John Carter and Literary Archeology

Penguin Classic Ed.

UPDATE: I wrote this post before the movie John Carter came out. In retrospect, it has more meaning now since many movie-goers complained that John Carter was just a re-hash of other sci-fi movies – especially Avitar. It a way, it’s the other way around.

I love to practice “literary archeology.” That is, I love to dig down to find out who inspired and influenced the writers I like. For example, one of my favorite writers is H. P. Lovecraft. A friend of mine introduced me to Lovecraft’s storis when I was a teenager and I’ve been hooked ever since (I’ll save the full story of my introduction to Lovecraft for a separate post). As I got older, I started to explore the authors that Lovecraft grew up reading and those that influenced him: Edgar A. Poe, Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen, and Algernon Blackwood. By doing this, I’ve discovered some wonderful stories, and, in the case of Poe, I’ve read an author with fresh eyes.

Recently, I’ve started reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ planetary romance A Princess of Mars (which incidentally was the last book I bought from Borders). I read that it was a model for Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, as well as countless other science fiction/fantasy stories, so I put it on my “to read” list.

I’ve only read the first couple chapters, but from what I’ve read, it seems that Princess was also very influential on the work of Robert E. Howard, in particular his Conan stories. Both have a “barbarian” warrior coming into contact with an ancient and dying civilization, which itself is built on the ruins of an even more ancient civilization. It’s wonderful to find these “hidden” gems.

Have you read the works that have influenced your favorite author? Did you like them? Did reading them add to your appreciation of your favorite writer?

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2 Comments

Filed under Ramblings

2 responses to “John Carter and Literary Archeology

  1. This is brilliant! I want to be a literary archaeologist. I can get a fedora and a whip and everything, because that’s what films taught me that archaeology is all about, and Hollywood never lies to me. 😀

    But seriously, I think the concept is amazing. I love finding the influences behind my favorite writers and using that to expand my horizons. Neil Gaiman’s forwards to anything I read instantly send me looking for anything that he might reference as an impact on his work.

  2. tkguthat

    Thanks for the comment! I’m glad you liked it. Very true about Gaiman. I love his introduction to The Queen of Elfland’s Daughter, and his introduction for Del Ray’s collection of Lovecraft’s Dreamlands Cycle.

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