Monday, 1 March 2010

Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Moon Maid (1926)

Some covers for this old Pulp classic are just beautiful. Here's the first edition for instance:Isn't that splendid? (the compositional dynamism! the font!) Not all editions have been so aesthetically pleasing, mind. Here's a recent edition:Funny way to spell 'Burroughs', you're saying. And you're right. It is.

Still, it's a jolly yarn. Burroughs started writing it during the First World War (which the novel, optimistically, predicts as ending in 1967). The Barsoom, a spaceship bound on an exploratory voyage to Mars, instead crashes on the moon thanks to the drunken malice of one crewmember. They're captured by the Va-gas, black horse-like animal with a human faces; and later they encounter the more humanoid No-vans, amongst them the Futuramistically named Nah-ee-lah (the Moon Maid herself). There's a lot of adventuring, to-ing and fro-ing, and rather more eating of raw corpses than I had anticipated; plus a climactic big battle against the subterranean, DeepSpaceNineishly-named Jemadar (presumablym like the Trek scripters, Burroughs also browsed his Hobson-Jobson) before the hero Julian and his moon maid love-interest finally escape back to Earth. There are two more books in the trilogy, which I very much look forward to reading. What a pip!

Still, it's a book that artists' have interpreted many ways. For some, it's all about cherubs and umbrellas:
And for others it's all about bottoms.The true mark of a classic.

Update (courtesy of Mark W):

She's nicely louche, isn't she? As Mark notes, it's not entirely clear how she's holding on, whilst her mount seems to be practicing (if he's left handed) a forward drive, or (if he's right handed) perhaps a reverse sweep.


400 Lonely Things said...

Frazetta's "Moon Maid" image is the single greatest creation of mankind.

The second book in this series is absolutely incredible and unlike anything Burroughs has ever written. Although in many of his novels, Burroughs reveals a contempt for religion - in "The Moon Men" he's seems to be making a statement about authoritarianism / communism / tyranny and the triumph of religious diversity when united in the face of despotic regimes.

The third book "The Red Hawk" is also an excellent departure from the first novel and is connected to the first in only a "Highlander-esque" sort of way.

Mark_W said...

On the other hand, the cover of my Tandem edition seems to be about the Moon Maid being so pissed that only desperately grabbing a fistful of the horse-thingy’s hair is preventing her from slowly tipping backwards off her steed and ending up in an undignified heap on a pile of skulls.

There’s a picture of it at Erbzine here (scroll to bottom of page and it’s the first one in the second row...I do like the “Maagd Op De Maan” cover on that page too...)

Adam Roberts said...

400 L.T.: it's very hard to disagree with you.

Mark W. Your use of 'pissed' for angry suggests to me that you're America. Conversely, the fact that the first thing that occurred to me upon seeing the image you mention was 'cricket!' should give you a clue as to my nationality.

Mark_W said...


Actually, being also of the UK persuasion, I meant "pissed" in the sense of drunk, although it's possibly only my face that looks like that after too many ales...

Gutted the cricket thing didn't strike me; you're quite right about about that, and I've been trying to work out what shot the horse-thingy is playing too. It doesn't help that perhaps all of his feet seem to be in the wrong place -- either way, I think he's looking at a leading edge and a simple catch for short mid-wicket...

Adam Roberts said...

Mark W: I stand corrected! Your comment makes more sense now, actually.

His feet, yes. You mean his back pair?

Mark_W said...

Indeed (although I'm not sure what to make of his front pair, either).

However, on reflection, (and, tragically, I have actually been reflecting on this today)I tend to think that:

a] a left-handed drive is the more likely aim; and

b] it's perhaps harsh of me to berate the centaur chap for possibly departing from the MCC text-book when even Jack Hobbs might have struggled if asked to bat with some drunk woman sat on his back pulling his hair...



Adam Roberts said...

Your day has not been wasted, sir.

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