I continue my “Anthropology of the Martian Romance.” The previous installment dealt with the seminal Martian Romance, A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs and its background in the studies of East Asian shamanic practices and later of the planet Mars undertaken in the early years of the Twentieth Century by Percival Lowell. In this second part of “Outward is Upward” I discuss a little-known but impressive addition to the Martian Romance, David Reed’s Empire of Jegga, and a late addition, Leigh Brackett’s Queen of the Martian Catacombs, later republished as The Black Amazon of Mars. While I confine myself to a sub-sub genre of science fiction, I believe that my interpretations are applicable to mid-Twentieth Century genre across the board. I take genre seriously. Genre offers, as I put it in Part I, “a colorful promise of redemption.”
II. Epistemological Displacement in Reed’s Empire of Jegga. Burroughs’ example, no less than his success, provoked many writers to imitate him. Knock-offs of A Princess quickly became legion. Burroughs even imitated himself, launching new series of books whose action takes place on the planet Venus, on the moon, in a vast cavern at the center of the Earth, or on an extra-solar planet away across the galaxy. In his Venus series, Burroughs might have been imitating one of his imitators, Otis Adelbert Kline (1891 – 1946), whose “Planet of Peril” trilogy, set on the next planet inward from Earth, saw serial publication in Argosy All-Story Weekly between 1929 and 1931. The first of Burroughs’ Venusian tales, Pirates of Venus, only appeared in 1932. Kline wrote his own Martian novels in the early 1930s. If Kline’s romances had come back into print after many decades, as they have, it would be a case of their riding on Burroughsian coat-tails. Kline’s prose is certainly entertaining, but it lacks the symbolic richness of Burroughs’ prose. Now imitation is not only flattery; it is also the index of a market. In its turn, a market is the index of a desire or need. The desire or need arises from the subject’s proprioception of alienation or maladjustment. In the case of maladjustment, however, the subject senses the condition not so much as his own but rather as a deforming affliction in the external social world. That deformation is modernity, which in rejecting Tradition drastically diminishes the opportunity of proper self-placement that the archaic rites of passage facilitate. The world of getting and spending obviously exerts on John Carter no attraction whatsoever, but Carter nevertheless seems incapable of bitterness. Stalwartness belongs to Carter’s Percival-like character. Nick Brewster, the protagonist of David V. Reed’s Empire of Jegga (Amazing Stories November 1943), presents himself at first, in contrast to Carter, as a materialist, even a hedonist, and womanizer. Not only in its protagonist, but in the fullness of its details, Reed (1924 – 1989) appears to have conceived Empire initially as an anti-Princess of Mars, but his story is nevertheless a version, or perhaps an inversion, of Burroughs’ saga about John Carter.