After 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
the Earth's Core), wrote other cave man fantasies (The
Eternal Lover 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.