18 July, 2008

Edgar Rice Burroughs



Edgar Rice Burroughs was an American author, best known for his creation of the jungle hero Tarzan and the heroic John Carter, although he produced works in many genres.

Burroughs was born on September 1, 1875 in Chicago, Illinois. He was educated at a number of local schools, and during the Chicago influenza epidemic in 1891 spent a half year on his brothers' ranch on the Raft River in Idaho. He then attended the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and then the Michigan Military Academy. Graduating in 1895, and failing the entrance exam for West Point, he ended up as an enlisted soldier with the 7th U.S. Cavalry in Fort Grant, Arizona Territory. After being diagnosed with a heart problem and thus found ineligible for a commission, he was discharged in 1897.

What followed was a string of seemingly unrelated and short stint jobs. Following a period of drifting and ranch work in Idaho, Burroughs found work at his father's firm in 1899. In 1904 he left his job and found less regular work, initially in Idaho but soon back in Chicago.

By 1911, after seven years of low wages, he was working as a pencil sharpener wholesaler and began to write fiction. By this time Burroughs and Emma had two children, Joan and Hulbert.

Aiming his work at these pulp fiction magazines, his first story "Under the Moons of Mars" was serialized in The All-Story magazine in 1912 and earned Burroughs US$400. Burroughs soon took up writing full-time and by the time the run of Under the Moons of Mars had finished he had completed two novels, including Tarzan of the Apes, which was published from October 1912 and went on to begin his most successful series.

Burroughs also wrote popular science fiction and fantasy stories involving Earthly adventurers transported to various planets, lost islands, and into the interior of the hollow earth in his Pellucidar stories, as well as westerns and historical romances. Along with All-Story, many of his stories were published in the Argosy Magazine.

Tarzan was a cultural sensation when introduced. Burroughs was determined to capitalize on Tarzan's popularity in every way possible. He planned to exploit Tarzan through several different media including a syndicated Tarzan comic strip, movies and merchandise. Experts in the field advised against this course of action, stating that the different media would just end up competing against each other. Burroughs went ahead, however, and proved the experts wrong—the public wanted Tarzan in whatever fashion he was offered. Tarzan remains one of the most successful fictional characters to this day and is a cultural icon.

In 1923 Burroughs set up his own company, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., and began printing his own books through the 1930s.

At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor he was a resident of Hawaii and, despite being in his late sixties, he asked for permission to be a war correspondent. This permission was granted and so he became the oldest war correspondent for the U.S. during World War II. After the war ended, Burroughs moved back to Encino, California, where, after many health problems, he died of a heart attack on March 19, 1950, having written almost seventy novels.

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