*** BARSOOM AND TSCHAI ***

Question asked by Dan Gunter 18/9

The Tschai novels seem to me to have some similarities to Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoomian novels (A Princess of Mars, etc.). Had you read those or similar "interplanetary adventure" novels when you began writing the Tschai books? If so, what are your thoughts on the Barsoom books (or similar books)?

If you were familiar with other "interplanetary adventure" novels: Some of the events of the Tschai books vary dramatically from the basic formula of the Barsoom books and the like. For example, Burroughs would never have permitted the death of Dejah Thoris; by contrast, Ylin Ylan, the Flower of Cath, dies fairly early in Wannek, and Reith has no other love interest until Pnume. Did you intentionally vary from the formula, or were you just writing the story as it seemed fitting to you?



Jacks Answer:

My mother was addicted to fantasy; back in 1915 when Tarzan first appeared in Blue Book magazine, the people of San Francisco, she tells me, the ladies all whispered, told each other about this marvelous new story, and instantly- everybody was reading Blue Book, Tarzan..
Even before this my mother had a taste for fantasy stories, she had Robert Chambers books, Maker of the Moons, Tracer of Lost Persons, The King in Yellow, maybe some others, and when we moved from San Francisco up to the ranch, I was six, and she brought all these books up she didnt have the Barsoom books, just Tarzan, in fact only the first, Tarzan of the Apes, but I read Tarzan, and was fascinated by it, I got all the other books from the library..
Barsoom, I thought, was wonderful; Burroughs had a knack for creating this wonderful atmosphere; the Barsoomian atmosphere he created never left me. Burroughs, how shall I say it, some of his ideas can be criticized, he was, well, I wont go into a criticism, but one thing he could do profoundly well, was create an atmosphere; and the atmosphere of Barsoom got into me when I was seven or eight years old, and never left me.
I had no intention of emulating Burroughs Barsoom books in Tschai; I never even thought of Barsoom while I was writing Tschai; totally separate, brand new. The death of, ... whats her name..? was a plot device. Also it was leading up to developing the culture of Cath, these weird situations... From the standpoint of the story, I didnt want Reith saddled with a girlfriend, all during the other books..
At the end, I saddled him with this rather unlikely Pnume girl, which even at the time I thought was kind of unreal, and unlikely, but I decided to try to make it stick anyway.. if people thought that was a little strange, that he should become attached to a person of such totally strange sociological background, well.. I agree. (laughs) But I just thought Id take a whack at it. Thats the way it goes-