Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Edgar Rice Burroughs Venus series has some tremendous material.

ERB is, of course, the creator of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars books, the latter being recently adapted to screen in the Walt Disney film "John Carter". His Venus books feature a swashbuckling hero named Carson Napier, an earth man who builds a rocket ship which crash  lands on Venus and exposes Napier to so many adventures that the story makes Indiana Jones seem like a homebody.

While researching the  Venus series online I discovered that a 2013 film based on the first book...Pirates of supposedly underway via a certain Angelic Pictures.

I read "Pirates of Venus" and "Lost on Venus".

 I absoultely loved it--it is cliffhanger page turner stuff with races, monsters and cultures that would inspire any DM. There is even a castle and city of re-animated corpses controlled telepathically by an evil prince on undead army! Eat your heart out Romero.

Frankly, it is not as good as the John Carter of Mars series, being slightly less majestic and sweeping in it's panorama of a world. However, this is like saying that gold is not as good as platinum.

Be forewarned that the books have a whiff of ERB's politics here and there which, one can be sure, are not politically correct. There is an overt nod to the KKK in one chapter, and unmistakable praise for racialist scientific theories that were conventions of ERB's day. 

This does not bother me in the least--the book was written in the 30's and during that period of American history... before expose journalism became vogue...the Klan enjoyed very widespread popularity and politicians routinely pandered to them if they wanted even a chance of being elected. Take in in the context of it's era and it would not be offensive to anyone in the least.

The chief antagonists of the books I read were "Thorists", Thorism being a very thinly veiled motif of Marxism. You can't read the first book and fail to guess what ERB thought about Marxism/Socialism...he hated it, obviously, and regarded it with all the horror of his American contemporaries. 

If none of these things bother you (and they comprise mere sentences of the books) you will love the stuff! I read both books in two days and wished I lived on Amtor!

I think ERB's materials can be interpreted and re-interpreted for many years to come--and I imagine that when you watch a lot of sci fi TV and theater films of the 50's and 60's, you are probably getting treated by people who were heavily inspired by ERB and his counterparts.

All I can say is I hope that another ERB film goes off!


  1. I read those two books on Project Gutenberg after you posted this. I really enjoyed them. Thanks. Yeah, they were dated and all but great. I love those old books. Anything Pulp is awesome game fodder.

  2. Hi J.B. - You might have missed my comment on your original post, but I'd like to adapt your Maze of Nuromen as a free introductory dungeon for my (also free) Holmes clone, Blueholme. I've also PMd you on the OD&D forums, but I don't think you've been there lately - my user name there is Vile. I'd be very grateful if you could get back to me over there.