A CARMODY/RASPOLD CHRONOLOGY
Philip José Farmer’s Carmody/Raspold stories represent some of his most compelling short fiction. The Carmody stories are available in two collections, Night of Light (Berkely 1977) and Father to the Stars (Tor 1981). The latter is an interesting collection in that it presents the Carmody stories in chronological order from the viewpoint of the characters. Its only failing is that it does not include the second part of Night of Light, which was included in the longer paperback book edition published in 1966. For purposes of this chronology, I have split Night of Light into two parts, although the second part was never published separately on its own.
The Raspold stories (which, by my definition, consist of only two by Farmer) are Strange Compulsion (in which Raspold appears as a major character, though not as the protagonist) and Some Fabulous Yonder. Strange Compulsion appeared in Science Fiction Plus in October 1953 and was published in 1960 under the title The Captain’s Daughter in Farmer’s anthology The Alley God. Though this is an intriguing story of alien biology much in the vein of his acclaimed The Lovers, due to its lack of availability, few have read it. Similarly, Some Fabulous Yonder has only appeared twice, in its original magazine publication in the April 1963 issue of Fantastic Stories of Imagination and in a 1969 collection of Hugo Award Winners, Strange Fantasy #8. While Raspold appears in both parts of Night of Light, he is only a minor reference. Thus, many of those who have read a large body of Farmer’s work do not realize that he had begun to flesh out this fascinating detective in other stories.
While re-reading the Carmody/Raspold stories, I discovered several inconsistencies which I believed needed some explanation. The major one involved the Federation’s titanic protein computer. In some stories, it was referred to as Og Boojum, or the Boojum. In Some Fabulous Yonder, however, it was called ATHENA. Arranging the chronology, I discovered this pattern: in the beginning of the series it is called Og Boojum, in the middle of the series it is ATHENA, and in the last part of the series it is again Og Boojum. I used my own story, The Goddess Equation (which fits into the chronology shortly after the events of Some Fabulous Yonder), to explain this seeming discrepancy. (Note: In the last chronological story, the half-mile wide cube that makes up the Vatican also houses a supercomputer, which is “second in size only to the Federation’s Og Boojum.”)
Another inconsistency is the name given to the organization of planetary systems of which Earth and humanity is a part. In some instances it is referred to as the Commonwealth and at other times as the Federation. Both words mean practically the same thing, so it may be that they are interchangeable. It may also mean that there was a renaming or reorganization at some point. If so, it changed from a Federation to a Commonwealth and back to a Federation. While the latter is possible, I have come to the conclusion that the words are interchangeable.
There are other errors which are probably typographic in nature. For instance, the planet Wildenwooly is also sometimes spelled as Wildenwoolly. In another case, one of the stories states that it is taking place in the twenty-second century. As exact dates are given elsewhere, however, it is clear that the series really occurs in the twenty-third century.
Others seeming inconsistencies are technology-based. It is curious to read the stories from our vantage point in time. There are phones, screens, even T.V. We may have these today, but by current visions of the future they seem obsolete. Be advised, however, that the series does not reveal much about the past and how Earth society got to be where it was in the twenty-third century. Humanity could have gone through any number of upheavals which could have stunted technological development. Technology (and human response to it) does not always progress at a constant speed. Ask N.A.S.A. In addition, the T.V. may not have the same meaning as in our time. There are plenty of words that we use that have changed their meaning significantly in the course of a couple hundred years.
I have created the following chronology (and the above rationalizations) to help readers understand this wonderful series in a new way, which has been made a bit confusing by its publishing history. I encourage Philip José Farmer enthusiasts to read the stories in the order that the characters experience them. It opens up a whole new universe.
Strange Compulsion (also titled The Captain's Daughter)
[Raspold is on Luna trying to transfer to Wildenwooly; that the town of Optima in was “founded in the reclaimed Gobi Desert several hundred years before" is hard to reconcile with the dates mentioned later in the series and is probably merely an exaggerated claim by the Remoh zealots; it is interesting to note that Rhonda Tu is probably some relation to Captain Tu in Father]
2256 A.D.: Carmody is incarcerated at Johns Hopkins [see Night of Light, Part One p. 24*]
Night of Light, Part One [Carmody is a criminal; the Boojum is the supercomputer, p. 24]
Some Fabulous Yonder [Raspold is on Wildenwooly; Carmody surrenders and is incarcerated again at Johns Hopkins (this is a separate incarceration than the one mentioned in Night of Light, Part One because reference is made to Carmody’s experiences on Dante’s Joy; according to p. 123 in Night of Light, Part Two, Carmody stayed at Johns Hopkins for a year after his surrender); ATHENA is “the skyscraper-tall computer”; the government is referred to as “the Federation”]
The Goddess Equation (a tribute story not written by Farmer) [Raspold is on Earth after the events occurring in Some Fabulous Yonder; ATHENA is the supercomputer, while Og Boojum has been retired]
A Few Miles [Carmody being sent to Wildenwooly; occurs in 2260 A.D. or later; Carmody is a monk, not yet a priest]
Prometheus [this story is a direct continuation of the events occurring in A Few Miles]
Father [Carmody is a Priest; the government is referred to as “the Commonwealth”]
Attitudes [Carmody is "Father John" and has developed PK; it is possible this story occurs after Night of Light, Part Two, but I have placed it here so it would not interfere with the dramatic impact of that story, which makes a fitting, if unsettling, conclusion for the series]
Night of Light, Part Two [occurs twenty-seven years after the events of Night of Light, Part One; Carmody is Bishop of Wildenwooly; Og Boojum is the “Federation's titanic protein computer”; pages 81-83: Carmody receives letter from Raspold who is living in an apartment on the sixtieth level of the city of Denver; pages 120-122: Raspold's history of chasing Carmody)]
* All page numbers from Night of Light refer to the 1977 Berkely Medallion paperback edition
Attitudes October 1953
Strange Compulsion (The Captain’s Daughter) October 1953
Father July 1955
Night of Light, Part One June 1957
A Few Miles October 1960
Prometheus March 1961
Some Fabulous Yonder April 1963
Night of Light, Part Two 1966