Thursday, July 21, 2011

The New Pulp Revival continues! Professional author, playwright and educator Martin O'Hearn has written a pulp superhero novel The Terrible Troll which is currently available for the Kindle on and soon will be out in other formats through Smashwords. Martin graciously accepted my invitation to do a Q&A interview about his new book.

Hello Martin! I have some questions about you and your new book.

1) Tell us a little about yourself and the work you have done.

I've spent three months a year for the last few decades out on the road as, most often, lighting operator on national tours to middle school audiences. The plays presented classic stories from Poe, Twain, Saki, and other authors famous for horror or humor. I was also one of the playwrights adapting stories like The Lady or the Tiger, The Most Dangerous Game, and The Monkey's Paw. The audience numbers have added up into the seven figures by now. Wish I'd gotten royalties instead of flat fees!

2) You recently released a pulp superhero novel, The Terrible Troll.

a. Please describe the story

Robin Pace has come to New York in 1937, and, like Harry Vincent in The Living Shadow, she's caught up in the fight between villain and hero. The Troll, Günther Grieg, is using a strange apparatus to walk through walls (and more) in pursuit of a devastating secret.

King Hudson and his five companions fought Grieg in 1936, on a battlefield of the Spanish Civil War. In testing Nazi weaponry, the Troll gained the power to destroy men's minds; only two out of seven walked away from the battle. Now King recruits Robin in chasing Grieg and his stolen secret documents from New York to Germany by way of the zeppelin Hindenburg.

By the time they reach Grieg's castle on the Rhine, Robin's barely escaped death by gunshot, arson, and fall from airship.

And this is where, as per Lester Dent's Master Plot, the heroes "get it in the neck bad."

b. Describe your pulp hero King Hudson

You'd mistake him in a dark alley for Richard Henry Benson, not Clark Savage, Jr. He infuriates the viewpoint character, Robin, because he can do just about anything and he's not at all modest about it. He's pretty much a magician pulling abilities and talents out of his hat as the situation calls for them--until the Troll outthinks him.

The biggest mystery of the story is King Hudson. Who, exactly, is he? Where did he get all those powers? What is his connection to the Troll?

c. What inspired you to write the story?

Doc Savage and Lester Dent. Troll, by the way, was one word left over after Goblin, Ogre, Devil, Spook, Ghost, Elf, and Monster in the original Doc titles.

d. Where did you get the idea for King Hudson?

By a very roundabout manner, out of the science fiction novel The Creature from Beyond Infinity by Henry Kuttner. But that involves the mystery I mentioned; I can't go into detail without giving something away. It did give me a way to rework Doc Savage, his Fabulous Five, and Pat Savage into the basis for new characters.

3) What were your favorite Pulp characters?

In the order in which I discovered them in reprint as a teenager: Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider, Captain Future, The Phantom Detective, and G-8. The Avenger, Operator 5, and so on, joined the list later.

4) Who are some of your favorite authors, pulp and otherwise?

Edgar Rice Burroughs; then the majority of those being published or reprinted in science fiction, mystery, and adventure paperbacks in the Sixties (including Dent, Gibson, Page, and the others, of course). Golden Age and Silver Age comic book writers like Jerry Siegel, Bill Finger, Edmond Hamilton, Gardner Fox, John Broome, and writer/artist Jack Kirby. A couple of writers whose new stuff I've never missed in decades: Stephen King and Dick Francis.

5) Are you intending to visit any of the Pulp conventions?

No; my first few comics conventions were plenty.

6) Will there be more King Hudson stories?

7) If so any hints on what is coming up for King Hudson?

8) Do you have other stories planned for publication?

The (fictional) history of the Terrible Troll manuscript answers those questions: it was written by a young comic book writer in 1945 as he tried to crash the slightly-more-prestigious pulp market. Unfortunately, he'd written a 1930s science fiction-style epic when editors wanted sophisticated detective stories. And Troll was pretty much a standalone novel; it left nowhere for a series to go. The manuscript lay abandoned in a trunk for over sixty years.

The next novel I'm planning has that writer enmeshed in a crime plot as he returns to comic book writing after World War II. I'd actually written the story in which he begins his career in 1938--then The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay came out.

9) Are there any other things you want to tell the fans about? (Opportunity for a few shameless plugs!)

I hope to start blogging soon, about crediting old comic books' writers and artists. My website will link to the blog. Eventually my article for Alter Ego on telling apart the writers of the Superman stories of the early Sixties, commissioned by Roy Thomas and delivered a while ago, should be published.

10) Please provide us with internet links

a. for your website

b. Where the fans can get your book

It's $2.99. For the Kindle, at Amazon:

In a few weeks, Smashwords will be distributing Troll to retailers like Apple and Barnes & Noble. Smashwords itself already sells the novel in the various ereader formats, for upload onto Kindle, Nook, iPad, and the rest:

The free sample at Smashwords, where I could set it at 30% rather than Amazon's 10%, takes the reader to a major plot point that I sidestepped mentioning above, in avoiding a spoiler.

Martin, thank you for coming on my blog. I know that pulp fans will really enjoy The Terrible Troll. I wish you good luck with this and future endeavors. And thanks for being part of the New Pulp Revival.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Doc Savage's Origins: Another Perspective

Most people who think of Doc Savage's origins will think of the work of Philip José Farmer in his books Escape from Loki, Tarzan Alive! ,and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life. But if we look at the Savage Canon itself as it was written and edited by Lester Dent between 1933 and 1949, the information we find gives a different picture from the one crafted by PJF. Phil Farmer added his own creative flourish to Doc's background in some cases filling in he blanks left by Dent and in others providing what he thought were needed corrections. By doing so, He created a Doc Savage that included elements both of Dent's and his own imagination.

But what if we looked at what Dent himself included in the Canon? What conclusions might we draw? Could the data be organized in ways very different those of PJF? And might this not be closer to Lester Dent's own vision of his character?

My friend Jeff Deischer is the author of The Adventures of Doc Savage: A Definitive Chronology which is in its second edition.

Jeff firmly grounds his views using the actual material in the Canon though he does add some modest speculations of his own. What he has come up with is a unique theory about Doc's Origin and background which is different from those of the Wold Newton advocates.
I am a big fan of Phil Farmer and I really enjoy the Wold Newton Universe. I have even written some stories that lean heavily on PJF vision of Doc.
But Jeff Deischer's ideas are interesting and worthy of our perusal. He presents an alternative view of Doc Savage that has story potentials that are not possible in that Wold Newton Universe. And he has come to his views trying very hard to be faithful to Lester Dent's original work on Doc.
I was so impressed with Jeff's work that I intended to write about it here on my blog. Then I thought to myself, "Why not ask Jeff to write a brief article about this and I'll feature it here?"
So for your edification and reading pleasure, here is Jeff Deischer's article:


Copyright 2010 Jeff Deischer

At first glance, Lester Dent, one of the co-creators and the main writer of the DOC SAVAGE series, seems to have been careless in his facts regarding Clark Savage Jr.’s background. In The Man of Bronze, the first novel of the series, Dent tells us that Doc met his five aides during the Great War – World War I. In later novels, Dent makes comments regarding Doc’s age that indicate that he was too young to have served in the war.

For example, Devil on the Moon (which occurred in 1936, according to my chronology of the series) states that Doc Savage is “a young man”. This almost certainly indicates that his life is not yet half over at the time; based on the life expectancy of a man of his era, this means that he was born no earlier than 1904. But we know that he was born by 1911, when, according to They Died Twice, he had already acquired his nickname.

Cargo Unknown states that “the elder Savage had died about the time Doc’s unusual training had been finished”, “about twenty years of training”. This strongly suggests that Doc’s birth year was about 1911, since The Man of Bronze takes place in 1931. So how could Doc have possibly served in World War I if he was born in 1911 (or even 1904)? There is some evidence that when Dent wrote The Man of Bronze, he did not have all the facts.

In The Ten Tons Snakes (written in late 1944), Dent stated that Doc “had never known just what had happened to his father to cause him to put his small son, Doc, in the hands of scientists for training”. However, in No Light to Die By (which occurred in 1946), Doc himself writes, “My father [was] victimized by criminals”, referring to the motivation of the elder Savage for Doc’s unusual training, which, Doc writes, lasted “from the time I was fourteen months old until I was twenty years old”. These comments have several significances, the most obvious of which is that it confirms that Doc was indeed about twenty in The Man of Bronze.

Second, in 1944 Dent did not know – or was prevented from saying – that Doc knew what had caused his father to have Doc trained as he was. Almost exactly two years later, Doc reveals this himself to the public. So Dent did not reveal everything there was to reveal about Doc, whether from lack of knowledge or by Doc himself preventing it. So it is possible that the same circumstance applies to Doc’s war service – or lack of it.

Third, the motivation for Clark Savage Sr. having his son trained to fight crime was because he had been victimized by criminals, not because he was trying to atone for any sins he might have committed previous to Doc’s birth. We may infer that the victimization caused the elder Savage a devastating loss, for him to go to such extremes to prevent something similar happening to others; one does not devote the life of one’s son to fighting crime because of a common mugging.
The introduction to No Light to Die By is the subject of some controversy: “Robeson” [Dent] wrote, referring to the writing of The Man of Bronze, “This thing started Nov. 12, 1932”. But Dent was relying on his memory when he wrote this, and he was wrong. In fact, the actual notation in his famous notebook reads “Dec. 10, 1932”. Philip Jose Farmer concluded that Dent was thinking of Doc’s birthday. He was not.

Information in Peril in the North conclusively puts Doc’s birthday in late May. In this story, Doc celebrates his birthday. At that time, the midnight sun is visible near Greenland. This occurs between May 25 and July 25. Due to the realities of publishing (which we know apply in Doc’s universe because of the introduction to No Light to Die By), the adventure could have occurred no later than May. The intersection of these two facts leaves only very late May for Doc’s birthday.

I believe that Dent was thinking of the date that the events that he would “novelize” as The Man of Bronze began when he wrote “Nov. 12” in No Light to Die By (he of course correctly remembered the year that he began writing). Evidence in the novel points to a placement late in the year (1931, to be exact). The date of November 12 does not disagree with any information in the novel. It in fact matches the weather and lunar data and the days of the week that seem to be weekdays and weekend days. But this is beside the point.

As I have written elsewhere, I believe the crime that befell Clark Savage Sr. was the murder of his wife. Cargo Unknown tells us that “Doc had never known his mother; she had died when he was less than a year old.” So between this time and when Doc turned fourteen months old, Clark Sr. decided to have his son trained as the Nemesis of crime. The Man Who Was Scared tells us: “Doc’s father, about the time Doc was born, evidently received some sort of shock which completely warped his outlook on life – made him devote the rest of his days to raising a son who would follow the career of righting wrongs and punishing criminals who seemed to be outside the law” (Danger Lies East calls them “the international sort”). This links the two events – the death of Doc’s mother and his father’s decision to train Doc to fight crime (chronologically, at least), leading to the not unreasonable conclusion that she was in fact murdered by criminals – and, based on the nature of Doc’s training, quite possibly by a fantastic mastermind such as those Doc himself would later face in his career. Not conclusive, I’ll grant, but very persuasive, I believe.

Dent may have known very early that Doc did not actually meet his aides in World War I. In The Land of Terror (the second novel in the series), he wrote that Doc’s “five friends … had first assembled during the Great War”. Note that it does not read “Doc and his five friends …”. Why no mention of Doc? Had Dent learned by this time that he had been in error in thinking that Doc had met his future aides during the war? Or had he been instructed by Doc to drop this fiction? In fact, the comment in The Man of Bronze is the only one in the entire series to refer to Doc being in World War I. Why? And although Dent’s notebook states that “the others were his companions in the World War”, there is not a single reference to Doc’s war service in the forty pages of notes about him – unlike that of each of the five aides. This seems a glaring omission if Doc had indeed served in the war.

What about Doc’s war medals, also described in No Light to Die By? These are four Purple Hearts. This type of medal had been discontinued before World War I and was not given out for service in that war. President Hoover reinstated it in 1932, so these awards had to have been for service during World War II. These are the only military awards of Doc’s ever mentioned in the series.

In the aforementioned Cargo Unknown, when Renny tells a friend about meeting Doc, he does not mention World War I (but he does not go into specifics). So Dent seems to have learned by 1944 that Doc had not met his future aides during the war, if he did not know earlier. Doubtless he made this aspect about Doc up because he did not know how the bronze man acquired his aides in the beginning, and it would seem awkward not to explain their relationship. By the second novel, he seems to have known that this was inaccurate, even if he did not know the true facts. If Dent ever knew the truth, he never revealed it. That Renny doesn’t reveal in Cargo Unknown how he met Doc suggests that Dent himself did not know even at this late date. But there is a clue, in – ironically -- The Man of Bronze: “Motivated by their mutual admiration for” the elder Savage, the five men “decided to take up his work of good”. If they have known Doc for more than twelve years at this point, why aren’t they motivated by him?

Doc, in The Man of Bronze, says, “Tonight we begin carrying out the ideals of my father”. Why weren’t they doing this before his death? Because Doc had not yet begun his career, and, it should be obvious by now, was too young to have done so. And the others were not yet his comrades; they seem to have been friends or colleagues of Doc’s father prior to The Man of Bronze, and knew Doc through him. This, too, is inconclusive, but very suggestive.

Because Clark Savage, Sr. was in Central America on two separate expeditions in 1911, it seems that his son would have been born “fourteen months” prior to this; certainly young Doc was in the care of scientists by this time. So Doc could have been born no later than 1910, if his father’s expeditions both occurred late in 1911.

What can we conclude? There can be no doubt that Doc Savage was born in late May, between 1904 and 1910 (inclusive). The preponderance of evidence suggests closer to 1910. I myself chose 1907, which is nothing more – and nothing less -- than a good deduction. But I could probably be talked in to either 1908 or 1909; any later than that, and I believe we have problems with Doc being a doctor by 1925, the time when he began the life-restoring process described in Resurrection Day (Doc had been working on the process for a full decade by the time of this adventure, 1935). By my reckoning, Doc became an M.D. in 1923 at the age of sixteen, after which he studied neurology.

Now that you have all the evidence, you can decide for yourself.

The truth is probably much more mundane: Dent, like later comic book writers, probably gave no real thought to the age of his hero initially, and soon found that his creation was aging much too rapidly for all the adventures he was having (Superman, for example, met President John Kennedy as both Superboy and Superman, due to this phenomenon!). So Dent simply dropped references that suggested that Doc was old enough to have served in World War I. Such is the “life” of an action hero.

But that shouldn’t stop us from enjoying the stories.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Super Machine Pistol

{This is guest post written by James "China Jim" Campbell. Jim has his own take on Doc Savage's history so this is an alternative world story with some factual information added. Enjoy!}

Of all the gizmos, doodads, gimmicks, and contrivances mentioned in the super sagas the technical aspects and history of the Super Machine Pistol (S M P ) has been bandied about. While the description given by Dent in his highly fictionalized transcriptions of the cases that Doc and his associates were involved in was cursory at best, I have taken it upon myself to go beyond the classic description of a over sized automatic pistol with a drum magazine that sounded like a roar of a bull fiddle when fired. With the help of that master of verbiage the erudite professor of archaeology and geology William John Harper whose name Dent changed to William Harper Littlejohn at the request of Doc and his men to protect to some extent their anonymity in public. (This will be explained in future articles.)

As a segue into this historical background of the Mark III Super Machine Pistol it is only right and necessary that I give a thumb-nail sketch of what prompted Doc to design and build the S M P which he and his men carried according to the sagas for a decade and a half. Unlike what Dent and P.J. Farmer had written Docs parents did not die separately but together in Brazil at the hands of a nefarious antiquities dealer and smuggler who hurled a jar containing burial chamber dust laden with a ancient bacilli which infected and killed his parents. ( Both of Docs parents were highly respected scientists and physicians) This happened in 1925 not 1931 as Dent had written. Doc was completing his medical training at Columbia University and at this university is were he met his five friends who would become his brain trust and brothers from 1931 to 1945. Doc swore to get justice not revenge for the death of his parents so from 1925 to 1931 he dedicated himself to developing mind, and body to near superhuman levels and to get the skills that he needed.

Since this article concerns the S M P Mark III we must first look at why he developed it. Doc understood that evil men with evil schemes used firearms so Doc realized he and his associates needed one too. Adhering to his Hippocratic oath about doing no harm and realizing if he took a life in the pursuit of justice he was no better than the the men he fought he sought to make a humane non-lethal weapon. Spending weeks considering and researching various ideas from the sublime to the ridiculous, Doc's choices came down to on two designs: the Mauser C-96 "Broomhandle" pistol and the Thompson sub machine gun. He decided to incorporate features from both of these weapons into his proposed new design.

Doc designed a cartridge that was capable of delivering an effective dose of an anesthetic drug without doing serious injury. He discovered that the blunt force trauma of most rounds at point blank range could still break bones or even stop the heart so he went for a small caliber projectile. After several tries using everything from .22 caliber to .45 acp Doc settled on the .32 caliber or 7.5mm cartridge using what would later be called wad cutters the .32 round would hit its target break one to three layers of skin and deliver the anesthetic.

Doc's next stop was the Walther weapons company in Germany. Doc presented his plans gave them one hundred thousand dollars US and five years to develop and perfect it in the utmost secrecy . During this five year period Doc with the help of one of his Associates developed a formula with a curare derivative which would render a person rapidly unconscious and paralyze their muscles but with no effect the autonomic nervous system (i.e. the heart and lungs would not stop functioning). Meanwhile he made several transatlantic flights to keep abreast of the SMP's development from prototype through the first two models. The Mark I had so much recoil that it was difficult to control on full automatic. The Mark II reduced the recoil but at the expense of accuracy and range. Doc rejected them both which led the Walther gunsmiths to nickname him "Goldilocks" since he considered the original models to be either too hard or too soft. The Mark III was just right.

Dent in his writings stated that the SMP used a rams horn (spiral) design much like what was used on the Luger tanker pistol but this was a complete farce. There was no way this could fit into a shoulder holster as described in the stories. The actual magazine was more like a banana clip than spiral drum. To say that a drum magazine was not used would be incorrect as well. Dent took the information concerning both and combined the two and so the ram horn design was created. In actuality the drum magazine was a miniature version of a Thompson drum containing 40 .32 cal. rounds The drum was developed by one of the Walther designers as a lark but Doc saw it liked it and said "Build it". By 1930 Walther had perfected the S M P to fire either semi-auto or full auto at the flip of a switch. In 1930 Doc took possession of six completed SMPs, each with five 10-rounds banana clips. He also got twelve 40 round drum magazines along with the plans, templates, tools, and spare parts for repairs.

What follows is the Mark IIIs technical information.

Mark III Super Machine Pistol Design :
Internal Blow Back ( the slide cycles internally i. e., Thompson SMG)
Barrel length: 115mm
Cartridge size: 7.5mm
Length of gun from butt to barrel: 167mm
Rate of fire on full automatic: 700 rounds/minute
Width: 43mm
Weight unloaded: 1.28kgs
Weight with 10 round magazine: 1.43kgs
Weight with 40 round magazine: 4.59 kgs
Muzzle velocity: 317 m/ sec. full round
Muzzle velocity mercy bullet: 158m/sec
Maximum range: 1,500 m full round
Maximum range mercy bullet: 750 m
Lethal effective range: 800m
Mercy bullet effective range: 400m
One handed accuracy: 75m
Held in two hands (Weaver grip or braced): 200m
# of grooves in bore: 6
Sight radius: 147m

During the development of the Mark III S M P the weapon was subjected to rigorous testing and it could function flawlessly in severe temperatures ranging from -50c to +70c and has proven reliable in wet and dusty conditions. Resistance to saltwater corrosion is due to a quality paint finish and proper interior oiling. The Mark III was highly resistant to mechanical damage. Test drops from 6m onto a concrete surface and 10m to a hard clay surface (including being dropped barrel first) found no mechanical damage. Being run over by an automobile produced no damage either.

The Mark III was also equipped with a muzzle flash suppressor and a internal compensator to negate a barrel climb when fired on full auto. This attachment could be unscrewed and replaced by a sound suppressor (silencer) chambered for the 7.5mm round which reduced the bullet crack to near zero. This suppressor was mentioned in one (to the best of my knowledge) super-saga. While Dent always mentioned the weapon being fired on full auto the Mark III could fire on semi automatic as fast as you could pull the trigger. Most pistols only held 5-7 rounds at that time. The 10 round magazine and 40 round drum made the Mark III a formidable weapon to face off against even at the semi-auto setting. On full auto, the rate of fire was 700 rounds/minute. This was faster than the basic Thompson SMG (600 rounds/minute) but slower than the Mauser C-96 on full auto (1000 rounds/minute).

So in conclusion the SMP like Doc took time to develop but it came to near perfection and the weapon served him and his associates well. What follows are photos of the Mark III with and without it s silencer, the shoulder holster and the drum magazine.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Quest of Tcho

A mysterious lost race of little people in the frozen wastes of the Arctic known as the Qui captures Doc Savage and his crew to enslave them as they do to all normal sized humans. In the end Doc Savage triumphs and in a Lincolnesque turn abolishes slavery. Who are these little people and where did they come from?

There are several clues in popular literature which point to their true identity.

In the stories of H. P. Lovecraft and his circle there is mention of a diminutive race of hominids known as the Tcho-Tcho. They are described as horribly visaged, sometimes with hair, sometimes without, belonging to a different race than that of Homo sapiens. They have utter contempt for mankind and in fact are cannibals who delight in human flesh. The name of this race is derived from the Tibetan word tcho which means 'black magician,' 'evil monster,' or 'destroyer.' They are said to worship the dark gods Lloigor and Zhar.

The Tcho-Tcho come primarily from South East Asia but there have been enclaves noted in the Pyrenees and Greenland.

The first mention of the Tcho-Tcho people is in August Derleth's stories "The Thing That Walked on the Wind" and "Lair of the Star-Spawn"(1933) where they are said to come from Burma. Lovecraft himself mentions them in his epic saga "The Shadow Out of Time" (1936). Later stories from the Cthulhu and Delta Green stories describe them as "the nastiest people who ever lived." During the Vietnam War, they carried on attacks against both sides but singled out the Hmong (and their allies the Americans) for particular violent attention.

There have also been strange stories of The Little People told in various parts of Europe, Britain, Scotland, and Ireland. The Basques who are a human ethnic group long suspected of having descended from the survivors of Atlantis have an extensive folklore about these Little People which sound suspiciously like the Tcho-Tchos. After the initial sinking of Atlantis, a few islands may have remained where the survivors of the lost continent may have sought refuge.

In her novel, Taltos, Anne Rice describes a group of Little People in Northern Scotland who live in the woods to this very day and who have a unique genetic endowment of 92 chromosomes making them tetraploids. They apparently also have powers of telepathy, precognition, and telekinesis though they are not very highly developed. Nevertheless, these people are short hirsute and incredibly strong for their size. These Little People allegedly have babies after a very short gestation period who are born able to walk and talk. It is clear that some of these are gross exaggerations. Nevertheless these Little People are nasty, cannibalistic, and antithetic towards ordinary humans.

According to Rice, the Little People and the 7-foot non-human race known as the Taltos are closely genetically related to each other and more remotely to mankind. It seems that the two races had lived on a series of islands in the North Atlantic which sank into the ocean thousands of years ago forcing the races to migrate to Scotland and from there to the rest of Europe. It is through humans mating with Taltos and Little People that a hybrid form of human with 92 chromosomes came to exist which possessed various psychic powers. Rice called these hybrids 'witches.'

It is possible that the Little People and the Taltos races were genetically engineered in the deep distant past to be servitors to other races which have since vanished. They had survived the sinking of the main continent of Atlantis by living on scattered islands which later sank themselves.

It is interesting that according to Rice, the Taltos also have "walking , talking babies" from birth who mature very quickly. They also share some memories from their parents and their ancestors. This might help to explain the problem of John Sunlight who is now suspected to be the son of Doc Savage and the Countess Idivzhopu. If Doc Savage and the Countess each were hybrids carrying 92 Chromosomes, it is possible that their child would be a Taltos. That would solve the problem of how Sunlight could have been born in 1919 and still be a powerful man able to challenge Doc Savage in 1937. If he was actually a Taltos, he would have fully matured within just a few weeks of birth (not the mere hours that Rice claims in her novels). It would also help to explain Doc Savage's own unique physical and mental prowess if he carried the extra genetic material of one of Rice's witches.

If all of this speculation is true, then the story of the Quest of Qui may have been far more horrific than the novelization by Dent indicated. His publishers would not have permitted him to include the gory details of cannibalism and other Tcho-Tcho depravities in their publications.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Wildman Coat of Arms

Philip José Farmer the late great Science Fiction Grandmaster wrote biographies of the two iconic pulp characters of the 20th Century: Tarzan Alive! and Doc Savage, An Apocalyptic Life. In those biographies, he traced the ancestry of these two characters through the complexities of Burke's Peerage and demonstrated that they were not only related to each other, but also that they were descended from British Royalty. This entitled them to coats of arms based on their ancestry.

Farmer had a written description of Tarzan's coat of arms which was printed in Tarzan Alive! which was rendered as a line drawing in the book by Bjo Trimble. There was a coat of arms description in Doc Savage, An Apocalyptic Life but no actual drawing was ever made. UNTIL NOW!

In Farmerphile no. 14 (Oct. 2008) artist Keith Howell used Phil Farmer's original notes to create the first actual rendering of the coat of arms for Dr. James Clark Wildman Jr. aka Doc Savage.

This was something I have waited 37 years to see! It was well worth waiting for.

At the Farmercon in Peoria, IL held on June 6-7, 2009 I obtained a signed copy of this for my desktop and a poster that I now have framed and hanging in my library. I also purchased coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets, and other quality reproductions of this image which were made available at the conference.

It is my hope that other Doc Savage fans will be as excited about this as I am and that they will send emails to requesting that merchandise using this image be made available to Doc Savage fans through Cafe Press.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Evil in Pemberley House by Philip José Farmer and Win Scott Eckert

The great Grandmaster of science fiction, Philip José Farmer, was the consummate bibliophile. He was well read in classical English prose as well as the more popular literary works of modern times. His love for the broad sweep of English literature led him to create the Wold Newton Family, named after a place in England where a meteor had come to ground on 13 December 1795. Phil united all of his favorite literary characters and genres in one enormous scheme that spanned the entire length of human history even into the future.

Mr. Farmer first proposed his grand vision in his biography of the man whose life was fictionalized by Edgar Rice Burroughs in the Tarzan series. This book Tarzan, Alive! (1972) launched the Wold Newton Family. Farmer traced the family history of Tarzan, Lord Greystoke, through several centuries of English literary and historical characters. He continued this project in his next biographical work Doc Savage: An Apocalyptic Life (1973). Farmer had previously postulated a family link between Tarzan and Doc Savage in his controversial novel A Feast Unknown (1969). In his later biographical works, he documented the research to make the case for that relationship. Thus he was able to link Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice to Sherlock Holmes, Major Barbara, Fu Manchu, The Time Traveler, and Robert Harrison Blake from the Cthulhu mythos.

Phil Farmer was always a maverick and an innovator. It is no surprise that he decided in the mid 1970s to write his own version of the romantic English novel but with a modern erotic twist. In this he anticipated by over a decade the trend in Harlequin-style romance novels which have become even more graphic than he had imagined 30 years ago. The story would wed together the settings and characters from his favorite works of literature and the extended Wold Newton Family he had created to unite them. Thus was born the original outline for the novel The Evil in Pemberley House.

As often happens to men of literary genius, Phil Farmer's fertile imagination birthed many plot lines, some of which would never be brought to fruition. There are so many ideas yet there is so little time. As he completed work on his Riverworld series, started his Dayworld series, and finished the one work of which he was most proud (The Unreasoning Mask), The Evil in Pemberley House receded into the background and became an idea he had discussed with a few friends and colleagues decades earlier. But the written outline remained hidden in his file cabinet along with other tantalizing projects that never were developed. It was very much like that battered dispatch box of Dr. John Watson hidden in a bank vault on Charing Cross Road containing notes on the unwritten cases of Sherlock Holmes.

Eventually, the outline of Pemberley House came to the attention of Win Scott Eckert who has published widely on the web and in print on the Wold Newton Universe. He has helped to make the Wold Newton Universe an on-going world-wide phenomenon. Win realized the importance of this novel to the Wold Newton legacy especially since it came from Philip José Farmer himself who had conceived of Pemberley House at the height of his creative effort in creating the Wold Newton Universe. With permission from Phil and his wife Bette, Win collaborated with Phil in fleshing out the story and preparing it for publication. The final editing was completed in 2008 and Phil Farmer lived long enough to learn that his Pemberley House story was to be published by Subterranean Press in 2009. The master story teller Phil Farmer passed away on 25 February 2009 at the age of 91, but his legacy lives on.

The story of The Evil in Pemberley House is set in 1973. The heroine, Patricia Wildman, is the daughter of the great adventurer, Dr. James Clark "Doc" Wildman who had recently died along with her mother in a plane crash somewhere in the arctic. Their bodies were never found. After her parents' death, Patricia had married one of the physicians who had worked in the clinic with her father, but he dies tragically shortly after they are married and she is left alone and with no close family ties.

Patricia is a tall voluptuous woman with the same golden-flecked eyes, bronzed skin, and red-bronze hair as her father. She had been educated like her father from childhood to be a physical and mental marvel, though not with the same intensity with which her father had been trained. Even though she is a virtual superwoman, Pat is still a lonely young lady who is haunted by the loss of her father. He had been more than a mere parent to her. He was such a paragon of human perfection that he seemed more like a god. His memory still intrudes on her when she is with other men. None of these other men -- even her late husband -- could match up to her father in anything, and she burns with incestuous desire for him even though she knows he is dead.

As she struggles with her loneliness and confusion, she learns that through her father's lineage, she is next in line to inherit Pemberley House, the sprawling mansion in Derbyshire which is featured in Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice. It is also possible that she could receive the title of Baroness of Lambton. Pat decides to go to England and to see Pemberley House for herself and meet the 103 year old Duchess of Pemberley who currently owns the mansion. Based on what she will find, Pat will decide whether or not to accept the inheritance. She hopes that this adventure will take her mind off her recent personal tragedies.

But things are never that simple in a Phil Farmer story!

Pat meets an odd cast of characters: some grotesque, some nasty, some hostile, and virtually all of them lascivious. On the trip from the airport to the mansion, Pat must prove her mettle when she is brutally assaulted. But she shows that she is indeed her Father's daughter and routs her attackers. Pat also discovers that Pemberley House comes with its own ghost and family curse. Early on, Pat finds that many of the occupants of the mansion don't want her there and seemingly will do anything to discourage her from becoming the heir.

The book is filled with conflicts of various kinds including some incidents that would definitely have made the prim Ms. Austen blush. This is after all a Phil Farmer story set in the sexually turbulent 1970s and the erotic content is an integral part of the story. But the sexual content is very tame compared to similar modern stories and is not merely gratuitous.

The colorful cast of characters includes the dowager Duchess and her very personal physician multiple servants with mysterious pasts and those hangers on who gravitate into the lives of wealthy people when there are no relatives to prevent it. There are also the usual bedroom-farce antics and cases of mistaken identity that abound in romantic novels.

Pat is faced with several mysteries that need to be solved. The motives and identities of several characters need to be discovered. She has to understand why odd events in the house keep occurring. And most importantly, she actually confronts the apparent ghostly apparition and needs to determine whether it is truly supernatural or just another scheme to scare her away from the house and her inheritance.

During the main body of the story we are introduced to the history of Pat's family which included her grandfather who was the illegitimate love child of the Duchess's husband and who committed a great crime which sent him into exile to America. There was also a lost scion of the family -- actually the duchess's nephew -- who had been marooned in Africa as a child and who eventually returned to assume the identity of the Duchess's own son. There are also a host of other flamboyant characters that will be quite familiar to fans of Phil Farmer's biographical works. Wold Newton fans will be treated to numerous clarifications and extensions of the Wold Newton Family. Included in the final production form of the novel will be an updated Wold Newton family tree so that fans may keep track.

The denouement of the story is an extended action sequence in which Pat Wildman confronts the real villains and triumphs over them. She is depicted as fighting virtually nude in clothing that has been shredded during the action. It very much reminded me of the iconic image of Doc Savage and his torn shirt made famous by the art work of James Bama from the Bantam reprints of the Super Sagas. This is where the solutions to all the mysteries are revealed. I must comment that the flow of the battle sequences went very smoothly which clearly was the work of Mr. Eckert. Similar sequences by Phil Farmer in other works were often choppy and chaotic. Nevertheless, the content of these sequences was pure Farmer with editorial polish.

Overall, this was a fun book to read. It had action, adventure, mystery, sex, violence, and a large dose of Wold Newton connections. I think the collaboration between Eckert and Farmer was excellent. They made their own contributions to the plot and the final editing gave a satisfying flow to the narrative. The story also left open the possibility of a sequel or two. Or more. If there are any other outlines in Phil Farmer's filing cabinet, I for one would like to see Win Eckert be permitted to flesh them out into full fledged novels.

The Evil in Pemberley House stands on its own as an entertaining story, but in my opinion, one can better appreciate it if one has read the genealogical portions of Tarzan, Alive! and Doc Savage: An Apocalyptic Life. This is not strictly necessary but the reader will be rewarded with a better grasp of the underlying storyline. I think it is also highly recommended that one read Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Priory School which is also quite important to the background of the story

I am so pleased that this classic Philip José Farmer story was rescued from oblivion by the collaboration of Win Eckert and Phil Farmer. Wold Newton fanatics such as myself will find a gold mine of new canonical material from the master himself and bold writers will be able to use this to extend the Farmerian legacy to future generations.

The Evil in Pemberley House by Philip José Farmer and Win Scott Eckert will be published by Subterranean Press on September 30, 2009 in two editions

The trade hardcover edition is current listed here on at a substantial discount.

The Limited Edition of The Evil in Pemberley House is available directly from Subterranean Press. There will be only 200 copies printed each signed by Win Scot Eckert. It will come with an exclusive chapbook of bonus materials that includes Philip Jose Farmer’s original outline for the novel, as well as an extended family tree for the Wold Newton Universe.

Pre-publication orders are currently being accepted at both sites.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Philip José Farmer: A Tribute

I want to give a personal tribute to Philip José Farmer the renowned author who passed on to his reward on 25 February 2009. He has been a major influence on my life and thought for 40 years. His work brought me many years of entertainment and thoughtful reflection. From his imagination sprang The Lovers, The Riverworld, the Wold Newton family, The World of Tiers, The Dungeon, The Night of Light, A Feast Unknown, and far too many thoughtful stories for me to catalogue here.

I first came to know Phil through his novel "A Feast Unknown" which was a parody loosely based on the pulp characters Tarzan, Lord Greystroke and Doc Savage. Phil's pastiche characters -- Lord Grandrith and Doc Caliban -- were his take on what a true feral human and Übermensch might be like. These characters were very different from the Pulp heroes upon which they were based. They were heroes for sure, but more human and apt to have flaws and foibles that made them more distant and frightening than their Pulp models.

This was a theme that went through all of Phil's work. He saw the hypocrisy in American society with its racism and prejudices. In his life he had been the victim of scams by powerful men who outwardly praised virtues of fairness and generosity but who stole his ideas and peddled them as their own. Phil was especially sensitive to propaganda that demonized "the other" whether in political, sexual, racial, cultural, or religious terms. He opposed such things openly and wrote some very controversial material which is somewhat tame by modern standards but in its day pushed the envelope of literary propriety.

But Phil never lost a sense of what was right and good. In a time when anti-heroes were popular, Phil Farmer wrote about REAL heroes who had values and standards and fought for them. Phil in fact was obsessed with the idea of the hero and in what that actually meant in the real world.

In his literary biographies Tarzan Alive! and Doc Savage: an Apocalyptic Life he took heroic icons from his own childhood and fleshed them out as real people. It was almost a religion to him. Phil once remarked to an interviewer that while some people believed in Jesus, he believed in Doc Savage.

This comment reveals to me that Phil Farmer was on a quest to find meaning in life and something in which to believe. He wrote several stories that were critical of the Fundamentalist Christianity which was so prevalent around him. In reaction against this, there was a time when he flirted with Catholicism. During that time he wrote the Fr. John Carmody stories which are personal favorites of mine. (It is one of my great regrets that Phil died before he could tell the story of what happened at Johns Hopkins to convert the master criminal John Carmody and move him to become a priest.) As a devout Catholic myself, it is obvious that Phil read widely in theology and understood the Catholic faith. In many ways, I can see remnants of that in his later works as well. But Phil could not reconcile the Catholic Church's teachings on sexuality with his own perceptions. I think this in large part inhibited him from converting.

One of my favorite stories by Phil is "St. Francis Kisses his Ass Goodbye." In it, Phil showed an in-depth understanding of St. Francis of Assisi which surprised me. This was projected on to a back drop of the dehumanizing aspects of poverty in the modern world when Il Poverello is projected forward into the 20th Century by a time-machine experiment gone haywire. To save the world from destruction St. Francis must be sent back to his own time. I think this story showed that Phil was not sure the piety of St. Francis really had a place in our day. Yet it was obvious that he appreciated and admired what St. Francis had accomplished in his own time.

Similarly, there was an episode in the Riverworld series where a Catholic Prince established a kingdom along the river which embodied all the virtues of the Catholic faith. Phil described is as a wholesome and good place.

I don't think that Phil ever gave up on God or on the Church. He just could not find a way to believe in perennial values. What Phil could believe in was personal integrity and the heroic spirit. This is what he found in Tarzan and Doc Savage. Good men who made virtuous choices and who persevered against evil even when against the odds.

Phil took this love of the hero to a greater length and created the Wold Newton Family to bring together his favorite heroes from all fiction into one literary universe where goodness and justice would in the end prevail. This was a religious vision of faith and hope in the heroic spirit as something working in history in the hearts and minds of people who projected their values into the stories which entertained and sustained them.

Phil Farmer has moved on now and our prayers and thanks go with him. I hope he finds in eternity what he was searching for in the world's longing for literary heroes. He has left us a great legacy which I will cherish and which I hope to help pass on to posterity. We will likely not see his like again for quite sometime.

Rest in peace, Phil. Thanks for everything. We will miss you. I hope to see you again soon.

Art Sippo MD, MPH

Member Doc Savage Webring

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