Friday Flashback – A Princess of Mars

Friday Flashback is where I look back at the books, films, TV shows and million and one other things that have inspired me over the years in my storytelling and art. This week I'm have a look at a book: A Princess of Mars.

How could I not talk about this book? It has been a week of John Carterness with the images and trailers from Disney and Pixar that I, along with many others, have been posting all week from the up and coming new film, John Carter of Mars. Interestingly on that note, the film is due out early next year which (I don't know if this was planned for or not) marks a 100 years since A Princess of Mars (The first of John Carter's adventures on Mars) was first published back in 1912.

Anyway, on with the book.

A Princess of Mars is a science fiction fantasy novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and marks the first of his  Barsoom series, it is also Burroughs' first novel. A Princess of Mars  is considered a classic example of 20th century pulp fiction as it is full of swordplay and daring feats, and a romance between two of the principle characters: John Carter and Dejah Thoris (the Princess of Mars). The book even starts in a wild west setting in its early chapters, how cool is that. The main story however  is set on Mars, imagined as a dying planet with a harsh desert environment and populated by many wonderful and fantastic creatures such as Tharks, a multi limbed green skinned and savage warrior race. The insperation for Mars that Burroughs used to write his series of books was based  on the works of the astronomer Percival Lowell, whose ideas were widely popularized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In a nutshell, A Princess of Mars is the swashbuckling love story of a cowboy on Mars – and it is one of my favourite stories of all time.

Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom series, especially A Princess of Mars, has influenced generations of people, from scientists to artists alike. If it wasn't for  Burroughs' novels there would be no Star Wars. Well, there would be, but I can assure you that most of what makes it cool would not be there as George Lucas has been clearly and heavily influenced by these books. If you think Princess Leia fighting in her metal bikini on Jabba's sailbarge out in the desert is original and amazing? That is right out of an Edgar Rice Burroughs book, just change her name to Dejah Thoris, and by the way she is still a princess.

It is not just Burroughs' writing for A Princess of Mars that has inspired me and many others. One of the greatest science fiction and fantasy artists that has ever lived, the late great Frank Frazetta, a true hero of mine, painted some of the most influential imagery based on and for A Princess of Mars and the subsequent Barsoom novels.

So like I said at the start, this book is now almost a 100 years old and it has since and still and will for as long as there is a copy available for someone to read still inspire people. If that is not the mark of a great story, I don't know what is.


  1. Well written. I am reading the third book of John Carter and there is a lot of Barsoom in Star wars.


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