Through Whitest Africa: Hadon of Ancient Opar, Flight to Opar by Philip José Farmer and The Song of Kwasin by Philip José Farmer and Christopher Paul Carey [Guest Post by J. Comer]

Few writers are as closely associated with the pulp tradition in SF and fantasy as the late Philip José Farmer (1918-2009).  Best known as the author of the Riverworld and World of Tiers series, Farmer penned five dozen novels and over a hundred short stories, winning three Hugo Awards across a writing career more than fifty years long.  He was the first major SF writer to deal with sexual themes as graphically as the mainstream authors of his time (The Lovers, 1952), carried to extremes with the horror-porn A Feast Unknown (1969), one of sixteen Farmer novels in which characters based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan appear. 

     The mention of Tarzan brings us to an aspect of Farmer’s work of interest to Cirsova.  Farmer was fascinated by the pulps and by classic adventure literature. He constantly pastiched their style and included characters referring to them, even linking many major pulp heroes and heroines into a “Wold-Newton Family” lineage.  Tarzan so intrigued Farmer that he deconstructed the science behind the ape man (Lord Tyger, 1970)  and wrote a ‘biography’ of His Lordship (Tarzan Alive (1972) as well as narrating the ultimate fate of Tarzan as a time traveler (Time’s Last Gift, 1972). 

     One aspect of Tarzan’s adventures is his penchant for discovering or finding lost cities and otherwise unknown civilizations.  Opar, which appears several times in Burroughs’ Tarzan tales, is one such, a city in the Congo whose men are hairy beasts and whose women are lovely Caucasians, such as the priestess La, modeled on Rider Haggard’s Ayesha.  Farmer could not help but be fascinated by questions about Opar’s origin and development, and pursued them in Tarzan Alive.[1]

     In Hadon of Ancient Opar he presents a tale of the Ice Age in Africa. Some readers will not care for the earthy, rough sexuality which still has the power to shock and disturb, despite the passage of decades.  Willy Ley’s “Chad Sea” and “Congo Lake” (Engineer’s Dreams, 1954) are present here as Mediterranean-like basins, while cities of a Jakob Bachofen-type matriarchy (Mother Right, 1861) flourish all around. Hadon, a sports champ/gladiator, is to become king but is instead sent on a deadly mission, and we’re off into whitest Africa, with Rider Haggard’s characters Laleela and Paga appearing alongside the Hercules-like Kwasin and the mysterious “grey-eyed god” Sahhindar; it will require very little effort on the reader’s part to realize who the ‘god of time’ is intended to be.

     While a place oddly near the actual Bantu homeland (Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond, 1997) is designated as a black urheimat, the people of this ancient Africa are Caucasians or beast-people (Neanderthals and so on) and various crossbreeds.  While numerous black characters appear in Farmer’s work, the black erasure in these books is questionable to say the least. This reviewer understands the presence of Neanderthals in Europe and Asia, but even when Farmer wrote these books, it was pretty clear that the Neanderthals, adapted to glacial conditions, would never have been numerous in a warm climate.

     The pulpy fun continues in Flight to Opar. The crew needs to reach Hadon’s home city for the birth of his daughter, and aren’t deterred by religious war, a usurper king, and graphic descriptions of sewage being dumped. As always Farmer’s grasp of action writing is a pleasure. Finally the motley bunch reunites with Hadon’s aged father and beloved brother, and the wild action comes to an end.

     And so did Farmer, who lived to be ninety-one and a beloved great-grandfather. He left unfinished work behind, including The Song of Kwasin, a novel about Hadon’s Goliath or Hercules-ish cousin.[2]  Christopher Paul Carey finished the book and published it in Gods of Opar (2012), which collects Farmer’s Opar novels and some addenda. Kwasin becomes King of one city, with Hadon’s scheming ex and the invading army of the Sun God to keep him busy. Minruth, the usurper king, attacks the city. Kwasin is captured and humiliated, with the great Queen Awineth, tortured and enslaved, with the Atlantean doom of Khokarsa looming nearer.  The ending neatly reverses the ‘lost continent’ version of Atlantis and returns the narrative to Hadon. Carey wrote two more Hadon novels and a Khokarsa prequel, which are really outside the scope of this review.

     Ten thousand years later, La, priestess-queen of Opar, met Lord Greystoke, Tarzan of the Apes. The unrequited love between them clearly appealed to Burroughs as to his successors. La was mortal, or she wasn’t, but by and by she faded away, as the mystery of Africa faded into the twentieth century.

     What can we come away with, from Opar? A lost city, lost not only in Congo rainforest, but in lost colonialism? (Opar kept “Negro slaves” per Burroughs, who don’t play a part in the Hadon books.)  Who can resist a lost city of white matriarchs and bestial ape-men, a city crammed with gold?  Well, Wilbur Smith’s The Sunbird (1972) was probably the last novel about such a place, and in that novel the city was a Zimbabwe-like ruin, seen in a dream. La has appeared in Disney’s Tarzan cartoon as well as in several of the many, many Tarzan films, but seventy years after Burroughs’ death, what is left of his lost Africa?

     According to Farmer and to Carey, good clean fun. Leslie Fiedler called Farmer the best SF writer; Dr Isaac Asimov simply said that Farmer was “a far more skillful writer than I am.”[3] While pastiche was central to Farmer’s work, his books are both well-written and fun, and in some cases more carefully thought out than the ‘originals’. In the case of Opar, the original idea of homage to Burroughs almost vanishes behind the vast worldmaking, but a Burroughs adventure rife with gold, battle and love-hate is the result.  Recommended to pulp fans.


[1] Super-fan Den Valdron presents Oparian Fanon here; NSFW:  https://www.erbzine.com/mag19/1937.html

[2] An additional Kwasin piece finished by Carey, “Kwasin and the Bear God,” was not available to the reviewer. A future printing of Gods of Opar would do well to include this novella.

[3] This reviewer believes Dr Asimov’s remark to derive from Farmer’s well-known skill as an action writer with a penchant for sex; Asimov was infamous for writing neither of these very well.

Edgar Rice Burroughs 100 Year Art Chronology Interview With Michael Tierney

Chris L. Adams has just posted the first part of an extensive interview with author, artist, and comic store owner Michael Tierney about his Edgar Rice Burroughs 100 Year Art Chronology project which was published last year through Chenault & Grey.

It’s up now at DMR Book’s website. Check it out!

Also, if you missed out on the Wild Stars crowdfunds, you can still pre-order on Amazon! You just won’t get the free goodies that we’re sending out to backers (sorry!)

WS 1: Book of Circles
WS 2: Force Majeure
WS 3: Time Warmageddon
WS 4: Wild Star Rising

 

Great Reviews of Cirsova’s Spring Issue by Jon Mollison

Jon begins with a review of the new Tarzan story, Young Tarzan and the Mysterious She, by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Michael Tierney:

But the story…is it any good?

Of course it is.  Michael Tierney did the heavy lifting here to prepare the work for publishing, and his stitch-work comes off as invisible.

He also touches upon Jeff Stoner’s story, Atop the Cliffs of Ral-Gri:

In most anthologies published today, the ending would have been telegraphed from paragraph one.  Stoner sets up some inter-party rivalries among the Germans, and never lets you forget that these are the historical bad guys, but he also dangles the results of the encounter with the godling just out of reach until the last possible minute.  He touches on and eludes to the holocaust in a way that leaves the reader in doubt as to whether this is an Indiana Jones style story where our archaeologist learns just enough to pull back at the last instant, or whether it is actually an alternate earth where the events of the story lead directly to the horrors of the Holocaust.

Well played, Mister Stoner.

The Cirsova Spring issue is available in eBook, Paperback, and Hardback now.

Also, Michael Tierney’s new Wild Stars adventure, Wild Star Rising, is available for pre-order through IndieGoGo, along with the all new 35th Anniversary Editions of previous Wild Stars adventures!

Cirsova Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense Out Now!

The Spring issue of the All-New Cirsova Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense is out now!

The big star of the spring issue, of course, is the brand-new Tarzan story Young Tarzan and the Mysterious She, by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Michael Tierney. Based on a fragment from 1930, this previously “Lost” Tarzan adventure takes place in the Jungle Tales period and, in addition to being a cool adventure in and of itself, ties into and resolves some issues from The Jewels of Opar.  Young Tarzan ponders his nature among his ape family in the jungle when he hears there may yet be another such as he! Who is the white-skinned she who lives among the Gomangani tribes, and is it she whose visage haunts the ape-man’s dreams?!

But in addition to this all-new Tarzan story, we’ve got a bunch of other thrilling adventures that you’ll want to check out!

Atop the Cleft of Ral-Gri, by Jeff Stoner – The Nazis’ never-ending quest for powerful and sorcerous relics to aid the Father-land’s conquests brings the SS to the mountains of Tibet, where a deadly and mysterious weapon is rumored to lay dormant and waiting for a new master!

The Idol in the Sewer, by Kenneth R. Gower – A reverse of fortune sends Kral Mazan fleeing through the labyrinthine sewers of Vasaros empty-handed from his audacious heist! His life may be forfeit to the rat-men who lurk in the tunnels—unless he accepts a job to retrieve their idol for them!

Born to Storm the Citadel of Mettathok, by D.M. Ritzlin – For aeons, Verrockiel the Warlord has struggled vainly to seize the stronghold of Mettathok! With infinite time and resources at Verrockiel’s disposal, what of those fated to claw, tooth and nail, inch-by-inch, progress towards their master’s goals?!

The Book Hunter’s Apprentice, by Barbara Doran – An ancient and powerfully magic book has laid a curse of death upon a sage who had spitefully defiled it! Can Zhi, a book hunter, and Qing, her apprentice with the power to “fall” into nearby closets, retrieve the volume from a haunted manse?!

How Thaddeus Quimby the Third and I Almost Took Over the World, by Gary K. Shepherd – A strange object has fallen from the sky and into the hands of one Thaddeus Quimby III! The alien artifact creates life-like facsimiles of anything imaginable, so it’s only a matter of time before everyone’s wildest dreams may be fulfilled, right?!

Deemed Unsuitable, by WL Emery – A beautiful young woman is at the center of a high-speed chase and shoot-out right where Morgan, a crack-shot Construct, was about to grab some lunch! Against his better judgement, Morgan enters the fray, but who is after this woman and why?!

Warrior Soul, by J. Manfred Weichsel – A strange man with a mysterious camera claims that he can capture the truth and inner beauty of a subject’s soul! Lured in by the photographer and his entrancing prints, a pair of young women find themselves imprisoned and in dire peril!

Seeds of the Dreaming Tree, by Harold R. Thompson – Its fruit are the subject of myth and legend—some hope to exploit it for knowledge and medicinal purpose while others are prepared to kill to keep its secrets! Can the bookish adventurer Anchor Brown survive the trials of the Dreaming Tree?!

The Valley of Terzol, by Jim Breyfogle – Kat and Mangos have been hired to accompany the adventurer Andorholm Wallenoop to the ruins of Terzol in search of an ancient lost delivery! A thousand-year-old receipt offers a clue to fabulous reward or certain death in the Valley of Terzol!

The Elephant Idol, by Xavier Lastra – The blind thief Auger sneaks into the opera house to steal a trinket that the lovely Trännen von Fitzburg received from a lovestruck foreigner! The gift-box’s riddle and its giver’s suicide engulf Augur—and the opera house—in a world of darkness!

Moonshot, by Michael Wiesenberg – The Government wants to put a barn on the Moon—why?! To prove that the United States is capable of landing a barn on the Moon, of course! But the question is, whose barn are they going to send and can they send it to the moon on budget?!

ShanePlays Feat. Michael Tierney & Cirsova Up Now!

The podcast version of the ShanePlays broadcast from saturday is available online now.

shane-plays-podcast-title-3-2-2019

So, if you missed it live, you can check it out here:

https://shaneplays.com/young-tarzan-and-the-mysterious-she-edgar-rice-burroughs-podcast/

You can pre-order the new issue here from Amazon.

If you’re interested in getting a hardcover, sign up for our mailing list–we’ll send out an announcement with the link when they’re available, plus we’ll send you a promo-code for a discount.

 

Cirsova Early-Release & Signing Event, March 2nd

The Comic Book Store in Little Rock will be hosting a special early-release & signing event on March 2nd from ~1:00 P.M. to ~3:00 P.M.

9307 Treasure Hill Road
Little Rock, AR 72227

Michael Tierney will be available to sign copies, shake hands, and talk about the new Tarzan story that’s featured in our Spring issue.

Shane Stacks will be live on location broadcasting the Shane Plays show for 101.1 FM The Answer.

I’ll also be there to talk to anyone about the magazine and any other projects Cirsova Publishing has, but Michael’s the star of the show.

Quantities are limited: Michael’s stores have ~60 softcovers and ~16 hardcover of our new issue in stock (though many have already been spoken for and have been placed in the pull boxes, and this stock is spread across two stores), so be sure to get to the Little Rock store early if you want one signed!

Launch Image

Cirsova Volume 2 #1 Softcovers Available for Pre-Order

Softcover Physical Copies of Cirsova Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense #1 are available now for Pre-Order!

Paperbacks Available for pre-order on Amazon for $9.99.

This new issue of Cirsova not only showcases Young Tarzan and the Mysterious She, an all new Tarzan story by Edgar Rice Burroughs, completed by Michael Tierney, it features eleven other exciting tales of fantasy, romance, and science fiction, including the return of Harold R. Thompson’s adventuring scholar Anchor Brown in Seeds of the Dreaming Tree, and the ongoing exploits of Jim Breyfogle’s roguish duo, Kat and Mangos, in The Valley of Terzol.

Hardcover copies WILL be made available on March 15th through Lulu, however certain limitations prevent us from making them available for pre-order. We’ll send out a reminder + a Lulu coupon code (fingers crossed!) when the time comes! Sign up for our mailing list to receive your discount code!

2-1 front cover only jpg

Why the Name Change?

A few folks have wondered why we’ve changed the name of our flagship magazine from Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine to Cirsova Magazine of Thrilling Adventuring and Daring Suspense. The obvious reason is that this is volume 2 of the magazine and it made sense to change the subtitle to denote this. But are we abandoning Science Fiction and Fantasy?

2-1 front cover only jpgThe short answer is “no”, but we’re moving away from the genre terms and the ghetto those tales get placed in.

In talking to people and trying to promote the magazine in person at cons, one thing I found was that “pulp” and “sci-fi” and “fantasy” didn’t really resonate with people the way that “romance” and “adventure” did. And ultimately, good sci-fi and fantasy are typically subsets of the “romance” genre. A Kline or Burroughs story is not all that different from an Ann Radcliffe yarn, only set on Mars or Venus rather than Italy.

Frankly, Romance covers all the best aspects of the genres, encapsulating love, adventure, and mystery, but if I re-positioned Cirsova as a “Romance” magazine, I think that modern expectations from both readers and would-be contributors would be a bit mixed up and I would’ve created even more problems for myself than I already had.

What problems did I have? Well, as much as I enjoy Sword & Sorcery, stories where a guy/gal with a sword fights a monster or there’s some big war in a made-up country with wizards or dragons are a dime a dozen; I’m not interested in the latter, and I see too many of the former without enough spark to really differentiate them from the others I see.

It won’t really affect the sort of submissions I get until next year, but the changes in editorial direction which began in the final issues of volume 1 are fully in place now in Volume 2. Cirsova will continue to feature romantic adventures with science fiction and fantasy trappings as well as weird tales, be they weird tales of super science or occult mystery.

It’s fitting that we officially inaugurate this new direction and shift away from being merely “sci-fi” or “fantasy” with a brand new, never before published, until recently lost Tarzan story by the master himself, Edgar Rice Burroughs. While Burroughs wrote what could be called Sci-fi or Fantasy, what he wrote were essentially Romances. Yes, there were weird elements and the fantastic, but his tradition was not the sci-fi poindexters of Campbellianism or the fantasy of the Tolkien-grotesque, as the genres have fallen into today, but romances of Dumas, Cooper, and Haggard.

Even Verne and Wells, considered the fathers of modern science fiction, wrote in the tradition of the Romance.

What we hope that people will come to realize when they read Cirsova that they will find in its pages not stories of space ships shooting each other or men and elves fighting each other with swords and spells but tales of the thrilling and the macabre in a tradition spanning centuries and many generations of writers.

Speaking of thrilling and macabre, Duel Visions by Misha Burnett and Louise Sorensen is out this week!