You know you’re reading an Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars pastiche when you need to memorize new units for distance and time.
Here are some passages from John Norman’s first Gor book, Tarnsman of Gor:
“What a tarn!” he marveled. “I had a full pasang start, and yet you passed me!” The pasang is a measure of distance on Gor, equivalent approximately to .7 of a mile.
(A tarn is a bird that you fly.)
The shadows of the pasang stones had grown long, and, judging by the angle of these shadows (for the stones are set in such a way as to serve also as sundials) it was past the fourteenth Gorean Ahn, or hour. The Gorean day is divided into twenty Ahn, which are numbered consecutively. The tenth Ahn is noon, the twentieth, midnight. Each Ahn consists of forty Ehn, or minutes, and each Ehn of eighty Ihn, or seconds.
Apparently John Norman gets pretty crazy with the slave girls in later books, but Tarnsman of Gor is a pretty unremarkable ERB Mars clone.
Mars clones are an interesting subgenre: interesting in how boring they are. Most never experiment with the formula in a meaningful way. Here’s what you’ll find in every clone:
- Modern man goes to another world, where he is stronger because of the reduced gravity
- Man bests everyone in all warlike pursuits
- Man learns new systems of measurement, which he is compelled to share with the reader
- Man wins the love of a princess, who is immediately kidnapped
Slavishly formulaic, but I always find them pleasant reading. Some day I plan to make a chart showing the conversions between times and distances from my various not-Mars books, by Norman, Moorcock, Kuttner, Fox, etc.