SF novelist Greg Bear has posted his review of John Carter, which is also a commentary on the treatment the film is getting from mainstream critics, as well as on pulp fiction’s place in our culture. I’ve spliced in a bit below. The whole thing is a very good read, so you should read it…click here to do so.
And y’know, much has been made of Disney not calling the flick John Carter of Mars, but I think they truly missed a bet by not calling it John Carter and The Princess of Mars. That would have captured its science fantasy elements, its romanticism, and the fact that it has an honest-to-Barsoom new Disney princess in it. And a truly capable, heroic princess at that. Of course, Disney completely flubbed the marketing on the film, and now they’re suffering for it.
Without “A Princess of Mars” there would be no “Star Wars” or “Avatar,” of course. There would be fewer names on the modern map of Mars–and likely far fewer engineers and scientists to build those space ships and shoot them into the outer void.
In 1911, Burroughs was happy to incorporate the latest speculations about Mars–derived from the work of the immensely popular astronomer Pervical Lowell, and not thoroughly discredited until the 1960s. To those speculations he added a bit of H. Rider Haggard, a bit of Kipling, and a bit of the then-popular Graustarkian romance, where a brave commoner is launched into royal complications in an exotic mythical land.
George Lucas, decades later, owed a tremendous debt to Burroughs. Tatooine is much like Mars, with wonderfully strange creatures, suspended racers, and huge flying barges with swiveling deck guns.
And no wonder. Leigh Brackett, co-screen-writer on The Empire Strikes Back, often wrote pulp tales herself–some set on Mars–and did it quite well.
In turn, she inspired Ray Bradbury to revisit and revise Burroughs’s Mars in The Martian Chronicles, an enduring classic. Brackett went on to craft screenplays based on the pulp tradition that the Times still finds so discreditable: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. She co-wrote that screenplay with William Faulkner. Faulkner sold his first short story to a pulp magazine, Weird Tales. So did Tennessee Williams. And I strongly suspect they all read and enjoyed, in their younger years at least, A Princess of Mars.
We would all be the poorer for not allowing future generations of young readers a chance to fall into Burrough’s amazing pulp story of adventure and imagination, still powerful and fun after all these years.