The list of major creative minds who, in their boyhood, discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs’ world of Barsoom and were inspired by it are legion: Ray Bradbury, Arthur Clark, Carl Sagan, and James Cameron are just a few who are on record as having been mightily influenced by the master.  And so I was struck by these comments, just posted today on an movie message board by the test screening viewer who, somewhat famously at this point, wrote a glowing review of John Carter. She’s still on the board, still answering questions. Today she wrote this in response to apologies that have been posted by various of those who doubted her when she first posted:

Thanks guys (I assume you are all men, forgive me if you’re not)for the apologies. As an educator, I think people forget that movies (and all types of film medium for that matter) have the power to inspire people to read. After watching the Tudors mini-series, I went on a King Henry VIII kick for nearly a year. Never once was I interested in the guy or the time period before that series. I pretty much loathed 7th grade because of medieval world history.

On a more embarrassing note, I read the Twilight and Sookie Stackhouse series after seeing the movies and True Blood mini-series. I studied all about pirates after The Pirates of the Caribbean. I had to make a file-cabinet for my (useless) pirate research. How many middle schoolers are now reading Rick Riordan after seeing the Percy Jackson series?

Even if this movie doesn’t do well, many people like me, will pick up a Burroughs book for the first time and read it (or 11 more in this case). And if we’re lucky many of those readers will be children. Classic literature making a come-back. Awesome.

She has a point. Every one of the Martian novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs is available to read for free at the click of a search bar — it’s as easy as click here to download the entire Edgar Rice Burroughs 11 book John Carter of Mars Series. Seriously, if you clicked — you just got 11 books that, as a “tween” in the 1960’s, a lot of us would have committed mayhem to get.  Or if you don’t want to download but would rather read online — just google: “project gutenberg edgar rice burroughs mars” and they will all pop up.

But how do you get today’s 12 year old or 15 year old to try it? Is there any way they will?

I know that for me – if I had to isolate one thing in my youth that I treasure more than anything else, and which has continued to float in my consciousness all these many years later, it was the exquisite immersion into the world of Barsoom that transported me from wherever I was in the world, to someplace that I longed to be. It was Edgar Rice Burroughs who turned me into an avid, voracious reader — and while I progressed to more “serious” reading as I evolved, it is his work that I remember with the most fondness, like an old friend — like home.

The great scientist Carl Sagan said it extremely well in this video: