Science Fiction: Ten Explorations

By C. N. Manlove | Go to book overview

7

Philip José Farmer, To
Your Scattered Bodies Go
(1971)

Of all the writers considered in this book, Philip José Farmer is one of the most imaginatively ambitious. His urge, from his first well-known book, The Lovers (1952), is always to push his mind beyond the limits, to describe a world of the Last Days, to throw together in one context historical figures and personages from fiction, to create endless series of sheerly different worlds or images striking in their sheer inventiveness, even to write alien pornography beyond man's wildest imaginings. Always, at root, the urge is simply the basic one of a delight in making, though one can relate Farmer's prodigious creative appetite to the quest for an absolute. 1 But Farmer's absolute is always itself a maker, a creator — like the makers of his Riverworld or of his World of Tiers: there is a circularity, the artist in pursuit of a transcendent version of himself, rather than anything more metaphysical. Silverberg too, as we have seen, seeks a kind of transcendence, even if he finds it within creation rather than in a God: but Silverberg is more spiritual in his concern than Farmer. Even in Farmer's Night of Light (1966), which describes a brilliantly imagined process of self-discovery through suffering, the strange landscape and events of the planet Dante's Joy are at the centre.

The Riverworld series — To Your Scattered Bodies Go (1971), The Fabulous Riverboat (1971), The Dark Design (1977), The Magic Labyrinth (1980) and most recently Gods of Riverworld (1983) 2 — is typical of Farmer in its extremity of imagination, its transgression of cosmic finalities, its rapacity for experience and vast variety of character. But there is a difference: the landscape, once created, stays almost unvaryingly the same. In other works Farmer keeps throwing up fresh images and landscapes as from a fountain — the multiple perspectives of Strange Relations (1960), the constantly‐

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