Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar Saga: Savage Pellucidar

Saturday, November 11th, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

savage-pellucidar-canaveral-press-edition-coverHave we already arrived at the end of Pellucidar? It feels like I started examining this Edgar Rice Burroughs series only a few months ago — but it’s been almost a year since I drilled down to visit At the Earth’s Core. A year may have passed for me, but thirty has passed for Burroughs, and counting the time until the last unpublished novella was collected in Savage Pellucidar, the gap widens to fifty years. If you read At the Earth’s Core in the pulps as an enthusiastic thirteen-year-old, you’d be close to retirement age by the time you could buy the last book and have a complete Pellucidar set.

Wait, what am I talking about? This is Pellucidar. Time is meaningless here! I started writing this article series yesterday — or maybe a century ago, and the books were all published either over a span of one year or five hundred years. It’s all the same under the perpetual noonday sun.

Our Saga: Beneath our feet lies a realm beyond the most vivid daydreams of the fantastic … Pellucidar. A subterranean world formed along the concave curve inside the earth’s crust, surrounding an eternally stationary sun that eliminates the concept of time. A land of savage humanoids, fierce beasts, and reptilian overlords, Pellucidar is the weird stage for adventurers from the topside layer — including a certain Lord Greystoke. The series consists of six novels, one which crosses over with the Tarzan series, plus a volume of linked novellas, published between 1914 and 1963.

Today’s Installment: Savage Pellucidar (1963)

Previous Installments: At the Earth’s Core (1914), Pellucidar (1915), Tanar of Pellucidar (1929), Tarzan at the Earth’s Core (1929–30), Back to the Stone Age (1937), Land of Terror (1944)

The Backstory

I’ve told this tale before with Escape on Venus and Llana of Gathol, the sister works of Savage Pellucidar, but once more won’t hurt. At the start of the 1940s, Edgar Rice Burroughs experimented writing novels in three of his settings — Mars, Venus, and Pellucidar — as sets of four linked novellas. Each novella was capable of standing on its own but could later fit together with the other three for book publication. The idea may have been the suggestion of Cyril Ralph Rothmund, business manager for ERB Inc., who first wrote a letter to the editor of Ziff-Davis Magazines with the format proposal. It was an experiment of necessity, since the pulps were turning away from serializations as more of the weekly magazines dropped to monthly publication. Burroughs approached the three books as a round-robin, changing from one setting to the next to finish all the novellas.

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Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar Saga: Land of Terror

Saturday, July 29th, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

land-of-terror-john-coleman-burroughs-first-edition-coverHere we are. The sixth book in the Pellucidar series, about which its author had this to say: “Perhaps the trouble is that it is one of a series which should have been concluded with the last story instead of trying to carry on without any logical reason.”

Oh boy. What I do next I take no pleasure in. I want to like Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. Sometimes it’s fun to shred up a terrible movie or book, and sometimes it’s simply the easier analytical path. But kicking writers you love when they’re down … that feels ugly. If you’ve never read an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel before, maybe go try this, or this, or how about this, and skip what I’ve written below. Seriously, I would never, ever, want to discourage someone from reading the works of one of the twentieth century’s great imaginative spinners of tales.

For those of you sticking around, hey, thanks plenty for wanting to read my analyses of ERB. Whenever we want to feel good about Edgar Rice Burroughs, we have a dozen or so classics we can pick up and — bam! — transported to wondrous realms of infinite adventure. So after reading this article, I recommend you pick one of your personal favorite Burroughs novels. I’m feeling the urge to return to The Land That Time Forgot. I adore that book, and I haven’t read it in a few years.

Yes, I’m stalling.

Our Saga: Beneath our feet lies a realm beyond the most vivid daydreams of the fantastic … Pellucidar. A subterranean world formed along the concave curve inside the earth’s crust, surrounding an eternally stationary sun that eliminates the concept of time. A land of savage humanoids, fierce beasts, and reptilian overlords, Pellucidar is the weird stage for adventurers from the topside layer — including a certain Lord Greystoke. The series consists of six novels, one which crosses over with the Tarzan series, plus a volume of linked novellas, published between 1914 and 1963.

Today’s Installment: Land of Terror (1944)

Previous Installments: At the Earth’s Core (1914), Pellucidar (1915), Tanar of Pellucidar (1929), Tarzan at the Earth’s Core (1929–30), Back to the Stone Age (1937)

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Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar Saga: Back to the Stone Age

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

back-to-stone-age-first-edition-cover-john-coleman-burroughsI’ve now arrived at that period in the Pellucidar series. The period any Edgar Rice Burroughs series eventually reaches: the late 1930s. I took a break from my Pellucidar retrospective to look at Burroughs’s 1913 horror-adventure novel The Monster Men just to delay taking the next step and driving my snowmobile headfirst into the hard ice of the poorest period of Burroughs’s career. But now I’m here and must accept the facts of the late ‘30s and an author trudging through his weakest creative years. Maybe it won’t be so bad. Perhaps I’ll discover a few pleasures in the last three Pellucidar books.

Anyway, enough procrastination. I’m getting on the snowmobile.

Our Saga: Beneath our feet lies a realm beyond the most vivid daydreams of the fantastic … Pellucidar. A subterranean world formed along the concave curve inside the earth’s crust, surrounding an eternally stationary sun that eliminates the concept of time. A land of savage humanoids, fierce beasts, and reptilian overlords, Pellucidar is the weird stage for adventurers from the topside layer — including a certain Lord Greystoke. The series consists of six novels, one which crosses over with the Tarzan series, plus a volume of linked novellas, published between 1914 and 1963.

Today’s Installment: Back to the Stone Age (1937)

Previous Installments: At the Earth’s Core (1914), Pellucidar (1915), Tanar of Pellucidar (1929), Tarzan at the Earth’s Core (1929–30)

The Backstory

The ending of Tarzan at the Earth’s Core set the scene for a direct follow-up. Wilhelm von Horst, one of the German members of the O-220 expedition to Pellucidar to rescue David Innes, was still stranded somewhere in the inner world, and Jason Gridley chose to remain in Pellucidar to locate him. But other projects and business concerns prevented Burroughs from moving fast into writing this proposed sequel. He wouldn’t start work on the new Pellucidar novel until January 1935, writing it under the working title Back to the Stone Age: A Romance of the Inner World. It took him eight months to finish the 80,000-word novel, an unusually protracted length for him. And that was only the beginning of the difficulties.

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Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar Saga: Tarzan at the Earth’s Core

Saturday, April 8th, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

tarzan-at-the-earths-core-first-edition-j-allen-st-johnYou’ll believe a Stegosaurus can fly!

In the time I’ve written about Edgar Rice Burroughs for Black Gate, only once have I examined one of his Tarzan books. That was eight years ago. This lack of Tarzan representation isn’t because I dislike the character. A number of the early Tarzan adventures rate among my favorite Burroughs novels, and I’ll defend Tarzan of the Apes as one of the twentieth century’s Great Books. But since there’s more information available about Tarzan than any other Burroughs series, my literary adventuring was more interesting when it stayed in hinterlands of ERBiana.

However, it’s a thrill to have the ape-man swing in through the side door during one of my series retrospectives. Let’s welcome Tarzan onto the stage of Pellucidar. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Sagoths of all ages … it’s crossover time!

Our Saga: Beneath our feet lies a realm beyond the most vivid daydreams of the fantastic … Pellucidar. A subterranean world formed along the concave curve inside the earth’s crust, surrounding an eternally stationary sun that eliminates the concept of time. A land of savage humanoids, fierce beasts, and reptilian overlords, Pellucidar is the weird stage for adventurers from the topside layer — including a certain Lord Greystoke. The series consists of six novels, one which crosses over with the Tarzan series, plus a volume of linked novellas, published between 1914 and 1963.

Today’s Installment: Tarzan at the Earth’s Core (1929–30)

Previous Installments: At the Earth’s Core (1914), Pellucidar (1915), Tanar of Pellucidar (1929)

The Backstory

Although most of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s novels occur in the same universe, linked through the author’s fictional surrogate version of himself, Tarzan at the Earth’s Core is the only point where a character from one series leaps to another as the protagonist. It’s the fourth Pellucidar novel and the thirteenth Tarzan novel — full crossover achieved for the first and last time in the ERB canon.

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Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar Saga: Tanar of Pellucidar

Saturday, February 25th, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

tanar-of-pellucidar-original-printing-coverA long time has passed, both on the surface of the Earth’s sphere and within it. On the surface, it’s been almost fifteen years since Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the second of his inner world adventures, Pellucidar. During this time, ERB penned another ten Tarzan novels, a couple more Martian ones, and a few of his finest standalone tales. Burroughs incorporated himself and set up the offices of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. in a part of the San Fernando Valley soon to be named Tarzana. It seemed unlikely he would return to writing about Pellucidar after almost a decade and a half… but then he hatched a plan to give the Tarzan series a boost using the fuel of the Earth’s Core.

Our Saga: Beneath our feet lies a realm beyond the most vivid daydreams of the fantastic … Pellucidar. A subterranean world formed along the concave curve inside the earth’s crust, surrounding an eternally stationary sun that eliminates the concept of time. A land of savage humanoids, fierce beasts, and reptilian overlords, Pellucidar is the weird stage for adventurers from the topside layer — including a certain Lord Greystoke. The series consists of six novels, one which crosses over with the Tarzan series, plus a volume of linked novellas, published between 1914 and 1963.

Today’s Installment: Tanar of Pellucidar (1929)

Previous Installments: At the Earth’s Core (1914), Pellucidar (1915)

The Backstory

The gap between Pellucidar and Tanar of Pellucidar is fourteen years, the longest hiatus for any of ERB’s major series. Despite numerous pleas from readers, Burroughs apparently had no intention to explore Pellucidar further. But at the end of the 1920s, he devised a plan to jolt life back into the Tarzan books by sending the Lord of the Apes somewhere stranger than the usual lost jungle cities. He already had that “somewhere stranger” waiting to be used: Pellucidar was the perfect Tarzan destination vacation!

But first, Pellucidar needed a bit of a dusting-off to set it up for Lord Greystoke’s arrival, as well as to remind the reading public that the setting existed. Burroughs put into action a two-book plan, starting with a new standalone Pellucidar novel to lure readers into the upcoming Tarzan adventure.

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Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar Saga: Pellucidar

Saturday, January 14th, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

Pellucidar-1st-Edition-Cover-smallWelcome back to the concave world of Pellucidar and the second novel in Edgar Rice Burroughs’s series of adventures within the globe: the eponymous Pellucidar. ERB left readers in suspense about the fate of hero David Innes at the close of At the Earth’s Core, but only a year later delivered audiences from the tension and closed out a duology about the Imperial Conquest of the Pellucidar. (And we still have five more volumes to go after this.)

Our Saga: Beneath our feet lies a realm beyond the most vivid daydreams of the fantastic… Pellucidar. A subterranean world formed along the concave curve inside the earth’s crust, surrounding an eternally stationary sun that eliminates the concept of time. A land of savage humanoids, fierce beasts, and reptilian overlords, Pellucidar is the weird stage for adventurers from the topside layer — including a certain Lord Greystoke. The series consists of six novels, one which crosses over with the Tarzan series, plus a volume of linked novellas, published between 1914 and 1963.

Today’s Installment: Pellucidar (1915)

Previous Installments: At the Earth’s Core (1914)

The Backstory

During the mid-teens, Edgar Rice Burroughs frequently wrote with the aim of creating two-part novels. The books we know today as The Mad King, The Cave Girl, and The Eternal Lover are combinations of an original novel and its closely connected sequel. The Pellucidar series might have gone the same way. The sequel to At the Earth’s Core was written at this time and serves as an immediate follow-up that brings the story of its first novel to a conclusion. If Burroughs hadn’t returned to the setting fourteen years later and continued writing more about Pellucidar, it’s possible that At the Earth’s Core and Pellucidar would be considered a single novel today — probably simply titled At the Earth’s Core. (My title choice would be Conquest of the Earth’s Core.)

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Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar Saga: At the Earth’s Core

Saturday, December 10th, 2016 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

at-the-earths-core-first-edition-j-allen-st-johnOnce upon a time, I shouldered the enjoyable burden of analyzing all of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Venus (Amtor) novels. Then, to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the publication of A Princess of Mars, I took on the same task for the Mars (Barsoom) novels. It was inevitable that I would one day bring the same survey methods to the Pellucidar novels at the center of the earth. (Sorry, a Tarzan series just won’t happen. There are far too many Tarzan novels for the sanity of even the most hardcore ERB fan to take in concentrated doses.)

Our Saga: Beneath our feet lies a realm beyond the most vivid daydreams of the fantastic… Pellucidar. A subterranean world formed along the concave curve inside the earth’s crust, surrounding an eternally stationary sun that eliminates the concept of time. A land of savage humanoids, fierce beasts, and reptilian overlords, Pellucidar is the weird stage for adventurers from the topside layer — including a certain Lord Greystoke. The series consists of six novels, one which crosses over with the Tarzan series, plus a volume of linked novellas, published between 1914 and 1963.

Today’s Installment: At the Earth’s Core (1914)

The Backstory

Subterranean realms of the fantastic have a history reaching back to antiquity. But it was the nineteenth-century speculative theories of Captain John Cleves Symmes about the hollow earth that ignited a wave of fictional explorations of What Lies Within: “I declare the earth is hollow, and habitable within; containing a number of solid concentrick [sic] spheres.”

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Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar Saga: Series Wrap-Up

Saturday, November 18th, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

at-the-earths-core-frank-frazetta-interior

Last week I concluded my book-by-book look at Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar novels, the prehistoric world inside the Earth’s crust where the stationary sun eradicates the passage of time. The complete series consists of seven books:

Compared to Burroughs’s other two long-running science-fiction series, Mars/Barsoom and Venus/Amtor, Pellucidar is more difficult to summarize. The Venus novels were written over a short period of time during the end of Burroughs’s career and all feature the same hero, Carson Napier. There are no Venus classics, with the best (Lost on Venus) only middling and the rest ranging from bland to unreadable. The Mars series presents a vast canvas that arcs across Burroughs’s career, but it’s the most consistently high quality of any of his series, including the Tarzan novels, so it’s not too difficult to give it a broad analysis that primarily looks at changes in protagonists.

The Pellucidar books, however, present conundrums when consumed in a short period. Like Mars, Pellucidar spans the major phases of ERB’s career: success in the ‘teens, a stabilizing period in the twenties, a steepening decline throughout the thirties, a World War II revival, and a “lost” story and final volume published posthumously in the sixties. Unlike Mars, Burroughs visited Pellucidar sporadically, with a fourteen-year lapse after the first two paired novels, and later a seven-year gap.

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The Top Black Gate Posts in April

Saturday, May 20th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Traveller Core Rulebook Mongoose-back-small Traveller Core Rulebook Mongoose-small

The most popular topic at Black Gate last month was the new edition of the classic SF role playing game Traveller from Mongoose Publishing. And the most popular blogger was our roving games reporter M Harold Page, who covered the new edition in two posts that both made the Top Ten. Well done, Mr. Page! (However, we need to talk about those expense reports from that Altairian space bar. What exactly is a “Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster?”)

Meanwhile, back here on Earth, Ryan Harvey had the overall most popular post in April, with exciting news on the upcoming Godzilla sequel. Hot on his heels was David B. Coe, with an article on setting and the craft of worldbuilding. Next up was Sean McLachlan, our man in Egypt, who donned a worn fedora and penetrated deep into the early tombs of ancient Egypt, sending back a trove of photographic evidence (and two mummified spiders, which thrilled Goth Chick to no end.) Rounding out the Top Five was Robert Zoltan’s far-ranging discussion with BG Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones, on the master of Sword & Sorcery himself, Robert E. Howard.

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The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in January

Sunday, February 26th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Black-Science-Volume-1-smallerWell, this is a little recursive. As I draft the list of Top Ten BG articles last month, I learn that our most posts in January were… Top Ten lists.

That includes Brandon Crilly’s Top Ten Books I Read in 2016, sitting right at the top of the heap, as well as GeekDad‘s Best Tabletop Games of 2016 (at #2), John DeNardo’s Best of the Best: The Definitive List of 2016’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy (#3), and even the Top 50 Black Gate Posts in December (#6).

What can I say? At the start of a new year, everybody seems to want to know what the heck they missed last year.

It wasn’t all about Top Ten lists last month, of course. Coming in at number 4 was Fletcher Vredenburgh’s review of Michael Crichton’s 1976 novel Eaters of the Dead (and the classic film derived from it, The 13th Warrior). Rounding out the Top 5 for the month was Ryan Harvey’s second installment in his survey of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar Saga.

Also on the Top Ten list were Violette Malan’s essay “Retrofitting, And When It Doesn’t Work,” Bob Byrne’s look at a gorgeous new Solar Pons Omnibus, Bob’s affectionate examination of perhaps the finest D&D adventure ever made, “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About The Temple of Elemental Evil,” and Elizabeth Crowens’s Interview with a Brooklyn Vampire.

The complete list of Top Articles for January follows. Below that, I’ve also broken out the most popular overall articles, online fiction, and blog categories for the month.

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