Classics of Science Fiction will be the DL Book Club’s focus during November and December. There are some great formative works of sci-fi available in the public domain and we decided to focus on “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs for the book club’s reading selection. This is the first book in Burroughs’ Martian Series. Early science fiction borrowed much from other genres, including westerns and romance. This combination of action, adventure, fantasy, and speculation was part of the pulp fiction that became popular in the first half of the 20th century.
Burroughs was inspired in part by astronomers’ early speculations about what types of life and topography might exist on distant planets. This standard science fiction influence was joined by Western themes about the American frontier. A nostalgic desire to return to the frontier became a common theme in the United States during the early twentieth century because the nation was becoming more urbanized. Burroughs enjoyed imagining another wilder and more spectacular frontier, and his adventure stories became very popular and inspired many well-known 20th century science fiction writers.
Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clark and Robert Heinlein are among the many authors who went on to write sci-fi classics after being inspired by Burroughs. Astronomer, cosmologist, and astrophysicist Carl Sagan read “A Princess of Mars” when he was a child and kept a map of Mars as imagined by Burroughs in the hallway outside his office at Cornell University. The DL Book Club will consider these influences and hopefully enjoy the adventure and romance of Burroughs’ story of Mars. Other books included in our theme are: “The War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Jules Verne, “The Book of Dragons” by Edith Nesbit, and “The Scarlet Plague” by Jack London.