Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs

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A Barsoom Glossary

Few writers before or after Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) have managed to more carefully craft fully-realized fictional worlds than this 35-year-old businessman (1911) turned author. In real life Ed Burroughs was educated in geology. He, in fact, taught Geology for a period of time. His world of Barsoom is correct in terms of the "real world", yet has a fine fantasy feel and sense of mystery.

Having created the desert world of Barsoom, he proceeded to build cities and empires in all parts of the globe. Some were connected and dependent upon the vast canal system, others were located in exotic areas where free-flowing surface water existed. Over all, however, the planet is arid and dry, which explains why cities built hundreds of thousands years ago remain standing in remarkable preservation.

The human races of Mars have been as much builders as warriors, leaving immense artifacts and constructs to be rediscovered. A few of these ancient piles are occupied by nomadic green martians, or shelter the remnants of the elder races, but many of these cities have been in constant habitation since their founding.

The martians built with stone, wood, metal and a form of concrete. The newer constructions are mighty indeed—the Scarlet Tower of Helium, for example, rises one mile into the thin atmosphere of Barsoom. An immense atmosphere plant provides breathable atmosphere to the entire planet. The Therns have carved out a hidden empire deep within the rocky bones of the Otz Mountains. The First Born take every advantage of the Omean Sea, a vast undergrouund body of water, to keep their civilization strong.

Where life is possible, even in the most desolate of areas, the martians have made their homes. From the swamp-like muck of the Toonlian Marsh to the snow-capped Artolian Mountains, the traveler will meet all manner of peoples. Dead cities on the shores of vanished oceans provide surprising relief for stranded travelers—often centered around plazas where a trickle of water continues to flow into cracked fountains or holding pools. Beneath every Barsoomian city lie countless miles of caves or dungeons. Many cities are walled against attack or dangerous beasts.

Edgar Rice Burroughs takes the reader from pole to pole and from east to west, but for all he has told, there remains an incredibly vast question mark regarding the rest of Barsoom—a world that, while smaller than Earth, has more land mass than the water rich third planet of the Solar System.