Thursday, May 18, 2017

Space Opera Week: Carson Napier of Venus

Well, it's Space Opera Week according to, and gleefully coopted by Jon Del Arroz and the rest of the Pulp Revolution, and even a post by Benjamin Cheah, taking it away from Tor, relegating them to the hashtag #SafeSpaceOperaWeek, or some such thing.

Now, one area the tradpub establishment consistently gets almost entirely wrong is Edgar Rice Burroughs. Of course, part of that is their constant insistence on holding up the Narrative. This relies on the idea that the old popular authors of science fiction were poor writers, misogynists, and of course, Literally Hitler.

Now, while others might go the route of using Tarzan or John Carter to refute these claims, my most recent ERB books have been the Carson Napier stories, and they thoroughly refute the Narrative quite well.

First of all, let's look at the overt politics contained within these books. In the first book, we see some of the results of a communist revolt, with a society in exile from their home. I would posit that this first book alone puts the establishment against ERB.  The next major government we see is a "scientific" government, with tests dictating the existence or death of people, bloodsports being the only recreation, as there's no real conflict within society.  Another strike against ERB for the SocJus crowd, as he clearly doesn't f'n love science, but merely respects what it can find.  And there's one more overt political situation: the Nazis are overtly written about, complete with mocking the salute, education, and propaganda methods thereof.

Next, there's ERB's view of women, which of course they have entirely wrong. But that's in part due to the establishment's undermining of family. Every ERB  main character I've read has been a monogamist, which only happens when women are respected as different than men. The Carson Napier books even go so far as the initial society having a norm of monogamy, but rare instance of what amounts to divorce, though there's no actual marriage. Even the secondary characters of the series fall into this standard of monogamy, usually finding their mate within the story. While these women are at times in need of rescue, they are never entirely helpless, but merely limited in the effectiveness of their response.

There's only a couple of quick glances at ERB's views of race. This is the one area where the Narrative is somewhat accurate. The angan, or birdmen, are likened to blacks due to their singing and lower intelligence. However, Burroughs made a point to judge individuals first and give all men a chance, including one of the treacherous amphibians in Escape on Venus, though the fellow was viewed with suspicion. Later in the same book, Carson helps one of a feared race of yeti like men, which comes back to the benefit of his party.

As to being a bad writer, that is dispelled by the fact that he's one of the three major pulp authors that tradpub has never managed to get rid of, alongside Robert E Howard and H P Lovecraft. The fact that the characters and stories continue to have demand despite constant marginalization speaks to the opposite, that the writing was such to inspire.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.


  1. ERB's Views on Race: for a better understanding of ERB and race, SJWs should read the Gods of Mars (where the red martians are the heroes, the black and yellow martians are military powerhouses who take no grief from anyone, and the white martians are the unmitigated villains of the entire planet. Tarzan has both good and bad characters of just about every race if you read all of the novels (which I recommend, just spread them out), but for a hero, check out Mugambi from the Beasts of Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar.

    1. Quite right on Gods of Mars; it's been a decade since I read that. I've only read a little Tarzan, and most of that comic book adaptations.