This week, I’m happy to be rambling on with fellow Wold-Newton afficianado Christopher Paul Carey.
Christopher Paul Carey is the coauthor with Philip José Farmer of Gods of Opar: Tales of Lost Khokarsa. He is an editor with Paizo Publishing and the award-winning Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and the editor of three collections of Philip José Farmer’s work: Up from the Bottomless Pit and Other Stories, Venus on the Half-Shell and Others, and The Other in the Mirror. His short fiction may be found in such anthologies as The Worlds of Philip José Farmer, Tales of the Shadowmen, and The Avenger: The Justice, Inc. Files. Visit him online at www.cpcarey.com.
ANTHONY: I know you’ve told this story elsewhere, but let’s start out with the basics: How did you get involved with Philip José Farmer and come to collaborate on THE SONG OF KWASIN, the conclusion of Farmer’s Opar/Khorkasa Trilogy?
CHRIS: Back in 2005, I was serving as editor of Farmerphile: The Magazine of Philip José Farmer, a quarterly digest dedicated to printing rare and previously unpublished material by Farmer, as well as articles on his life and work. Michael Croteau—Farmerphile’s publisher and Phil’s webmaster—and author and Wold Newton expert Win Scott Eckert were in Peoria searching through Phil’s archives looking for material to print in the magazine when the outline and partial manuscript to the third Khokarsa novel turned up. I was contacted because I was editing the magazine, and I pitched the idea of completing the novel to Phil. I’d known Phil since 1998, and we’d corresponded before that. He was familiar with my writing about his work, and he told me he was confident I’d do a good job with the story. I think that, because of my writings on his work as well as our similar backgrounds in Haggard, Burroughs, and other adventure writers from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, he felt I’d be faithful to his vision. We also shared a love of anthropology, which figures heavily into the world building for the Khokarsa series.
ANTHONY: What was working with one of your heroes like? And how heavily was he involved in the process?
CHRIS: Wondrously terrifying! Phil gave me some specific input on how he wanted the third book and the trilogy to wrap up, but largely left how I would handle things up to me. That said, I followed his original outline as closely as I possibly could and kept him up to date on everything I was doing as the book progressed. He approved the expanded chapter-by-chapter outline that I wrote based on his own outline, and I mailed chapters of the novel as I wrote them to Phil so he and his wife Bette were apprised of what I was doing.
ANTHONY: I asked Win Eckert this question too, in relationship to THE EVIL IN PEMBERLEY HOUSE: How hard was it merging your own distinct voice with Phil’s, especially considering you were wrapping up a trilogy?
CHRIS: I’ve been immersed in Phil’s writings for many, many years, so I think a lot of his phraseology has rubbed off on me, and some of that probably comes through in The Song of Kwasin. Phil had a unique style, brilliant really, in that it’s very simple and clear and yet conveys sophisticated nuances. I’m not sure anyone can completely replicate another writer’s style. One can come close, but style is always translated by the particular spirit of the writer.
I did, however, very consciously write the novel imagining that I was in 1976, when the last installment of the series was published. So I tried to limit myself to the modes of mid-1970s heroic fiction precisely because I didn’t want the reader to sense a hiccough between the second and third books. But it’s not up to me to say whether I succeeded.
ANTHONY: Subterranean Press has published an omnibus edition, GODS OF OPAR, that includes THE SONG OF KWASIN. The limited edition of the book has some extra special features, correct? Can you tell me about them?
CHRIS: The signed limited edition sold out in preorders before publication, so I hope what I’m about to say won’t be too frustrating to someone who reads this now and wants a copy! In any case, the limited edition includes an entire signature of background material about the Khokarsa series written by Philip José Farmer. These include Phil’s original typed outline to the third novel, a detailed article on the Khokarsan language, a Khokarsan glossary, the Khokarsan calendar, and an article called “The Plants of Khokarsa.” None of these items have ever been published before, and they go a long way to sampling the meticulous world building Phil worked out for the series.
ANTHONY: There’s another Khorkasa tale coming out, written completely by you. Where can readers find it?
CHRIS: Exiles of Kho is a signed limited edition being published by Meteor House. The story is set several hundred years before the main trilogy and tells the story of the heroine-priestess Lupoeth as she explores the southern inland sea in the hinterlands beyond the empire of Khokarsa.
ANTHONY: Okay, let’s back up a bit. You are a huge “Farmerphile.” What was your first exposure to Phil’s work?
CHRIS: The first books of his that I read were The Maker of Universes, Tarzan Alive, and, fittingly, Hadon of Ancient Opar. I was twelve at the time, and I never viewed literature the same way again.
ANTHONY: How heavily has Phil’s work influenced your own writing? And who else do you consider your biggest influences / heroes?
CHRIS: Well, I’ve now written a novel, two novellas, and a short story, all set in his world of Khokarsa, if that answers your question!
As far as other influences and writers whose work I admire, there’s Frank Herbert, Hermann Hesse, H. Rider Haggard—hey, that’s a lot of the letter H! Another one: David Herter, who I think is one of the most brilliant voices out there today, and who heavily influence my short story “Caesar’s Children,” which I one day hope to expand into a novel.
ANTHONY: What is your own writing process like? Are you an “outliner” or a “pantser” when working on your own projects?
CHRIS: I’m an outliner. Then I invariably diverge from the outline as needed and become a “pantser.” I also usually immerse myself in months of research before I start writing. For instance, the story I just mentioned, “Caesar’s Children,” was the result of about a year of surveying nineteenth-century utopian fiction. And that’s just a short story. It’s easy to get lost in the research because that’s the fun part of the process for me.
ANTHONY: You’ve written short stories and novels … does your process change at all from form to form?
CHRIS: It’s generally the same for me, except occasionally I can crank out a short story with the outline only in my head.
ANTHONY: You’re also a leading “Wold-Newton” scholar. What is it about Farmer’s Wold Newton concept that continues to fascinate new readers?
CHRIS: The Wold Newton family is a genealogy of literary characters proposed by Farmer in his biography Tarzan Alive, in which he attributed the extraordinary heroic and sometimes villainous characteristics of the family members to a 1795 meteor strike at Wold Newton in the East Riding of Yorkshire. I think the concept still resonates forty years after Farmer created it because the heroes, heroines, and villains from literature compose a sort of modern-day mythology. We want to believe in these characters, and seeing them as part of a family tree makes them more real to us. There’s also the ingenious way Farmer executed the genealogy—not merely as a series of dry literary crossovers, but rather through his intimate understanding and genuine love for the characters, and often with great humor.
ANTHONY: What projects are you working on now?
CHRIS: Right now I’m putting the finishing touches on Exiles of Kho. Then it’s back to my historical dark fantasy novel set in 1888, which I’ve spent the past few years researching.
ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who has never read it to convince them that they should?
CHRIS: I can’t answer that—too many! But one I’ve returned to many times in recent years is David Herter’s Vernean fantasy Evening’s Empire. A composer dealing with the ghosts of his past and slipping into irreality as he’s working on an opera of Twenty-Thousand Leagues under the Sea—what could be more tantalizing than that?
ANTHONY: Thanks, Chris!