“A Princess of Mars” ~ My View

It may have the usual sword and sorcery style as we could see in Conan the Barbarian when it comes to the story, but the twist of having it set on Mars essentially paints this fantastic story with a fresh coat that turns it into science fiction. Burroughs provides readers with simple adventure and not focusing on common science fiction tropes and plot lines. I read it as a typical fantasy journey without the appropriate tropes such as dragons and magic replaced with more likely concepts as expected in science fiction that would today be considered simple in plot. Like many fantasy stories, the hero John Carter finds himself in that strange land of Mars but my impression is that he was unsure if he was dreaming or not or if it was just a near-death experience with the new world reminding him of his encounters in the Western opening, including the Apache natives.

It is technically science fiction, but the storyline is more like an epic as opposed to an adventure of discovery and such concepts as the aliens could be seen as equivalents in typical fantasy stories such as elves or dragons. I feel that the author blends the ascetics of what would develop into more modernized science fiction but it uses the typical format we would see in a mythological or fantasy-inspired story such as the very often-used rescue and sudden love of a princess which if created today would not make the series very well liked. Also of note is that one could regard pulp fiction which “A Princess of Mars” is considered as an equivalent of television during the time they were at the peak of their popularity along with film serials which would come later on that too had similar plot lines. For a person such as I am who is a lover of the fantasy genre that chose to take this class to broaden my horizons in the general sphere of speculative fiction, I have to say that this is light on the advanced usage of what the genre is named after, instead focusing on adventure blending two of these genders that are sadly looked down upon by writers. This reminds me of how taking any speculative fiction class shows how these genres are not a pointless joke and are in a way like today’s myths. This book is good for a beginner to the science fiction genre such as what I consider myself, especially where I want to be as a writer.

I find it disturbing in today’s world that the one girl Carter falls in love with is the typical princess who isn’t as war-like as the others. Her depiction on the cover also looks strongly like Wonder Woman to me and I feel that it may have been the inspiration behind Princess Leia’s slave “outfit.” One thing we must realize though is that this is a book of different values and as it is written from Carter’s perspective, we do not have a full understanding without an omniscient narrator. The various groups of the aliens are also incidentally analogues to different races in my opinion. What if Dejah Thoris was one of the green aliens? Would Carter have fallen in love with her then? Depictions of him are interestingly enough also barbarian-like but there is a perfectly good reason for that and we must remember he is still technically wearing clothing. Many pulp fiction heroes and writers of such stories tended to be racist, but that attitude was considered normal in this time. This is not a story for today’s world with its cliches and views. Granted it would be terrifying if we saw these creatures invade our planet, but to the aliens, the white man John Carter is a savage as well.

As I mentioned before, the book and the movie’s previews remind me of another pulp fiction series I consider important Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard. The era of pulp fiction is very important for the science fiction genre and not fantasy which draws upon mythology and folklore. Without these tales we would today call cliché, there would potentially be no Star Wars, another science fiction series that has the plot of an epic we would see in the fantasy genre. Another reason we would today think of this novel as strongly fantasy-like is because of its depiction of the Barsoom/Mars alien world that Burroughs essentially built and how it contradicts today’s understanding of the planet Mars. Ultimately, we can consider this work as one of the most important works within the genre. I found this website containing quotes from other writers and filmmakers pointing out how significant a writer for the genre he is:

The Influence of Edgar Rice Burroughs


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