Edgar Rice Burroughs

1875 - 1950

American writer

At the time he started writing, Edgar Rice Burroughs was 36, but the impulse to create psychically charged science-fantasy environments was deep-set and powerful, for he began with a great rush of energy. Within two years had initiated three of his four most important series, and quite shortly had more imitators than probably any other science fiction writer.

A Princess of Mars (1912), which opened Burroughs' Barsoom series of novels, is set on Mars and features the heroic Earthling John Carter as he battles with various green, yellow and black men and wins the hand of the red-skinned (and oviparous) princess Dejah Thoris. The immense popularity of the series has little to do with conventional science fiction virtues, for it depends on storylines and venues as malleable as dreams, exotic, dangerous and unending.

Tarzan of the Apes (1912), the story of an English aristocrat's son raised in the jungle by "great apes," was immensely popular from the beginning, and Burroughs continued producing sequels to the end of his career. In most of them Tarzan has unashamedly fantastic adventures, including discovering lost cities and live dinosaurs, being reduced to 18 inches in height, and visiting the Earth's core. Tarzan is a remarkable creation, and possibly the best-known fictional character of the century, owing in part to the Tarzan films, particularly those of the 1930s starring Johnny Weissmuller.

Burroughs' third major series, Pellucidar, was based on the hollow-earth theory of John Cleves Symmes. It began with At the Earth's Core (1914; adapted for film 1976) and continued in Pellucidar (1915), Tanar of Pellucidar (1930), Tarzan at the Earth's Core (a notable "overlap" volume), Back to the Stone Age (1937), Land of Terror (1944) and Savage Pellucidar (1942). Pellucidar is perhaps the best of his locales — a world without time where dinosaurs and beast-men roam circularly forever — and is a perfect setting for bloodthirsty romantic adventure.

A fourth series, Venus, was created much later in Burroughs' career and concerns the exploits of spaceman Carson Napier on Venus. Of his non-series tales, perhaps the finest is The Land that Time Forgot (1918).

The "rediscovery" of Burroughs' work during the 1960s was an astonishing publishing phenomenon, and the majority of his books are reprinted regularly.

Selected Bibliography:
The Barsoom series (1912-64)
The Tarzan series (1912-65)
The Pellucidar series (1915-42)

Film/TV Adaptations:
Tarzan (1932, 1966, 1984, 1999, 2002)
At the Earth's Core (1976)
The Land That Time Forgot (1975)
The People That Time Forgot (1976)