The Pulp Appeal of John Carter, Warlord of Mars
I don’t remember how I got hooked on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter stories, but it was long before the 2012 movie. The basic plot was interesting–a man “dies” on Earth and awakens on Mars, locally called Barsoom, in the distant past when the planet was still populated by various Martian races1 –but that wasn’t the draw for me. At the time, I wasn’t even the biggest ERB fan, having felt like Tarzan was a bit of a let-down. If I had to pin down why John Carter resonated with me, it’s because I’m a fan of stories that examine the gradual decay of once mighty civilizations, the slow fall back into barbarism. This sort of story beat is common to much of pulp fiction–from detectives in the big city to nameless horrors waiting to awaken and destroy everything–where the interplay between civilization and barbarism frequently occurs.
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This is something quite a bit different from me. I’m an amateur magician, and last week I took part in a 7 day challenge to turn a magic trick I could do into a masterpiece. I’m sure this isn’t yet a masterpiece, but it’s the script I’ve written for myself. And, as it is writing and it took me some time and dedication to craft, it fits the blog. It’s sorta fiction, as most magic is, and I’ve tried to cover up methods, so no one needs to fear “exposure.”
a three-phase card-matching routine script
based on work by Karl Fulves and Bob Longe.
So, Matthew X. Gomez convinced me to get back on the weekly fiction bandwagon, and I’m going to try to keep up with him. Below is the first new story I’ve written in awhile.
The Porcelain Cat
I suppose I ought to document the strange occurrences at my house over the last month or so. It all started after my mother’s funeral and my having been willed an old porcelain cat that no one seems to recognize. Why she should wish me to have anything at all while my father is still alive is a mystery at best, but particularly when considering what it was she left me.
I came to read Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in my early 30s, so I don’t have the same connection that many fans do. But I certainly enjoyed what little of it I have read.
Originally conceived in collaboration between Fritz Leiber and Harry Otto Fischer (Leiber would long credit Fischer with the original conception of the characters), and born in the middle of the Great Depression, the seven-foot tall barbarian Fafhrd and his diminutive companion, the former wizard’s apprentice Gray Mouser, would come to codify sword-and-sorcery, leaving behind a long and colorful legacy. Unlike Robert E. Howard’s Conan, Fafhrd (despite his barbarian upbringing) and the Gray Mouser were urban characters, happy to be adapted to civilization and prowl its streets and alleys. Leiber would go on to publish six collections and one novel starring the pair.
Leiber’s stories always held a special appeal for me. They are removed from the sweeping epic fantasy of Tolkien, instead zeroing in on a couple of rogues who are (mostly) out for themselves. If they end up saving the city of Lankhmar (their home and the setting for…
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I know this blog is much neglected, and primarily focused on my poetry, but a friend and I are starting up a pulp magazine.
The goal of BROADSWORDS AND BLASTERS is to highlight those genres that the editors enjoy reading and we hope our readers enjoy too. Whether its tales of adventurers stealing gems from ancient temples, Westerns where a six-gun is a woman’s best friend, or a detective story where a minor theft reveals a mysterious cult at work, those are the stories we’d like to see.
The ethos we’re after is the pulp magazines of the 1920’s to 1940’s. We’re interested in action over navel contemplation, and larger-than-life characters. That doesn’t mean we’re looking for stories that are racist, sexist, or homophobic. In fact, those kinds of stories will get rejected even faster than ones that aren’t formatted properly or that have a multitude of grammatical mistakes.
Our goal is to put out a great magazine filled with adventure, memorable characters, and intrigue. We encourage writers from underrepresented groups to submit their…
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