“I can only set down here in the words of an ordinary soldier of fortune a chronicle of the strange events that befell me during the ten years that my dead body lay undiscovered in an Arizona cave.”Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars, Chapter I, On the Arizona Hills
And so begins the incredible tale of John Carter, the story of a retired soldier and a miner who is transported to Mars via a mysterious cave in the Arizona desert; where he (and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ readers) experienced science-fantasy adventures that inspired and influenced generations’ worth of books, comics, television shows and movies.
There is a connective thread between nearly every popular superhero and science-fantasy world that entertains us today that goes clear back to Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars (or Under the Moons of Mars, as it was originally published in pulp magazine form, in February 1912.)
And, in case you missed it, Burroughs’ story of John Carter begins in a dark, dusty cave in the Arizona hills; a mythical cave that could be located somewhere near Fort Grant and Willcox, Arizona, where the author served in the U.S. Cavalry in 1896-97; a location that was surely a catalyst for his amazing Martian story and his first foray into the writing pulp fiction.
Knowing all of these things, what if you (yes you) could travel to Willcox and look out across the vast desert plains between Mount Graham and the Chiricahua Mountains, the very same desert that Burroughs’ gazed upon over 120 years ago? Would you see the same fantastic visions he saw in his mind’s eye?
The good news is that you can do this! In fact, you can do it this upcoming weekend (Aug. 2-3. 2019) at the Edgar Rice Burroughs (ERB) Festival in Willcox; the location many consider, through Burroughs’ writings, to be the birthplace of contemporary popular culture; a once in a lifetime event that will celebrate the author, his books and his many connections to Arizona.
The ERB-Fest 2019 is also known as the annual “Dum-Dum” conference; “Dum-Dum” being a “great apes” term known by Tarzan readers as a “gathering” or meeting (of Burroughs’ fans, in this case.) Tarzan, of course, is Burroughs’ most well known creation, with fans the world over.
The ERB Festival open and free to the general public and will include a “Huckster (vendor) Room” full of hard-to-find ERB collectibles; guest speakers who will be talking to area history and its connection to ERB; official updates on Burroughs’ merchandising, by ERB, Inc.; a Friday night film screening of “Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure” (with theater admission fee); and plenty of friendly camaraderie with fellow fans. (Note that some festival activities will require full event registration, which is sold out.)
The festival will be held at the Willcox Community Center, which is within walking distance of the Chiricahua Regional Museum (which houses a wonderful Edgar Rice Burroughs exhibit as part of the Chiricahua history); and the Willcox Railroad Depot, where Burroughs first arrived at the location.