Of heroes, superheroes and the ICON festival

Tarzan loved Jane, John Carter  loved Dejah Thoris. That was way back in 1912, but their love never died, it lives on in us, in the minds of readers. Since then, Clark Kent loved Lois Lane, Han Solo fell for Princess Leia, Rick Deckard chose to be with Rachael, Strider loved Arwen, and on it goes. Love doesn’t only make this world go around, it makes far away planets and mythical kingdoms go round, too.

Not that there aren’t good sci-fi and fantasy stories that have nothing to do with love-and-marriage, horse-and-carriage. Asimov and numerous others made little or no use of romantic plots. Still, love goes a long way to captivating an audience.

A case in point is the recent short story competition for the Einat award , as part of the ICON festival . Fifty-five stories were submitted, of which 10 made the short-list, and of those, several had romantic themes, to greater or lesser extents. The winner – When Winter Ends ("Besof HaHoref"), by Yoni (f.) Goldstein, was doubtlessly the most romantic of all. Not that this in itself accounts for its winning; the story has a – forgive the pun – winning quality; it's well-crafted, well-written, and quite obviously not written by a teenager. It is a touching story, heart-warming, and, in my opinion, unabashedly romantic.

But let me get back to John Carter. I'm nearly ashamed to say that I only made his acquaintance recently. As a kid, I devoured every Tarzan comic book I could lay my hands on (in Hebrew); maybe John Carter's Martian tales hadn't been translated into Hebrew at the time. I found the entire series (in English, of course) on my mother's bookshelves only a few years ago. So far, I've read only the first one – A princess of Mars, of which we have two copies, two different editions with a different jacket:
John rescuing Dejah from Barsoom Tharks
A more modest visual version of the protagonists

Guys, let me tell you – John Carter puts to shame Jason Bourne and Indiana Jones combined! In 159 pages of tight, old-fashioned English, he packs in adventure after adventure, fights and narrow escapes, acts of cunning, courage and daring. Not to mention falling in love with and rescuing the beautiful and brave Princess of Helium, Dejah Thoris.

Some things change, some don't. Plots have become more sophisticated, violence more graphic, characters less chivalrous. But whether on Earth or in faraway galaxies, love remains. Amen.


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