Pulp Crazy got a chance to sit down with author Christopher Paul Carey to discuss the upcoming standalone release of The Song of Kwasin, the conclusion to Philip José Farmer’s original Khokarsa/Ancient Opar trilogy. This is the first time the novel will be available as a standalone edition; it’s the perfect time to pick this up if you’ve been wondering what happens after Hadon of Ancient Opar and Flight to Opar.
Chris gives us the lay of the land in terms of the Khokarsa/Ancient Opar series and discusses the history of The Song of Kwasin, providing some insight into the process of working with Philip José Farmer in completing it.
The Song of Kwasin is the sequel to Philip José Farmer’s Hadon of Ancient Opar (1974) and Flight to Opar (1976), and yet the novel has a different main character. How does The Song of Kwasin continue the storyline of those books?
The first novel of the series stars Hadon of Opar and his wayward adventures after the power-hungry King Minruth cheats him out of winning the throne of Khokarsa by sending him on a fool’s errand into the Wild Lands beyond the empire. Here Hadon runs across his giant, half-mad cousin Kwasin, who has been exiled for his crimes against a priestess of the Great Mother Goddess Kho. After succeeding in his quest, Hadon returns back to the capital with Kwasin and their companions, only to find the empire torn asunder by a civil war. We last see Kwasin in the prow of a boat, swinging his mighty ax of meteoritic iron against Minruth’s overwhelming forces while Hadon and the others escape. In the second novel of the series, a prophecy of the oracle hurls Hadon back to his home city of Opar, but we hear nothing of Kwasin except that he has somehow become king of Dythbeth, a city on the island of Khokarsa that’s at war with Minruth and his armies. The Song of Kwasin picks up right after the events of Hadon of Ancient Opar, and is the story of how Kwasin tries to clear his name and take the fight to Minruth against insurmountable odds. So The Song of Kwasin actually takes place concurrently with many of the events in Flight to Opar.
How did you come to coauthor The Song of Kwasin with Philip José Farmer?
I was serving as coeditor of Farmerphile, a periodical dedicated to publishing Philip José Farmer’s rare and previously unpublished writing, when the original outline and partial manuscript of The Song of Kwasin was found in Phil’s files in 2005. When Farmerphile’s publisher, Michael Croteau, sent me photocopies of the outline and manuscript so we could see whether we wanted to use them in the magazine, I could hardly believe what I was seeing—Kwasin’s epic tale and the entire arc of the war against King Minruth spelled out in full. I knew immediately that the story had to be written, so I wrote up a pitch and sent it to Phil, who at that time had retired from writing. Much to my surprise, he accepted it. I think the fact that we both had a mutual love of anthropology and the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard—all inspirations for the series—had a lot to do with his decision. I also believe he was excited by the idea of seeing the main arc of the trilogy finally completed. He’d been considering completing the third volume of the series as late as 1999, but he retired shortly after that and then had a number of health setbacks in the years that followed. In 2005, I was in the middle of a graduate study program in writing. Phil and his wife Bette both agreed that I should complete my studies before I began writing the novel, which I did. Though I completed The Song of Kwasin in early 2008, novel wasn’t published until 2012 due to other Farmer projects in the pipes with the publisher. But Phil, who passed in February 2009, was able to see the completed novel, which Bette read aloud to him. And for that I’m glad. I think it meant a lot to Phil to know the novel he’d long planned was at last finished.
What did Philip José Farmer think of the completed novel?
Bette Farmer told me it brought a big smile to Phil’s face to hear Kwasin’s adventures, and that they both really enjoyed it.
Did Mr. Farmer give you any direction while you were working on the novel?
Yes. Early on he told me how he wanted the novel to end. I was able to ask him some questions about alternative courses he’d left open in the outline, and he told me to disregard those and how he wanted the novel to wrap up now that it was to be positioned as the climax of a trilogy. That was all extremely helpful. Later on he was too ill to give me much input, but by then I was already writing the novel and we’d worked out where the story was headed. I’ll always be grateful to Phil for his generosity and encouragement.
The Song of Kwasin was previously available only as part of an omnibus. Could you discuss the bonus materials that will appear in the new standalone edition of The Song of Kwasin, which is due out from Meteor House in December 2015?
First up, there’s a stellar introduction by Paul Di Filippo. That’s a huge honor and treat for me because I admire his writing so much. Then I’ve written a preface to the new edition, giving a lot of background on how the book came to be written. Following the novel comes “Kwasin and the Bear God,” a 20,000-word novella based on Philip José Farmer’s outline that relates a lost adventure set between the first two chapters of The Song of Kwasin. The new edition also includes a “Guide to Khokarsa,” rare articles by Farmer, reproductions of some of his notes on the series, the original and alternate outlines to The Song of Kwasin, and previously unpublished correspondence by Farmer with Frank J. Brueckel and John Harwood, authors of “Heritage of the Flaming God,” the monumental essay that inspired the Khokarsa series.
You mentioned that The Song of Kwasin was the climax of a trilogy. Has the series been completed or is there more coming?
If you read The Song of Kwasin, you’ll understand why I say it’s the end of the main story arc of a trilogy. But there’s still a lot left to tell of the saga of Khokarsa. At one time, Phil said he planned to write twelve books in the series. Using Phil’s notes on where the story was headed, I wrote Hadon, King of Opar, which should be considered the fourth volume in the Khokarsa series. Its sequel, Blood of Ancient Opar, is slated to be published in 2016. After that, I have plans for a trilogy about Hadon’s son, Kohr. I’m also toying with the idea of someday returning to the character Lupoeth, the priestess-heroine of Exiles of Kho, my novella about the origin of the city of Opar. But we’ll see. Right now I’m committed to writing Blood of Ancient Opar and the new trilogy about Kohr. Only Kho and the golden tablets from the lost cities of Opar and Kôr know what happens after that!
The Song of Kwasin releases in December 2015 and can be preordered here.
Christopher Paul Carey is the coauthor with Philip José Farmer of The Song of Kwasin, and the author of Exiles of Kho and Hadon, King of Opar. His short fiction may be found in anthologies such as Ghost in the Cogs, Tales of the Shadowmen, The Worlds of Philip José Farmer, Tales of the Wold Newton Universe, and The Avenger: The Justice, Inc. Files. He is a senior editor at Paizo on the award-winning Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and has edited numerous collections, anthologies, and novels. He holds a master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Visit him online at http://cpcarey.com.