Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Back to the Beginning

Art by Michael Whelan
I am really looking forward to going to see John Carter (of Mars) this weekend.

Why? It's one of the greatest SF stories ever written. And it was written at the dawn of the 20th century, when there was so much that was still unexplored and misunderstood about our own world that the promise of adventure on another world (ostensibly Mars, but in reality Barsoom) is just too much to resist. A lot of SF tropes come from this story: an earthman being transported to another world and wondering if his new life is a dream or not; flying cars; multi-armed creatures; arena battles, and so much MORE.

I read A Princess of Mars when I was a kid, probably 13 or 14 and I was lured in by the nude woman on the cover, being carried to safety by a handsome man over the dead body of a green guy with tusks. How could I not be enticed to read this?

When I found out it was by the same guy who created Tarzan, I was all in. I tried to acquire the entire series when I saw an article about it in - I think - Epic Illustrated with lush paintings of Thuvia, Maid of Mars and thoats and such. I had also read several issues of the Marvel Comics version, John Carter - Warlord of Mars with gorgeous covers by the inimitable Gil Kane. Radium pistols and evil villains filled this young man's head with all sorts of possibilities. Reading Heinlein's The Number of the Beast around the same time solidified the love I had for all things Barsoomian.

Have these been reprinted?
Alas, I never read the entire series and I left it behind in my teens.

However, with age comes a certain amount of disposable cash and the desire to relive some things from childhood. I didn't search exceedingly hard for the paperbacks as I reached my 40s, but I did keep an eye out and about four years ago scored 8 of the 11 books for very reasonable prices at a used bookstore. They captured my imagination again and I was inspired to write my second novel because of the way Edgar Rice Burroughs told his story.

I then worked my way through six of the eight books I have, loving each of them in turn. The pulpy way they're written, the language of the times, it's all brilliant and quite a record of what the world was like around 1912.

Just like this version will be a record of the times I live in. I just realized that this is the 100th anniversary of the publication of A Princess of Mars and that makes this movie even cooler. With the way effects are handled now in film (and thank god they didn't try to make it 3D!) and the modern sensibilities, we're going to get (I hope) a reasonable adaptation.

But it will be an adaptation. It won't be the Barsoom in my head or in the comics. It won't even be the Barsoom of Bob Clampett. It'll be it's own thing and I'm really looking forward to that. I trust that Andrew Stanton will deliver a good movie with a very solid story. I don't expect word-for-word translation. That's boring and just plain silly. It can't be done. The books stand on their own and have for a century.

In one way, I'm glad that it's taken so long for this film to be made. In another, I'm a little disappointed that it had to take this long to get made. Regardless, I'm anxious to see how it comes out.

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