Myths for the Modern Age: Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton Universe Paperback – Oct 11 2005
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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
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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!
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