the Little Red Reviewer

the new adventures of Carson of Venus!

Posted on: January 18, 2021

In 1932, Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the first of what would be five Venus novels, starring Carson Napier.  Napier had thought he was navigating towards Mars, but one wrong calculation took him to Venus!  Called Amtor by the natives, the planet is covered in a thick cloud cover. Napier’s adventures on Venus include earning the love of Princess Duare, piracy, getting involved in politics, rescuing people, dealing with classism, daring escapes, and generally having as many adventures as can possibly be crammed into a sword and planet pulp novel.

There were only five Carson of Venus novels. . .   until now!

 

The Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe is relaunching the Carson of Venus series!  The pulping characters from yesteryear, written , well, today!   Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds by Matt Betts will be available this spring.

I realize this isn’t strictly Vintage Science Fiction, since Betts’ book is being published now. But? I was SO CURIOUS to know how and why Betts wrote this! And how in the heck would a contemporary writer write in the style of pulp fiction from the 1930s and 1940’s?   So, like any good blogger, I asked him.  You can learn more about Matt Betts at his website, or by following him on twitter @Betts_Matt. Check out all the Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe books and comics here.

Wanna know if you need to read the original Carson of Venus stories to enjoy this new one?  Wanna know about Betts’ adventures in writing canon in someone else’s world?  What about the stickier issues of modernizing pulp fiction?  Of course you want to know! read on!

Little Red Reviewer: Who is Carson of Venus, and how did you get involved with writing in the Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe?

Matt Betts: Carson Napier is a character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs for a series of novels that were first published in 1932. Burroughs originally wrote four novels and a novella with the character, and started another book but abandoned it with the outbreak of World War II, when he became a war correspondent.

Carson is an earth man that built a rocket to fly to Mars. Unfortunately, he miscalculated one vital factor, which throws him off course and eventually lands him on Venus, or Amtor as the inhabitants call it. Carson is a little different from other pulp heroes of the time in that he isn’t infallible, and is a little more thoughtful in his plans.

I got involved through the new Director of Publications, Christopher Paul Carey. I’d submitted some work to him when he was with another company, and he remembered my writing. When he was hired on at ERB, Inc., he contacted me and discussed his ideas to continue some of Burroughs’ stories. This was exciting enough, but the plan was to make these canonical additions to Burroughs’ series. The idea of being part of these worlds was really too interesting to pass up. We discussed how the series would start and decided Carson would be a wonderful launch for the new series he had planned.

LRR: What went through your head, as you started reading ERB’s original Carson of Venus books, and comparing his writing style to yours?

MB: It was daunting to be sure. I mean it’s one thing to say I’d love to write a Edgar Rice Burroughs book, but sitting down to actually do it is a whole other matter. There’s a lot of expectation riding on new work in an established series by a pulp legend.

Reading ERB’s work was a big part of preparing to write the book. I read the Carson books first, of course, to get a feel for the series and the characters, but I also read most of the John Carter of Mars books and a few others to really get Burroughs’ style. After that, I read the Venus books again (and again.) While they didn’t ask me to emulate Burroughs exactly in my book, I did have a few directives from ERB, Inc. that included sticking to Burroughs’ point of view for the series, keeping to their spirit, and his storytelling conventions.


Most of my books have been pulp or something close to it, so it was really a matter of seeing what the difference was in our structures and language. It was great to have the support of everyone at ERB, Inc. whenever I had a question, or a crazy idea.

LRR: What is the premise of your new novel, Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds? What should readers expect?

MB: What’s fun about the story, is also got to help write a three-issue prequel to the book called The Eye of Amtor. It allowed me to sort of warm up on the characters before I really dove into the book. Even better, we made it so the book was able to literally pick up where the comics ended, but we did it in such a way that you don’t need to read the comics to know what’s happening in the novel.

So in Carson of Venus: The Edge of all Worlds, I introduce a new race of creatures, called Linneauns, that come out of an area that Carson never got around to exploring in the original novels. They are fierce warriors bent on conquering the planet by force, or by treaties with the major civilizations. As Carson and his friends investigate, he discovers some strange ties to his past amid the destruction in the Linneauns’ wake. He meets new characters to the series and familiar faces to those who know the original stories. Eventually, he and his group confront the army and a new villain who holds a grudge against Carson that’s been building for years.

I enjoyed writing the book because I got to give new readers a tour of Amtor/Venus, showing some of the main locations and characters Burroughs himself wrote, but I also had the freedom to introduce new personalities and places that I created just for this book. It was wonderful to be able to take my idea and run with it. I really had fun creating the new characters and giving them interesting personalities and roles in the plotline.

I also get to introduce a new character to the stories, Victory Harben. She is an old friend of a friend of Carson’s from Earth and her appearance in my story serves as a through line for the series that follows this book, The Swords of Eternity. She also appears in a short story at the end of this book. Christopher Paul Carey wrote that story catching the reader up on where things begin for this character.

LRR: Tell us some really fun things about reading Edgar Rice Burroughs style adventure stories, and some really fun things about writing in that genre.

MB: I enjoyed writing the book because I got to give new readers a tour of Amtor/Venus, showing some of the main locations and characters Burroughs himself wrote, but I also had the freedom to introduce new personalities and places that I created just for this book. It was wonderful to be able to take my idea and run with it. I really had fun creating the new characters and giving them interesting personalities and roles in the plotline.

It was so much fun to write in Burroughs’ world because I did have that established history to work in. There was a mythology that was already established and vivid, but that still gave me room to create in. I tell people that I was glad to write a Carson novel, because there’s only four novels and a novella that are canonical. That’s compared to a character like Tarzan that has almost thirty novels in canon, plus all the other very popular interpretations of the character in film and cartoons. So, there is so much to keep straight in that property as to what you have to follow, what you have to ignore. Even John Carter had a lot to keep straight in his series, so Carson was a great character to be able to work with from the standpoint of research and continuity.

I’ve always loved reading these stories because truly anything can happen. I mean, sure, today we know quite a bit about Venus and its atmosphere and conditions. We’re pretty sure scientifically, that there aren’t thriving civilizations under those clouds but it’s so much fun to imagine “What if?” It’s just terrific escapism when you read it. And I think that’s why I enjoy writing it so much. You have very few limits, except what you set for yourself, or in this case what has been set by the original writer.

LRR: As fun as it is to read, a lot of “old scifi” can be problematically dated. What is the value in bringing those story lines back? Should it be adapted for a more modern audience, and if yes, how might that be accomplished?

MB: I think that’s one of the things that drew me into this. I had a couple of conversations about that with Christopher at ERB, Inc. and we both agreed that these novels would be a way of bringing these stories into the modern era. We wanted to make sure we had well-rounded characters, and that the women were just as tough and intelligent as the men. We didn’t want to have female characters as just someone to be rescued. Carson Napier was a terrific character to me because he was getting rescued more often than not in the original books. He was a character that made mistakes. I think the group of characters I’ve surrounded Carson with in this book is exciting and they challenge some of the traditional roles people are used to from the pulp era.

It’s tough to say how or even whether “old scifi” story lines need to brought back. Some of the more intriguing elements can be updated with more inclusion of the people that were ignored in those tales, and by creating story lines that incorporate other more diverse cultures. I’m thrilled by the movies and TV shows that are turning our expectations on their heads. As I said earlier, science fiction is that wonderful genre where anything can happen, so why wouldn’t we want to use the largest possible starting point when dreaming that up?

LRR:  Thanks so much Matt! 

6 Responses to "the new adventures of Carson of Venus!"

Thank you for this interview!
Remembers me of these two anthologies from Dozois that are sitting on my shelf: „Old Venus“ and „Old Mars“. I really need to read them – well-known authors from our time writing like pulp times. There is certainly a market for this!

Liked by 1 person

I was a fan of the Barsoom and Amtor novels as a kid, and recently re- read Pirates of Venus, so this is fun to see. 🙂 I think it’s interesting that ERB, Inc had certain conventions they wanted writers to follow- especially the ERB POV. That definitely is a bridge to the older stories I imagine!

Great interview!

Liked by 2 people

Oh, how FUN! I didn’t even know there were ERB Venus novels! Thank you!!

Liked by 1 person

Oooo, this sounds like so much fun! Great interview and now, excuse me while I go dig out some ERB … 😁

Liked by 2 people

Right? the original A Princess of Mars is a ton of fun! (and the Disney movie, John Carter of Mars is absolutely ridiculous, but also a lot of fun)

Liked by 1 person

Aaah, I love that goofy movie so much! (Mostly for Woola). 😁

Liked by 2 people

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