A Feast Unknown

A Feast Unknown is a novel written by American author Philip José Farmer. The novel is a pastiche of pulp fiction, erotica, and horror fiction. It was originally published in 1969, and was followed by two sequels, Lord of the Trees and The Mad Goblin.

The book contains many elements in common with Farmer's Wold Newton family concept, but there is some dispute as to whether it actually takes place in the same setting with Farmer's other Wold Newton fiction. In addition, the novel is infamous for its graphic depictions of sex and violence, and especially the combination of the two.

A Feast Unknown
Cover of the first edition
AuthorPhilip Jose Farmer
CountryUnited States
GenreHorror, erotica
PublisherEssex House
Publication date
Media typePrint (Softcover)

Plot summary

The two main characters are thinly-veiled versions of two of Farmer's favorite characters, Tarzan and Doc Savage. Called "Lord Grandrith" and "Doc Caliban", respectively, the two are recognizable as the iconic characters, but still unique.

The two, half-brothers with the same father (the infamous Victorian era serial killer Jack the Ripper) share a horrible affliction thanks to the powerful elixir that gives them near-eternal life. At the start of the novel they have discovered that they can no longer engage in sexual activity except during acts of violence (their penises become erect only during an act of violence) and they ejaculate after taking lives. By the end of the novel, Grandrith and Caliban will have grappled with each other in the nude, punching, clawing and biting, each of them sporting massive erections.

The novel begins with Grandrith under attack by three parties: the Kenyan army, a group of Albanian mercenaries, and Doc Caliban who believes that Grandrith has killed Caliban's cousin and one true love. In addition, both Caliban and Grandrith have been summoned for their annual appearance before The Nine, a powerful group of near immortals, who have given them both the secret of immortality in return for their obedience.

However, Caliban and Grandrith ultimately find a common enemy among the Nine that is revealed to be controlling the world, and to have been manipulating their own lives, and indeed, the entire preceding battle between the two. The two iconic warriors vow to defeat the Nine together—that tale is told in the intertwining sequels, Lord of the Trees and The Mad Goblin.

Publishing history

The original edition was published by Essex House in the United States in 1969. It was released only in paperback form, and saw limited release. As such, its readership was mostly confined to collectors of erotic horror fiction and those who enjoyed Farmer's previous work.

Another paperback edition was published in the United Kingdom by Quartet in 1975, featuring cover art by Patrick Woodroffe. A hardcover, limited to 200 copies signed by Farmer, along with a trade paperback limited to 800 copies, were released by Fokker D-LXIX Press in the U.S., also in 1975. Both featured cover art and interior illustrations by Richard Corben. Two paperback editions were published by Playboy Press in 1980 and 1983, and Rhinoceros released a paperback edition in the U.S. in 1995. An excerpt from Feast appeared in the short story collection Jack The Knife under the title "My Father the Ripper". These publications allowed the book to gain more mainstream success.

The book was also published in languages other than English. The French edition was titled La Jungle Nue, roughly "The Nude Jungle." The Italian was titled Festa di morte, meaning "Feast of Dead Men". It was also published in Russian, as part of a collected edition of Farmer's works.[1]

Critical reception

In a postscript to several of the novel's editions, science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon says that the message A Feast Unknown is intended to send to the reader is that "ultimate sex combined with ultimate violence is ultimate absurdity." This is on par with the idea that Farmer intended the novel largely as satire of pulp fiction, deliberately exaggerated to the point of absurdity, as Sturgeon puts it.[2][3] This fact was lost on both the original publisher, Essex House, who produced "quality porn" novels,[4] and many reviewers, including one who condemned A Feast Unknown as "drivel" and "a worthless book".[5]

Connections to Wold Newton family

Tarzan and Doc Savage are primary components of Farmer's Wold Newton family and universe; indeed, their "biographies", Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life and Tarzan Alive are the cornerstones of the concept.

However, Farmer never explicates whether Caliban and Grandrith are, in fact, the same individuals as the Tarzan and Savage he writes about in his Wold Newton fiction. They share many similarities due to the fact they are based upon the same fictional characters, but they also share properties unique to Farmer, such as being relatives (half-brothers here, cousins in the Wold Newton universe) and gaining an elixir that grants long life and eternal youth.

At the same time, the Wold Newton version do not have Jack Ripper as their father nor do they suffer, visibly, the sexual aberration that Grandrith and Caliban do. This has led to most classifying the book as neither explicitly within the Wold Newton universe, nor explicitly outside of it. Farmer himself said that the best route was to "let the reader decide", but Wold Newton fan and "scholar" Dennis E. Power has written three essays relating to the subject. He hypothesises that Grandrith and Caliban are in fact children bred by the Nine to duplicate and appear strikingly similar to Doc Savage and Tarzan, to fulfill an ancient destiny prophesied by "The Undying God", in fact the original Tarzan, who traveled to prehistory in Farmer's Time's Last Gift. He doesn't return, instead living out his life throughout history. Power surmises that he became numerous figures from history, myth, and legend, and the Nine bred Lord Grandrith specifically to live out the destiny as foretold by The Undying God, which was, of course, the story of Tarzan himself. He also claims that Lord Grandrith was the individual who did some of the deeds and participated in the adventures of "Tarzan", when these adventures clash too greatly with established Wold Newton continuity. Specifically, he argues that the lead character of the film version of Tarzan and the Valley of Gold, which differs greatly from the original literary version, was Grandrith.


  1. ^ Russian omnibus
  2. ^ Analog, November 1969.
  3. ^ Todd Rutt. Wold Atlas, vol. 1, issue 1. January 1977.
  4. ^ Spider Robinson, Analog, December 1980.
  5. ^ Richard Delap. Science Fiction Review, issue 37. April 1970

External links

Glass Spider

Glass Spider is a concert film by English singer David Bowie. The release was sourced from eight shows during the first two weeks of November 1987 at the Sydney Entertainment Centre in Australia during the last month of the Glass Spider Tour. The 86-show tour, which also visited Europe, North America and New Zealand, was in support of Bowie's album Never Let Me Down (1987). Originally released in 1988 on VHS, the tour was choreographed by Toni Basil, directed by David Mallet, and produced by Anthony Eaton. The VHS was released by MPI Home Video in the US and by Video Collection International in the UK.

The film stars Bowie, his band including Peter Frampton, and a troupe of dancers performing on what was called at the time "the largest touring set ever". Although the tour received mixed critical reviews at the time, later critics noted that the show changed how other artists (such as Britney Spears, Madonna, and U2) performed on their own tours. In 2010, one critic called the Glass Spider Tour one of the "top concert tour design[s] of all time", and in 2016 another critic called the video one of the best for fans wanting to see Bowie delivering "a rock-theatre spectacular."An edit of the film was shown on American Broadcasting Company-affiliated stations in June 1988 as a concert special. The full concert video was subsequently released in 1999 on DVD and re-released again in 2007 with a Special Edition, which peaked at number 9 on the UK Video Charts.

Glass Spider Tour

The Glass Spider Tour was a 1987 worldwide concert tour by David Bowie, launched in support of his album Never Let Me Down. It began in May 1987 and was preceded by a two-week press tour that saw Bowie visit nine countries throughout Europe and North America to drum up public interest in the tour. The Glass Spider Tour was the first Bowie tour to visit Austria, Italy, Spain, Ireland and Wales. Through a sponsorship from Pepsi, the tour was intended to visit Russia and South America as well, but these plans were later cancelled. The tour was, at that point, the longest and most expensive tour Bowie had embarked upon in his career. At the time, the tour's elaborate set was called "the largest touring set ever".Bowie conceived the tour as a theatrical show, and included spoken-word introductions to some songs, vignettes, and employed visuals including projected videos, theatrical lighting and stage props. On stage, Bowie was joined by guitarist Peter Frampton and a troupe of five dancers (choreographed by long-time Bowie collaborator Toni Basil). With the theme "Rock stars vs Reality", the show was divided into two acts and an encore. The set list was modified over the course of the tour as Bowie dropped some of his newer material in favour of older songs from his repertoire.

The tour was generally poorly received at the time for being overblown and pretentious. Despite the criticism, Bowie in 1991 remarked that this tour laid the groundwork for later successful theatrical tours by other artists, and the set's design and the show's integration of music and theatrics has inspired later acts by a variety of artists. Starting in the late 2000s, the tour began to collect accolades for its successes, and in 2010 the tour was named one of the top concert tour designs of all time.

The tour was financially successful and well-attended (being seen by perhaps as many as six million fans worldwide), but the poor critical reception of the album and tour led Bowie to not only abandon plans for other elaborate stage shows, but to reconsider his motivations for making music. The tour was named after the album track "Glass Spider", and performances from this tour were released on the VHS video Glass Spider (1988, re-released on DVD in 2007).

I, Ripper

I, Ripper is 2015 American novel by Stephen Hunter.

Jack the Ripper in fiction

Jack the Ripper, the notorious serial killer who terrorized Whitechapel in 1888, features in works of fiction ranging from gothic novels published at the time of the murders to modern motion pictures, televised dramas and video games.

Important influences on the depiction of the Ripper include Marie Belloc Lowndes' 1913 novel The Lodger, which has been adapted for the stage and film, and Stephen Knight's 1976 work Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, which expanded on a conspiracy theory involving freemasons and royalty. The literature of the late Victorian era, including Arthur Conan Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes stories and Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, has provided inspiration for story-makers who have fused these fictional worlds with the Ripper.

The Ripper makes appearances throughout the science fiction and horror genres and is internationally recognised as an evil character. The association of the Ripper with death and sex is particularly appealing to heavy metal and rock musicians, who have incorporated the Ripper murders into their work.

Jason and the Argonauts (1963 film)

Jason and the Argonauts (working title: Jason and the Golden Fleece) is a 1963 Anglo-American independently made fantasy film produced by Charles H. Schneer and directed by Don Chaffey. Based on Greek mythology, the film stars Todd Armstrong as the eponymous hero, along with Nancy Kovack, Honor Blackman, and Gary Raymond. it was distributed by Columbia Pictures.

Shot in Eastman Color, the film was made in collaboration with stop-motion animation master Ray Harryhausen and is known for its various fantasy creatures, notably the iconic fight scene featuring seven skeleton warriors.

The film score was composed by Bernard Herrmann, who also worked with Harryhausen on the fantasy films The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), The Three Worlds of Gulliver (1960), and Mysterious Island (1961).

Lord of the Trees

Lord of the Trees is an American novel by Philip José Farmer. Originally released in 1970, it was one of two intertwining sequels to Farmer's previous A Feast Unknown, along with The Mad Goblin. Lord of the Trees features Lord Grandrith, an analogue (or Tarzanalogue, if you will) of Tarzan, as the main character.

Philip José Farmer

Philip José Farmer (January 26, 1918 – February 25, 2009) was an American author known for his science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories.Farmer is best known for his sequences of novels, especially the World of Tiers (1965–93) and Riverworld (1971–83) series. He is noted for the pioneering use of sexual and religious themes in his work, his fascination for, and reworking of, the lore of celebrated pulp heroes, and occasional tongue-in-cheek pseudonymous works written as if by fictional characters. Farmer often mixed real and classic fictional characters and worlds and real and fake authors as epitomized by his Wold Newton family group of books. These tie all classic fictional characters together as real people and blood relatives resulting from an alien conspiracy. Such works as The Other Log of Phileas Fogg (1973) and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (1973) are early examples of literary mashup.

Literary critic Leslie Fiedler compared Farmer to Ray Bradbury as both being "provincial American eccentrics" who "strain at the classic limits of the [science fiction] form," but found Farmer distinctive in that he "manages to be at once naive and sophisticated in his odd blending of theology, pornography, and adventure."

Philip José Farmer bibliography

In a writing career spanning more than 60 years (1946–2008), American science fiction and fantasy author Philip José Farmer published almost 60 novels, over 100 short stories and novellas (many expanded or combined into novels), two "fictional biographies", and numerous essays, articles and ephemera in fan publications.


Tarzan (John Clayton II, Viscount Greystoke) is a fictional character, an archetypal feral child raised in the African jungle by the Mangani great apes; he later experiences civilization only to reject it and return to the wild as a heroic adventurer. Created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan first appeared in the novel Tarzan of the Apes (magazine publication 1912, book publication 1914), and subsequently in 25 sequels, several authorized books by other authors, and innumerable works in other media, both authorized and unauthorized. The film version of Tarzan as the noble savage (“Me Tarzan, You Jane”), as acted by Johnny Weissmuller, does not reflect the original character in the novels, who is gracious and highly sophisticated.

The Dark Heart of Time

The Dark Heart of Time: A Tarzan novel is a novel by American writer Philip José Farmer, authorized by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. Published in 1999, the book was first announced under the title Tarzan's Greatest Secret in 1997. A 2018 reissue of the novel will mark the book's first hardcover edition, and will be retitled as Tarzan and the Dark Heart of Time.Set in October 1918—during Tarzan's search for Jane—the novel takes place between Tarzan the Untamed and Tarzan the Terrible.The novel's antagonist is James D. Stonecraft, an American oil magnate who believes that Tarzan knows the secret of immortality. Stonecraft hires hunters to track and capture Tarzan for the secret, leading to a conflicts at the "City Built by God" and the "Crystal Tree of Time". Through all of the adventure Tarzan is focused on escaping his pursuers so that he may return to his search for his wife.

The Green Odyssey

The Green Odyssey is an American science fiction novel written by Philip José Farmer. It was Farmer's first book-length publication, originally released by Ballantine in 1957. Unlike Farmer's most prolific earlier short story work, this book contains no sexual themes, though his next book Flesh returned to these motifs. The novel also appeared in the back ground of the first episode of The Twilight Zone.

The Mad Goblin

The Mad Goblin is an American novel by Philip José Farmer. Originally released in 1970, it was one of two intertwining sequels to Farmer's previous A Feast Unknown, along with Lord of the Trees. The Mad Goblin features Doc Caliban, an analogue of Doc Savage, as the main character.

Seminal works
Video games

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