I agree with you that Burroughs had the ability to sketch a world and
fill it in with his storytelling. But it's difficult for me to
separate the two. Story and setting work together.
I guess it depends on whether what sticks in your mind is the
meeting, loss and rescue of Dejah Thoris; life among the green men;
the civilization of the red men; the friendship between Carthoris and
Kar Komak; stalking banths; squealing thoats; sudden sunrise over an
ancient city, etc. To me all those things are part and parcel of the
same thing -- setting AND story working hand in hand.
I can't agree that Burroughs was not a great world builder. If you
mean did he nail down every plank and create a rationale that worked
logically for every thing that exists on Barsoom -- no, he didn't do
that. Thank ghod, it would be so boring. He wasn't that kind of
writer, he wasn't a realist. He was a Romantic. He worked in broad
strokes and dabs that, when you took it all in, looked like detail.
Some things he described pretty clearly -- the one-man Zodangan flyer
in PRINCESS is quite complete -- but such things as banths are
described by their high-points and little else. As you say, they
"blurred to something that appeared fantastic and alive." And that's
what moves the tale along. He doesn't need to dwell on the details to
get you caught up in the story. It becomes a story that you have to
continually participate in, imagining as you go along. The reader
becomes creator. Burroughs builds a world you want to get into -- at
least some of us do.
But you bring up another important point. Along with that reader/
creator imagining, each of us fills in the blurriness with our own
details. Even if you've been seeded by the images of St. John, J.C.
Burroughs, Frazetta or Krenkel, you still imagine things a little
differently. Vaguely, perhaps, but slightly more along the lines of
your own experience, or your own vision. Bill Hillman has just put up
some wonderful drawings by Tom Yeates that are dynamic, masterful,
exciting, but blatantly inaccurate in some details in spite of
specific references in the writings. He continually puts the green
men's eyes on the front three-quarters of the head instead of on the
side. He gives them claw-like fingernails. And the swords are not
"needle-like" at all. As an illustrator I admire his composition, his
handling of the brush and ink, the beautiful anatomy -- but as a fan,
I grind my teeth at those inaccuracies that I know could be avoided.
Though there may be aesthetic reasons for those decisions, they still
I'm not sure that a movie or video game would necessarily have to
tweak Barsoom into something you wouldn't recognize, but, in the last
analysis, the only definitive version of Barsoom for each reader is
the version inside his own head.
On Sep 29, 2007, at 5:58 AM, ekman@... wrote:
> Yes and no. Burroughs' settings are fantastic, granted. But not by
> themselves. Whenever I read fan fiction or comic adaptations set on
> Barsoom, I find that they either make Barsoom into something different
> than what Burroughs described, or it suddently feels entirely
> lifeless and
> Burroughs was not a great world builder. He put up a hastily
> and barely painted theatre scene. Then he used his fantastic
> abilities with such amazing skill that the deficiencies in the
> blurred to something that appeared fantastic and alive.
> I am not looking forward to a big-budget movie or a modern 3d-animated
> computer game, because they would be unable to adapt Burroughs'
> storytelling, and therefore forced to make it come together by
> and tweaking the world into something I would not recognize and
> would not
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]