On the Nature of the Eighth and Ninth Rays

As some people will know, in the Barsoom series John Carter finds that Barsoom has two new colors, unknown on Earth. The people of Barsoom call them the Eighth and Ninth Rays. David Lindsay’s A Voyage to Arcturus (which I thought was earlier, but was actually published three years later, in 1920) has extra colors called ulfire and jale. HP Lovecraft’s The Color Out of Space has an unknown number of “shining bands unlike any known colours of the normal spectrum.”

Carl Sagan wrote that as a child he, inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs, “spent many long minutes with my eyes tightly closed, fiercely concentrating on a new primary color. But it would always be a murky brown or a plum.”

There’s an article on this concept on the TVTropes wiki, but it doesn’t have any earlier fictional examples than Edgar Rice Burroughs (which doesn’t necessarily mean that he came up with the idea. TVTropes tends to be very focussed on more recent fiction).

Anyway, some scientists claim that they found a way to enable people to perceive ‘new’ colors. The link is here.

I remember when I was a child we had a View-Master, which allowed you to see 3-D images. Each 3-D image was a combination of two pictures. One of the ‘reels’ we had was based on the Transformers cartoon. They’d colored all the laser beams different colors in the two pictures. The effect was very strange – it wasn’t the same as what you’d get by mixing paint in the two original colors – and I wonder if that’s similar to the experiment described above.

Carcosa is ancient Barsoom

In the universe where Barsoom exists, it seems that each planet has a life-cycle which follows much the same course – to the extent that the almost-human Red Martians evolved separately. Thus Barsoom should have had dinosaurs in its past.

Of course Carcosa isn’t a desert. But it seems like the kind of place that would inevitably become a desert after some sorcerous ritual went horribly wrong – or that someone would turn into a desert out of pure evil.

The Red Martians believe that they and the Green Martians descend from a common, ancient ‘human’ civilisation. But this could be a distorted memory of the Carcosan Snake-Men.

The various races of Barsoom seem to be more like Earth people than Carcosans, in that Red Martians for example aren’t entirely red, just their skin. Presumably there was a certain amount of interbreeding over the centuries, so that Red Martians aren’t entirely descended from Carcosan Red Men.

Perhaps Barsoom’s Eighth and Ninth Rays are the jale and ulfire of Carcosa.

It’s a bit strange that the Green Martians have common ancestors with the Red Martians within historical memory, and yet the Green Martians have six limbs instead of four and unhuman heads. No doubt they’re the results of sorcery, mutation or super-scientific experiments. The Green Martians’ general attitude is quite similar to what you’d expect to prevail in Carcosa. Apparently they maintained their ancient folkways while the Red Martians became slightly more humane. Could the white apes be another experiment, or the result of some terrible degeneration?

EDIT: More ficto-historical research in the comments.

A Princess Leia of Mars

I’ve been reading through the Marvel Comics series Star Wars recently, after hearing about them on Grognardia (although I actually got a few of them when they first came out in the 70s and 80s).

They’re strangely enjoyable, even though the artwork can be a bit amateurish (and the dialogue is often very stilted).

This post is about issue 53. The story begins with Princess Leia crash-landing on a new planet. Characters do this a few times in the series. It’s a good way to have new stories that don’t have to interact with the main setting. I seem to remember the original Battlestar Galactica did the same thing.

Then she discovers these guys:

The plot (which goes over two issues) doesn’t have very much to do with John Carter, but for some reason I enjoyed this pastiche, whereas I really didn’t like the Magnificent Seven story earlier in the series. Perhaps the Don Quixote character and the talking green rabbit were a bit too much. I do think it’s appropriate that Princess Leia ends up in the planetary romance and Han Solo ends up in the Western.

Barsoom cover

I’m thinking of using the image above as the basis for the cover for my poem of A Princess of Mars when I finish it. It’s by Jose Posada, who also did the picture I used for the cover of The New Death and others. Obviously in this context it would be a green martian. This is quite different to other representations of them, but I think it fits the tone I’m going for. Your thoughts?