Interview: L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

How did you first come to discover the Barsoom books by Edgar Rice Burroughs?

I found battered and musty hardcovers in the Englewood [Colorado] public library when I was a teenager, and read the ones that they had.

What do you find appealing about the characters and milieu?

At the time, I just enjoyed the adventure and the idea of a totally different world. They were the first books I read with what I then perceived as a totally alien culture. Even now, in re-reading them, I found that there is sort of innocently knowing charm about them, despite the fact that we all now know that the Mars Burroughs portrayed does not exist.

What sort of an influence do you think the Barsoom books have had on the development of fantasy & science fiction?

I suspect their greatest influence was on those of us who became writers or otherwise involved in the field, because it seems to me that, among those I know who have read any of the books, a far greater percentage have gone on to be professionals in the field than those readers of F&SF who have not… but that’s just a personal observation.

Who is your favorite character in the Barsoom canon? (And why?)

I’m afraid that I’m hopelessly traditional, because John Carter remains my favorite character, although I also like Woola.

Tell us a bit about your story in the anthology. What’s it about?

“The Bronze Man of Mars” is a story about Danlan Chee, the son of what would be called the “mixed” marriage of Pan Dan Chee, the only Orovar to leave the hidden sanctuary within ancient Horz in hundreds of thousands of years, and Llana of Gathol, the granddaughter of John Carter. When Danlan Chee sets out to prove his worth to the girl he thinks he loves, he finds himself in an adventure similar to those that threw his parents together in the ancient and abandoned Barsoomian city of Horz. But what his parents didn’t tell him results in his having to face an ancient puzzle that could take his life… or change his future in a way he had not even considered.

What was the genesis of the story–where did the initial seed for the story come from?

I’d always liked the story about Llana of Gathol, and that book, the last Barsoom book that Burroughs himself wrote, just suggested the story to me, perhaps because, as in so many books, you never find out what happened after the happy pair are wed. Is the marriage happy? Do they have children?

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how? 

The most challenging part for me was to re-immerse myself in the Barsoom books, especially because it had been more than fifty years since I last read them, although the fact that I remembered as much as I did before re-reading them suggests that they must have had an influence on me.

Any new work of yours just out or forthcoming you’d like to mention, or anything else you’d like to add?

Scholar [the four book in The Imager Portfolio and the first in the new sub-series] will be out this November. My most recent SF novel is is Empress of Eternity, and, yes, it is science fiction despite the title, and the paperback edition was just released in August.