The inhabitants of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars called their planet Barsoom. For all my life, I just assumed that Burroughs had just made this name up, out of thin air. Having looked over the name again recently, I now think not.
Barsoom quite obviously contains the letters of the name Mars. With three letters left we can now see what Burroughs meant to hand down to his readers. The three letters left are B, O, and O and can only make up one English word : Boo! Sadly it’s too late to make this a Hallowe’en post.
I think Burroughs didn’t want us to boo Mars. Even in Burroughs time there was the thought that Mars could be in humanity’s future. So I think he meant Mars, boo!
The only successful previous novel to deal with Mars was H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. ‘Mars, boo!’ fits here because Wells chose to scare humanity with a Martian invasion. But that wasn’t what Burroughs offered up in his science fiction.
Barsoom had more than one intelligent race. Some Barsoomians were good and some were bad. But what John Carter, the hero, battled again and again was the propensity of Barsoomians to make each other into slaves. Slavery was Burroughs bugaboo (do you like my use of another word that has boo in it?)
When Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a series of ‘Mars, boo!’ stories it was to scare us from being a society of slavers. What an excellent use of fear.