Pilgrimage to Peoria

Philip and Bette Farmer sitting in their living room. Craig and I alternated asking questions and Bette came in towards the end of the interview with some funny stories. However for simplicity I don't designate who asked a question and who answered it.

   We are all looking forward to NOTHING BURNS IN HELL. Are there any familiar faces in this book, any mention of Tarzan or anything that someone would read and think, "Oh, there's a Phil Farmer trademark"?

   Well, the only trademark that I know would be that the protagonist is a trickster, as Kickaha and Tarzan were, for instance. Many of my novels contain tricksters, but I don't remember if I've written any short stories about tricksters or not. I've always been very interested, ever since I was a child and I came across books on North American mythology in the children's library. The trickster was a universal figure among the North American Indians, as well as in the myths, legends and fairy tales of all peoples, all over the world. I do make reference in NOTHING BURNS IN HELL to the Peoria Indian trickster Withihakako, "Withiha" for short. I'm trying to point out to the obtuse reader that the guy is a trickster although most people will figure it out anyway. I wanted to show what a long line of tricksters there were and how he fits right in.

   What's the main character's name?

   Thomas Gresham Corbie; as a matter of fact Corbie is Scotch dialect for crow. The crow, especially among the Northwest Indians, is the trickster figure. If nobody understands that, that's all right, and if they do, it's a little extra salt.

   There seem to be literary references in most of your books, such as the characters from the World of Tiers being named for characters from William Blake. Or an uncommon word the average reader has to run to the dictionary to look up.

   Well that's true, I can't keep from doing it! {laughs}. Well, if you have a lifelong background, and I'm almost 80 now, of stuff like that, why not use it? Actually when I wrote the Doc Savage biography, I was doing what I'd been prepared to do ever since I was 8 or 9. A lot of the stuff I could remember, or I knew what to look up or to make up.
   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.

   It's interesting, too, in Tarzan Alive how you have quotations from Kickaha and from Paul Janus Finnegan.

   Well, cross-transfer between my books, that's always been a thing with me. But as far as NOTHING BURNS IN HELL, which is actually a P.I./Regional novel, I did make a reference to Sherlock Holmes, but it was relevant. I don't think I made any to Tarzan or anybody else. I'm trying to keep it sort of straight, except for the trickster.

   Is there a character in it that might be you, since it takes place in Peoria? Any P.J.F.'s?

   No. NBIH is actually the first of what I call a Peoria Genealogy, none of which I am connected with. The main character, the narrator actually, of my late 1950's novel, FIRE IN THE NIGHT, is Danny Alliger. The Alliger family is implicated in NBIH, and they're one of the cases that my P.I. has. The P.I. is the third cousin to the man who hired him, but he never mentions it. It will be mentioned later on in another book.
   I've wanted to write a book for a long time called PEARL DIVING IN OLD PEORIA, a mainstream novel. Which is concerned also with a branch of the Alliger family. Actually it's concerned with the father of my P.I. in NBIH only when he was a young man coming back from WWII. His mother was an Alliger. There is a very close emotional relationship between the mother, who is trying to run this huge house she's inherited on High Street. When the family had money, her branch of the Alliger family owned it, then they lost their money and now she's running it as sort of a boarding house. The two sons and daughter come back from the war.
   Then I wanted to write a novel which takes place in the late 18th century in French Peoria and the first Corbie that comes over. I might write one later on about the first Alliger but it's a long range plan and I'm not sure I'll live long enough to do it.

   We actually have the PEARL DIVING question on our list, have you written any of that or is it all in your head?

   I've written numerous notes and very brief outlines of this or that character or situation. I'm not a character in it. It's based on a group of GIs I met when I went back to Bradley in '49. That was a fabulous group; it would equal anything you'd find in Berkley or Greenwich Village back then. All of the novel is in '48; it takes place at Bradley University or at the Corbie household on High Street. In this novel, Mike Corbie, who's the father of the P.I., is a paratrooper in WWII.
   Those are my plans, if I ever get an idea I just can't resist I'll write another science fiction novel. I have a whole bunch of ideas for science fiction or fantasy short stories but I don't know if I'll get around to them.

   What are your plans after Tarzan? Are you going to write another Tarzan novel? Have they left the door open for that?

   They could, but I just wanted to write one, so I could fulfill a childhood ambition.

   So after that you're going to stick to mysteries?

   I thought I'd go back to the P.I. novel (sequel) and then PEARL DIVING IN OLD PEORIA. I've been threatening to do that for years. I always got sidetracked on the other novels, but I think I'm about ready to do it.

   Is the Tarzan novel based on a thread from TARZAN THE UNTAMED?

   Yes, 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.

   How far have you gotten with the Tarzan novel?

   I just got started because 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.

   Kind of like RIVERWORLD WAR, which was cut out of THE MAGIC LABYRINTH.

   But this was funny stuff, like Peoria Indian legends that I made up. Then I cut out two characters completely; a one-legged woman and a three-legged dog who were symbols of courage despite handicaps. It's not what it was originally, but I hope it'll be better. Anyway, I'm going to use that stuff in another book.

   We're looking forward to NOTHING BURNS IN HELL coming out next spring.

   It should be out in May or maybe earlier; I don't know if the publisher's changed his mind. I had to wait more than a year for it, but they're moving on it now.

   The current Locus magazine lists it as a forthcoming book.

   They're going to put an artist on it, and after the editor goes over what I've done, then they'll send it to the printer. Then I'll get the galleys to go over, then I'll send that back, and then they will supposedly bring it out in May.

   Are there any specific sites in Peoria that are tie-ins to the novel?

   There's Grandview Drive. Unfortunately, I cut out one of the parts where the hero is on Grandview Drive, looking out over the upper Peoria Lake. But then the rest of it concerning a big house on Grandview Drive is there. (note: I've reinserted that part). I just kind of put together a mélange of houses there, and so forth. I cut out a lot of the history of the family and the house too, but it's still referred to and a lot of the action takes place there.
   Then there's High Street, I don't think I refer to it in this novel, but in PEARL DIVING IN OLD PEORIA a lot of the action takes place in a house there. High Street was originally called Highwine Street because the whiskey barons and the beer barons lived there. During the time of the Civil War, the tax on the liquor produced in this area provided half of the money used to run the Federal Government's war efforts. It was a terrible amount of money that the Federal Government got. Now all of that is gone. I think there is a microbrewery there now. {laughs}
   For many years in the 19th and 20th centuries we had the world's largest distillery. Back then the whiskey barons lived up there, eventually they left, other people moved in and then a blight, you might say, hit. People lost money like the mother in PDIOP and a number of them turned into boarding houses, now people are fixing them up again.
   We also have right by there, which I'm going to mention in the next book, a 500-year-old oak that started growing about the time that Columbus came. Would you believe, that a number of years ago, some developer was going to cut it down? Then, the local citizens raised hell.

   You have published many stories in dozens of science fiction magazines. To the best of my knowledge you have never published anything in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. Was that because of the trouble you had with the abridgement of Jesus on Mars? Did it sour the relationship?

   No, it didn't sour it, I just didn't have any stories that were aimed towards that magazine. I think the editor at that time, George H. Scithers, may have become sour, not with me, but with my agent.
   I was never in Astounding, either, or Analog, its successor. I sent a bunch of stories to John Campbell at Astounding. Of course, the most famous is the first one "The Lovers", which he said made him sick in his stomach. I sent a few after that, but he wouldn't take any. I stopped sending them because I figured he's not going to take them. His magazine is not my type----I mean, I love the magazine to read but it's not the type of story I write. I sent THE GREEN ODYSSEY to him. I thought it was a sure thing, but no, he thought I didn't treat the medieval-type people right. He thought I made too much fun of them.
   I don't think he had a great sense of humor. Well, he should have, with some of the inventions that he backed. A perpetual motion machine, for example {chuckles}.

   Didn't Horace Gold at Galaxy also say at one time that the story "Mother" made him sick?

   He said the same thing about "The Lovers" but later on he changed his story. He told people that he wanted me to rewrite it and put it in modern times but I wouldn't do it. He never suggested that, never. Of course, Gold was famous for changing writer's stories. "Open to Me, My Sister" made him sick, it might have been "Mother" too, for all I know. I seemed to make a lot of people sick, back then. {laughs} Now that you've jogged my memory, he did say that about "Mother". I can't remember if I sent it to Campbell or not. If I did, I shouldn't have, he would have bounced it. A lot of that early correspondence has been lost.

   Too bad, that would make interesting reading.
   We were curious about the role that your wife plays in your writing and in your career. In the introduction to River of Eternity, you mention her reaction to Shasta not paying you up front, and that is the most we have ever heard about her.


   She used to read my stuff back in the days when she had time. For one thing, she's now taken over keeping our books. It's not an ordinary household; she has all these stories to keep listed, keep tabs on the money that comes in, deal with our income tax man, and so forth. Even now, she is very busy with the kids.
   During the Shasta contest, initially she warned me against Korshak. She has kind of antennae out, and quite often her reaction is true. She warned me not to have anything to do with him, but I was so keyed up about the idea of having my first book come out, that I went ahead anyway. I should have listened to her.
   Bette's also played a very important part in my life in that she does almost everything and has freed me to write. She's probably taken on too much, at least now, which is why we are thinking about moving to a smaller place. Trouble seems to dog you in your old age. It's not the golden age; problems still keep coming.

   Part of this question comes from the Philip José Farmer Forum, which is at someone else's (Mile's) page on the internet. People can post messages and then other fans can comment or react. It has been up for a couple of months and there are already over 100 messages. The first part of the question is about your famous speech "Reap". "Reap" was from a very liberal point of view and I was wondering if you have become more conservative as you have gotten older. The second part of the question is, are you still pessimistic about the future of the planet?

   I'll answer the last part first, yes I am. I've done some talking about it around here at our book review clubs. I made a speech at a church once about it. As far as I'm convinced, and I think I'm right, in that the continuing overpopulation and the dwindling of our natural resources, including water, farmland, and so forth are going to meet in the next century. Maybe in 2020 or 2050, I don't know. Then there is going to be a collapse of civilization, at which everyone laughs. They can't conceive it, but they don't have the imagination.
   I'd write a hell of a novel about it, except it would be so pessimistic. Well actually it's not, it'd be optimistic, because I don't look for the whole human race to become extinct. I look for the world population to dwindle considerably, maybe by that time it'd be six billion, maybe six and half, or more. There would be a big mad scramble, and a bloody mess battling for food, water and so forth. It'll settle out and the tribes that are left will start again. Maybe they will have learned their lesson.
   About the first question, actually the trouble with me is that everybody thinks I'm a pessimist. I'm basically an idealist, which no one should be unless they have the ability to bring their ideals around to fruition. I was all hepped up about that, about the society, but later on I really got to thinking about it and thinking about the contrary human nature and how we don't seem to be really capable of doing much with directing social experiments. It might be a desirable goal but there was no way in hell, or on earth, (same thing) that we were ever going to bring anything like that about. And as I depicted in "Riders of the Purple Wage", I'm not even sure we'd want to.
   What it needed was a fanatic to go out and preach, and I'm a writer. I'm not going to dedicate my life to something that is going to fail anyway. But it was a phase I went through. I'm an idealist and an idealist's ideals never come about. So most idealists, I think, become pessimists, go to the opposite. They think you can bring about everything, and you find out you can't, because of the contrary, conservative, reactionary human nature. Actually we need a certain amount of conservatism in society. The conservatives, are the ones that keep the society from going ape but I think we got too many. On the other hand, there are the wild-eyed idealists, who are also fanatic at the other end of the spectrum.
   So I guess things will just have to work their own way, what is, is, what will be, will be. Meantime we can do what we can, but they are all band-aids, as I've mentioned before. Same thing with cleaning up the earth, we can clean up this spot and that spot but in the meantime the rainforests are all being burned, the salmon and the cod and thousands of other species are all disappearing. But I don't mean the end of the human race.

   On the subject of the REAP speech, we understand that Randall Garrett, unannounced, got on the stage and did some sort of song that lasted for an hour. We were wondering if that was really true.

   He might have gotten up there and sang, I don't remember. It wasn't too long. Actually, Silverberg and Ellison, I love these two guys, but they got up there and fucked around for a long, long time. However, part of that was my fault, because it wasn't until I gave that speech that I realized that all these people had eaten, and the room was very warm. If I'd had the experience then that I'd had later, I would have ripped the speech apart and just given part of it or maybe tried to switch over to something else very short, because they were sitting there (heads lolling to the side). I didn't blame them, it was just too much.

   Speaking of speeches, have you kept track of the speeches that you have made at conventions or have you kept the original notes?

   No. If they recorded them or read them out someplace, good. I guess I tend to forget about them. I did one speech at the ICON called "Dumbing Down" a couple of years ago that I think I might have a copy of around. About the growing illiteracy, or aliteracy among the young. Then I got to thinking about aliteracy in my own age group, you know, it wasn't too good; it was better than it is now, but it wasn't as good as it was supposed to be.

   What did you think of "Writers of the Purple Page" by John Thames Rokesmith (pseudonym of Jean Cox).

   I talked to Jean Cox before he wrote it. I thought it was great.

   We have noticed the word Brobdingnagian in a lot of your books, we were wondering if you have an idea of how many of your books you used the word?

   No, I didn't know I had. {laughs} I'll have to keep using it. The man that's used the word Brobdingnagian more than anybody else...
   Actually, I have written more stories than any living author about lighter-than-air craft. I'm including short stories, novels, and the floating island in GATES OF CREATION.

   Did you take a blimp ride at one time?

   Yes, out in L.A., and then I took two balloon rides out here near Peoria. The balloon is great, I was even thinking about buying one, but I'm not the kind of guy who is a good organizer, or likes to go to a lot of trouble. You have to get a crew, they have to follow you, they have to inflate it, they have to deflate it, pack it, and so forth. You can only do it early in the morning or near dusk, with very little wind. It wasn't worth it, so I just went on balloon trips in my imagination.

   How many languages have you studied?

   I've always been interested in linguistics, I used to have quite a library. I used to read the grammars of these languages without any effort to master them. So about twenty, Indo-European and non Indo-European. Especially the non Indo-European - fascinating, but that has been to varying degrees. I even went through a Swahili one. I could pretty well remember the rules of the grammar and the vocabulary at that time. I did some work on Finnish, Chinese, Japanese, American Indian, and Australian Aborigine. In finding out how other people use languages that are very foreign to the way we use English, besides gaining some knowledge about it, I think it kind of frees your mind, breaks some of your mental bonds, and stimulates your imagination. At least, that's my theory. At the moment I'm reading a Fijian grammer.
   When you get into Finnish, I think there are about twenty cases, but actually it's a lot easier than the cases in the Indo-European languages. They're all at the end, they're all regular, once you learn them you've got them. But something like old Icelandic or old Norse for instance, it's such an irregular language; you learn a particular case or plural, and then there are exceptions all over the place. And Russian, ugh. Russian is very archaic, it didn't progress like English or French or some of the others. They use grammatical forms that even the old English didn't use two thousand years ago. But that's what makes it interesting.

   Do you have a personal favorite book that you have written?

   Well it's hard to say. See, I tend to regard as favorites those that I think are funny.

   That would be THE PEERLESS PEER, VENUS ON THE HALF SHELL...

   And GREATHEART SILVER. I think one of the best books I ever wrote and one of the most far out, was THE UNREASONING MASK, which for some reason didn't seem to do well. I don't know if it was too far out, or what. I liked the setup in Dayworld, and of course, I'm extremely fond of the first two Riverworld books. It's hard to say which is a favorite, but the only ones I reread are the funny ones.

   Any short stories that you are particularly fond of?

   Well there is one that is very short, one page, "The King of the Beasts." It has been reprinted many times, in children's books as well as adult. There is the story that took place in Beverly Hills, "Brass and Gold," although it was flawed structurally. I thought about rewriting it, getting rid of the flaws, but nobody seems to care. Another favorite of mine is "The Summerian Oath."

   Do the initials from TIME'S LAST GIFT, "TLG", intentionally stand for 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.

   Were you frustrated that a lot of your early paperbacks left off the accent on the "e" in José?

   Well that was no big deal, not as frustrating as putting two letter lís in Philip. It was even on my first Hugo! I've had people write me and say "I've been reading your books for years, I'm your most devoted fan...", and they spell it "Phillip."

   Well we won't talk about spelling and typing errors, with some of the lists I've sent you.
   You mentioned in 1990 that the Tiers series would probably be two more books, KICKAHA'S WORLD and the conclusion of the series, THE GARDEN OF EVIL. Since then you wrote RED ORC'S RAGE and MORE THAN FIRE. How do those tie in with your original plans?


   I intended to then, but things change, you get new ideas. The titles of the first three World of Tiers books were not mine, they were dreamed up by (editor) Don Wollheim. KICKAHA'S WORLD was an idea and title I originally suggested for A PRIVATE COSMOS.

   So is the Tiers series finished?

   Yes, I think I've mined that vein. I have too many other things to write and not enough time left.

   How about the Opar series?

   I have thought about finishing it. 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.

   At the end of the first letter I sent you, you wrote "more to come re 3 unpublished novels, one of them lost." Was the lost one you mentioned PEARL DIVING IN OLD PEORIA?

   No, that's the one I did with Randy Garrett, "The Ballad of Hillary Boon". I've been thinking about reconstructing it as a deliberately old-fashioned novel.

   Was that one a space opera?

   Yes, it was based on the story in Charlie Tanner's song, that he wrote and composed the music to, "The Ballad of Hillary Boon".    Steinbeck's agent was interested in science fiction and wanted to get a science fiction author. So Randy and I had written "The Ballad of Hillary Boon," and we sent it out through her, but she didn't know what to do with it.
   She was great for Steinbeck, but science fiction, she knew nothing about! Then she died, and apparently the people who took over the agency continued sending it out. I finally asked for it back, but they couldn't find it. So it's out there someplace.
   It was a strange book, because we didn't try to match styles to make it seem like one writer, like I did with Piers Anthony. It would have been a fun book, it wouldn't have been a classic.

   In GODS OF RIVERWORLD, Peter Frigate claims that he had written a biography of Richard Burton, but that Fawn Brodie's THE DEVIL DRIVES came out before he could get his published. Did you actually write a biography of Burton?

   I was going to do that, but her biography came out (1967). It seemed to be pretty definitive, so I decided not to write mine. I knew I'd have to do some research which would contain material that hadn't been in any of the previous books. I didn't have the money or the time, I still kept it in my mind, but then about four more books on Burton came out and I figured I couldn't add anything really new.

   You wrote a piece for a men's magazine in the 50's called "A Rough Night for the Queen"

   That was about part of Burton's Mecca adventure. The editors didn't seem to care for it, I guess they had something else in mind.

   Was it a complete story?

   No, it was an incident that started when Burton was on that boat and they were having a mutiny. He was on his way to Mecca, before he got to Saudi Arabia. The editors didn't tell me what they really wanted or I would have written something different. That's the way it goes.

   Your biography in CONTEMPORARY SCIENCE FICTION AUTHORS II mentioned the possibility of you writing THE WILD WEIRD CLIME, a mainstream novel about the science fiction world.

   I had lots of notes and even some chapters, but it never came about. In the first place, at that time, I couldn't interest anybody in giving me a contract. They seemed to think that a realistic book about the science fiction world just wouldn't go over. It didn't do me any good to argue with them, so eventually I gave up on it.

   Any chance you'll ever write an Autobiography?

   I doubt it, the really interesting parts I wouldn't want to put in.

   Did you enjoy writing "Maps and Spasms" for FANTASTIC LIVES?

   Yes, but that's just a fragment of my life. I never thought about adding to it. I think most people ought to try to figure out what an author is like from reading his books. Of course, that doesn't give any details of his life, and so forth. I'd rather write fiction.

   In 1967 the adult magazine KNIGHT published two pieces by you, "The Blind Rowers" and "Blueprint for Free Beer." Did they publish anything else by you, possibly under a pseudonym?

   No, not that I can remember. You have to remember I've written a lot of stuff {laughs}.

   In a 1977 interview with David Pringle in VECTOR, you mentioned writing sex and/or violent scenes to be included in a separate manuscript of LORD OF THE TREES/THE MAD GOBLIN that you planned on publishing in Europe.

   I should have done that, it's another thing I never got around to.

   What became of the novel about a runaway oil well called THE DRAGON'S BREATH?

   That has a real history. It was a long novel, mainstream----well, not really mainstream, it was science fiction because it took place in the future, but it was realistic. I can't remember if I sent it to anyone before Ballantine, Judy and Lester Del Rey got it. She wanted me to rewrite it, start out with this whole catastrophe being the blunder by the oil engineer, who was the hero. So I rewrote it, but she still didn't like it. I owed her money since they'd advanced it on that. So then I wrote DARK IS THE SUN to replace it.

   Do you still have the manuscript?

   Yes, it's somewhere down in my stuff.

   Do you have any other books or short stories sitting on the shelf ready to go to print? There have been so many stories that you have said you wanted to write, we were wondering how many of them you actually finished.

   My ambition has always outraced my ability, or I should say outraced my time. Nothing's ready to be published. There's the sequel I did to FANTASTIC VOYAGE, that's around, but it will never be published. I think Doubleday has the rights to it right now. Ike Asimov wrote an account of that, which needs to be added to. He was basically sympathetic; he read it and didn't see any reason why it shouldn't be published. It was a million-dollar deal, but the original publisher got cold feet. I wrote a screen treatment, then I wrote the novel. Then the publisher backed out. It was a very traumatic event for me. I would have made a lot of money and I put in a lot of time. It was especially traumatic, not because of the work on the manuscript or the treatment for the movie, but because the deal just fell through.

   Didn't you do a lot of research for that?

   Oh yeah, at one time I knew how to travel through the human body to any point you wanted to get to. Which vein, which artery to take.

   We had hoped to see at least one story from Kenneth Robeson a la the Grant-Robeson papers.

   I never got around to writing another. It didn't go over too well, or it was too small a market. At least, I didn't get any feedback, and I quite often depend on feedback.
   I went through a long period, which I call my fictional author phase. VENUS ON THE HALF SHELL began it. I was going to write a story by David Copperfield, which by the way Gene Wolfe did. We talked about it, he wrote his, but I never got around to writing mine.

   Where did you derive the title for the book MORE THAN FIRE?

   It came from Blake, I don't remember the exact location now.

   Could it be from this line?:
    "Whene'er I enter, more than mortal fire
    Burns in my soul, and does my song inspire."


   Yes, that's it. Good, I had forgot.

   I searched a long time for that!

   We were wondering if you have read A HOUSE-BOAT ON THE STYX, by John Kendrick Bangs, or any of his other books?

   I read that when I was a young man. They were funny, I read the sequel to HOUSE-BOAT and the parody on Sherlock Holmes. I may have also read some of his short stories.

   Do you enjoy doing the commentaries for the Boris Vallejo Calendars?

   I would, except that Boris is always so late with the paintings that sometimes I had to do a couple of the write-ups in one day. It started out with him writing the comments, then I entirely rewrote them. He liked that, so after the second or third year he just said, "I don't have the time for them and you do a much better job, so you think them up." {laughs}

   One of the questions I got from the internet is "Are you a Cardinals fan (baseball not football) and if so, since when?"

   I'm not a baseball fan at all; in grade school, high school, and college I was a track man, and I played football. Maybe the question came from FLESH, where they had their strange form of baseball, throwing the ball with the spikes on it, trying to hit the pitcher. The pitcher is trying to bat it away, you were liable to get killed if you made a home run!

   The Beacon first edition of FLESH contains no dedication page, while second and later editions are dedicated to your wife, Bette. Was the dedication omitted in error, or added to later editions?

   Back in those days, I never thought to dedicate books.

   I see a lot of mention on the internet of VENUS ON THE HALF SHELL. To this day many people think Vonnegut or even Trout wrote that book.

   I was going to give a speech at UCLA and the day before, in the student newspaper, there was an article proving that Vonnegut wrote VOTHS. After my speech, where I state that I wrote VOTHS, they had to print a retraction.

   Would it be OK for me to reprint letters you have sent to magazines and fanzines on the web page?

   I guess so, I don't remember calling anybody names!


Right after the interview Bette took a picture of myself, Phil and Craig.