Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Most Savage Family Affair!

Today is a most propitious day according to Philip Jose Farmer and his Wold Newton theories. Today is the birthday of one Doctor James Clarke Wildman., better known in his ficitonal guise as "Doc Savage" whose real life was mostly documented by "Kenneth Robeson" the pseudonym for a few men but mostly for Lester Dent.

For the very few who might not know, Philip Farmer's Wold Newton notion suggests that many if not most of the wonderful heroes we celebrate in fiction are actually real or based on real folks who have themselves an elaborate connection with one another because their ancestors in the early 18th century encountered a meteor which irradiated them producing some spectacular examples of humanity among whom are The Shadow, Fu Manchu, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan of the Apes and Doc Savage.

Farmer puts for his theory in grand and detailed fashion in Doc Savage:  His Apocalyptic Life. This epic tale of the "true story" of the great pulp hero details his upbringing and the life stories of his five assistants as well as his cousin Pat. It was in many ways my introduction to the world of Doc Savage when I first fog my mitts on the Bantam paperback a few decades ago. It's been huge fun over the last few weeks to revisit this classic along with its prequel (more later).

Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life was most recently published in a definitive form this past summer by Altus Press as edited by Win Scott Eckart to reflect new additions to the canon and reflect the modern reprint programs which have brought the classic tales back into ready circulation. It's a hoot to read about Doc and his Fab Five as if they were real, it's a wonderful ploy which gives a bit of spice to stories already brimming.

But it's not the first book to read.

Tarzan Alive is the beginning of all this speculation. In this tome Farmer offers up a detailed biography of the man we know as "Sir John Clayton, Lord Greystoke" or more famously "Tarzan of the Apes". Again those names are not the real names, merely the ones concocted by Edgar Rice Burroughs when he was contacted to related the wild adventures of a man raised by exceedingly apish proto-humans. Much of what we learn about Tarzan is true, but much is not and despite the fact this book along with its Doc Savage sequel were originally published in the 70's we can be rather confident that both Doc and Tarzan still live.

Tarzan Alive has recently been made available in a definitive and beautiful form by Bison Books. Do yourself a favor, learn the "truth" about these great iconic heroes. Pull back the curtain and peek to see what wonders lie just behind the conceit we call fiction.

Today would be a great day to start. Happy birthday Doc, wherever you are.

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