|Picture from The Offical P.J.Farmer Homepage: http://www.pjfarmer.com/|
The Wold Newton Universe is a crazy, mixed-up place full of all the classic heroes and villains of popular literature and more. Originated by Philip Jose Farmer in his recently reissued classic of literary pseudo-scholarship and faux-biographies Tarzan Lives, and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, the Wold Newton Family set forth by P.J.Farmer soon morphed and mutated into the Wold Newton Universe (WNU) thanks in large part to Win Scott Eckert who is credited with sparking the hyper-creative expansion and on-going evolution of Farmer's original concept into the thriving field of parascholarship and literary crossover-ification that it has become today. The librarian-superhero Jess Nevins, the Warrenverse's Chris Nigro (Who also contributed to this post by the way), and several other stalwart and scholarly adventurers have likewise set sail upon the high seas of Post-Farmerian Wold Newtonry and our own universe is far better for it.
Those two books from the 1970s began what we today call the field of creative mythography (coined by Win Scott Eckert) or parascholarship. Farmer introduced the concept of many the world's most famous, infamous and even in some cases overlooked or obscure fictional characters sharing a common ancestral lineage (based upon the meteorite crash in the town of Wold Newton, Yorkshire, England, on December 13,1795) and co-inhabiting the same reality. Farmer established a means by which all the literary characters of the past that he cared to meddle with or make use of were now fair game to his schemes and machinations--though in some cases Copyrights and Trademarks did present something of an obstacle. But not for long as can be witnessed by Farmer's reinvention of both Tarzan and Doc Savage in his Lord Grandith and Doc Caliban novels A Feast Unknown, Lord of the Trees and The Mad Goblin.
Farmer's The Adventure of the Peerless Peer, (an official crossover between Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes), and The Other Log of Phineas Fogg further explored and developed the Wold Newton concept, as did his excellent A Barnstormer in Oz.
Farmer also produced a very good and very official Doc Savage novel Escape From Loki, which is well worth tracking down if you're at all a fan of the Man of Bronze.
Philip Jose Farmer is probably best known and remembered for his Riverworld, World of Tiers and Dungeon series as well as such books as A Barnstormer in Oz, Hadon of Ancient Opar and many, many others. His intense scholarship and mind-wrenchingly brilliant and exhaustive work in developing faux autobiographies of both Tarzan and Doc Savage is what set the whole Wold Newton ball of wax into motion. The Official PJF website has a page dedicated to Farmer's Wold Newton works that is very much worth taking a look at, if only to get some idea of the depth and bredth of this particular literary Rabbit Hole. (Just the Tarzan or the Doc Savage Chronologies that Win Scott Eckert has contributed to the Farmer website can keep you busy for weeks, months, years...may the Gods ahve mercy on your soul if you click here.)
Alan Moore, an extraodinary gentleman and another very accomplished adept of the literary crossover, speaks frankly about P. J. Farmer in this interview. Win Scott Eckert has edited a truly memorable anthology of Farmer's original essays and a wealth of other Wold Newton information titled Myths For The Modern Age, which is available from Monkeybrain Books. There is also a recent anthology of Wold Newton/Farmerian goodness that has been published by Meteor House titled The Worlds of Philip Jose Farmer, an excerpt of the first 200 words from Eckert's tale Is He In Hell? is now available here. Black Coat Press and their Tales of the Shadowmen series as well as the 2-volume Crossovers books are also very fun WNU resources. The PulpNet site also offers a nice overview of the Wold Newton Universe concept.
One of the best first places to go in order to learn about the Wold Newton Universe would be Farmer's Tarzan Alive and/or Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, and Win Scott Eckart's incredible treasure house of a web pages hosted by the PJFarmer site. After that, there are so many links, so many authors, so much material and so little time that you're pretty much on your own. It's an incredible literary labyrinth and imaginative play-ground...and it is highly addictive. Consider yourself forewarned. There is no known cure, should you succumb to the dubious wiles and insidious plots & counterplots of the WNU.
Two other Wold Newton sites to consider are The Secret History of the Wold Newton Universe by Dennis Power, and The French Wold Newton Universe by Jean-Marc & Randy Lofficier. Chris Nigredo's very detailed articles on Horror Hosts and the Brady Bunch can both to be found on The Secret History of the Wold Newton Universe site as examples of the diverse array of characters and concepts that various creative mythographers have worked on incorporating into the WNU.
The WNU is a huge macro-topic, and with Chris Nigro's and others expert help, this is just the beginning of our explorations of the Wold Newton Universe via this blog.