Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The Great And The Good

What makes a writer "great"? One criterion is that the classics are always in print, with multiple editions and publishers after their copyright has expired. Some other works, e.g., Poul Anderson's Tau Zero, are remembered as "classics" and occasionally reprinted as such.

However, a writer can be popular and prolific while lacking quality and depth. Edgar Rice Burroughs' principal accomplishment seems to be that he created several characters and settings that were eminently adaptable to visual media. Tarzan, John Carter, the Earth's Core and the Land that Time Forgot have all been big-screened. However, ERB's characters and societies are uni-dimensional. Heroes are physically fearless. Villains are callous and cowardly. Rulers are just or tyrannical.

Poul Anderson created filmable characters, not yet filmed, and excelled in all the ways in which ERB lacked. My copy of ERB's Beyond The Farthest Star (New York, 1964) advertises a Burroughs Bibliophiles club and three magazines: ERB-dom, The Barsoomian and ERBANIA. Needless to say, I believe that Anderson deserves all this and more.

In his introductory blurb, Donald Wollheim describes ERB as "...this great writer." The Afterword acknowledges that ERB is "...not fully recognized by some critics and libraries..." (p. 126). Surely it should be recognized that ERB is good at action-adventure fiction but not "great" as a writer? What is Anderson's status? At least "very good" at action-adventure fiction and at much more than that.

ERB wrote 68 books. Does anyone know Anderson's total?

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Aw, maybe Edgar Rice Burroughs was too fond of purple prose, but I greatly enjoy his Barsoom books. And we both know of my geeky fondness for using the Barsoomian greeting "kaor." (Smiles)

If any producer or director wants to take a chance filming an accurate version of one of Poul Anderson's stories I would recommend "The Game Of Glory." Because I think it might need only fairly minimal special effects--and thus be good for gaining experience in filming serious SF. I would suggest the story be filmed in the Bahamas.

I too wish there were serious publications devoted to commentary on the works of Poul Anderson. Oh well, we'll have to make do with this blog! (Smiles)

I consulted my CODEX ANDERSONIANUS, a compilation of notes, lists, quotes, extracts, etc., from the works of Poul Anderson to check how many of his books I have. I stress that there is some overlapping of material and duplication of the same works in both paperback and hard cover. I have 35 Anderson paperbacks and 103 hardbacks (I included a few trade paperbacks with the hard covers).