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Myths for the Modern Age: Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton Universe [Paperback]

Win Scott Eckert
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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On December 13, 1795, a small meteorite plunged to the ground near the Yorkshire village of Wold Newton. According to veteran sf author Philip Jose Farmer, the crash produced a radiation shower that blanketed two horsedrawn carriages carrying some extraordinary witnesses. The meteorite was very real (a memorial marks where it struck); the witnesses were entirely fictional. As delineated in a series of papers spanning several decades of his career, Farmer's "researches" identified among the witnesses an impressive roster of celebrities, including everyone from Captain Blood, Sherlock Holmes, and Allan Quatermain to Tarzan, Doc Savage, and James Bond--often along with their offspring--just to name a few. Editor Eckert collects all of Farmer's so-called essays as well as others by several fans to fill out Farmer's fanciful scholarship. Although the volume appeals primarily to Farmer fans, anyone interested in "secret" biographical tidbits on Holmes and his popular-literary ilk may enjoy at least taking a peek. Carl Hays
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Book Description

In his classic biographies of fictional characters (Tarzan Alive and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life), Hugo- and Nebula-award winning author Philip Jose Farmer introduced the Wold Newton family, a collection of heroes and villains whose family-tree includes Sherlock Holmes, Fu Manchu, Philip Marlowe, and James Bond. In books, stories, and essays he expanded the concept even further, adding more branches to the Wold Newton family-tree. MYTHS FOR THE MODERN AGE: PHILIP JOSE FARMER'S WOLD NEWTON UNIVERSE collects for the first time those rarely-seen essays. Expanding the family even farther are contributions from Farmer's successors-scholars, writers, and pop-culture historians-who bring even more fictional characters into the fold.

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Poorly Edited Mish-Mash of Popular Culture May 16 2006
Format:Paperback
In the early 1970s, science fiction author Philip Jose Farmer wrote a pair of biographies, one of Edgar Rice Burroughs` Tarzan and the other of pulp fiction superhero Doc Savage, which connected them and numerous other fictional characters in a family tree. He was following in the footsteps of numerous writers who`ve written biographies of fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes or James Bond. In 2005, a lawyer named Win Scott Eckert gathered together several examples of this style of writing, much of which had previously been published on the internet or in various fanzines, in this volume.

The result is a mess. Virtually every piece in the book will baffle and confuse an uninitiated reader. It`s poorly edited, containing obvious errors of fact that should have been caught in the editing process, and a lengthy section of endnotes for the entire volume, rather than a set at the end of each article.

While there are some intriguing and accessible articles here, notably Christopher Paul Carey`s fascinating "The Green Eyes Have It -- Or Are They Blue", and the contributions of Mark Brown and Cheryl Huttner, most of them can be easily accessed through the Internet by anyone who takes the time to search for them. And they certainly don`t make the volume worthy of purchase.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you have any love for the Pulps, buy this now Dec 28 2005
By Robert - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I really can't say enough good things about this book, or about Win Eckert's incredible Wold Newton web site. For those new to it, the Wold Newton universe grew out of Science Fiction legend Philip Jose Farmer's imaginative take on a world where almost every major event and adventure of nineteenth and early twentieth century fantastic fiction had some basis in reality. It was a world where Doc Savage and Tarzan brushed shoulders and/or shared bloodlines with Phileas Fogg and Sherlock Holmes, a world where Bruce Wayne did fight crime, if not quite in the way portrayed by his more imaginative biographers. The Wold Newton Universe as Farmer created it was the mindscape of every voracious young reader of a certain generation. The essays collected here by Win Eckert expand and enlarge on that world, adding a depth and level of detail worthy of both the original source material and Farmer's own creations.

If you are a fan of early twentieth century speculative and fantastic fiction, the pulps, or Philip Jose Farmer, this book is a must read. It is also of special interest to fan fiction writers and role playing gamers, presenting a first rate re-imagining of established fictional characters.

I strongly recommend it.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome to the Wold Newton Universe Nov. 2 2005
By Henry Covert - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The groundbreaking, iconoclastic science fiction author Philip Jose Farmer introduced us to the Wold Newton Family concept back in 1972 with Tarzan Alive, a biography of the man Edgar Rice Burroughs variously called John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, and Tarzan of the Apes. In Tarzan Alive, Farmer asserts that Greystoke was a real person, and that Burroughs greatly exaggerated Greystoke's exploits for his pulp adventure audience.

In Tarzan Alive, Farmer did several things that set the tone for all Wold Newton works to follow. First, as noted, he followed the lead of Baring-Gould's 'biography' Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street and claimed that many fictional characters were in fact real people. Second, he analyzed the 'fictionalized' texts and attempted to reconcile any conflicting information, much as the Holmesian canon has been scrutinized for lapses in continuity by Baring-Gould, the Baker Street Irregulars, and others. Lastly, Farmer created the concept of the Wold Newton Family - a grouping of fictional characters that Farmer claims are blood related, including Tarzan, Holmes, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Raffles, Professor Challenger, the Shadow, and many others. He also accounts for the prodigious talents of Holmes, Tarzan, etc. by revealing that they are descended from a group of people traveling by coach in Wold Newton, Yorkshire, England in 1795 when a meteor struck a nearby cottage. The passengers of those coaches were exposed to radiation from the meteor, and this accounts for the benevolent mutations of their offspring (the Wold Newton meteor strike actually did occur on that date). Of course, their offspring all intermarried, and things became very complex.

Farmer continued to explore these ideas in Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, a 'biography' of the classic pulp hero. Not only does Farmer further the conceit of the hero being a real person, but he adds many branches to his Wold Newton family tree. By the end of DS:HAL, we see a huge family of extraordinary folk emerging, from the Spider, James Bond, and Fu Manchu, to Leopold Bloom from Ulysses, Vonnegut's Kilgore Trout, and Farmer's own hero Kickaha from his World of Tiers series - among many others. Farmer adds more outre texts (from Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos to Harlan Ellison's talking dog Ralph von Wau Wau) than in his previous work and doesn't claim they are fictionalized to the degree asserted in TA.

Now, many years later, comes this superb volume edited and including work by Win Eckert, who has maintained the premiere site for Wold Newton speculation on the Web. Eckert has coined the term 'Wold Newton Universe' to denote that many more fictional characters than dreamed of by Farmer inhabit the same shared universe. Eckert has added many characters by documenting crossovers between fictitious characters from all media, in all genres, though the pulp theme remains strong. Eckert explains how the WNU 'works' and his own methodology in Myths for the Modern Age. Dr. Peter Coogan contributes an amazing essay, 'Woldnewtonry', which describes the way various writers 'wold', that is bring in more characters and reconcile more contradictory texts. There are many essays here by 'post-Farmerian' writers, such as Chuck Loridans, who reveals which female adventure characters are the 'Daughters of Greystoke'; Brad Mengel, who explores the tangled family tree of Sherlock Holmes; and Dennis Power, who discusses 'Asian Detectives in the Wold Newton Universe', brings Kipling's Mowgli into the Wold Newton Family in an interesting way and provides, with co-writer Coogan, a definitive look at the long and storied life of Burroughs' John Carter of Mars (which is timely what with a feature film on John Carter in pre-production).

I cannot recommend this book highly enough to any and all fans of Philip Jose Farmer, pulp heroes, Tarzan, Holmes, or crossover fiction such as the League of Extraordinary Gentleman (for which MFTMA contributor Jess Nevins has penned two exhaustive companion volumes). You may not agree with all of the theories about your favorite genre characters and the connections between them (just as in real scholarship, the 'parascholarship' employed here invites a wide range of sometimes conflicting theories - attempting to reconcile them into a cohesive universe is one of the many thrills of 'The Game'). But you will definitely have an incredibly entertaining and informative read.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Game is Afoot! Nov. 1 2005
By Kevin T. Heim - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In the world of genre fiction, there are groups that dedicate themselves a little too much to particular franchises. Sherlockians and Trekkies, for example, often explore the nuances of their chosen obsessions with extreme approaches to explain away inconsistencies, or to justify how the fictional events could have happened (or will have happened) in the real world. Professional scifi author Philip Jose Farmer took the concept of the Game much farther with his biograghical works TARZAN ALIVE! and DOC SAVAGE: HIS APOCALYPTIC LIFE. In these inspired tomes Farmer not only took great steps to reconcile the lives of these pulp legends against history and their own vast bodies of works, but also utilized the marvelous literary conceit of the crossover. According to the genealogies Farmer created, Doc Savage and Tarzan are related to each other, as well as Sherlock Holmes, Raffles, Captain Nemo, and dozens of others. What's more, thanks to a real meteorite that struck Wold Newton, England in 1795, Farmer was able to show how all these men and their extended families were affected by a space-borne beneficial mutation, which goes a long way towards explaining their larger-than-life exploits. More books followed, as well as outright fiction stories based in this interwoven 'Wold Newton Universe' (as Win Eckert termed it). With the consideration of crossovers from other authors, the Wold Newton Universe can be expanded to include a great many works from a wide variety of sources.

This is where Win Eckert comes in. He was the first person online to promote Farmer's unified fiction theories and expand them well beyond their pulp orgins with his website AN EXPANSION OF PHILIP JOSE' FARMER'S WOLD NEWTON UNIVERSE in 1997. His groundbreaking work on crossovers and fictional genealogies has inspired many other fans to participate in the Game, each new author bringing his own field of expertise to the forefront, building on Farmer, Eckert and each other. The book you are about

to buy is the culmination of eight years of research into the art of 'literary archeology'. Win Eckert is still at the helm, though he has already been elevated from a fan to a professionally published author. His essays, along with those of many others, have been edited by Mr. Eckert and collected into Myths for the Modern Age: Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton Universe.

Is it the definitive look at the Wold newton Universe? Certainly not, and that's the point. The 'WNU' is still expanding, and always open to interpretation. Farmer is still the founder of this feast of the unknown exactly which entres make up the main course is for each reader to decide, for this feast is a buffet, with choices ranging from Lovecraftian horror and Howard's barbarian literature to Roddenberry's Star Trek and Universal Studios' movie monsters, there is something for everyone on the menu. And now, thanks to Eckert's book, we have a baker's dozen more chefs stirring their pots. What a feast it is!
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Opened up the Farmer World to Me May 8 2006
By Heidi Ruby Miller - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The contributors for this book provide a wonderful look into the world of Philip Jose Farmer. I had only read one Farmer book (The Tongues of the Moon) before delving into Myths. The excitement and intelligent discussion of Farmer's works in this volume prompted me to order several other titles. I am now on my third.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read and a bargain for the price Nov. 22 2005
By Karltoons - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Besides the current series of Farmerphile magazine, which includes previously-unseen works by Farmer, this is the first new publication in a while to showcase his mastery of the 'fictional' genre by collecting a slew of articles he wrote for various related fanzines over the years.

At its best, this is no 'Game', but a scholarly investigation into connections that might otherwise might've gone unnoticed or been unacknowledged. Despite the various subjective takes on the Farmerian Monomyth by the other authors also included here, all ultimately serve to contribute to a rising awareness in the reader of Farmer's own intricate and well-researched ideas, and the obvious great lengths he's undertaken to uncover them. Beginning with TARZAN ALIVE!, followed by DOC SAVAGE: HIS APOCALYPTIC LIFE, and including various related tomes, Farmer blew the lid off a kettle of worms, and now has a plethora of like-minded individuals following in his footsteps, equal in fervor and sometimes even with the same high standard of technique and craftsmanship.

No matter how the book is taken, MYTHS FOR THE MODERN AGE : PHILIP JOSE FARMER'S WOLD NEWTON UNIVERSE is a great read and will interest anyone who is into pulp literature, thought-provoking essays, not to mention comic books, as Wold-Newtonry closely parallels the now-rampant staple of 'crossovers' in that medium.

The cover is by John Picacio and below is a listing of the contents:

Introduction: Myths for the Modern Age: Farmer's Wold Newton Family and Shared Universe-

Win Scott Eckert

Wold-Newtonry: Theory and Methodology for the Literary Archaeology of the Wold Newton

Universe- Dr. Peter M. Coogan

The Arms of Tarzan (The English Nobleman whom Edgar Rice Burroughs called John Clayton,

Lord Greystoke)- Philip José Farmer

The Secret History of Captain Nemo- Rick Lai

From Pygmalion to Casablanca: The Higgins Genealogy- Mark K. Brown

A Reply To "The Red Herring"- Philip José Farmer

The Daughters of Greystoke- Chuck Loridans

The Green Eyes Have It - Or Are They Blue? or Another Case of Identity Recased-

Christopher Paul Carey

The Two Lord Ruftons- Philip José Farmer

Kiss of the Vampire- John A. Small

Name of A Thousand Blue Demons- Cheryl L. Huttner

The Great Korak-Time Discrepancy- Philip José Farmer

Asian Detectives in the Wold Newton Family- Dennis E. Power

This Shadow Hanging Over Me Is No Trick Of The Light- Jess Nevins

The Lord Mountford Mystery- Philip José Farmer

The Magnificent Gordons- Mark K. Brown

The Legacy of the Fox: Zorro in the Wold Newton Universe- Matthew Baugh

From ERB To Ygg- Philip José Farmer

Who's Going to Take Over the World When I'm Gone? (A Look at the Genealogies of Wold

Newton Family Super-Villains and Their Nemeses)- Win Scott Eckert

Jungle Brothers, Or, Secrets Of The Jungle Lords- Dennis E. Power

A Language For Opar- Philip José Farmer

Watching the Detectives, Or, The Sherlock Holmes Family Tree- Brad Mengel

Fu Manchu Vs. Cthulhu- Rick Lai

Jonathan Swift Somers III, Cosmic Traveller in a Wheelchair: A Short Biography by Philip

José Farmer (Honorary Chief Kennel Keeper)- Philip José Farmer

John Carter: Torn from Phoenician Dreams (An Examination Into the Theories that John

Carter was Phra the Phoenician and Norman of Torn)- Dennis E. Power and

Dr. Peter M. Coogan

D is for Daughter, F is for Father- Mark K. Brown

The Monster on Hold (A chapter from a projected novel in the Lord Grandrith/Doc Caliban

series)- Philip José Farmer

Travels in Time- Loki Carbis

A Review of Final Menacing Glimpses- Art Bollmann
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