- Wold Newton family
The Wold Newton family is a literary concept derived from a form of crossover fiction developed by the
science fictionwriter Philip José Farmer. Farmer suggested in two fictional "biographies" of fictional characters (" Tarzan Alive" and ""), that the (real) meteorite which fell in Wold Newton, Yorkshire, England, on December 13, 1795, was radioactiveand caused genetic mutations in the occupants of a passing coach. Many of their descendants were thus endowed 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. The progeny of these travellers were purported to have been the real-life originals of fictionalised characters, both heroic and villainous, over the last few hundred years, such as Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Doc Savage, and Lord Peter Wimsey.
Other popular characters that Philip José Farmer concluded were members of the Wold Newton mutant family include:
Solomon Kane; Captain Blood; The Scarlet Pimpernel; Sherlock Holmes's nemesis Professor Moriarty; Phileas Fogg; The Time Traveller (main character of " The Time Machine" by H. G. Wells); Allan Quatermain; A.J. Raffles; Professor Challenger; Richard Hannay; Bulldog Drummond; the evil Fu Manchuand his adversary, Sir Denis Nayland Smith; G-8; The Shadow; Sam Spade; Doc Savage's cousin Patricia Savage, and one of his five assistants, Monk Mayfair; The Spider; Nero Wolfe; Mr. Moto; The Avenger; Philip Marlowe; James Bond; Lew Archer; Travis McGee; Monsieur Lecoq; and Arsène Lupin.
The Wold Newton Universe
The Wold Newton Universe (or WNU) is a term coined by
Win Scott Eckertto denote an expansion of Philip José Farmer's original Wold Newton Family concept (introduced in the "fictional biography" " Tarzan Alive" (1972)). Eckert introduced the term in 1997 on his website, An Expansion of Philip José Farmer's Wold Newton Universe [http://www.pjfarmer.com/woldnewton/Pulp2.htm] . Eckert uses Farmer's concept of the Wold Newton Family as a unifying device, and expands the universe the Wold Newton Family inhabits by documenting crossovers between fictional characters appearing in various media and genres. Not all characters linked into the WNU are necessarily blood relatives, descendants, or ancestors of those present at the 1795 Wold Newton meteor strike, but they all exist in the same shared fictional universe. Farmer himself penned a number of crossover fiction stories and novels set in what is now termed the Wold Newton Universe; not all characters in Farmer's Wold Newton fiction are core members of the Wold Newton Family, but all are linked into the larger WNU via connections with Farmer's primary Wold Newton Family works, " Tarzan Alive"and "". [ [http://www.pjfarmer.com/woldnewton/Pulp.htm Win Scott Eckert's "Wold Newton Universe" website] . Accessed January 18, 2008]
Eckert and other "post-Farmerian" writers (denoting authors working with or in a similar vein as Eckert, who are admirers of Farmer's Wold Newton biographies and fiction) have – through crossovers documented in Eckert's massive online "Crossover Chronology" [http://www.pjfarmer.com/woldnewton/Chron.htm] (due to be published in book form by MonkeyBrain Books in 2009 as "Crossovers: A Secret Chronology of the World"), and through parascholarly articles such as those appearing on the various WNU-themed websites online; "Myths for the Modern Age: Philip José Farmer's Wold Newton Universe" (edited by Win Scott Eckert, MonkeyBrain Books, 2005, a 2007 Locus Award finalist [http://www.locusmag.com/2007/04_LocusFinalists.html] ) and in various issues of the pro-zine dedicated to and authorized by Farmer, "Farmerphile: The Magazine of Philip José Farmer" [http://www.pjfarmer.com/farmerphile.htm] (published by Michael Croteau, webmaster of the Official Philip José Farmer Home Page [http://www.pjfarmer.com/] ) – brought numerous further fictional characters into the WNU. These characters have appeared in literary fiction – including
penny dreadfuls, pulp comics, Victorian, Romanticismand Renaissance literature, steampunk, Gothic novels, fairy tales, mythologyand folklore– as well as in film, television programs, comic book series and graphic novels, radio shows, and even video games.
Many post-Farmerian "parascholars" have attempted to expand the WNU to include characters of their liking into the WNU, and often into the Wold Newton family proper. These attempts have included efforts to fit in comic book superheroes and supervillains, whose published exploits, by their very nature, often prove difficult to reconcile with Farmer's original framework. Therefore, in order for aspects of larger fictional universes to adhere to certain conditions of the overall continuity and even believability of the WNU (whose root conceit has always been that characters the world knows as fictional actually lived, or are yet living, and that their adventures are based on true events embroidered by the genre authors who serve as their "biographers"), certain accounts of the characters' lives that overly strain suspension of disbelief are often labeled as "distortion" of actual events, or dismissed as complete fabrication.
Family vs. Universe
Although the two terms are used almost interchangeably, there is an important distinction: Wold Newton Family members - those who are descended from or otherwise related to the individuals exposed to the meteor strike; and Wold Newton Universe members, unrelated to the family, who have met one or more family members in crossovers. Examples of this can be found in the works of Farmer that created the concept: several family members were present at the death of King Kong, thus firmly placing Kong in the universe, but Kong almost certainly cannot be a family member. The theory that Kong may have been part of a travelling menagerie in the vicinity of the meteor strike is highly unlikely to be correct, since
gorillasare not known to have been brought to Europe until the nineteenth century. Attempts have even been made to extend the family into the far future, specifically linking them to the 23rd-century characters of " Star Trek" (see below).
An earlier proponent of this sort of fiction was
William S. Baring-Gouldwho wrote a fictional biography of Sherlock Holmes. In 1977 C. W. Scott-Giles, an expert in heraldry, published a history of Lord Peter Wimsey's family, going back to 1066 (but describing the loss of the family tree going back to Adam and Eve); the book is based on material from his correspondence with Dorothy L. Sayers, who wrote at least two of the family anecdotes in the book, one of them in the French languageof the Middle Ages.For details, see Duke of Denver. Warren Ellis's comic book series "Planetary" has a similar premise of fitting many different superhero, science fiction, and fantasyelements into the same universe. (Though for the most part, constrained by the needs of the story and copyright, Ellis does not use the originals but rather his own re-interpretations of the archetypes). Author Kim Newmanhas stated that his "Anno Dracula" series was partially inspired by the Wold Newton family. [ [http://www.johnnyalucard.com/ad.html Anno Dracula: The Background] ]
The anthology series "
Tales of the Shadowmen" edited by Jean-Marc Lofficieris also based on the Wold Newton concept and includes characters from French literature.
Perhaps the most well-known combination of heroes is the Justice League of America (although a closer example is its forerunner, the
Justice Society of America, which brought together a group of heroes who had previously been assumed to exist in separate fictional worlds). The Justice Society also faced a group of villains who closely resembled pulp heroes the Shadow, the Avenger, Doc Savageand Zorro. Alan Mooreused a similar technique in his comic book series " The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", which teams several Victorian-era pulp characters together. However, Moore's team is not descended from a single family, it is merely a combination of historical literary figures from a certain timeframe.
* [http://www.monkeybrainbooks.com/Myths_for_the_Modern_Age.html Authorized book:] - Myths for the Modern Age: Philip José Farmer's Wold Newton Universe (ISBN 1-932265-14-7)
* [http://www.pjfarmer.com/woldnewton/Pulp.htm An Expansion of Philip José Farmer's Wold Newton Universe]
* [http://www.pjfarmer.com/ The Official Philip José Farmer's Home Page]
* [http://www.pjfarmer.com/farmerphile.htm "Farmerphile: The Magazine of Philip José Farmer"]
* [http://thepulp.net/PulpFAQ/farmer.html "What is Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton Family?" on FAQ page at ThePulp.Net]
* [http://www.pjfarmer.com/secret/content/Contents.htm The Secret History of the Wold Newton Universe]
* [http://www.pjfarmer.com/chronicles/index.htm The Wold Newton Chronicles]
* [http://www.coolfrenchcomics.com/wnu1.htm French Wold Newton Universe]
* [http://www.novanotes.com/specul.htm Schroeder's Speculations - Wold Newton Articles]
* [http://monstaah.org/ M*O*N*S*T*A*A*H]
* [http://www.geocities.com/cricharddavies/wold.html Yet Another Wold Newton Universe Site]
* [http://www.pjfarmer.com/woldnewton/Spock.htm The Wold Newton Universe and "Star Trek"]
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