The Wild Adventures of Edgar Rice Burroughs is a series of new, authorized stories inspired by Burroughs classics, and is the brainchild of and published by ERB, Inc.
The latest saga (#6 in the series) is Swords Against the Moon Men (out now). Andy Nunez, editor of Against the Odds and an ERB enthusiast, sat down for interviews with author Christopher Paul Carey and illustrator Mark Wheatley.
INTRODUCTION by Andy Nunez
I was reading Edgar Rice Burroughs in elementary school, I just didn’t know it. In those pre-digital days, I read Dell and later Gold Key Tarzan comics, wondering who this fellow, Edgar Rice Burroughs, was. In junior high, I discovered his novels, reading several in hardcover. It was around 1971 that a friend of mine donated to me his huge collection of ERB paperbacks, because he was done with them, except for the Mars series. Among that trove was the Ace paperback edition of The Moon Maid.
This short novel has a rather unusual genesis. At the end of World War I, aghast at the Communist takeover of Imperial Russia and the rise of Socialist elements in the United States, Burroughs wrote a futuristic tale called “Under the Red Flag,” set in the 21st century after Communism had won and the United States was a conquered country. The story failed to find a publisher and Burroughs, always looking for a new way to sell a story, decided to rewrite it as part of a large future history epic.
The inventiveness of Edgar Rice Burroughs never ceases to amaze me. He created an entire society on the moon with distinct races and castes, as well as a chronology spanning hundreds of years for his planned trilogy of stories. Instead of Communists, the invaders would be the Kalkars from the Moon. The story would be framed around the reminisces of a reincarnated spirit, Julian, in what Burroughs biographer Richard A. Lupoff described as “trans-temporal telepathy,” because Julian could remember not only past lives, but future ones.
The story begins in 1967, using the standard Burroughs framing device of an unnamed narrator who runs into Julian aboard a transoceanic flight. Earth has just established communication with Mars, and it is the Mars of John Carter, Burroughs’ first interplanetary hero. Earth has just emerged from half a century of warfare and is in the process of scrapping all weapons of war except for an International Peace Fleet, dedicated to stopping any ruler from using military strength.
Julian tells the narrator of his uncanny ability to remember his past and future lives, and relates that while it took decades for humans to build a ship capable of reaching Mars, one did sail on Christmas Day of 2025. Julian was its captain, to the dislike of his old classmate, Orthis. Orthis designed the ship’s propulsion system and was obsessed with outdoing Julian, only to fail time and time again. Losing command of the Barsoom to Julian was the last straw. Orthis sabotaged the ship and it is only by skill that Julian and his small crew landed on the moon.
Similar to H. G. Wells’ First Men in the Moon a quarter-century earlier, Julian finds the inhabitants of the moon inside the satellite. Lit by some harmless radiation, the Moon’s interior is populated by the cannibalistic Va-gas, who are vaguely human quadrupeds, the U-gas, which are identical to humans, and the Kalkars, a brute race that seems to embrace collectivism rather than the feudal system of the ruling U-gas.
Along the way, Julian meets the titular Moon Maid, daughter of a local ruler, and they fall in love. After a number of escapes, the couple manage to reunite with the rest of the crew, except Orthis, and return to Earth as the last city of U-gas rule falls to the Kalkars and they presumably turn the Moon into a worker’s paradise.
Years pass and suddenly a space fleet from the Moon, led by Orthis, descends on peaceful, disarmed Earth, armed with a terrible disintegrator ray. Julian faces his old foe and both of them die in the final battle, leaving Earth prostrate before the invaders. Without the genius of Orthis, the Kalkars decide to bring their version of communism to Earth.
This is where Christopher Paul Carey picks up the story with Swords Against the Moon Men. I had a chance to chat with the author and with illustrator Mark Wheatley: