Greetings to ill and sun-dried,
Today, I bring you my report on FarmerCon, the annual celebration of Philip José Farmer’s life and work hosted by Pulpfest. I had a great time this year, as I did in the three years preceding this latest con. Here we go!
Signed in human blood,
Sean Lee Levin
Philip José Farmer has been my favorite author for twelve years now. My first exposure to his work was via his writings about the Wold Newton Family, a vast family tree composed of heroes and villains from pulp, detective and adventure fiction, as well as a few characters from mainstream literature. Through my involvement in online Farmer and Wold Newton fandom, I have made a number of close friends who share my love for the late great Science Fiction Grand Master’s work. It was through my being a member of his Yahoo group dedicated to the Wold Newton Family that I first became acquainted with my blood brother and fellow site contributor Henry Zeo Covert, which eventually led to his wife, webmistress Sarah L. Covert, asking me to write for this very site. Since 2006, Farmer’s fans have been holding an annual convention called FarmerCon, celebrating this groundbreaking author. I have been lucky enough to attend every single FarmerCon from 2011 onward, during which time the convention has been hosted by the annual Pulpfest, currently held in Columbus, Ohio.
This year, my father (Steven Levin) and I arrived at the Hyatt Regency Columbus, where the convention has been held since 2012, on the morning of Friday, August 8. After dropping my luggage and other things off in the room I was sharing with Henry, I went to the Dealer’s Room, where I greeted my friends who had already arrived. I was especially excited to seeWin Scott Eckert, who has done much to help keep Farmer’s legacy going strong, including heavy involvement in Titan Books‘ recent series of reprints of several classic works by Farmer with new forewords and bonus materials. Win and Henry are my two best friends in Farmer/Wold Newton fandom, and two of my best friends in general. Also in attendance were Rick Lai, Jason Aiken, Art Sippo, Frank Schildiner, Michael Croteau, Paul Spiteri, and Christopher Paul Carey at the booth for Meteor House Press, which is run by Win, Mike, and Paul. I hung out with the guys for a while, shooting the breeze and buying books from them and other sellers (such as Airship 27), and received my contributor’s copies of both the softcover and hardcover editions of Josh Reynolds‘ novella Phileas Fogg and the War of Shadows, an official sequel to Farmer’s The Other Log of Phileas Fogg, which revealed the hidden story behind Jules Verne‘s Around the World in Eighty Days. I did some continuity editing on Josh’s novella, which was published by Meteor House, as did Win. I also received the wonderful news, announced the day before, that Win had been given permission to complete Farmer’s unfinished novel The Monster on Hold, the unfinished fourth novel in Farmer’s Secrets of the Nine series. Win did a great job completing another unfinished Farmer novel, The Evil in Pemberley House, and I know he will do justice to this book as well.
Sean Levin at the Meteor House table
Eventually, I got a call from Henry, who told me he was on his way to the Hyatt. I went down to meet him in the lobby, and we shared a warm greeting. I was ecstatic to finally meet face-to-face someone who had been a true friend to me for ten years. After dropping off his stuff in our room, we went back to the Dealer’s Room, where Henry said hello to everyone. At 2:30, we went to a New Fictioneers reading, where Chris read an excerpt from his story “The Goddess Equation” included in The Worlds of Philip José Farmer 4: Voyages to Strange Days, the latest in a series of annual anthologies from Meteor House. This particular story was set in the continuity of Farmer’s Carmody-Raspold stories, and having already read the anthology, I knew it was a quality story, and enjoyed Chris’ reading. Chris also read the opening of Hadon, King of Opar, a planned novella authorized by the Farmer Estate and sequel to Farmer’s Ancient Opar books, the third of which, The Song of Kwasin, was completed by Chris, and included with the first two books, Hadon of Ancient Opar and Flight to Opar, as the omnibus edition Gods of Opar. These novels explore the early days of Opar, the lost city that would be discovered by Tarzan in the 20th century. I am very excited to read this novella. After the Dealer’s Room closed, I and the rest of the FarmerCon crew went out to dinner at a nearby restaurant. Unfortunately the service was very poor, but the camaraderie was excellent, and I enjoyed sharing a table with Win and Henry and conversing about pop culture. I also talked to Win, Paul, and Mike about my forthcoming authorized sequels to Win’s two-volume magnum opus Crossovers: A Secret Chronology of the World. We hammered out some of our plans for Volumes 3 and 4, which hopefully will come out next year.
Friday dinner. Left to right: Win Scott Eckert, Rick Lai, Frank Schildiner, Michael Croteau, Henry Covert, and Paul Spiteri
At 8:30 we attended a presentation by Mike and Art entitled “A Feast of Farmer: PJF’s Early Science Fiction,” which discussed Farmer’s stories for the pulp magazines and digest publications. Accompanying this presentation was lots of very cool cover art for those stories. Mike and Art are both Farmer experts, and the panel was both informative and interesting. After this, we went to the second floor, and sat in comfy chairs and talked about everything under the sun for a few hours. Eventually, I chose to retire to my room.
The next day, I spent more time in the Dealer’s Room, buying books and hanging out with my buddies at the Meteor House table. At 1:00, I attended the panel “The Fun of Writing Pulp Fiction,” hosted by Ron Fortier and consisting of Frank, Art, Ralph Angelo, Jim Beard, and Wayne Reinagel. These gentlemen discussed the joys of writing New Pulp fiction. Afterwards, Mr. Beard read excerpts of his work from the books Sgt. Janus Returns, Monster Earth, and Pride of the Mohicans. I haven’t read much of Mr. Beard’s fiction yet, but I definitely want to now. At 3:00, Frank read an excerpt from his novella The New Adventures of Thunder Jim Wade Volume Two: The Horror of Hyperborea, featuring Henry Kuttner‘s classic pulp hero in a story that also includes elements of Mary Shelley and Robert E. Howard. Frank also read a story of his that was published in the anthology series Tales of the Shadowmen. 5:00 brought the Pulpfest group dinner, held at the Italian restaurant Buca di Beppo. Luckily, the service was much better there than it was at the establishment we had visited the night before, and there was lots of great food and great conversation. At 7:30, the Pulpfest 2014 Business Meeting was held, where guests were allowed to ask questions and make suggestions as to how to make the convention experience even better for all involved. Immediately afterward, the Munsey Award was presented to pulp scholar J. Randolph Cox. After this, me and my friends once again adjourned to the second floor, where we talked about everything under the sun, though mostly of a pop cultural bent. I retired to my room around midnight.
Dinner at Buca di Beppo. Left to right: Jason Aiken, Win Scott Eckert, and Dominique Hopkins.
Sean Levin (left) and Win Scott Eckert (right)
Henry Covert (left) and Sean Levin (right) on the last day of the convention
Left to right: Henry Covert, Win Scott Eckert, Steven Levin, and Sean Levin
On Sunday morning, Dad and I had to leave early to catch our plane, but I was able to say goodbye to those of our friends who were still there, and had my photo taken with Dad, Win, and Henry. It was great seeing all of my friends again, and to finally meet Henry after all these years of internet, phone, and Skype conversations. I know I cannot wait for next year’s convention! I give FarmerCon/Pulpfest 2014 a well-deserved 5 out of 5 tentacles!
Sean Levin – Associate Editor/Reviewer/Reporter