SNS readers likely know by now that I am a tireless devotee of the late great sci-fi iconoclast Philip José Farmer. What they may not know is that every summer since 2006, a gathering of Farmerian fans and scholars has taken place at what has been dubbed FarmerCon. Initially FarmerCon was held at the home of Mr. Farmer and his wife Bette. In 2007, I was able to meet in person Phil (as everyone referred to him) and Bette Farmer, their family, and notable luminaries such as Tracy Knight and SNS favorite Joe R. Lansdale. Most gratifying to me was to be able to gather together with fellow Farmer fanatics. Some, such as Paul Spiteri and Rick Lai, I was meeting for the first time. Others – including Win Scott Eckert, Dennis E. Power, Christopher Paul Carey, and Chuck Loridans – I was reunited with after initially meeting them at the 2006 San Diego Comic-Con.
Finances (or lack of) have prevented me from returning to FarmerCon, which, after the deaths of Phil and Bette, has settled in its current home at the PulpFest, held every summer in Columbus, Ohio. I am determined to make it in 2013, but until then, I – and SNS readers – can thrill vicariously to the joys of PulpFest and FarmerCon 2012, as rendered by prolific SNS Minion Sean Levin. Sean can bring everyone up to speed on what FarmerCon is these days,and what people and what panels currently comprise the con. So I hand it over to Mr. Levin and his exhaustive report.
As a longtime fan of the late, groundbreaking science fiction author Philip José Farmer, one of the highlights of last year for me was attending Pulpfest/FarmerCon, the annual celebration of his life, work, and legacy. At long last I got to meet other fans of Farmer’s work, such as Win Scott Eckert, Michael Croteau, Art Sippo, and John Small. Many of these gentlemen share my love of one of Farmer’s most famous creations, the Wold Newton Family. Wold Newton is a vast family tree comprised of a variety of pulp and adventure fiction’s most famous heroes and villains, many of whom can trace their ancestry to eighteen people riding in coaches through the village of Wold Newton on December 13, 1795. The ionization and radiation accompanying a meteor that night affected the genes of those present, resulting in them having remarkable descendants. Characters identified by Farmer as members of the Wold Newton Family include Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty; the Shadow; the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu; Phileas Fogg; the Spider; Bulldog Drummond and his nemesis Carl Peterson; James Bond, and Lord Greystoke and Doc Savage (both of whom were the subjects of biographies by Farmer, which examined the true history of these two larger than life heroes, exposing the truths behind Edgar Rice Burroughs and Lester Dent’s exaggerated and fictionalized accounts of their true exploits).
Once again, my father Steven accompanied me on the trip. Win Scott Eckert’s wife, Lisa, was gracious enough to meet us at the airport and drive us to the Hyatt, where the convention was being held. We made our way to the Dealer’s Room, where we met up with Win, Mike Croteau, and Paul Spiteri (editor of the Farmer collection Pearls from Peoria, and together with the two aforementioned gentlemen, the brains behind the publisher Meteor House, which is responsible for the annual anthology series The Worlds of Philip José Farmer). We then met Chuck Loridans, Rick Lai, and Lucas Garrett, among others. While I did wander around and buy some books, I spent the majority of my time at the Meteor House booth, hanging out and chatting with my friends, several of whom I was encountering face-to-face for the very first time. After spending a couple hours in this thoroughly enjoyable manner, everyone attending FarmerCon that day shared pizza and conversation. Chuck delivered an excellent reading of Leo Queequeg Tincrowdor’s story “Osiris on Crutches,” reprinted in The Worlds of Philip José Farmer 3: Portraits of a Trickster. As with last year’s convention, the hospitality and camaraderie between my fellow Farmer fans and Wold-Newtonians were a truly wonderful experience.
This being the 100th anniversary of Burroughs’ creation of Tarzan, the panels that night all had a distinctly Burroughsian theme. At 7:00, I attended a panel entitled Lord Tyger, Time’s Last Gift, and The Gods of Opar, which consisted of Win, Paul, and Christopher Paul Carey. For the uninitiated, Chris is the co-author with Farmer of The Song of Kwasin, the third book in the Opar series, all of which are collected in the omnibus The Gods of Opar, published by Subterranean Press, and features the early days of the city rediscovered by Lord Greystoke (one of Farmer’s favorite heroes) in the early 20th Century. These gentlemen discussed the works in the panel’s title and others by Farmer that were influenced by Burroughs and Jules Verne. Also discussed were Titan Books‘ excellent series of reprints of several Farmer novels, many of which are part of the Wold Newton mythos, and plans for future entries in that series. Win, Paul, and Chris all knew Farmer personally (for which I envy them) and their love and enthusiasm for his work is obvious.
Immediately following that panel, guest-of-honor Mike Resnick spoke about his love of ERB and involvement in Burroughs fandom, as well as his career as a professional author and his negative experiences with Hollywood’s attempts to adapt his work. Mr. Resnick was fascinating to listen to and incredibly funny, thus making me plan to seek out more of his work. This panel ended at 10:00, after which time I shared a long conversation with Win, Paul, and Mike, the details of which I am not yet at liberty to divulge…
At 11:00, we attended a film program entitled Tarzan on Mars, which featured three works. The first of these was footage from Bob Clampett’s never-completed 1936 animated adaptation of Burroughs’ novel A Princess of Mars. As a fan of both Burroughs and Clampett, I greatly enjoyed this beautiful footage, though sketches of “hawkmen” seemed to evoke Alex Raymond more than Edgar Rice Burroughs. Following that was a short film about a female astronaut on Mars entitled “The Last Flight” that was most enjoyable. Finally, we were shown the French documentary I Tarzan, which interviewed Farmer, French pop culture expert Francis Lacassin, and George McWhorter, Editor Emeritus of The Burroughs Bulletin. Despite the surreal quality of the film, it was still very entertaining. Although the subtitles for Lacassin’s contributions were somewhat iffy, Farmer’s account of his meeting with the “real” Tarzan was delivered with a great deal of sincerity and McWhorter’s childlike enthusiasm for the series was infectious. This film capped off an excellent day, with the majority of my friends and I retiring to our respective rooms directly thereafter.
After spending the morning with friends and fellow conventioners, Dad and I attended a panel called The New Fictioneers, where Win read excerpts from his stories for The Worlds of Philip José Farmer 3 and the upcoming The Avenger: Tales from the Roaring Crucible. Both these stories are connected to each other and several other recent stories by Win, and having read the Worlds of PJF story, “The Wild Huntsman,” I can testify that fans of the Wold Newton cycle and Farmer’s trilogy of novels featuring Lord Grandrith and Doc Caliban should most certainly read this wonderful tale. At 3:30, Win was part of a memorial panel alongside Ron Fortier and Ron Hanna delivered very touching reminiscences on Howard Hopkins, the writer and editor, and David Burton, artist, poet, and author.
Afterward, a few of us went out for dinner; but the conversation was more enjoyable than the food. Win and I discussed everything from David Liss‘ execrable scripting on Dynamite Entertainment’s comic adaptation of the Spider to the group devoted to the Wold Newton concept which we co-moderate on Yahoo!, and which is owned by my fellow Minion and dear friend Henry Covert. Afterwards, rather than attend further panels, we sat in chairs on the second floor and talked for hours, and I took several pictures, including some of the ones you’ll see accompanying this very report. At 9:00, somewhat exhausted, I returned to my room.
We had a most enjoyable rambling conversation on the way to the airport the next day, and I offered both my friends a warm goodbye. This FarmerCon surpassed last year’s, and I can only hope that the next one surpasses this!
Sean Levin - Minion (Reviewer/Reporter)
Tune in on Halloween for our live interview with author Trent Zelazny. The show will begin at 6:30PM Eastern and will be open to callers for the duration. We will be discussing Trent’s latest novel Too Late To Call Texas (which will be officially released the same day!) and all things spooky. Be sure to play close attention because on the following day we will have a contest. The winner will receive a spooktacular prize pack!