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The Moon Maid (Moon Trilogy, #1)
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(Spoilers) ERB's Moon trilogy: Is Admiral Julian III a reliable narrator?

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message 1: by Will (last edited Apr 26, 2018 10:58AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Emmons | 40 comments Mod
I just finished the second volume of this trilogy "The Moon Men." In that novel Admiral Julian III relates the events of his future self Julian IX's exploits under the cruel misrule of the state-socialistic Kalkars.

The events of that story and the previous "The Moon Maid" lead me to believe that Julian III may not be a reliable narrator and may be propagandizing with the goal of changing future history.

I might work on a longer brief but below are my working notes.
I'll admit that my personal convictions may be getting the better of me here, so input from folks who are less invested in the socialist project is necessary and welcome.

A. Practical arguments against Julian III's credibility

(I) Julian IX's physical prowess compared to other people, especially the presumably more well-fed and well-trained Kalkar soldiers. He's a goatherd. There's no context presented to explain his physical strength, horsemanship and combat skills.

(II) Julian IX's relative success in provoking a strike cum military insurgency among forced laborers and dissatisfied soldiers, solely through what 19th century revolutionaries called "Propaganda of the Deed," is suspect.

Propaganda of the deed is the idea that individual revolutionaries can provoke revolution through individual terrorism. Historically, this has been an unsuccessful insurgent strategy--see the assassination of President McKinley, the failed assassination of industrialist Henry Frick, and the various Narodnik plots against absolutist Russian tsars.

Julian III may be correct that time does not exist, but presumably the observed conclusions of political science still have some bearing on the future.

(III) The semi-equine, humanoid Va-gas form the primary means of sustenance among the state-socialistic Kalkars, the bourgeois-aristocratic U-gas, and even among the free hunter-gatherer Va-gas bands. We are dealing in lost races and planetary romance, of course, but the various lunar political-economies' total basis in sentient-on-sentient cannibalism raises credibility questions about Julian III's xenosociology.

We're to believe the Kalkars were able to rule such a society in a way that kept it stable for the the length of time referenced in the Moon Maid. (I'd cite the length of Kalkar misrule according to Julian V's narrative if this was an article instead of working notes, but I remember it being a very long time)

(IV) The widespread Earthling collaboration with the Kalkar fleet led by Orthis may lead one to believe that things were not as rosy on Earth as Julian III would have us believe. Note that the major purpose of the allegedly benign and Orwellianly-dubbed International Peace Fleet's major purpose circa 2016 was supposed to be fighting air pirates and waging "punitive expeditions" against "uncivilized tribes of Russia, Africa, and central Asia." (p. 10 in the University of Nebraska-Bison Books edition). The pre-Kalkar semi-utopian world peace Julian III describes takes the form of global empire under Great Britain and the United States.

(V) The space science is charming but comical.

B. Tentative conclusions:

I would propose the man Burroughs' narrator calls Julian III does in fact have access to the thoughts and experiences of future-selves through some means of cross-temporal telepathy.* However, the events he describes are fabricated or distorted. It's also possible the story was relayed by someone other than Julian III since the future he describes has not been born out and the problem of how Burroughs gained access to his narrator's accounts from 2016 and beyond is unsettled.

My working hypothesis is that Julian V, Julian III's future self and descendant, does travel to the Moon in the Barsoom with Orthis and others. However, Julian III's accounting of the events and of Orthis' character are likely largely fabricated. Speculations about the true events of the Barsoom's lunar expedition are beyond the scope of these notes.

As to Julian IX, I think the events of "The Moon Men" are largely credible if distorted to meet certain political ends. Even if a plurality of Earthlings made common cause with the Orthis-led fleet and even if we speculate wildly that the Kalkar form of government was initially welcomed, even doctrinaire Marxists recognize that a good socialist state can degenerate or even revert to a previous form of class society.

To me, It's more likely that the rebellion described in the book will have a more Yank-"True" Kalkar united front aspect, fighting a for a restoration or advancement of socialism toward a stage w less rapine by the state. In practice, most popular rebellions against socialist states take the character of calling for socialism's renewal or democratization (see the Kronstatd uprising, Hungary 1956, Prague spring 1968, and even Tienanmen Square), even when those rebellions end in capitalist restoration due to choices by national elites or external great powers. (see Ghodsee, Kristen in Dissent Magazine, Spring 2012)

It's unclear how reincarnation works but as mindful an observer of his future selves as Julian III would likely develop some of their perspectives. This creates trouble for my Yank-"True" Kalkar united front hypothesis. This can be solved if Julian III's future self in "The Moon Men" era were not truly Julian IX, and were instead Julian VIII or another person not present in the text.

Finally, the narrations of the future may not come from Julian III. I think it's more likely the future reflections were related to Burroughs by the ancestor described as having died on Armistice Day 1918. For this hypothesis to work, we can set aside the statement that he died on Armistice Day as a mere conceit or we can read it as a symbolic statement about Julian's self-conception: he was his truest self during the war, and afterward there wasn't much left of him.

If Julian (1918) were from Chicago like Julians VIII & IX, he could have come across Burroughs by happenstance. Life works that way sometimes. It's also possible that Julian made Burroughs' acquaintance by way of Korak.

Korak is a better potential link than Tarzan for a couple reasons. (1) Tarzan never feared socialist revolution in the Western countries and even implied the workers might out to do it. While the likely Fabian Jane** pointed out that the workers would likely seize the Greystoke estate, Tarzan countered that he cared little for his aristocratic privileges. (2) There's also no evidence linking Tarzan and Julian. (Tarzan Alive, chapter 14)

Korak on the other hand may have met Julian during the war in France and been captivated by his story. Unlike his (adoptive) father, Korak spent his pre-teen childhood in an aristocratic English home. There is at least no evidence that Korak wasn't an anti-communist. So one could at least speculate that he was moved by Julian's political warning in the same way Burroughs himself seems to have been. (For Korak's pre-jungle years see Tarzan Alive, chapter 16; For reference to Korak's service in the Great War see Tarzan the Untamed)

*See, e.g., Stapledon, Olaf, Last and First Men, and Hamilton, Edmond, The Star Kings.

**Speculation of Jane's Fabianism based on her portrayal as a free-thinker and intellectual in Robin Maxwell's Jane: the Woman Who Loved Tarzan. Fabian socialism, the school H.G. Welles belonged to, posited that elite socialists could gradually remake society in the interest of the poor.


message 2: by Win (new)

Win Scott Eckert (win_scott_eckert) | 37 comments I'm not sure I can add to this right now, but I miss meaty topics and posts such as this. Lots of thought-provoking ideas here. Looking forward to more.


Will Emmons | 40 comments Mod
Failed to note above that my fellow Kentuckian SF author Terry Bisson concludes his introduction to the Frontiers of the Imagination edition by stating that science had since proven the Moon is hollow and full of Kalkars who lust for our women. But that their goal was to takeover university presses, not the Earth.


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