PHILIP JOSE FARMER
Marion Zimmer Bradley's review of Search the Dark Stars was interesting for the more than one reason. It stirred my curiosity about the novel, which I would like to read but won't because I can't get hold of a copy without going to much trouble; it, perhaps, prophesied a new trend -- or the return of an old one -- to the space opera; it helped confirm what I've been thinking for some time, that the old gives way tot he new, then the new becomes old, and the author who can't change his thinking about writing and his style must also go under. For some time, I've been thinking about writing a space opera. "The investigation of alien socio-sexual customs" is a vein I've played out as far as I'm concerned. Not that the "investigations" won't give rise to good stories in the future but that I won't be doing them. "Open to Me, My Sister" was the last story I intend to write exploiting that branch of extrapolation. "The reader who is jaded with too much...Phil Farmer" will see a new one, if I have my way, and I don't see any reason why I can't. It is a coincidence -- and a happy one, I hope -- that Mrs Bradley's article and my determination to get far out in interstellar space among almost incrediblly exotic planets, weird beings, and tough swashbuckling Earthmen came about the same time. Telepathy? No, just two who are in tune with the Zeitgeist. The tentative title of the spopus is Ramstam. That is the name of the camptai of the ship; look it up in the dictionary.
I hope Marion wasn't hinting tht she was up to here with Father Carmody, and that other readers don't agree with her, because I've got too many notes and outlines about him to throw them in the can. After all, only about one Carmody story a year, sometimes two, appear. Is that too much? I intend to kill him off some day, but before I've written his biography.
I would like it made clear that I didn't sit down and analyze the markets, readers, and the new direction and then decide to give the readers whan they wanted. I ain't built that way. 'Twas I myself, all by myself, who came to that conclusion, who decided that intergalatic adventure could be fun and that I'd like to have some fun. However, I think and maintain strongly that you can have entertainment, fast action, and also have three-dimentional characterization. And that the story is that much better if you know "what the Bad Huys have done that's so awful, or what the Good Guys have done that's so worthwhile or what the mysterious plots are all about." Action for action's sake only is shallow literature and continues to hold only shallow readers. On the other hand, too much soul-searching sludges the story. so (how's that for alliteration?) the think to do is not just to skim the surface or plunge into the abyss but to dive full fathoms five where the sunlight penetrates far enough for one to see the alien and beautiful seascape but all is bent by the refraction of water and covexity of the diver's lens. And that doesn't mean that the writer must try to regain the "sense of wonder." Once lost, never regained. You have to keep it. You also have to have readers with that sense.
Has anyone read The Bright Ring of Water? Delightful -- but then, I'm an animal lover. I even put up with a Siamese cat who gets me up at four o'clock every morning to let him out and at six to let him in. (Scottsdale, Arizona)