The first author in the second year of our Worlds of Speculative Fiction monthly talk series is the science-fiction writer, Philip José Farmer (1918-2009). We will be focusing on his 5-book Riverworld series, discussing the narrative world he created, and some of the key philosophical themes featured in his works.
The talk took place Thursday, January 12, 7:00 PM at the Brookfield Public Library. Here is the videorecording of the talk:
Imagine a planet, with one long, broad, windy river circling and weaving around the globe – a world created by beings powerful enough to rework the geography of an entire planet. Or more powerful even yet. . . . For this is a world in which every human being who has lived and died from the beginnings of humanity to the early 2000s, one day and altogether, awake from whatever state they were in after their death – along that vast river. That is the central premise of Farmer’s Riverworld Series!
The five philosophical themes particularly central in the series that I focused on during the talk are:
- Second chances, the past, and the choice of who to be
- Personal identity and the metaphysics of replication
- The “Ethicals” and the great experiment
- Human nature and the struggle for resources and dominance
- The human desire to explore and understand their world
The Riverworld Novels
For those who would like to purchase or otherwise acquire the books, here are some Amazon links to them.
- To Your Scattered Bodies (1971)
- The Fabulous Riverboat (1971)
- The Dark Design (1977)
- The Magic Labyrinth (1980)
- Gods of Riverworld (1983)
Links and Resources of Interest
The discussion will be drawn primarily from the novels, but there are a number of online resources that may be of interest for those reading Farmer’s works. Here are some that I think particularly worth taking a look at – and after the session, there may be more to post, since participants often bring up those they found worthwhile as well.
Essays on and Interviews with Farmer
- Russell Letson, The Faces of a Thousand Heroes: Philip José Farmer (in Science Fiction Studies)
- Antoine Ruiz, Redemption in Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld (Masters Thesis)
- Michael Croteau and Craig Kimber, Pilgrimage to Peoria – an Interview with Philip Jose Farmer
- Steve Fahnestalk, The Riverworld Series – Book Review (Tangent)
- Sam Jordison, Back to the Hugos: To Your Scattered Bodies Go (Guardian)