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Burroughs’ Moon trilogy

Posted by at 10:00 am Monday, November 27, 2017 in Edgar Rice Burroughs, Pulps, Science Fiction Pulps
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Burroughs’ Moon trilogy
Edgar Rice Burroughs

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Edgar Rice Burroughs is best known for Tarzan, and probably also his Mars novels with John Carter and others. But he set stories in a variety of locations including the hollow earth, Venus, and even the Moon.

The Moon series, usually referred to as the “Moon Trilogy,” consists of “The Moon Maid” (1923), “The Moon Men (1925), and “The Red Hawk” (1925). This trilogy first ran in Argosy All-Story, and may be available in one or two volumes (the last two stories are usually published as one volume). Bison Books has a single volume version of it, but I believe the most accurate collection is available from ERBville Press, which contains the original magazine appearances.

I had read this series in high school and recalled the basic plot, but when I reviewed a writeup of it, I didn’t realize how much of the series I had forgotten.

The series is an alternate future history of the Earth, which also has a strong element of reincarnation and “future lives.” The first story starts in 1967! In this future, WWI didn’t end but started a period of wars that do not end until 1967 with the victory of the Allies — basically the U.S. and Britain. They then usher in an era of peace with an international peace force, with London and Washington being the co-capitals of the world. That year, they make radio contact with Mars! They have been in contact with John Carter on Mars (so I guess the Moon trilogy is in the same “universe” as the Barsoom and Venus series).

'The Moon Maid'But the narrator meets Air Admiral Julian the 3rd, and he relates the future history he learns from his descendants! He is able to “remember” his reincarnated future lives.

We jump to 2025! The new world power is sending an expedition to Mars, after two failed expeditions from Mars. Leading the expedition is Julian the 5th, second in command is the brilliant but unstable scientific genius Orthis. But it is thanks to sabotage by Orthis, they crash on the Moon. They discover that the Moon is a hollow sphere, accessible through shafts that comprise some of the craters. There is no inner sun, but light is provided by the atmosphere.

Inside the Moon, they find a typical Burroughsian world of alien races. There are the human U-gas and the centaur-like Va-gas. Julian befriends one U-gas, Nah-ee-lah (the “Moon Maid” of the story). Orthis promises the Va-gas chief weapons so he can conquer others.

They later met a third race, the human-like Kalkars, who are worse than the Va-gas (though I forgot about the Va-gas and always thought of the Kalkars as centaur-like), and actually treat the Va-gas as cattle. A further element is that the Kalkars are trying to impose a communist rule over the Moon. They wipe out the U-gas city, but Julian and Nah-ee-lah escape to the spaceship and return to Earth in 2036 (yes, they somehow were on the Moon for 10 years!).

In “The Moon Men,” after years of peace, most of the international peace force is shutdown. Sadly, Orthis, teamed up with the Kalkars, has built a fleet of spacecraft and come to conquer the world. He is opposed by Julian the 5th. During the war both Orthis and Julian the 5th are killed, but the Kalkars are able to conquer the world, and impose their communist rule. This story was actually based on an unsold story by Burroughs called “Under the Red Flag,” which was an anti-communist work.

'The Moon Men/The Red Hawk'But this is just a prologue to the main story, set further in the future, 2120 A.D., centered around Julian the 9th. The Kalkars have conquered the world, and have killed off all the educated people, so there is little knowledge to maintain machinery. The world has devolved to an agrarian feudalism. But some still resist the Kalkars. We see Julian the 9th do so, going up against Or-tis (a descendant of Orthis) and leading a revolution against the Kalkars.

“The Red Hawk” is set even further into the future, 2430 A.D., and deals with Julian the 20th, the Red Hawk. Civilization has collapsed even further due to the Kalkars. Most Americans live like Native Americans, as nomadic tribes, fighting as best they can. The Kalkars are reduced to enclaves on the east and west coasts of North America. (What about the rest of the world? No idea.) The American tribes are lead by Julian the 20th. Along the way he meets the current Or-tis, who regrets the “great feud” between the two families, and allies himself with Julian to throw off the yoke of the Kalkars. Julian also meets and falls in love with a girl who is a descendant of Orthis. They are finally able to overthrow the Kalkars, and the two families unite with the birth of Julian the 21st.

I’ll probably need to dig out a copy of the trilogy and re-read it. I am always confused as to the Kalkars. Are the centaur-like as well?

While the trilogy seems complete, we will soon get a new novel in the Moon series: Swords Against the Moon Men, by Christopher Paul Carey. It will appear as part of the “Wild Adventures of Edgar Rice Burroughs” from ERB Inc. We don’t know where it fits in the series, but clearly it will star a Julian. But there are a lot of pick from! After all, we only met four of some 20 or so. Keep an eye out for it.

What do you think?