On September 1, 1973, at the fourteenth annual Dum-Dum convention in honor of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Philip José Farmer made an exciting announcement about a new series he was writing: one set in an ancient civilization of which the lost city of Opar was but one far-flung queendom. The convention was held at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and hosted by the Burroughs Bibliophiles in conjunction with the 31st World Science Fiction Convention (TorCon II). Fortunately, an audio recording exists, which you can listen to below.
Farmer was the banquet speaker at the Burroughs convention. He was introduced by Burroughs Bulletin founding editor (and close friend of Phil and his wife Bette) Vern Coriell, who remarked during his introduction that the only reason Phil hadn’t won a Hugo Award that year is because they didn’t have a category for “Biography.” The previous year, Doubleday had published Phil’s Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke.
As a prelude to this announcement, Farmer discusses Tarzan Alive and his anthology on feral humans, Mother Was a Lovely Beast. The Ancient Opar announcement is at the 10:12 mark.
Listen to Philip José Farmer’s complete banquet address to the Burroughs Bibliophiles here:
Some interesting observations about the address:
- You can hear Phil pronouncing the name “Hadon,” the hero of Hadon of Ancient Opar and Flight to Opar. Just as he indicated in his article “The Khokarsan Language” (available in the Restored Edition of Flight to Opar published by Meteor House in 2015), he pronounces the “a” as “a low central spread vowel (as in Spanish)” and the “o” as “a mid-back rounded vowel (as in Spanish).” In other words: “Hä-dōn.”
- Phil announces that Richard Corben would illustrate the cover of the first edition of Hadon of Ancient Opar. However, plans must have changed along the way, since Roy G. Krenkel ended up as the final cover artist. Corben later went on to illustrate the 1975 Fokker D-LXIX Press edition of A Feast Unknown.
- Phil mentions that he envisioned the Ancient Opar series would encompass about ten books. He lived to write only three novels in the series (Hadon of Ancient Opar, Flight to Opar, and The Song of Kwasin), but the tale of Khokarsa continues to unfold in books such as Exiles of Kho, Hadon, King of Opar, and the forthcoming Blood of Ancient Opar.
- Phil mentions Frank Brueckel and John Harwood’s essay on the history of Opar, which inspired his Ancient Opar series. While the lengthy article was then scheduled to appear in the Burroughs Bulletin, it never did. Many years later, however, the monograph was finally published in the book Heritage of the Flaming God, ed. Alan Hanson and Michael Winger, which is available here.
- The “Ian” whom Phil calls out to in the audience in regard to the publication of John Flint Roy’s A Guide to Barsoom is publisher Ian Ballantine.
- My favorite quote from this banquet address is a somewhat prophetic one: “Now I think it’s a measure of a writer’s true importance in the field of literature if the writer generates a tremendous amount of work past his own work.”