Easily the most controversial thing to come out of the Appendix N series was my claim that in the seventies, J. R. R. Tolkien was far from being the kind of influence that we think of him as being today. Sure, he practically defines the genre of fantasy today. But it wasn’t always like that. Thanks to Google Books Ngram Viewer, we can actually see quite a few trends play out over the decades.
Here’s one comparing Burroughs to… uh… some authors that get mentioned quite a bit by the book pundit types lately:
And here’s one showing how he stacks up to “The Big Three” among others:
These other charts I’d take with a grain of salt. You can get get different results depending on the settings and whether or not the author uses their initials a certain way or not. But I think Tolkien only recently becoming on par with Dunsany and Burroughs is a fair description of how things were in 1970. All of the classic authors taking a drop in the eighties lines up with many of them going out of print and all of them facing a deluge of competition. If it’s true, however, that Burroughs has risen in popularity alongside Tolkien in the nineties, that would be an interesting result. I would speculate that it is because he is supplying something that has become quite scarce within the wider market, but I would like to see if there were some other data that could confirm that.