||The Song of
Christopher Paul Carey
|November 30, 2011
|Philip José Farmer
wrote two Opar novels, Hadon of Ancient Opar and
Flight to Opar. Both were
published by DAW Books in the mid-1970s. More titles were promised and
announced at the time – up to a total of six or even twelve
novels in the Opar series – but none of these were actually
Many readers liked the novels very much, but Farmer did not write any
further adventures in the Opar series. He had started a third novel, Kwasin
of Opar, but never finished it. Because of other
Farmer did not have the time to finish it, and the manuscript was
shelved. It was long thought that we wouldn’t see any more
But then, in July 2008, at Farmercon 90 came a big and very surprising
announcement. Christopher Paul Carey had finished Philip
third Opar novel!
The title had changed to The
Song of Kwasin, and the
name of the series was changed from Opar to Khokarsa. The novel was not
yet scheduled for publication back in 2008.
It took some time before the publisher,
Subterranean Press, finally announced that The
Song of Kwasin
published in an omnibus, together with the first two novels.
omnibus, with the title Gods
of Opar: Tales of Lost Khokarsa, is scheduled
publication in June 2012.
Big news indeed!
Christopher Paul Carey is
known as one of the editors of the fanzine Farmerphile. The
fanzine was published quarterly from 2005 till in 2009 and saw fifteen
issues. He wrote many introductions and essays for Farmerphile.
He is also known as the editor of earlier Farmer books from
Subterranean Press, Up From the Bottomless Pit and
Other Stories (2007), Venus on the Half-Shell and
Others (2008) and The Other in the Mirror
Next to being editor and co-author of Farmer’s work,
Christopher Paul Carey writes his own stories and works as an editor
for Paizo Publishing.
Q: Hi Chris, first my
congratulations with the publication of The Song of
must be proud.
did you learn that it would be published? How could you keep it a
‘secret’ all this time?
I guess I first knew for sure that the book would be published in the
fall of 2009, when the agent called and said Subterranean wanted to
bring it out in an omnibus of the whole series. As for keeping it a
secret, that’s publishing. You get used to it.
you tell us something more about yourself?
By day (and okay, sometimes on nights and weekends), I’m an
editor for Paizo Publishing, the creators of the Pathfinder Roleplaying
Game and publishers of the Planet Stories imprint. When I’m
not editing, I’m usually writing or researching what
I’m planning to write. Or reading old books.
|Q: How did you first encounter
Farmer’s work? And when did you meet him in person?
I first read Farmer when I was twelve or thirteen, starting out with
books like The Maker of
Alive, and, appropriately, Hadon of Ancient Opar.
I think those were the first three books of his that I read.
The first time I met Phil was in 1998 when I drove out from eastern
Pennsylvania to Peoria, Illinois to see him at the opening of the
Philip José Farmer Odyssey. This was a month-long exhibit
honoring his life and work showcased at the main branch of the Peoria
Public Library. Phil already knew who I was because he’d read
some articles I’d had published about his work and
we’d corresponded. But he was surprised I’d come
all that way. He said, “All the way from Pennsylvania? I
don’t know if it was worth the trip.” But I knew it
was and I told him so emphatically.
were your thoughts about the Opar novels when you first read them?
They were on fire for me. I was immersing myself in
Burroughs’s works at the time, so it was a natural
transition. And also, like a lot of folks, I was frustrated because the
series ended abruptly with only a tentative conclusion at the end of Flight to Opar. It
was obvious that Phil planned more, but it was nowhere to be found. And
back then it was hard to know if an author was planning to write more
books in a series, or even if they had already been written. You just
had to keep going back to the bookstore and looking. Usually, you came
back home empty handed. But then, on rare occasions, you brought back a
treasure. The good old days!
did you first learn about the unfinished third novel in the series?
did you get permission from Farmer to complete this novel? Did he ask
you or did you make the suggestion to finish it?
I was editing Farmerphile
at the time, back in 2005. Mike Croteau, Phil’s webmaster and
the publisher of Farmerphile,
had just returned from visiting Phil and Bette Farmer in Peoria and had
gone through the files looking for never-before-published material to
print in the magazine. Since I was the editor, he sent me the list of
what he’d found. And for one of the items he calmly stated
something like, here’s a partial manuscript and nine-page
outline to Kwasin of Opar
that I’m not sure what we should to do with. Of course, I
told him to send it to me as quickly as he could photocopy it and get
it in an envelope.
After I’d read it, I knew it couldn’t languish. I
wrote to Phil about it, and he eagerly agreed. Phil rarely used email,
but after reading my proposal, he fired me back an email right away. He
closed his reply with the imperative “forward it
is.” I almost couldn’t believe it.
||Photocopies of some of Phil's Khokarsa
notes. These particular pages are from an early draft outline
for Hadon of Ancient Opar.
did you have at first from
Farmer’s archives to start writing?
Could you start immediately or had you to do a lot of study before the
I think you first had to reread the first two novels in the series, Hadon
of Ancient Opar and Flight
At first, all I had were the published books in the series and
Phil’s manuscript fragment and outline. At the time, I was
working on my Master’s in writing, so, as I’d
explained to Phil, I had to get my thesis written before I could work
But that delay also afforded me some research time. I went
back and reread Hadon
several times, underlining passages,
taking notes, and creating a Khokarsan glossary and a timeline for the
events in the series. Then, while visiting Phil, I came across his
notes and outlines to the first two books, and Phil and Bette let me
photocopy the material. This helped immensely. I was able to track down
some of his original inspirations for the series, such as
Ritual to Romance, and also learn something
about how he’d constructed the Khokarsan language. Or rather,
how Phil had reconstructed it from records he had of the Khokarsan
grammarians, since the series is, as everyone knows, based on real
Later, on another visit to Peoria after I’d already completed
the first draft of the manuscript, I found another folder of
Phil’s notes, including several drafts of an article titled
“The Khokarsan Language” as well as the complete
Khokarsan syllabary. So I went back through the manuscript and was able
to revise aspects of the novel to correspond with these.
|A map drawn by Chris of Western
Khokarsa, where the main action of The Song of Kwasin
was it like to write in someone else’s world? Did you
feel restricted? By Farmer or the pieces that were already written,
like the outline?
I’m pretty much a purist about these things, and I love
world-building, even if it’s someone else’s. So if
there were restrictions, I more or less reveled in them, whether they
were in the outline or in the established world of the series. Phil and
I both shared a love of and an academic background in anthropology,
the series is steeped in, so I felt at home in Khokarsa, especially
having read the first two books so many times over the years.
Phil and Bette Farmer seen and read the finalized novel in 2008?
were their thoughts about it?
Yes, they did. As Phil’s health began to decline, Bette read
the novel aloud to him. She told me how Phil really lit up upon finally
hearing Kwasin’s adventures unfold. Both of them said how
much they enjoyed it, and they were eager to have it see print.
you yourself satisfied with the results of the novel you have
hard work writing it, or just plain fun?
Chris: That’s a devil of a
question for a writer. I remember Phil
himself once said that none of his stories ever turned out the way
he’d envisioned them, none were ever quite as golden as
he’d seen them in his mind’s eye. What author is
ever satisfied with his work? The temptation always lingers to go back
and change a phrase here or a detail there. For me, writing is both
soul-wrenching and ecstatic, often at the same time. It’s a
shamanic experience. Or something.
that the publisher of DAW Books, Donald A. Wollheim, insisted
that the name Opar was used with any title in the series. Farmer did
not like that. Is that also the reason why the title of the novel
changed from Kwasin of
Opar to The
Song of Kwasin, and the name of the
series changed from Opar to Khokarsa?
Yes, that’s right. That, and the fact that Kwasin is a native
Dythbeth and his adventures in the novel aren’t set in Opar,
rather on the island of Khokarsa. And, other than briefly and at a
distance in the opening paragraph, Opar doesn’t appear in the
first novel of the series either.
wrote two other Khokarsa stories. “A Kick in the
Side” is your own, and “Kwasin and the Bear
God” is written by Farmer and you. How did these come to be?
And do you plan to write more Khokarsa stories?
I wrote “A Kick in
the Side” in one sitting in a
kind of mad, fevered fit of inspiration while I was deep in the midst
of working on The Song
of Kwasin. While rereading the series, whenever
I got to the part in the second book where Hinokly literally drops out
of the storyline, some part of me couldn’t help but root for
the poor guy. He was probably a lot smarter than
Hadon—certainly more educated—but fate had dealt
him a poor hand. So I figured he could have one more adventure that
showed just how smart he was.
and the Bear God” came about after
I’d found the folder containing Phil’s detailed
notes and articles on the Khokarsan language. Also in the folder was an
incomplete alternate outline to the third novel in the series. Although
it recapped some of Phil’s more detailed outline, this
alternate version was mostly unusable for the purposes of the novel due
to various incongruities with the already published books. But about
two pages fit in nicely with the continuity and detailed a lost
adventure of Kwasin, so Meteor House asked me to write a story based on
the outline for their Worlds
of Philip José Farmer series.
As for writing other stories set in the series, we’ll have to
wait and see.
are you working at right now and what are your further plans in
At present I’ve pushed everything aside to work on a dark
historical fantasy set in 1888 England and America. After that, I might
sit down and write a novel-length version of my story
“Caesar’s Children,” inspired by the
great nineteenth-century utopian writers. That’s something
I’ve had on the back burner for too long now.
you very much for the interview, Chris!
See his blog for more
information on his writing.
From the publisher:
of Opar: Tales of Lost Khokarsa
Philip Jose Farmer and Christopher Paul Carey
be published in June 2012)
jacket by Bob Eggleton (see under).
$65 | Trade: $45
Gods of Opar: Tales of Lost
collects for the first time anywhere Philip José
epic Khokarsa cycle, including the never-before-published conclusion to
the trilogy, The Song of