A heckuva family

The Wold Newton Family is a group of heroic and villainous literary figures that science fiction author Philip José Farmer postulated belonged to the same genetic family. Some of these characters are adventurers, some are detectives, some explorers and scientists, some espionage agents, and some are evil geniuses.

According to Farmer, the Wold Newton Family originated when a radioactive meteor landed in Wold Newton, England, a village in the Yorkshire Wolds, on Dec. 13, 1795. The meteor landing is a real historical event. The meteor’s ionized radiation caused a genetic mutation in those present, which endowed many of their descendants with extremely high intelligence and strength, as well as an exceptional capacity and drive to perform good, or, as the case may be, evil deeds. Additionally, some of the ancestors of those present at the 1795 meteor strike were extraordinary individuals, and so their genetic stock was excellent to begin with.

Popular characters who Philip José Farmer concluded were members of the Wold Newton Family (both pre– and post–meteor strike) include: Solomon Kane; Captain Blood; The Scarlet Pimpernel; Harry Flashman; C. Auguste Dupin; Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis Professor Moriarty (aka Captain Nemo); Phileas Fogg; The Time Traveler; Allan Quatermain; Tarzan and his son Korak; A.J. Raffles; Arsène Lupin; Professor Challenger; Richard Hannay; Bulldog Drummond; the evil Doctor Fu Manchu and his adversary, Sir Denis Nayland Smith; G–8; Lord Peter Wimsey; The Shadow; Sam Spade; Doc Savage, his cousin Pat Savage, and one of his five assistants, Monk Mayfair; The Spider; Nero Wolfe; Mr. Moto; The Avenger; Philip Marlowe; James Bond; Lew Archer; and Travis McGee.

The roots of some of Farmer’s ideas can be traced to Professor H.W. Starr’s articles “A Submersible Subterfuge, or Proof Impositive” (included as an addendum to Farmer’s The Other Log of Phileas Fogg) and “A Case of Identity, or, The Adventure of the Seven Claytons” (included as an addendum to Farmer’s Tarzan Alive).

It should also be noted that, although Farmer incorporated the theory that Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe are father and son into his Wold Newton mythology, he was not the first to advance this hypothesis. For a more expansive treatment of Holmes and Wolfe, the reader is referred to William S. Baring–Gould’s Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street and Nero Wolfe of West Thirty–Fifth Street.

Bibliography of Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton Works

Primary texts:

Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1972. New York: Popular Library, 1976. New York: Playboy Paperbacks, 1981. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press Bison Books, 2006.
The new Bison Books edition contains a new Introduction by science–fiction author Mike Resnick, and a new Foreword by Win Scott Eckert. It also includes “An Exclusive Interview with Lord Greystoke” and “Extracts from the Memoirs of ‘Lord Greystoke.’ ”
Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1973. New York: Bantam Books, 1975. New York: Playboy Paperbacks, 1981.
Myths for the Modern Age: Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton Universe (Win Scott Eckert, editor.). Austin, TX: MonkeyBrain Books, 2005.
Included in this collection are these works by Philip José Farmer:
• “A Reply To ‘The Red Herring.’ ” ERBANIA No. 28, December 1971. Also reprinted in Pearls from Peoria. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2006.
• “The Two Lord Ruftons.” Baker Street Journal, December 1971. Also reprinted in Pearls from Peoria. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2006.
• “The Great Korak–Time Discrepancy.” ERB–dom No. 57, April 1972. Also reprinted in Pearls from Peoria. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2006.
• “The Lord Mountford Mystery.” ERB–dom No. 65, December 1972. Also reprinted in Pearls from Peoria. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2006.
• “From ERB To Ygg.” Erbivore, August 1973. Also reprinted in Pearls from Peoria. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2006.
• “A Language for Opar.” ERB–dom No. 75, 1974. Also reprinted in Pearls from Peoria. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2006.
• “Jonathan Swift Somers III, Cosmic Traveller in a Wheelchair: A Short Biography by Philip José Farmer (Honorary Chief Kennel Keeper).” Scintillation No. 13, June 1977. Also reprinted in Pearls from Peoria. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2006.
• “The Monster on Hold (A chapter from a projected novel in the Lord Grandrith/Doc Caliban series).” Program to the 1983 World Fantasy Convention. Oak Forest: Weird Tales, 1983. Also reprinted in Pearls from Peoria. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2006.

Works by other contributors:
• “Introduction: Myths for the Modern Age: Farmer’s Wold Newton Family and Shared Universe” by Win Scott Eckert
• “Wold–Newtonry: Theory and Methodology for the Literary Archaeology of the Wold Newton Universe” by Dr. Peter M. Coogan
• “The Secret History of Captain Nemo” by Rick Lai
• “From Pygmalion to Casablanca: The Higgins Genealogy” by Mark K. Brown
• “The Daughters of Greystoke” by Chuck Loridans
• “The Green Eyes Have It – Or Are They Blue? or Another Case of Identity Recased” by Christopher Paul Carey
• “Kiss of the Vampire” by John A. Small
• “Name of A Thousand Blue Demons” Cheryl L. Huttner
• “Asian Detectives in the Wold Newton Family” by Dennis E. Power
• “This Shadow Hanging Over Me Is No Trick Of The Light” by Jess Nevins
• “The Magnificent Gordons” by Mark K. Brown
• “The Legacy of the Fox: Zorro in the Wold Newton Universe” by Matthew Baugh
• “Who’s Going to Take Over the World When I’m Gone? (A Look at the Genealogies of Wold Newton Family Super–Villains and Their Nemeses)” by Win Scott Eckert
• “Jungle Brothers, Or, Secrets Of The Jungle Lords” by Dennis E. Power
• “Watching the Detectives, Or, The Sherlock Holmes Family Tree” by Brad Mengel
• “Fu Manchu Vs. Cthulhu” by Rick Lai
• “John Carter: Torn from Phoenician Dreams (An Examination Into the Theories that John Carter was Phra the Phoenician and Norman of Torn)” by Dennis E. Power and Dr. Peter M. Coogan
• “D is for Daughter, F is for Father” by Mark K. Brown
• “Travels in Time” by Loki Carbis
• “A Review of Final Menacing Glimpses” by Art Bollmann

Secondary texts:

Beyond Tarzan Alive and Doc Savage, Farmer further expanded on his Wold Newton mythology in several novels and short stories:

The Adventure of the Peerless Peer, by John H. Watson, M.D. Boulder, CO: The Aspen Press, 1974; New York: Dell Books, 1976.
Due to copyright issues, Farmer was forced to remove Tarzan from this novel when it was republished as The Adventure of the Three Madmen in the anthology The Grand Adventure, Berkley Books, 1984. Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, The Shadow, G–8, Henry Merrivale. Madmen replaced Tarzan with Mowgli from Kipling’s The Jungle Book.
“After King Kong Fell.” The Grand Adventure. New York: Berkley Books, 1984.
Reprinted in The Best of Philip José Farmer. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2005. Cameos by Doc Savage and The Shadow.
“Doc Savage and the Cult of the Blue God.Pearls from Peoria. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2006.
A screenplay by Farmer for the second, and unmade, Doc Savage feature film. The screenplay was originally titled “Doc Savage: Archenemy of Evil.”
“The Doge Whose Barque Was Worse Than His Bight.” Fantasy & Science Fiction, November 1976. Reprinted in Pearls from Peoria. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2006.
The second Ralph von Wau Wau tale by Jonathan Swift Somers III. Farmer began a third Ralph von Wau Wau tale, “Who Stole Stonehenge?” which remains unfinished.
Escape from Loki: Doc Savage’s First Adventure. New York: Bantam Books, 1991.
Young Doc Savage’s first adventure.
“Evil, Be My Good.” The Ultimate Frankenstein. Byron Preiss, 1991. New York: iBooks, 2003. Reprinted in Pearls from Peoria. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2006.
Farmer refers to Frankenstein’s experiments in Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life; a Frankenstein tale by Farmer likely takes place in the Wold Newton Universe.
“An Exclusive Interview with Lord Greystoke.” The Book of Philip José Farmer. New York: DAW Books, 1973. Revised edition New York: Berkley Books, 1982.
Reprinted in The Best of Philip José Farmer. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2005. Reprinted in Tarzan Alive. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press Bison Books, 2006.
“Extracts from the Memoirs of ‘Lord Greystoke.’ ” Mother Was a Lovely Beast. New York: Pyramid Books, 1976.
Reprinted in Tarzan Alive. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press Bison Books, 2006.
“The Face that Launched a Thousand Eggs.” Farmerphile: The Magazine of Philip José Farmer n1, Christopher Paul Carey, editor; Michael Croteau, publisher, July 2005.
Tim Howller, the protagonist, is undoubtedly the same Tim Howller who appeared in “After King Kong Fell.”
Flight to Opar. New York: DAW Books, 1976.
Set in ancient Opar from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan novels.
“The Freshman.” The Book of Philip José Farmer. New York: Berkley Books, 1982.
Reprinted in Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos. New York: Del Rey Books, 1998.
Hadon of Ancient Opar. New York: DAW Books, 1974.
Set in ancient Opar from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan novels.
Ironcastle. J.H. Rosny, translated and retold in English by Philip José Farmer. New York: DAW Books, 1976.
Farmer added some Wold Newton connections, including a reference to Doc Savage’s father.
“The Last Rise of Nick Adams.” The Book of Philip José Farmer. New York: Berkley Books, 1982.
“Nobody’s Perfect.” The Ultimate Dracula. Byron Preiss, 1991. New York: iBooks, 2003.
Reprinted in Pearls from Peoria. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2006. Farmer refers to a member of the Van Helsing family in Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life; a Dracula story by Farmer likely takes place in the Wold Newton Universe.
“The Obscure Life and Hard Times of Kilgore Trout.” The Book of Philip José Farmer. New York: DAW Books, 1973. Revised edition New York: Berkley Books, 1982.
The Other Log of Phileas Fogg. New York: DAW Books, 1973. New York: Tor Books, 1982.
Phileas Fogg and Captain Nemo/Professor Moriarty.
“The Problem of the Sore Bridge – Among Others.” Fantasy & Science Fiction, September 1975. Reprinted in Riverworld and Other Stories. New York: Berkley Books, 1979.
Reprinted in Sherlock Holmes Through Time and Space. Isaac Asimov, Martin Greenberg, and Charles Waugh, eds. New York: Bluejay Books, 1984. A Holmes—Raffles pastiche by Harry “Bunny” Manders.
“A Scarletin Study.” Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 1975. Reprinted in Sherlock Holmes Through Time and Space, Isaac Asimov, Martin Greenberg, and Charles Waugh, eds. New York: Bluejay Books, 1984.
Reprinted in Pearls from Peoria. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2006. The first Ralph von Wau Wau tale by Jonathan Swift Somers III.
“Skinburn.” Fantasy & Science Fiction, October 1972. Reprinted in The Book of Philip José Farmer. New York: DAW Books, 1973. Revised edition New York: Berkley Books, 1982.
An adventure of Kent Lane, the son of The Shadow and Margo Lane.
Stations of the Nightmare. New York: Tor Books, 1982.
Leo Queequeeg Tincrowder, a Wold Newton Family member and cousin of Kilgore Trout, is a supporting character.
The Dark Heart of Time: A Tarzan Novel. New York: Del Rey Books, 1999.
Time’s Last Gift. New York: Del Rey Books, 1972. Revised edition New York: Del Rey Books, 1977.
Note that the abbreviation of this title, TLG, hints at the true identity of the main character–Tarzan, Lord Greystoke.
Venus on the Half–Shell. New York: Dell Books, 1975.
This book, written by Wold Newton Family member Kilgore Trout, mentions Jonathan Swift Somers III and his epic biographies of Ralph von Wau Wau, making it one possible future of the Wold Newton Universe.
“The Volcano.” Fantasy & Science Fiction, February 1976. Reprinted in Riverworld and Other Stories. New York: Berkley Books, 1979.
A short story by Paul Chapin, who once met Wold Newton Family member Nero Wolfe, in Goodwin and Stout’s The League of Frightened Men. In “The Volcano,” private detective Curtius Parry works with a reporter named Edward Malone. This is likely the same Malone from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger stories.
The Wind Whales of Ishmael. Ace Books, 1971.
While Farmer makes no explicit Wold Newton connection in this sequel to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, later research has established that the events of Moby Dick do take place in the Wold Newton Universe. Therefore, it is included in this list.
The World of Tiers series, various publishers, 1965–1993.
A Wold Newton Family member, Paul Janus “Kickaha” Finnegan, is one of the main characters in this series.

Controversial texts:

Finally, there are several items about which debate continues regarding whether or not they fit into Farmer’s regular Wold Newton continuity. Certainly they draw on Wold Newton mythology and thus deserve at least honorable mention here. As Farmer has said, “Let the reader decide.”

A Feast Unknown, Lord of the Trees, and The Mad Goblin1
Three novels featuring the battle of Lord Grandrith (a Tarzan analogue) and Doc Caliban (a Doc Savage analogue) against the Nine. Dennis Power has written three articles that reconcile these novels with Wold Newton Universe continuity: “Triple Tarzan Tangle,” “Tarzan? Jane?” and “Tarzans in the Valley of Gold” (all available at Dennis Power’s Secret History of the Wold Newton Universe website).
Greatheart Silver2
One of the main factors against including this collection of three short stories in the Wold Newton Universe is an episode in which many of the great pulp heroes, now aged, engage in a massive gun battle and are killed off. Brad Mengel’s “Fakeout at Shootout” (Secret History of the WNU website) resolves these events with Wold Newton continuity and also discusses the Grandrith / Caliban books. Art Bollmann also tackles Greatheart Silver in his “The Greatheart Silver Problem” (Mark Brown’s Wold Newton Chronicles website).
A Barnstormer in Oz3
Farmer gives Oz the reality twist. One factor that may argue against including this book in the Wold Newton Universe is that all sequels to L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz are treated as fictional, except for this one. On the other hand, Dennis Power has written “Ozdyssey, or How the Yellow Brick Road Lead Me to the Riverworld” (Secret History of the WNU website) explaining how Farmer’s book could fit in.

Further Selected Wold Newton Reading

Baring–Gould, William S. Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street: The Life of the World’s First Consulting Detective. New York: Bramhall House, 1962.
–––. Nero Wolfe of West Thirty–Fifth Street: The Life and Times of America’s Largest Private Detective. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Books, 1982.
Dyar, Dafydd Neal. “Sunlight, Son Bright.” The Doc Savage Club Reader n8.
Dunn, Patricia. “A Problem of Identity: Was Holmes a Vulcan?” The Best of Trek 11. New York: Signet Books, 1986.
Lai, Rick. “The Brotherhood of the Lotus.” Nemesis Incorporated v4, n28, December 1988.
–––. The Complete Chronology of Bronze. Aces Publications, 1999.
–––. “The Dark Ancestry of John Sunlight.” The Shadow/Doc Savage Quest n11, December 1982.
–––. “Hell’s Madonna and the Voodoo Priestess.” Nemesis Incorporated v3, n24, March 1987.
–––. “Iris Vaughan of the Invisible Empire.” Nemesis Incorporated v4, n27, May 1988.
–––. “Revelations of Kathulos.” The Fantastic Worlds of Robert E. Howard. James Van Hise, ed., 2001.
–––. “The Savage Reversion.” Golden Perils v1, n4, May 1986.
–––. “Sen Gat and the Belgian Sleuth.” Nemesis Incorporated v4, n26, January 1988.
–––. “Sirens of the Si–Fan.” Nemesis Incorporated v2, n20, August 1985.
Lofficier, Jean–Marc, and Randy Lofficier. Shadowmen: Heroes and Villains of French Pulp Fiction. Encino, CA: Black Coat Press, 2003.
–––. Shadowmen 2: Heroes and Villains of French Comics. Encino, CA: Black Coat Press, 2004.
Murphy, Jaclyn J. “The Star Trek Family Tree.” The Best of Trek 4. New York: Signet Books, 1981.
Nevins, Jess. Heroes and Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Austin, TX: MonkeyBrain Books, 2003.
–––. A Blazing World: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume Two. Austin, TX: MonkeyBrain Books, 2004.
Nicastro, C.J. “A Note on Spock.” The Best of Trek 8. New York: Signet Books, 1985.
–––. “‘Spock Savage’ or the Vulcan of Bronze.” The Best of Trek 8. New York: Signet Books, 1985.
Rutt, Timothy J., Todd R. Rutt, Arn McConnell, Kirk McConnell, Clay Powers, and Scott Koeller. The Wold Atlas. Five issues, 1977–1978.
Schwartz, Paul. “A Theory of Relativity.” The Best of Trek 4. New York: Signet Books, 1981.
Starr, Professor H.W. “A Case of Identity, or, The Adventure of the Seven Claytons.” Addendum I to Tarzan Alive.
–––. “A Submersible Subterfuge, or, Proof Impositive.” Addendum to The Other Log of Phileas Fogg.
Thompson, Leslie. “A Brief Look at Kirk’s Career.” The Best of Trek 2. New York: Signet Books, 1980.

Web sites

The first Wold Newton website, Win Eckert’s An Expansion of Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton Universe, was launched in 1997. Since then, several more have arisen. A selected list follows.

Brown, Mark K. The Wold Newton Chronicles. <http://www.pjfarmer.com/chronicles/index.htm>
Eckert, Win Scott. An Expansion of Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton Universe, aka The Wold Newton Universe. <http://www.pjfarmer.com/woldnewton/Pulp2.htm>
Loridans, Chuck. MONSTAAH: Maximum Observation and / or Nullification of Supernatural Terrors Autonomous Agents Headquarters. <http://monstaah.angelfire.com>
Lofficier, Jean–Marc. French Wold Newton Universe. <http://www.coolfrenchcomics.com/wnu1.htm>
Nevins, Jess. Some Unknown Members of the Wold Newton Family. <http://ratmmjess.tripod.com/wold.html>
Power, Dennis E. The Secret History of the Wold Newton Universe. <http://www.pjfarmer.com/secret/secret.htm>

Influence on other writers

Several writers and series have been influenced by the Wold Newton concept, including:

The Bunduki series by J.T. Edson, featuring an adopted son of Tarzan who is transported to an alternate Earth. Edson also wrote several different interconnected series of Westerns, in which he incorporated Farmer’s Wold Newton genealogies, with Farmer’s permission. For example, he related his hero Dusty Fog to Phileas Fogg.

The Anno Dracula books by Kim Newman, although they take place in an alternate time–track.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novels by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill.

The Planetary comic series by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday.

The League of Heroes and subsequent novels by Xavier Mauméjean.

Tales of the Shadowmen, an annual anthology of short stories, edited by Jean–Marc Lofficier and Randy Lofficier. The stories are inspired by and specifically center on Farmer’s Wold Newton mythos and continuity.


1 A Feast Unknown. N. Hollywood: Essex House, 1969. New York: Playboy Press, 1980. Lord of the Trees. New York: Ace Books, 1970. The Mad Goblin. New York: Ace Books, 1970.

2 Greatheart Silver. New York: Tor Books, 1982.

3 A Barnstormer in Oz, or A Rationalization and Extrapolation of the Split–Level Continuum. Huntington Woods, MI: Phantasia Press, 1982. New York: Berkley Books, 1982.


This article is © 2006 Win Scott Eckert

About the author: Win Scott Eckert is author of Myths for the Modern Age: Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton Universe and proprietor of its affiliated Web site, The Wold Newton Universe.