reading several thousand words of breathless pulp fiction Burroughs determined
~ or so he claimed ~ that "if people were paid for writing rot such as
I read in some of those magazines that I could write stories just as rotten.
As a matter of fact, although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely
that I could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lot
more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines." This may be nothing
more than a legend Burroughs liked to tell to show how he came into his
own as a writer. He had actually written stories before this time, mostly
fairy tales and poems he created for his children, nieces and nephews.
The most elaborate of these stories, Minidoka, 937th Earl of One Mile
Series M, has been printed by Dark Horse Comics.
But in 1911, Burroughs decided
to write a full-blown novel, and the tale he wrote was as far removed from
the life of a pencil sharpener wholesaler as one could possibly imagine.
This flight of fancy, entitled "Dejah Thoris, Martian Princess," was so
exotic that Burroughs was worried that editors might think he was a little
touched in the head. So he submitted the story under a pseudonym, Normal
Bean, a joke indicating that his head was indeed screwed on the right way.
In submitting his manuscript
to All-Story magazine he found luck the first time out: editor Thomas Metcalf
liked the tale and offered Burroughs 400 dollars, an extravagant sum. The
story, renamed "Under the Moons of Mars," was serialized from February
to July of 1912. Burroughs wound up being renamed as well: his pseudonym
was changed to Norman Bean. (When this story appeared in book form it received
its final title, A Princess of Mars; both Normal and Norman were
abandoned in favor of the author's real name.) By the time of the last
installment of "Under the Moons of Mars" Burroughs had completed his third
novel. The second one, "The Outlaw of Torn," was rejected by Metcalf, but
the third novel was a little trifle called "Tarzan of the Apes." Burroughs
was now a bona fide full-time writer.
"Tarzan of the Apes" appeared in the October 1912 issue of All-Story magazine.
Burroughs received 700 dollars for the tale ~ and his career was off and
running. Burroughs quickly discovered (probably to his secret delight,
and certainly to the delight of countless readers) that he had many more
tales to tell. There would be the inevitable Tarzan and Mars sequels but
Burroughs' imagination needed even more worlds in which to roam, and so
in the next few years he would try his hand at almost every type of story
imaginable. Burroughs created the fabulous prehistoric inner world of Pellucidar
(starting with At the Earth's Core), wrote other cave man fantasies
(The Eternal Savage and The Land That Time Forgot), tales
of courtly intrigue (The Mad King), a horror story (The Monster
Men), novels of social realism (The Girl From Hollywood), Robinson
Crusoe-type adventures (The Cave Girl), and one story that combined
all of the above (The Mucker). Later still he would write westerns
(The War Chief and others) and created yet another series, this
one set on the planet Venus (starting with Pirates of Venus). But
Tarzan would earn Burroughs his greatest success.