her foot?
Stefan Jones
8. Carrick
You can download the Barsoom books at Project Gutenberg in lots of different formats...
Stefan Jones
9. a-j
Just read the book (I was a Pellucidor man myself as a boy, if that makes sense) and adored it.
Will catch the film as am grateful to it for reminding me of Burroughs and I understand Michael Chabon was involved in the script.
Joe Romano
10. Drunes
I'm apprehensive about the movie, but I'm still looking forward to it and am re-reading A Princess of Mars in anticipation. What's bothered me about it, though, is how few people seem to realize what the source material is and who wrote it.
j p
11. sps49
I've said it already elsewhere, but any Barsoom film that dresses an actor like a Michael Whelan cover gets the benefit of the doubt from me.
Stefan Jones
12. JohnnyMac
Drunes, @11, " few people seem to realize what the source material is and who wrote it."

Are you hinting about the Theosophy/Madame Blavatksy connection? As laid out in Fritz Leiber's essay "John Carter: Sword of Theosophy" (first published in "Amra" 1959, published in book form in the essay collection "The Spell of Conan" ed. De Camp, Ace Books, 1980)?
Joe Romano
13. Drunes
JohhnyMac: While I think Leiber and De Camp were on to something, I really don’t believe Edgar Rice Burroughs was a theosophist, merely a good borrower. No, my amazement is more basic. A lot of people don’t realize John Carter is a creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Not regular readers of this web site, of course, but many don’t even know who Burroughs was anymore. And that’s unfortunate because the pulp era produced a lot of good stories.
Stefan Jones
14. JohnnyMac
Drunes, @13, ah now I understand what you were saying before. Well, we can hope that the movie, if it is reasonably successful, may introduce ERB to a new generation.

And, I agree with you that Leiber was not holding out ERB as a Theosophist (secret or otherwise) but, as most working authors are, someone who took good ideas where ever he could find them.

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