LETTER FROM PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER
Nov. 26, 1976
'I've been (and am) busy with the 330,000-word, draft of the
third Riverworld novel. I underestimated its length and tim of
completion. Which means that your statement that I'd finished it isn't
true, though that's not your fault. Also, I have a box three feet
high and two wide filled with correspondence of the unanswered type.
And I have spent my evenings, reading for research purposes, though I
have snaked in (sneaked, I mean) an occasional book to read just for
fun. Mostly mysteries. I don't read much s-f anymore.
'Also, my wife and I gave each other a piano for Christmas,
and I'm spending some time taking lessons. Until a few weeks ago I
couldn't even read a note, having gotten through the so-called classes
in music in grade school without ever learning what those funny little
golf clubs on the lines meant.
'In fact --- and this may give an insight my mind---when I was
in second grade I somehow thought that the notes should be read
straight down, from top to bottom of the sheet, then the next row
should be vertically, and so. As if I was being taught Chinese
ideograms. The teacher never noticed how out of step I was; nobody was
given individual instruction, every thing in that class was done en
mass. Whne we were singing I made up my own words, such as "The teacher
is big fat and dumb, and she has a broad thumb." I should have rhymed
"dumb" with "bum", but I didn't know the British term then.
'Back to the RR III. 'I" have just finished the final version
of volume 1. This is going out as the third book, titled MAYA SMLES.
The second half will be a separate book, volume IV, titled THE MAGIC
LABYRINTH. Of course, all this may change. Anyway, the next book will
get to Putnam's in time for the Fall schedule, and, hopefully, the
fourth will come out about hree or four months later. I wouldn't go
into such detail if it were not that I receive so many inuiries about
the next book, and this information might keep people from writing to
'Re i.T. Major's letter containing a manuscript claiming the
death of Tarzan --- it is a hoax. I got a letter from "Lord Greystoke"
dated after Majors' Aug. 16, 1976 letter, and I am happy to report that
Tarzan still lives. What Majors overlooked is that a number of people
have pretended to be Tarzan (because they were mad or hoped to lay
Jane); if he'll read the Tarzan books he'll find I'm not lying. So this
fellow slain by Majors was just another imposter. Also, Tarzan is 6'3"
tall, not 6'4", and he weighs more than 240 pounds.
'I wonder who "Vlaminclel really was?
'I'm having a,little trouble thinking up a title for the
third Opar novel. Don Wollheim insists that "Opar" be in the title of
every one of the series. What do you do when the action takes place
nowhere near that fabled city?' Or if Hadon isn't in the tale? I'm
planning on devoting the third book to the mighty Kwasin, and all
events take place on the island of Khokarsa. How about FAR FROM OPAR?'
[Geis Note: I wrote Phil suggesting the title KWASIN OF OPAR.
Phil replied in following letter which I am inserting here.]
Dec. 3, 1976
'Actually, Kwasin was born in the city of Dynbeth, but he is
a cousin of Hadon's, and he did spend almost all his early life in the
Opar area. So, KWASIN OF OPAR is a title stretching the truth only a
'I had a funny dream last night. I was in church, and I
grabbed Steve McQueen as he went down the aisle and argued with him
that he should play Jsesu Christ in a movie. "All the other actors," I
told him, "no matter how great, go stiff and get inhibited when they
play Jesus. Now, if you would just play Him with your usual loose and
easy style, you'd be a great Jesus!"
'There was a lot more nonsense in this dream (though if it
could be analyzed it'd make Alice-in-Wonderland sense), but about all
I remember is the McQueen-bit and my impatience because Pat Boone
wouldn't cut the ceremonies short."
'I look forward to writing NOWHERE NEAR OPAR some day. Let
Don Wollheim chew on that.'
[Now back to Phil's first letter.]
'The Dick interview was very interesting. I admire Phil's
works very much, and I have affection for the man himself. But I really
lost control of my bloodpressure when the he wept for Mao. Did Phil
also weep for Hitler, Stalin, and Chiang? Did he weep for the Tibetans
when Mao comitted their near-genocide? Or for the millions of Chinese
ruthlessly slain in the name of social progress?
'Apparently no one is going hungry in China, if we can
believe the propaganda, and many beneficial things have been done for
the Chinese people. On the other hand, during the recent earthquakes,
some foreign observers noted that Mao's claim that crime was almost
nonexistent in China just wasn't true. Thieving, mugging, prostitution,
etc, were easily evident. Nor can these be blamed on a temporary
breakdown due to the earthquakes. They obviously had been going on for
some time. Also, if Mao really believed that his orders to young people
to abstain from sexual intercourse except under certain stipulated
conditions was going to be obyed he knew very little of human nature.
'Besides, Mao's poetry (in the translations, anyway) isn't
'I don't agree with you that in long run an author doesn't
lose money by accepting a low advance if the book sells enough copies
to earn the advance and more in royalties. A well-known writer and
editor who wouldn't want me to reveal his name told me that somehow, by
the time the money trickles down to the author, the author doesn't get
all he should get.
'I'm glad you plugged Versins' encyclopedia.
'Harry Harrison couldn't get enough,stories for his, THE
YEAR TWO MILLION because too many writers could not keep their stories
within the word limits. Or so Harry told me. I started a story for him
but it turned into a novel. It should be about 100,000 words or more by
the time I get it finished.
'I liked "The Eyeflash Miracles" enough to nominate it for
the Nebula Award.
'No, I'm not S. Beach Chester. He really existed, as did
Phillpotts and Post. Post, by the way, wrote some good books about a
lawyer named Randolph Mason. Mason (who may have been Perry Mason's
grandfather) was a very good lawyer for his criminal (and guilty)
clients. His vast knowledge of the loopholes of law allowed him to get
them off scottfree. In fact, one Mason story caused such an uproar,
because it was based on a silly little loophole that did exist, that
the law was changed. Later, Mason went straight and helped inocent
people, but the stories about these cases were not as interesting. Just
as it's easy to make an "evil" man believable in fiction but difficult
to make a man without flaws or one who's "too good" either believable
((Thank You for,taking the time to,write and update your
output. As for future Opar titles. How about, SPAWN OF OPAR...IS OPAR
SINKING?...REVENGE FOR OPAR...OPAR IN THE COLD, COLD GROUND...? No,
well, I'll keep thinking....