|"...till eight dead worlds circled a cold, dead sun." (91)
||[Oct. 20th, 2010|10:09 am]
Thuvia, Maid of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Down the black canal,
cutting through the red desert,
I came, sword in hand.
I read this in the Return to Mars collection; it has been two years since I've read one of the Barsoomian tales, & I have been getting the shakes. The trembles. Mars needs Mordicai! & vice versa. The first three books do form a loose trilogy, in that this fourth one ceases to follow John Carter but moves to his son, Carthoris-- & the next one is about his daughter, Tara (I peeked) & I guess the one after that is about some stranger, someone else entirely. I don't have a wealth of insights to bestow here; I've talked before about race & gender in Burroughs. In short, I think people sell Burrough's short when they lump him in with the casual racism of the times-- his Martian novels actually have a message of racial harmony-- the red men of the Martian canals, the yellow men of the poles, the white therns of the false religion, the black men of the planetary interior...they all get together. There is something to be said for the green men of Mars being "savages," & that falling into the cowboy cliches about Native Americans, & okay. You've got a point there, but I will counter with the fact that Tars Tarkas, the epitome of the green Barsoomians, is John Carter's main dude. Yes, that falls into the "sidekick" territory, & I hear you, but I'm saying if you cut Edgar Rice Burroughs some slack for historical context, I think the books are actually pretty good on the subject of race. Also, the green martians are my favorite of Burrough's creations; the picture of them in my head it really compelling. The ladies...well, there isn't much to defend there. Men are the protagonists, women are...well, they are characters, but they wouldn't past the Bechdel test. At least they aren't fainting, wilting flowers-- while Carthoris flies the sky vessel, Thuvia fires the guns. There is an element of agency, here-- though again, subordinant to the (non-white!) male protagonist. I'm hoping the next book, focusing as it does on Tara, breaks that mold. It might, even; these are pulp masterpieces, & they are capable of surprising you. Burroughs goes off on a tangent in Thuvia, Maid of Mars for a bit about philosophy & the nature of reality, so anything is possible, really. There is a reason these are legendary benchmarks for planetary romance; the Barsoom series is amazing, & this is a good example of it.