Thursday, 14 April 2011


Reading the blog of Lord Cardigan (Precipitation With Insight) regarding Wold Newton got me thinking that perhaps it was time to pay tribute to the great man himself, Philip Jose Farmer.

Some of you younger readers might not have heard of PJF but he was an inspirational (he certainly inspired me!) writer. Sadly PJF died last year but he lives on in his books and to my mind his greatest work was the Riverworld series which were instrumental in persuading me to populate the Demi-Monde with historical characters. If you haven’t read the books I urge you to do so: they are simply marvellous pieces of fantasy and packed with imagination.

The other thing that PJF did was introduce sex to SF. Even today his books ‘Image of the Beast’ and ‘Blown’ have the power to shock – the remembrance of what the girl with the steel teeth did still lingers.

Probably though, what PJF is best remembered for is the creation of the Wold Newton Universe. A comet crashed to earth in a tiny place called Wold Newton in Yorkshire in 1795 (a real life event) and PJF conjectured that the radiations it emitted affected the occupants of a coach travelling near the village, causing genetic mutations. These people became the precursors to a group of superheroes that are the staples of classic pulp SF: Tarzan, Doc Savage, Professor Moriarty, Allan Quartermain and many others. It was a real leap of imagination and is tremendous fun.

But what those who study the mystery of the Wold Newton comet forget, is that it wasn’t just the radiation that was to shape history. The detritus of the comet itself would have strange ramifications …

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