Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Grandaddy, ERB, and Me: A Love Letter to Pulp

I was only three years old when my grandfather died of lung cancer. I really don't remember him. My Mom had a lot of pictures and he's always smiling. I've got a nice one of him from the fifties, he's dressed in a short-sleeve button-up shirt and sporting a Walt Disney mustache. He looks very cool. He and my Mom were close, and she has often told me how she regrets Grandaddy didn't live long enough for me to know him. I wear a ring with his initials on my pinky (my hands are bigger than his, the pinky is the only finger it will fit on). His name was Lorin Polk Nunneley.

I'm thinking a lot about him this week because of a movie that's coming out on Friday called John Carter. John Carter is based on the pulp novel A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, originally serialized as Under the Moons of Mars in 1912.

When I was around 10 or so, we were living on the same street as my grandmother and I visited her house often. That's when I discovered the shelves of books in the guest bedroom. I was a voracious reader and I was always looking for something new. Here was a huge collection of first-edition hardback pulps, everything Edgar Rice Burroughs ever wrote. Grandaddy had collected them. Grandmother told me he used to go down to the bookstore as soon as a new ERB book was published and buy it immediately. It was a treasure trove for a reading kid.

I didn't read in chronological order. I started in with the Pellucidar series, still my favorite: Tales of a land in the center of earth, home to dinosaurs, cavemen, and sabertooth tigers. After that, I read Tarzan and its sequels. Then I moved on to the John Carter series, set on a fantasy Mars with four-armed green aliens and beautiful princesses.

By the time I was 14, I had plowed through the entire collection. Burroughs was an amazingly prolific author, and I can't say all of these are particularly good. They are certainly a bit silly, but coming to them as a preteen and early teen, I was the target audience. I was probably close to the same age Grandaddy was when he started to buy the books. Reading through my grandfather's collection gave me with a lifelong affection for the stories.

In some way, reading through this collection made me feel a connection to Grandaddy. I feel closer to him, even though I never knew him, thanks to a shared fandom. Because I share this with him, it means I will continue to stay interested and loyal to these books, and go see movie adaptations no matter how bad they are. I regret never being able to know him. I'm sure he would have loved many of the things I enjoyed as a boy, like Star Wars, maybe even Dungeons & Dragons, and I'm pretty sure he would be thrilled with my work as a game designer. He helped shape my life even though he was not physically present, through the fiction he enjoyed and left for me to discover.

Love you, Grandaddy. Thanks for the adventures.

1 comment:

  1. Your grandfather left an incredible legacy in you, and I think you are right: he would have loved the person you have become.