This is a Not Review of Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Boroughs, which I’ve only just read, its having slipped through the coarse filter of my youthful sci-fi period. It is a book which jumps around between genres, its beginning being a traditional western, followed by science fiction so soft one could almost call it fantasy, or else simply use it as one would brie, spreading it effortlessly on a bit of lightly-toasted rye, and finally incorporating a swashbuckling romance just for good measure.
Yet, at the same time, it has a whiff of the conventional about it, a sense that it is not so much a unique work of fiction refusing classification to generate an artistic statement as a composition of action-adventure bits and pieces. There are, I almost hope, those of you who are leaping to Wikipedia check your facts in preparation for telling me that it is old enough that it seems derivative only because it was the seminal work in those genres, as is so often the case with these things.
This is, perhaps, true in places; I truly don’t know whether it was the first to write a romance between aliens and humans, the first to introduce sword combat to science fiction, or the originator of something that suspiciously resembles steampunk, and I’m not quite interested enough to go check. What I do know is that without artistic intent, the rejection of genre, like any other literary choice whatsoever, holds no more meaning than the embracing of it, the choice to write your book in 4 different languages, changing from sentence to the next, or embracing bardic verse to create performance art.
Change for its own sake is no less inartistic than change for the sake of sales or ego or whatever else stands constantly on the shores tempting authors to their generic doom with sweet, siren song.