At the time, I was serving as editor of Farmerphile, an authorized, digest-sized magazine devoted to bringing into print rarities and previously unpublished material by Farmer, and so naturally I had been contacted by the magazine’s publisher, Michael Croteau, when the new Khokarsa material turned up.
I was a huge fan of the original two books in the cycle — Hadon of Ancient Opar (1974) and Flight to Opar (1976) — considering them to be at the highest tier of Farmer’s adventure fiction, and it was with quivering fingers that I typed a reply to Mike’s email and requested a copy of the pages. When the photocopies promptly arrived, I was astounded. Here on an epic scale was the entire arc of what Farmer had planned for the third novel of the series, minus a few finishing touches where he had speculated on alternate courses for the story’s finale.
What’s more, the novel didn’t star Hadon, the duty-bound protagonist of the first two installments, but rather Hadon’s giant cousin Kwasin in all his larger-than-life stature — the wild, unrestrained antihero of the series, who was last seen on stage in Hadon of Ancient Opar, swinging his massive ax of meteoritic iron against impossible odds to give Hadon and his companions a chance to escape the forces of the power-hungry King Minruth.
It was a story that I instantly knew needed to be told — the conclusion to a trilogy for which Farmer’s fans had been waiting almost thirty years.
By this time, Phil Farmer had retired from writing, and his health had been progressively declining in these latter years. But as recently as 1999 he’d made known his desire to complete the Khokarsa series, proclaiming that he would wrap up all the loose details in the third novel. This, of course, sadly never came to pass.
And so, in perhaps one of the most daring, bullet-sweating moves of my life, I drew up a comprehensive proposal to complete the third novel. I’d known Phil since 1998, and we both shared a keen interest in anthropology and a deep love of the pulps — in particular, Burroughs and Haggard, who’d inspired the series — so this was not completely out of the blue.
One of the reasons I was involved with Farmerphile was because Phil was familiar with my articles on his work, and he’d told me and others that he thought highly of them (one of these saw print later that same year in the anthology Myths for the Modern Age: Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton Universe).
And so Phil carefully read my proposal and wrote back to me with great enthusiasm, and to my overwhelming awe granted me permission to proceed, closing his letter with the imperative “forward it is.” I was beside myself when I received the news and eager to get started. But I was attending graduate school at this point, so it was about a year and a half before I could begin work in earnest on the novel (Phil and his wife Bette knew this from the outset, and insisted that I finish my degree before launching into the project).
The first draft of The Song of Kwasin was completed in early 2008. Phil’s health had by now taken a turn for the worse, but Bette Farmer had been reading her husband chapters of the book as I completed them, and I was overjoyed by her descriptions of how Phil lit up at hearing of the giant Kwasin’s adventures. Then, while visiting Phil in celebration of his ninety-first birthday in January 2009, I uncovered another trove of Khokarsa materials in the files (which we had affectionately begun to call the Magic Filing Cabinet because of its propensity to offer up new wonders just when we thought we’d explored it all). This was in addition to the copious notes related to the series that Phil had generously opened to me while I was writing the first draft of the novel.
The newly found materials included Phil’s complete Khokarsan syllabary and several drafts of a detailed article on Khokarsan linguistics — truly Tolkienesque world building, as Phil was passionate about linguistics, and in fact, was just a few credits shy of holding a Master’s degree in the subject. The information in these archives allowed me to sync up the names I had to create for the novel with the rules of the Khokarsan language, as well as to revise those placeholder names Phil had hastily typed in his outline with notes to “check the syllabary.”
It was a long road to publication for the third novel, The Song of Kwasin, and Phil sadly passed away before he could see the printed book. But I’m excited to announce to the fans that the long wait is at last over and all three novels of the Khokarsa series are now available in the omnibus Gods of Opar: Tales of Lost Khokarsa.
The book features a stunning wraparound apocalyptic dust jacket illustration by the amazing Bob Eggleton. The limited edition also includes a section of bonus material that gives the reader a good glimpse into the outline, notes, and articles written by Farmer in the 1970s and preserved in his files.
I encourage readers interested in further exploring the world of Khokarsa to visit the Lost Khokarsa website, which features a wealth of information on the series, including exclusive material from Philip José Farmer’s literary papers.
Christopher Paul Carey is the coauthor with Philip José Farmer of Gods of Opar: Tales of Lost Khokarsa.
He is an editor with Paizo Publishing and the award-winning Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and the editor of three collections of Philip José Farmer’s work: Up from the Bottomless Pit and Other Stories, Venus on the Half-Shell and Others, and The Other in the Mirror.
His short fiction may be found in such anthologies as The Worlds of Philip José Farmer, Tales of the Shadowmen, and The Avenger: The Justice, Inc. Files.
Visit him online at www.cpcarey.com.