Defining our terms

I suppose we should begin an effort like this one by a declaration of what, exactly, would be a “Ripping Tale”. Many years ago I was reading a particular book, and it was spotted by a manager of mine. He thought of himself as someone whose opinion should be heard, and when he saw what I was reading his comment was “Oh yes…ripping tales…that sort of thing.” Once I wiped the sarcasm off of my brow I turned and walked away rather than jeopardize a job that at the time I was in need of.

The book was “A Princess Of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  I have read and re-read that book and many more by Burroughs over the years since then. I’ve walked with Tarzan, flown with Carson of Venus. Conan Doyle has shown me The Lost World along with Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Haggard has blazed the trail to King Solomon’s Mines. In every single case I count the time spent reading these books as time well spent. Long ago I decided to take the words “ripping tales” that had been tossed at the book, and to turn them around into a badge of worth!

So what constitutes a ripping tale? I would say that to begin it is a story that takes place in the time period 1850 – 1910. Even this is kind of loose but I would say that you could confine it to the time period when Victoria reigned and the map was sketched rather than printed. There were still potential dinosaurs in the unseen cone of every volcano. You never knew when a forgotten city would emerge from the jungle in front of you, and a mysterious jungle Queen could come snaking out of the ruins at any minute. Men seemed to have abilities and resources that we lesser men of today appear to have lost or given up.

In the posts to come I would like to explore this genre, and it’s successor Steam punk, to look at both which books might belong to this collection, and what might categorize a book as Steam punk or a ripping tale.

Published in: on June 8, 2010 at 8:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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