Sunday, December 12, 2010

Time's Continuing Gift

Tomorrow, December 13th is Wold Newton Day, the anniversary of the day when a meteorite fell to Earth near the English Village of Wold Newton. This was a remarkable event in real life, buy it became even more remarkable in the fiction of author Philip Jose Farmer. I've explained what the Wold Newton family is several times here at Singular Points so this time I'm just going to point you to an essay by my pal Win Scott Eckert which does a far better job of explaining it than I could. (See the link at the bottom of this post.) I basically just want to focus on one small aspect of Farmer's fiction, and that is the potential for amazing adventures left by Farmer's novel Time's Last Gift.
Time's Last Gift is about a group of time travelers who go back in time to 12,000 BC. As it turns out, one of the travelers, a man named John Gribardsun, is in reality Lord Greystoke, Tarzan of the Apes. This isn't stated in the book but rather implied by a series of clues as the novel progresses. (I do my best to avoid spoilers, kids, but I can't write this article without revealing this plot point.)
When the time travelers return to the far future, Gribardsun elects to remain in the past. Tarzan, being immortal, therefore lives through all of Earth's history from 12,000 BC far into the future.
Now let's think about that. Though it's shown in Farmer's two Opar novels, Hadon of Ancient Opar and Flight to Opar, that this version of Tarzan prefers to stay in Africa, at least early on, I'm sure that the ever curious and restless ape man would want to travel in the ancient world. Thus, a pastiche writer could have Tarzan meet any figure from history. Socrates. Cleopatra. Julius Caesar. Benjamin Franklin. Wyatt Earp. You name it.
Tarzan could visit Mesopotamia, Rome, Greece, or Egypt. He could see the Library of Alexandria and meet Vikings and Knights and Native Americans. And this version of Tarzan would have some interesting aspects in that not only would he have the physical attributes we all know, his strength, speed and agility, but he would probably be the smartest man alive. This is a guy who taught himself to read and write and who could pick up most languages in a matter of days. We know his mind was way above average. Now give him literally thousands of years of learning and experience.
But wait, there's more. The possibilities for one of Win Scott Eckert's other favorite things, the crossover, are immense. Gribardsun/Tarzan could meet Mr. Darcy or Robin Hood or King Arthur or Solomon Kane or Simon Magus or Zorro or the Scarlet Pimpernel or the Three Musketeers or any other figure from historical fiction. (In a throw away line in my short story, The Silent History, the Red Wizard Llath reveals that his plans were thwarted in 13th century Constantinople by the time traveling barbarian Kharrn and his ally Gribardsun.)
The first such crossover that occurred to me after finishing Time's Last Gift was that an immortal Tarzan would eventually come into conflict with another immortal, Karl Edward Wagner's Kane. Since Kane is the biblical Cain, son of Adam and Eve, he too has the knowledge and experience gained from a lifespan of thousands of years. Kane and Tarzan wouldn't get along so sooner of later, there would be trouble. Another favorite character that Tarzan could run into would be Elric of Melnibone, who spent a thousand years in Earth's past at one point. He could meet F. Paul Wilson's immortal Glaeken and fight Rasalom. He could run into Highlanders and Vampires and Captain Jack Harkness and other immortals or near immortals. The possibilities are truly endless.
Anyway, please forgive my fanboy ramblings. I always get this way when I think of the amazing work of Philip Jose Farmer, a man who enjoyed a good time traveling crossover himself now and again. Here's the link to Win Scott Eckert's Wold Newton essay at All Pulp:

And for more Wold Newton Goodness hit win's own site.


Win Scott Eckert said...

Nice post, Charles. I couldn't agree more about Gribardsun (Tarzan). ;-)

In fact, he also pops up in THE EVIL IN PEMBERLEY HOUSE and my short story "No Ghosts Need Apply" (THE PHANTOM CHRONICLES 2).

Where can I read your short story you referred to?



Charles R. Rutledge said...

Thanks, Win. I've emailed you a link to the story.

Toby O'B said...

No need to apologize for the "fanboy ramblings". As one familiar with the Wold Newton concept (I have my own poor shadow that focuses primarily on TV, the Toobworld Dynamic.), such enthusiasm is understandable. And maybe it'll bring new readers/fans into the fold when they decide to check out Farmer's writing based on this post....

Happy Wold Newton Day!