The Weird Tales of Philip José Farmer

Jul 2, 2015 by

F&SF 79-05To most pulp enthusiasts, the late Philip José Farmer is best known as “A prolific and popular science fiction writer who shocked readers in the 1950s by depicting sex with aliens and challenged conventional pieties of the genre with caustic fables set on bizarre worlds of his own devising.” In science-fiction circles, Farmer is most remembered for his novels. Called “sprawling, episodic works that gave him room to explore the nuances of a provocative premise while indulging his taste for lurid, violent action,” his best were set in the Riverworld and World of the Tiers series. He was named a Grand Master of Science Fiction in 2001. To those who know and love him the best — the members of FarmerCon who first joined our convention in 2011 — Philip José Farmer is revered for his work concerning the Wold Newton Family. But what about Philip José Farmer, the horror writer? In this year when PulpFest celebrates the 125th anniversary of the birth of H. P. Lovecraft, it seems fitting that our FarmerCon friends turn their attention to Philip José Farmer, the writer of weird tales.

Farmer’s short story “The Freshman,” originally published in the May 1979 issue of THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, is certainly the story that owes the most to Lovecraft. Set at the New Englander’s fabled Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts, it concerns a sixty-year-old occult novelist who enrolls at the university. Soon thereafter, he is invited to pledge at a fraternity called the House of Hastur. A fairly playful horror story, it was selected for the 1990 edition of Arkham House‘s TALES OF THE CTHULHU MYTHOS.

Image of the BeastOther notable Farmer weird tales include such short stories as “Duo Miaule,” “Evil Be My Good,” “It’s the Queen of Darkness, Pal,” “Monolog,” “Nobody’s Perfect,” “Opening the Door,” “The Rise Gotten,” and “Wolf, Iron and Moth.” There are also the science-fiction/horror novels IMAGE OF THE BEAST and its sequel BLOWN. These concern a private detective who is led into a waking nightmare of sexual brutality and supernatural bestiality in a universe populated by erogenous vampires, werewolves and other polymorphic creatures from the darkest recesses of the human imagination. Additionally, the collaborative novel THE EVIL IN PEMBERLEY HOUSE  — written with Win Scott Eckert — is not only an addition to the Wold Newton cycle, but plays with pulp and Gothic horror traditions. Finally, there are elements of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos to be found in his renowned classic DOC SAVAGE: HIS APOCALYPTIC LIFE and “The Monster on Hold,” the first chapter of an unfinished Doc Caliban novel that originally appeared in the World Fantasy Convention program book for 1983. Win Scott Eckert has entered into an agreement with the Estate of Philip José Farmer to complete this novel.

Help PulpFest and FarmerCon celebrate H. P. Lovecraft’s lasting influence, less than a week before the 125th anniversary of his birth, by attending “The Weird Tales of Philip José Farmer” on Friday evening, August 14th, at 9:10 PM. Featuring Jason Scott Aiken, Chuck Loridans, and Frank Schildiner, all leading scholars of popular culture and Farmerphilia, our FarmerCon X panel will take place in the second-floor programming area of “Summer’s Great Pulp Con” at the Hyatt-Regency Columbus.

Jason Scott Aiken  is a fantasy and horror writer and is also the host of Pulp Crazy, a blog and podcast dedicated to classic popular literature, characters, and themes. He has many episodes devoted to the works of Philip José Farmer and weird fiction from the pulp era. Chuck Loridans is one of the founding members of the New Wold Newton Meteoritics Society with whom he has appeared on panels at San Diego Comic-Con and ArchCon in St. Louis. His essay “The Daughters of Greystoke” appeared in MYTHS FOR THE MODERN AGE: PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER’S WOLD NEWTON UNIVERSE, published by MonkeyBrain Books. He teaches cartooning at the Renzi Education and Art Center in Shreveport, Louisiana and serves as the art director for the Gaslight Players theatre group. Frank Schildiner is a “new pulp” author who has also published several articles on horror in comic books, television, and film including essays on HELLBOY, the Frankenstein films, DARK SHADOWS, and television’s Lovecraftian links. His latest novel, THE QUEST OF FRANKENSTEIN, has Frankenstein’s monster meet H. P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West: Reanimator.

Chuck Loridans, it all started with Tarzan of the Apes, then Doc Savage. At the age of twelve he discovered Philip Jose’ Farmer had connected them. Farmer lead him to the incredible world of Pulp Heroes and the Wold Newton Universe. He is one of the founding Members of the NEW WOLD NEWTON METEORITICS SOCIETY with whom he has appeared in panels at Archon/Tuckercon/NASFIC in St. Louis and San Diego Comic-Con, promoting Wold Newton. He is the creator of MONSTAAH (Maximum Observation and/or Neutralization of Supernatural Terrors, Autonomous Agents Headquarters) and the Wold Newton Scholar who discovered that Tarzan of the Apes had two daughters (MYTHS FOR THE MODERN AGE: PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER’S WOLD NEWTON UNIVERSE, edited by Win Scott Eckert). Chuck makes his living in the real world as a hospital groundskeeper and a cartooning teacher at the Renzi Education and Art Center in Shreveport, LA. He is also the art director for the Gaslight Players theatre group.

Since 2011, PulpFest has hosted FarmerCon, a convention that began in Peoria, Illinois, the hometown of Philip José Farmer. Originally a gathering of Farmer fans figuratively, and literally, right outside Phil’s back door, FarmerCon offered presentations, dinners, and even picnics at the author’s house.  After the passing of Phil and Bette Farmer in 2009, it was decided to take FarmerCon on the road to broaden its horizons. By holding the convention alongside events such as PulpFest, Farmer fans get a variety of programming and a room full of pulp and book dealers to enjoy. As always, PulpFest is  very pleased to welcome its FarmerCon members to our joint conference.

To learn more about Philip José Farmer, please visit The Official Philip José Farmer Web Page. It’s the Brobdingnagian collection of all things Farmerian!

(Farmer’s “The Freshman” was originally published in the May 1979 issue of THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, featuring cover art by British artist David A. Hardy.

As a teenager, Hardy discovered Chesley Bonestell’s pioneering astronomical art and worked to emulate the “Father of Modern Space Art.” He got his big break when Patrick Moore, the host of the BBC’s THE SKY AT NIGHT, asked him to illustrate his next book. So began a lengthy collaboration between the two men. During the 1960s, Hardy became a freelance artist. He began to contribute cover art to science fiction magazines in early 1970. One year later, he started a long association with FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, creating more than fifty covers and many interior illustrations. He also painted numerous covers for both ANALOG and INTERZONE.

Farmer’s IMAGE OF THE BEAST was originally published in 1968 by Essex House, a Los Angeles publishing imprint that specialized in highbrow erotica. About half of their forty-two titles were science fiction or fantasy, including novels by Philip José Farmer, Richard E Geis, David Meltzer, and others. In 1979, Playboy Press reissued IMAGE OF THE BEAST, pairing it with its sequel, BLOWN. The cover art was by Enrich Torres, a painter best known for his work on the various Warren magazines, most prominently VAMPIRELLA, for which he rendered many covers.)