ERB On The NET: BOOM TOWN!
Copyright © 1999
Pseudonym of David A. Adams
With the rise of the internet we are seeing an exchange of ideas about the life and works of Edgar Rice Burroughs that is unprecedented. This is a new, wild boom town which has overnight transformed the sleepy little backwater village of ERB fandom.
Once, only a short time ago, people who were interested in the life and works of this man communicated with each other through letters and occasional phone calls. Scholarship was slowly passed among the membership through fan magazine subscriptions which were mostly sporadic, typewritten affairs. Today even the mighty Burroughs Bulletin seems to grind along at a snailís pace, offering color pictures and articles that fade in the bright sunshine of instant communications and new sites that seem to spring up daily.
Once scholars had to wait months for feedback concerning their efforts. Today in this heady atmosphere the response to their work arrives the next day. The power structure is shifting, and it might make some of the older fans nervous.
Only a few years ago, the chief writers about ERB had to offer their wares to one of the major publications to capture the ear of fandom. Today, daily messages pass back and forth like lightening, and the majority of the best scholarly work first appears on internet sites rather than in the slower print media.
Of course, there will always be a place for fan magazines if only for their collectability, and it might be argued that solid scholarly work takes more time than most internet messages offer. However, the handful of very good ERB sites is making a treasure trove of information available in downloadable e-text formats that make such information infinitely more usable to the serious scholar.
E-texts of ERBís novels are just now being used for word searches, and the time is fast approaching when all of his works will be on-line for this new area of research. The sites are becoming gargantuan; real monsters of information are rearing their terrible heads and thrashing whole forests into firewood. ERBís life has been outlined by year, and the fine tuning is working details down to months, even days. Soon we will be able to pinpoint specific works in relation to specific dates in the authorís life that should offer whole new areas of interpretation.
All the obscure works of Burroughs are also coming to light. Things only fanatic collectors knew about are becoming commonplace. The texts of his newspaper writings are starting to emerge from the darkness, and soon I expect his private letters will show up as e-texts, which will be a great boon to Burroughsian criticism and analysis.
The old empires of information known only to collectors are falling, however it must be allowed that the fall is due to the fact that these collectors have been willing to offer their esoteric information to everyone without a charge. Chapter-by-chapter outlines of all the novels have already begun, and the same work on the thousands of comic book stories seems to be on the horizon. Illustrations from rare dust jackets and comic book covers are showing up on the internet in great profusion. Soon collectors will be able to save electronic scans of all the important Burroughs images from all the major artists.
This boom town is a wild west of rapid exchanges. Some items are up for days or weeks before the owners of copyrights can move to get them removed. Even then, sites can move in a short time, and it seems like claim jumpers rule the day. The information is out; the gold dust is flowing like water; and we are running our dogs madly into the sun. ďConfusion to the Mounted Police!Ē
Once upon a time a collector could slowly pick up everything about Burroughs in musty bookstores. Today, whole new towns are springing up overnight, and the information is already piled on the shore like a mountain of trade-goods waiting for their passage up and over the Chilcoot Pass.
Once you could have it all, or at least you could claim to have most of it all. Today e-mail messages are crumpled and deleted as fast as the trigger finger can move, yet someone out there somewhere is saving everything. You can make book on it. And what an interesting book it will make! This is all history, passing as fast as a northern wind. Sites may come and go like boom towns, but the gold being dug out of the rock is building empires. And some of these cities will last.
Iím glad to be running through this new frontier. Those first edition eggs are selling for hundreds of dollars apiece, my friends, but we arenít all hungry for omelettes. Some of us are content to eat beans and bacon, staking claims on the wild rivers, and if we strike paydirt, weíll strike it big. Tangor and Elmo, and Big Bill Hillman are already out there with big sites that are pouring in the gold daily. Iím just floating on my raft up and down the raging rivers, poking my head into the cabins and saloons looking for stories to tell. Iím not aiming to settle, but I have a pick axe and a placer pan, and Iím picking up nuggets like thereís no tomorrow.
It may be boom or bust, you cheechakos, but Iím settiní my sites (sic) on an Eldorado, and you can watch my smoke!