Bill Hillman's
Bill Hillman's ERBzin-e Weekly Online Fanzine
Volume 65b


Philip José Farmer
PJF's Links to ERB
Compiled by Bill Hillman

PJF Links To ERB I

One of PJF's enduring obsessions; besides alien sex, messiahs, immortality and Sherlock Holmes, is Tarzan. So far, he has written five books that involve the Lord of the Jungle, including a faux biography called Tarzan Alive. Creator Edgar Rice Burroughs didn't see all of the possibilities inherent in Tarzan. Farmer has posited, for example, that such a superman would have a super sex drive.
 Another of Burroughs' heroes was John Carter, former Confederate cavalry officer transported to a barbaric Mars (which the inhabitants call Barsoom). That Carter marries a human-like Barsoomian gives us the blueprint for much of Farmer's science fiction: alien-human mating and larger than life heroes involved in endless action. Still, Carter couldn't hold a candle to Burroughs' other hero in Farmer's imagination. He told interviewer Charles Platt that his childhood nickname was Tarzan. Obviously, Farmer spent as much time climbing trees as reading.
 Patrick Lozito


Ballantine and my agent are working on a contract for me to write an original Tarzan novel. More on that later. Working title: TARZAN'S GREATEST SECRET.

In TARZAN THE UNTAMED, Tarzan crosses a desert during his quest, and then he comes to a rather lush area. While in the desert, he encounters a skeleton of a rather large man who is clad in, well, Burroughs is a little unspecific but I would say 16th-century Spanish armor, with the helmet, cuirass and blunderbuss. Tarzan also finds a copper cylinder with the skeleton and he opens it. Inside there's a manuscript and a parchment map, in a language he thinks is Spanish, but of course he can't read it. For future reference, he puts it back in the cylinder and puts it in his bow quiver. That's the last you ever hear of it in Burroughs, except that when Tarzan is later in the city of Xuja, he does run across a mention of a giant stranger, or a tradition of a giant stranger, in armor who came through the city once, terrorized it and then fled. So obviously it's the same person, except that in my novel, Tarzan eventually had the map and the manuscript translated when he went back to British headquarters. It turns out not to be about the city of Xuja at all but some other place, because that Spaniard didn't have time to write down anything after he'd gone in the city of Xuja and then fled.

So I picked up that one adventure, which I'd years ago hoped that Burroughs would complete. I always wanted to do that. It takes place in October 1918, near the end of WWI. It's sandwiched between TARZAN THE UNTAMED and TARZAN THE TERRIBLE. TARZAN THE TERRIBLE is actually the sequel, involving Tarzan's quest for Jane, who's been abducted by a German officer and taken into the Belgium Congo for reasons unstated.

Del Rey, or the people that own them, just dragged out the negotiations for months and months and then, finally, they sent me the contract, but it was a contract for work-for-hire. Which I didn't know was coming but I should have figured that out. That means that Burroughs owns it, and they're just hiring me to write it. I get just a portion of the royalties. It's copyrighted in the Burroughs' estate's name, which of course they have every right to do. I expected that.

So I sent it back and then it took months. I called up my agent yesterday and he said that the contract got in today with the check. Well, now I can go ahead, because I was never really sure, but in the meantime I had started work on it. And then, right in the middle of it, I got the copy-edited manuscript of NBIH. It took me two weeks to go over that, I cut it down from 100,000 words to 90,000. I cut out a lot of good stuff, which was necessary; I cooled off since I wrote it. I got enough stuff left over from that to make half of another novel.

One of the troublesome things, a thing you hate to do when you're writing, is to cut out the good stuff. You can cut stuff that isn't quite relevant or maybe makes the book too long. You just hate to do it, but after you've been a professional writer long enough, you can do it. And if you're economical you'll save it.

The bibliography of TARZAN ALIVE is very interesting. I've had people here and in England trying to buy some of those obscure books referred to in the bibliography, and they had some trouble. And I say no more {laughs}. The thing is, they are all very authentic-sounding.

TIME'S LAST GIFT, "TLG" = Tarzan Lord Greystoke?
It's not intentional, it's another case of people reading into my stuff things that weren't there. I was unconscious of it. "Time's last gift" was a quotation from a poet, whose name I can't recall right now.

I have thought about finishing [the Opar series.] But instead of the proposed five or seven books, I'd just try to finish in it one book. I knew the final cataclysmic ending right from the beginning. A huge earthquake wrecks the civilizations and opens the inland sea to flow into the Congo. The dry spells were just starting then, before the Sahara became a desert. 12,000 years ago there was a lot of water there, it was the end of the Ice Age.

I was sorry to read Blish's remark about the attention paid to ERB in RQ being a waste of critical effort ... I imagine that there are plenty of avenues open, scholarly journals and such, which give all the opportunity the Joyceans need to express themselves. So I can't see why Blish should be against us ERB-fans having fun when we don't object to his joys in working out the four-dimensional crossword puzzles of Finnegans Wake. If his main objection is that there isn't much ore to be mined in ERB, then he obviously doesn't know what he's talking about. If he objects on the ground that Joyce is so much more "literary,' so much more complicated, and that the education to be derived from working out the FW crossword puzzle is so much broader than that from working out ERB, then he has valid objections. But I believe that ERB is as deeply "mythic" as Joyce, although Joyce was a conscious mythographer and ERB wasn't. I submit that the unconscious mythographer may go deeper even than the conscious (and self-conscious) mythographer. He may not cover the same territory; he may not appear to claim so much horizontal territory. But vertically he is greater; his roots go all the way into the cerebellum....

You probably know that ERB, when writing Tarzan of the Apes, originally titled Tarzan as Bloomstoke. Later on, he changed Bloomstoke to Greystoke. My theory is that ERB coded certain names so that scholars could some day ascertain, if they were detective enough, the identities behind the coded names. So Bloomstoke did lead me into strange paths (as did Greystoke) but not towards Joyceland. Where it led me will be the subject of an article, "That Extraordinary Greystoke Family."

It doesn't take long to establish that ERB published Tarzan of the Apes before Joyce published parts of Ulysses. So ERB couldn't have intended to connect the Wandering Tarmangani of Africa with the Wandering Jew of Dublin. I had played with the idea that ERB was splitting up the world of humanity with Joyce. ERB was showing us the Superman; Joyce, the Everyman. But I've failed to establish that either writer knew of the other, let along collaborated in secret or otherwise. certainly, if there is any derivation, Joyce would have derived from ERB, who is clearly prior in time of creation (and publication).

However, it seems improbable to me that a writer with the cosmic scope of Joyce could have overlooked Tarzan. Surely, somewhere in the universe of Finnegans Wake, there is a reference, however ingeniously concealed beneath a multileveled pun, to a hero even greater than Finnegan. I'm not competent (in 1970, at least) to dig this out. But I wonder if some learned Joyceans, such as Mr. Blish and Judy-Lynn Benjamin, couldn't ferret out this reference for me? Perhaps they've actually read it a dozen or a hundred times and never realized what they were seeing because they weren't looking for it. One of the beauties and the joys of Finnegans Wake is that something many times reread may suddenly blaze with a hitherto concealed revelation. The relays clicks and the covert circuit is operating. Calloo! Callay!

I await the disclosure of the passage about the Immortal Ape-Man. And if the Joycean scholars won't take up the challenge, then I'll have to do the work myself. Our examination round his Tarzanification for ingumination of Work in Regress...

On reading the first part of Dr. Mullen's article on Haggard/ERB, I wrote a long critique of his critique (though his is actually more a listing than a critical article). But I decided to wait until I'd read the first three before sending in my comments.

We should all be grateful for Mullen's lists and for your printing of It. Future articles on ERB will undoubtedly rely heavily on this handy reference. And I notice that Leslie A. Fiedler has read the listing Mullen did In a previous issue (can't lay my hands on it just now to give title and date of publication). Fiedler referred to the scholar who did it, without naming him, in his recent article on Tarzan in the Now York Times Book Review section...

I have some hopes that the final article by Mullen will do more than list ERB's and Haggard's faults. I hope he isn't one of those critics who think it's the critics function to ignore a writer's virtues. Such critics are, figuratively, and perhaps literally, half-assed. I rather think, though, that Mullen finds no merit whatever in these two authors, and so we will not learn from him that Jung, Henry Miller, and others have paid tribute to the abidingness of Haggard as a shower-forth of immortal archetypes. Nor will Mullen have perceived (as Fiedler does) why ERB's Tarzan is an immortal literary figure. But I may be wrong. Let's hope so.

Fiedler mentioned me in the article as the world's greatest authority on Burroughs. If he'd said I was the greatest authority on Tarzan, he'd have been right. But I disclaim and deny any statement that I am the world's greatest authority on Burroughs. There are others, John Roy, Reverend Heins, Reverend Richardson, Frank Bruekel, Coriell, Cazedessus, and Mullen, who have made a far closer study of the complete works of Burroughs.

Also, when I may that I know more of Tarzan than anybody else, I must qualify even that statement. Lord Greystoke himself, and his family and a few close friends, know more about him than I do. However, some of the truth about him was revealed in my biography of Greystoke. And more is about to be revealed. From time to time, I got a package in the mails. They're always from the same person, but the mailing addresses are different, and there is no return address. These contain extracts from Greystoke's memoirs, the first batch of which will be in my anthology, Mother Was a Lovely Beast, Chilton Press, Oct., 1974. One of the interesting items in the extracts is the explanation of how Greystoke was able to assume his cousin's title without any publicity whatsoever. It's such a simple explanation, and an inevitable one, too, yet no one had ever guessed it.

This revelation, by the way, is going to force me to revise certain parts of my biography of Greystoke.

I also reveal that my interview with Lord Greystoke did not actually take place in Libreville, Gabon, as stated in the Esquire article. Greystoke had asked me to give this city as the interview site, instead of Chicago, where it actually took place. He did not explain why he wished me to put the interview in Libreville nor did he explain why he will now allow me to give the true place. Apparently he had good reasons, but it's not up to me to ask him what they are. Especially since I don't have his address.

I now have the latest extracts, which describe what really happened between him and La (or the woman whom Burroughs calls La). The two versions, alas, differ considerably, and Greystoke himself is not bound by any of Burroughs Victorian-Edwardian inhibitions and conventions.  You might be amused by a forthcoming book of mine, a pastiche in which Watson and Holmes meet Greystoke. An encounter G-8 and the Shadow on the way to Cairo to capture Van Bork. It also describes how Holmes solves the mystery of what happened to the Zu-Vendis civilization shortly after Allen Quatermain's MS was received by his agent, H. Rider Haggard. Not to mention Holmes' anticipation of van Frisch's discovery of bee "language." The Adventure of the Peerless Peer, The Aspen Press, September, 1974.

I got a letter from Bill Blackbeard some months ago. Among other matters he mentioned that a lot of people didn't like my theory (in Tarzan Alive) that G-8, the Shadow, and the Spider were three different personalities of ... Richard Wentworth. For those who are interested I've reconsidered the evidence  especially the chronological) and have abandoned that theory (which was actually more speculation than theory). But I cling steadfastly to my belief that G-8 was mad as Alice's hatter. However, he did have his lucid moments.

Also, I got many letters, from people who want to know where they can get copies of my Essex House books. These have long been out of print, but Vern Coriell is going to reprint A Feast Unknown, probably sometime this year. Later, The Image of the Beast and Blown. These will be illustrated by Richard Corben and will be issued by the Fokker D-LXIX Press, a subsidiary of the Acme Zeppelin Company.

Philip José Farmer was born in 1918, in North Terre Haute, Indiana. A part-time student at Bradley University, he gained a BA in english in 1950. Two years later, he shocked the SF world and became famous with the publication of his novella, "The Lovers", in Startling Stories. This story, that deals with the attraction of a man for an alien insectoid female, created a scandal at the time it was published, for it was the first time eroticism was introduced in Science Fiction. But it won him a Hugo award in 1953. His second Hugo came in 1968 for the story "Riders of the purple Wage", written for Harlan Ellison's famous Dangerous Visions series. And the third came in 1972 for the first part of the acclaimed "Riverworld" series, "To your scattered bodies go". Riverworld is indeed Farmer's most famous series to date. Second rank in popularity comes the "World of Tiers" series, upon which Thoan RolePlaying Game (RPG) is based.

In his novels, Farmer often deals with his most obsessive topics : religion, alien beings, sexuality, death and immortality. Farmer's heroes, just like Edgar Rice Burroughs' or Joseph Campbell's, are very brave, ready to go through bad times, in very exotic places, to fulfill a personal enriching quest. Adventure always plays a great role in the writer's novels, the climax of adventure being found in the "World of Tiers" saga.

Today, Farmer is a best-selling author in the United States and abroad, considered as one of the last great writers from the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Leslie Fiedler, an eminent critic, has written that Farmer "has an imagination capable of being kindled by the irredeemable mystery of the universe and of the soul, and in turn able to kindle the imagination of others - readers who for a couple of generations have been turning to science fiction to keep wonder and ecstasy alive." Many of Farmer's peers, such as Roger Zelazny, Theodore Sturgeon or Piers Anthony, don't hide their admiration for a man whose works very often inspired them.

Philip José Farmer lives and works in Peoria, Illinois.

PJF Links To ERB I

Visit the Official Philip José Farmer Home Page

Navigator's Chart to the ERB COSMOS
Links to over 1,000 of our sites
Weekly Online Fanzine
Online Encyclopedia
To The Hillman ERB Cosmos

Visit our thousands of other sites at:
Some ERB Images and Tarzan© are Copyright ERB, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work ©1996-2003 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.