World of Tiers

The World of Tiers is a series of science fiction novels by American writer Philip José Farmer. They are set within a series of artificially-constructed universes, created and ruled by decadent beings who are genetically identical to humans, but regard themselves as superior, who are the inheritors of an advanced technology they no longer understand. This technology enables the "Lords" (or 'Thoans' as described by Farmer in his introduction to a role-playing video game[1]) to create novel lifeforms, and also to prevent aging or disease, making them effectively immortal. Their technology also allows them to create small artificial universes (see pocket universe), and the planets and stars within them, and modify the physical laws (e.g., changing the behavior of gravity) to create unusual or interesting phenomena within these universes. Instantaneous travel within and between these universes is achieved by the use of gates which seem to function as teleportation devices, or as a means of creating wormholes between different regions of spacetime.

The overall series title comes from the main 'pocket universe' featured in the books. This consists of a single planet with a green sky, shaped in the form of a huge stepped pyramid on five stages, with each stage being a disk or squat cylinder. A small sun and a single moon orbit around this planet (thus, in this universe Geocentrism is a correct description of astronomical reality). There are no other stars or astronomical bodies. This world was created by a Lord named Jadawin.

The overall storyline of the series follows the adventures of two people from Earth who independently discover gates into the World of Tiers. The earlier books focus on the character of Robert Wolff as he explores this world and tries to discover its secrets. From the third book onwards the action shifts to Paul Janus Finnegan (known as Kickaha, along with many other aliases), who is drawn into a battle between an ancient enemy of the Lords, and ultimately into the feuds between rival Lords as they try to take over each other's universes.

A French-language roleplaying game Thoan - Les Faiseurs d'Univers, inspired by the World of Tiers, was released in 1995.

World of Tiers series
  • The Maker of Universes (1965)
  • The Gates of Creation (1966)
  • A Private Cosmos (1968)
  • Behind the Walls of Terra (1970)
  • The Lavalite World (1977)
  • More Than Fire (1993)
  • Red Orc's Rage (1991)

AuthorPhilip José Farmer
GenreScience fiction
Published1965 - 1991
No. of books7


The novels in the series are:

The novel Red Orc's Rage (1991) has marginal connections with the series. Although the main characters from the other books do not occur directly, this novel provides some background material on events and characters in the other novels.


The broad setting of the novels is a series of artificially-constructed universes. The majority of the stories take place on the world created by the Lord Jadawin. This planet consists of a series of cylindrical layers stacked one atop the other, to form an enormous, approximately conical tower (albeit much broader than it is tall). The top surfaces (levels or tiers) of each cylindrical monolith are densely inhabited, while the vertical sides of the monoliths act as enormous cliffs (30,000-100,000 feet / 9,000-30,000 metres high) which partially isolate the inhabitants of each tier from each other. These cliffs do provide some purchase for climbing, and many specialized creatures live on the cliff surfaces, so this isolation is not complete.

There is no diminution of atmosphere from one level to the next, due to Jadawin's manipulation of the local gravitational fields. The various tiers are populated with plants and animals creating different environments. Some of these were abducted from Earth throughout history, while many were created in Jadawin's biolabs. Many creatures have bodies created by Jadawin to replicate mythological creatures (e.g. merpeople, centaurs) implanted with the minds of abducted humans. The various inhabitants are immortal as far as physical aging is concerned, though they can be killed by most other means.

Structure and scale

The pocket universe in which the World of Tiers is located contains only three astronomical objects;

  • Alofmethbin (the Thoan name for the World of Tiers)
  • a single moon orbiting Alofmethbin
  • a single tiny star, also orbiting Alofmethbin


..the surface area on all the levels of this planet, that is, the horizontal area on the tops of the monoliths, equaled the surface area of the watery bodies of Earth. This made the land area more than that of Earth's. In addition, the habitable areas on the verticalities of the monoliths were considerable. These alone probably equalled the land area of Earth's Africa. Moreover, there were immense subterranean territories, great caverns in vast networks that ran under the earth everywhere.

Excerpt from A Private Cosmos

The World of Tiers consists of a series of flattened cylindrical layers, or monoliths, stacked one on top of the next, with habitable environments on the upper surfaces (tiers) of each monolith. The tiers are, in order, from largest (bottom) to smallest (top):

  • Okeanos - watery, Garden of Eden, populated by people abducted from ancient Greece.
  • Amerind - prehistoric North America, populated by people abducted from North and Central America.
  • Dracheland - medieval/Arthurian, populated by people from medieval Germany.
  • Atlantis - was a major civilization, now ruins and jungle.
  • Palace of Jadawin.

and the monoliths on top of which the tiers are located are:

  • Thayaphaeawoed (surmounted by the Amerind tier)
  • Abharhploonta (surmounted by the Dracheland tier)
  • Doozvillnavava (surmounted by the Atlantis tier)
  • Idaquizzoorhruz (surmounted by the Palace of Jadawin)

The exact dimensions of the monoliths are not stated, and so they must be inferred from hints in the novels, such as the quote above. Unfortunately the various statements in the books seem to be inconsistent. For instance, the distance from the outer edge of the Amerind tier to the base of the monolith Abharhploonta is quoted as being 1500 miles (approximately 2400 km), while the surface area of the Amerind tier is quoted as being equal to that of North and South America combined (approximately 42 million square kilometers). From this information it can be inferred that the outer radius of the Amerind tier (and hence the radius of the monolith Thayaphaeawoed) is approximately 4000 km. The next tier down (Okeanos) consists of a circular ocean girdling the monolith Thayaphaeawoed, approximately 480 kilometers wide, and a circular beach and forest. The edge of the Okeanos tier is easily reached by foot from the beach in less than a day. It follows that the outer radius of the lowest (largest) tier of the planet is approximately 4500 km. This disagrees with the quote above, since, in order to have a surface area equal to that of the water surface of Earth, the world of tiers would require a radius of approximately 10,700 km.

Furthermore, the heights of the various monoliths are not consistent between novels. As one example, in the first novel of the series the monolith Idaquizzoorhruz is quoted as being 30,000 feet (approximately 10 km) tall, while in the third novel it is stated as being 100,000 feet (approximately 33 km) tall. These discrepancies may be explained by saying that the various characters initial estimates of the height of the monoliths are inaccurate, and become more accurate as they learn more about Alofmethbin.

In any case, while the overall shape of the planet is a conical stepped pyramid, it is clearly much broader (several thousand kilometers) than it is tall (around 100 km).


The single moon orbiting Alofmethbin is quoted as being approximately the same size as the planet Mars. The moon as seen from Alofmethbin is described as appearing two-and-a-half times bigger than Earth's moon. If this refers to the moon's angular width, we can infer that the moon orbits Alofmethbin at a distance of approximately 300,000 km.

Story and characters

Major characters

Robert Wolff/Lord Jadawin

Robert Wolff is a retired linguistics professor, aged in his sixties. While inspecting a house to purchase and live in during retirement with his wife, a gate to the World of Tiers opens before him. He passes through this gate, arriving on the Okeanos level. There he regains his youth and health, due to the effects of drugs in the water supply provided by the Lord Jadawin. He meets and falls in love with Chryseis, and when she is kidnapped, he sets out to rescue her, ascending the various levels of the planet. Most of this journey is undertaken in the company of Paul Janus Finnegan, aka Kickaha. Wolff and Jadawin are the same person.

Paul Janus Finnegan/Kickaha

Paul Janus Finnegan was born in Indiana in 1918, and served in the American army during the Second World War, driving a tank. In the ruins of a museum in a small German town, he discovered a metal crescent made of an apparently indestructible metal, and kept it as a souvenir. This crescent proved to be one half of a gate to the World of Tiers, the other half belonging to a displaced Thoan who attempted to buy (and later, steal) the crescent from him. Finnegan interrupted the Thoan in the middle of entering the gate and accidentally activated the completed gate himself, ending up transported to the World of Tiers.

At the start of the first novel in the series, Finnegan has lived on the World of Tiers for approximately twenty-four years. In that time, he has learned many of the local languages, become extremely skilled at knife-throwing, archery, and other combat and outdoors survival skills, and lived under many assumed names and identities. In Dracheland, his identity is "Baron Horst von Horstman", whose coat of arms is a red jackass' head surmounting a fist with the middle finger extended. His favourite identity is that of Kickaha (meaning "trickster"), which he uses on the Amerind level.

Paul Janus Finnegan shares the initials of the author (PJF). This is also true of one of the main characters in the Riverworld series, Peter Jairus Frigate.

In The Lavalite World, Philip José Farmer strongly implies that Finnegan is the great grandson of Phileas Fogg, the hero of Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days.


Chryseis is a woman abducted from Earth by Jadawin, who has had her mind implanted into a new body created in Jadawin's biolabs. She claims to be the same Chryseis, daughter of Chryses portrayed in the tale of the Trojan war. The body created for her by Jadawin is essentially human, except that her eyes are exceptionally large in proportion to her face (like a cat's eyes), her legs are exceptionally long, and her hair is tiger-striped.


Anana, also known as Anana the Bright, is a Thoan, sister of Jadawin. She is driven out of her own universe by an ancient enemy that threatens to destroy all the Thoans, and takes refuge in the World of Tiers where she meets Kickaha. She is initially arrogant and cruel, as most Thoans are, but is impressed by Kickaha's resourcefulness, and gradually becomes sympathetic and humane as she falls in love with him.


Podarge, a terrible and extremely dangerous harpy, whose fantastic winged body was created by Wolff during his former life as Lord Jadawin, and who was given the brain of an ancient Greek woman by Wolff/Jadawin, appears periodically as both an ally and foe in the World of Tiers series. Podarge and her huge air armada of giant green eagles - and many of the individuals in it- often play pivotal parts in this story. Podarge's face was based on that of Wolff/Jadawin's sister, Anana the Bright.


The first book in the series opens with Robert Wolff finding a gate into the World of Tiers, which Kickaha opens in order to escape from creatures sent by the Lord of that world. Wolff enters the World of Tiers, arriving on the Okeanos level, and over the space of a few months regains his youth thanks to chemicals in the water and food. He meets Chryseis and falls in love with her, but she is captured by the same creatures who captured Kickaha. Wolff sets out to pursue them, climbing the monolith towards the second (Amerind) level of the planet. On the way he meets Kickaha again, and the two join forces to rescue Chryseis. Eventually they ascend all the levels of the planet and launch an attack on the Lord's palace. It is revealed that Wolff was actually the Lord, Jadawin, who created the World of Tiers, but that he was attacked by another Lord and marooned on Earth, where the shock of being in such primitive surroundings caused him to suffer amnesia.

In the second book, Wolff, now reinstalled as the Lord of the World of Tiers (but more humane and compassionate, after his amnesia erased the original Jadawin personality), enters a Universe constructed by his father Urizen. Urizen has kidnapped Chryseis, and Wolff finds himself reunited with his brothers, sisters and cousins, all of whom must travel from one dangerous planet to another to escape.

The third book chronicles Kickaha's adventures while the events of the second book are occurring. He meets three dispossessed Lords (one of whom is Anana) who are fleeing an army led by the Black Bellers - artificial intelligences capable of taking over the bodies of human hosts. It is revealed that the civilization of the Thoans, including their understanding of the scientific principles behind their advanced technology, was destroyed during the war with the Black Bellers ten thousand years before. Since then the few remaining Black Bellers have been in hiding, waiting for an opportunity to rebuild their ranks and attempt to take over again. Kickaha and Anana are pursued across the Amerind level, as they attempt to escape and simultaneously counterattack the Black Bellers. Eventually they enter the Lord's palace and manage to kill all but one of the Bellers, who flees to Earth.

It is revealed that Earth is itself an artificial world constructed to be an exact replica of the Thoan's home world during the stone age, and allowed to develop as a social experiment. Earth's "pocket universe" extends only to the edges of the solar system; the rest of the visible universe is effectively a 3-D Trompe-l'œil on the walls of the pocket universe. It is strongly implied that this is all an exact copy of the Thoans' homeworld universe and that Thoa is itself artificial, but this question is not explored in the later novels.

The remaining books in the series follow Kickaha and Anana as they travel to Earth to kill the final Black Beller. The secret Lord of Earth, Red Orc, attempts to kill Kickaha and Anana despite their informing him that they simply want to kill the last Black Beller and will then leave peacefully. Eventually they manage to kill the Black Beller, but wind up in a battle between Red Orc and another Lord called Urthona. They are all gated to the Lavalite world, a planet that changes shape periodically like the wax in a lava lamp, and which was created by Urthona. The only gate out of this world is located in Urthona's palace, which floats over the surface of the planet. Finally they manage to return to the World of Tiers and go searching for Wolff and Chryseis who have disappeared.

The final book of the series takes place fifteen years later, Anana and Kickaha having been directed into a trap universe by Red Orc. They escape, but Kickaha is forced by Red Orc to go in search of an entrance to a universe he found ten thousand years earlier but has been unable to return to. Red Orc wants Kickaha to bring a fresh approach to the problem. This universe contains the last remaining databanks that preserve the technology of the Thoans and Red Orc plans to use this technology to conquer all the artificial universes. The story culminates with Kickaha defeating Red Orc in hand-to-hand combat, and returning to the World of Tiers to resume his adventuring trickster lifestyle.

Literary references

The Jadawin family (or at least their names) are taken from William Blake's mythology.[2] This mythology is referred to by the characters in the stories (mainly in The Gates of Creation, Red Orc's Rage, and More than Fire).

Many features of the world of tiers appear to be drawn from early cosmological ideas and mythologies. The structure of the world of tiers, with a central mountain or tower which the sun passes behind at night is equivalent to early Babylonian and Egyptian cosmological theories. The placement of the Lord's palace at the highest level of the world is reminiscent of the home of the gods atop Mount Olympus. The lord Jadawin uses intelligent ravens that roam across the world, observing, carrying messages, and reporting back to him, much like Odin in Norse mythology (See Hugin and Munin. Notice also the similarity in the names Odin and Jadawin).

The moon of the world of tiers is modelled after Barsoom, from Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels, a homage which Farmer openly admits in the third book of the series.

The novels are at least in part a vehicle to represent mythological character archetypes. Robert Wolff is a heroic character who primarily overcomes obstacles by using strength (physical and mental) to confront the Thoans. By contrast, the character of Kickaha is a trickster, who avoids the affairs of the god-like Thoans wherever possible, and who survives and defeats his enemies by cunning, trickery and skill.

The central concept of the series is the existence of arrogant beings who possess awesome powers (as a result of technology) and use these powers to play the role of gods. They are able to travel from place to place almost instantaneously by using gates to teleport from one location or universe to another. This is extremely similar to several central concepts in the fictitious Stargate universe, although there is currently no suggestion that Stargate copied these ideas from the World of Tiers stories.

The overall setting: a family of feuding dimension hopping immortal lords, as well as the specific plot of the first book: wherein an amnesiac immortal lord must travel from Earth to another dimension to regain his powers, bears striking similarities to Roger Zelazny's Amber series. Indeed, Zelazny himself has acknowledged that in writing Nine Princes in Amber he drew inspiration from the World of Tiers.[3]


  1. ^ Original introduction to Thoan RPG by Philip Jose Farmer,
  2. ^ SF Damon. A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake. Brown U. Press,1988. ISBN 0-87451-436-3.
  3. ^ "...And Call Me Roger": The Literary Life of Roger Zelazny, Part 2, by Christopher S. Kovacs. In: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, Volume 2: Power & Light, NESFA Press, 2009.

External links

A Private Cosmos

A Private Cosmos (1968) is a science fiction novel by American author Philip José Farmer. It is the third in his World of Tiers series.


A centaur (; Greek: kένταυρος, kéntauros, Latin: centaurus), or occasionally hippocentaur, is a mythological creature from Greek mythology with the upper body of a human and the lower body and legs of a horse. Centaurs are thought of in many Greek myths as being as wild as untamed horses, and were said to have inhabited the region of Magnesia and Mount Pelion in Thessaly, the Foloi oak forest in Elis, and the Malean peninsula in southern Laconia. Centaurs subsequently featured in Roman mythology, and were familiar figures in the medieval bestiary. They remain a staple of modern fantastic literature.

Hawkwind Anthology

The Hawkwind Anthology series of records were originally issued mid-1980s containing live and outtake material from Hawkwind's career to that date.

Dave Brock compiled the package, essentially a best of The Weird Tapes, for release on the Samurai imprint. It was released as three separate discs and also as a picture disc box set including an interview disc. It was subsequently licensed to receiver records and eventually sold to Castle Communications who have released as an extended set.

"Because there was so much compilation and re-released material about, Jim White thought it would be a good idea to bring together a catalogue of all our own stuff that we liked, in the hope of stopping all that. But we never got any royalties out of the Anthology sets we did with them, and as far as we know they've sold around 66,000 of that triple set. Then he sold the catalogue onto various companies." - Dave Brock (Record Collector, January 1993)

John Carter of Mars

John Carter of Mars is a fictional Virginian—a veteran of the American Civil War—transported to Mars and the initial protagonist of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom stories. His character is enduring, having appeared in various media since his 1912 debut in a magazine serial. The 2012 feature film John Carter marked the 100th anniversary of the character's first appearance.

Levitation (album)

Levitation is the tenth studio album by English rock group Hawkwind, released in 1980. It peaked at No. 21 on the UK Albums Chart.

At the time of its release, band leader Dave Brock stated: "with Levitation we’ve come full circle back to the style of our debut album. And that was the record which totally expressed our ideals and what we stood for." It is their first studio album after the departure of lead vocalist and lyricist Robert Calvert, and lyrics here tend to be cursory and the number of instrumentals is increased. It is also the only studio Hawkwind album to feature ex-Cream drummer Ginger Baker and first for ex-Gong keyboardist Tim Blake, who would later return to the band and play on 2010's Blood of the Earth.

List of fictional tricksters

This list of tricksters attests to both the enduring nature of the mythological figure of the trickster and its continued popularity in a variety of media.

The trickster in later folklore or modern popular culture, is a clever, mischievous person or creature, who achieves his or her ends through the use of trickery. A trickster may trick others simply for their amusement, they could be a physically weak character trying to survive in a dangerous world, or they could even be a personification of the chaos that the world needs to function.

An archetypical example is of a fairy tale of the King who puts suitors for his daughter to the test. No brave and valiant prince or knight succeeds, until a simple peasant arrives. Aided only by his natural wit, he evades danger and triumphs over monsters and villains without fighting. Thus the most unlikely candidate passes the trials and receives the prize. Such characters are a staple of animated cartoons, in particular those used and developed by Tex Avery et al. during the Golden Age of American animation.

Live Seventy Nine

Live Seventy Nine is a 1980 live album by Hawkwind recorded on their Winter 1979 tour. It reached #15 on the UK album chart.

This is a reconstituted Hawkwind with Brock, Bainbridge and King emerging from the dissolved Hawklords, joined by lead guitarist Huw Lloyd-Langton who had played on the debut album Hawkwind and keyboardist Tim Blake who was a long-standing friend of the band and had played on Gong's Radio Gnome trilogy. This band embarked upon a UK Winter 1979 tour despite not having a record deal nor any product to promote, recording one of the shows.

Originally the band "didn't think the Oxford gig was very good, but we listened to the mixing-desk tape and were really surprised. So we mixed the master tape and got a deal with Bronze. If we hadn't got that deal, we'd probably have split up - we couldn't have carried on on our own." Manager Douglas Smith secured a two-album deal with Bronze Records, even if Gerry Bron confessed "I don't think we would have signed Hawkwind if it weren't for Motorhead, I can't say I was that interested... Once you run a record label and you're employing people, you have to make good commercial decisions - you can't turn away business, even if the business isn't what you particularly want to do".The music is more energetic and aggressive than the previous albums released on Charisma Records and the album benefited in the rise in popularity of NWOBHM at the time.

"Shot Down in the Night" had been written by Hawklords keyboardist Steve Swindells for single release, but he departed during the year to record a solo album. The single was backed by the non-album cut "Urban Guerrilla" and reached #59 on the UK singles chart. Swindells also released a studio version of this track as a single and on his Fresh Blood album which he recorded with King, Lloyd-Langton and Nic Potter.

"Lighthouse" is from Tim Blake's solo album New Jerusalem.

"Silver Machine" explodes part way into the song and is suffixed with "Requiem" in Brock's attempt to kill it off, being sick of this 'hit single' he was expected to play every night.


Mythopoeia (also mythopoesis, after Hellenistic Greek μυθοποιία, μυθοποίησις "myth-making") is a narrative genre in modern literature and film where a fictional or artificial mythology is created by the writer of prose or other fiction. This meaning of the word mythopoeia follows its use by J. R. R. Tolkien in the 1930s. The authors in this genre integrate traditional mythological themes and archetypes into fiction.

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.

Planetary romance

Planetary romance is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy in which the bulk of the action consists of adventures on one or more exotic alien planets, characterized by distinctive physical and cultural backgrounds. Some planetary romances take place against the background of a future culture where travel between worlds by spaceship is commonplace; others, particularly the earliest examples of the genre, do not, and invoke flying carpets, astral projection, or other methods of getting between planets. In either case, it is the planetside adventures which are the focus of the story, not the mode of travel.The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction mentions two caveats as to the usage of the term. First, while the setting may be in an alien world, its nature is of little relevance to the plot, as is the case of James Blish's A Case of Conscience. Second, hard science fiction tales are excluded from this category, where an alien planet, while being a critical component of the plot, is just a background for a primarily scientific endeavor, such as Hal Clement' s Mission of Gravity, possibly with embellishments.

A significant precursor of the genre is Edwin L. Arnold's Lieut. Gullivar Jones: His Vacation (1905).In Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels (1985), editor and critic David Pringle named Marion Zimmer Bradley and Anne McCaffrey two "leading practitioners nowadays" for the planetary romance type of science fiction.There is a significant overlap of the genre with that of sword and planet.

Red Orc's Rage

Red Orc's Rage (1991) is a recursive science fiction novel by American writer Philip José Farmer, part of his "World of Tiers" series . The plot of the book was inspired by the work of American psychiatrist A.James Giannini, M.D, who used earlier books in Farmer's series as role-playing tools and aids to self-analysis. This technique was developed at Yale University and further expanded by Dr. Giannini at Ohio State University. The technique is properly called "projective psychotherapy". It involves immersing the patients in a fictional world which is accessible to the psychiatrist. It is subject to alternative interpretation but not to change. By utilizing a structured fantasy world the subconscious can be directly accessed without confronting resistances of the conscious mind.This novel was written by Farmer in consultation with Dr. Giannini. It depicts a delusional adolescent boy who is treated with projective psychotherapy. In this case the works of fiction are the previously published novels in the "World of Tiers" series. Characters and locations are recursively introduced in the mind of the protagonist. He travels into the World of Tiers although it is never certain if he is delusional or has found a gateway to an alternative universe. The psychiatrist in the novel then analyzes this alternative reality rather than the world he shares with his patient. This delusion is prefabricated by Farmer and not subject to modification. In the "Afterword" section Dr. Giannini discusses the real-world application of this novel. It is a fictional work based on real-world therapy of actual patients. This fictional depiction of real-world therapeutic encounters with fiction worlds is then intended, once again,to be applied to real-world treatment.


Riverworld is a fictional planet and the setting for a series of science fiction books written by Philip José Farmer. Riverworld is an artificial "Super-Earth" environment where all humans (and pre-humans) are reconstructed. The books explore interactions of individuals from many different cultures and time periods. Its underlying theme is quasi-religious. The motivations of alien intelligences operating under ultra-ethical motives are explored.

Story within a story

A story within a story is a literary device in which one character within a narrative narrates. Mise en abyme is the French term for a similar literary device (also referring to the practice in heraldry of placing the image of a small shield on a larger shield). A story within a story can be used in all types of narration: novels, short stories, plays, television programs, films, poems, songs, and philosophical essays. The inner stories are told either simply to entertain or more usually to act as an example to the other characters. In either case the story often has symbolic and psychological significance for the characters in the outer story. There is often some parallel between the two stories, and the fiction of the inner story is used to reveal the truth in the outer story. Often the stories within a story are used to satirize views, not only in the outer story, but also in the real world. When a story is told within another instead of being told as part of the plot, it allows the author to play on the reader's perceptions of the characters—the motives and the reliability of the storyteller are automatically in question. Stories within a story may disclose the background of characters or events, tell of myths and legends that influence the plot, or even seem to be extraneous diversions from the plot. In some cases, the story within a story is involved in the action of the plot of the outer story. In others, the inner story is independent, so that it can either be skipped over or be read separately, although many subtle connections may be lost. Sometimes, the inner story serves as an outlet for discarded ideas that the author deemed to be of too much merit to leave out completely, something that is somewhat analogous to the inclusion of deleted scenes with DVD releases of films. Often, there is more than one level of internal stories, leading to deeply-nested fiction.

Sword and planet

Sword and planet is a subgenre of science fantasy that features rousing adventure stories set on other planets, and usually featuring humans as protagonists. The name derives from the heroes of the genre engaging their adversaries in hand-to-hand combat primarily with simple melée weapons such as swords, even in a setting that often has advanced technology. Although there are works that herald the genre, such as Percy Greg's Across the Zodiac (1880) and Edwin Lester Arnold's Lieut. Gullivar Jones: His Vacation (1905; published in the US in 1964 as Gulliver of Mars), the prototype for the genre is A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs originally serialized by All-Story in 1912 as "Under the Moons of Mars".The genre predates the mainstream popularity of science fiction proper, and does not necessarily feature any scientific rigor, being instead romantic tales of high adventure. For example, little thought is given to explaining why the environment of the alien planet is compatible with life from Earth, just that it does in order to allow the hero to move about and interact with the natives. Native technology will often break the known laws of physics.

The genre tag "sword and planet" is constructed to mimic the terms sword and sorcery and sword and sandal. The phrase appears to have first been coined in the 1960s by Donald A. Wollheim, editor of Ace Books, and later of DAW Books at a time when the genre was undergoing a revival. Both Ace Books and DAW Books were instrumental in bringing much of the earlier pulp sword and planet stories back into print, as well as publishing a great deal of new, imitative work by a new generation of authors.

There is a fair amount of overlap between sword and planet and planetary romance although some works are considered to belong to one and not the other. Influenced by the likes of A Princess of Mars yet more modern and technologically savvy, sword and planet more directly imitates the conventions established by Burroughs in the Mars series. That is to say that the hero is alone as the only human being from Earth, swords are the weapon of choice, and while the alien planet has some advanced technology, it is used only in limited applications to advance the plot or increase the grandeur of the setting. In general the alien planet will seem to be more medieval and primitive than Earth. This leads to anachronistic situations such as flying ships held aloft by anti-gravity technology, while ground travel is done by riding domesticated native animals.

The Gates of Creation

The Gates of Creation (1966) is a science fiction novel by American author Philip José Farmer. It is the second in his World of Tiers series.

The Maker of Universes

The Maker of Universes (1965) is a science fiction novel by American author Philip José Farmer. It is the first in his World of Tiers series.

Tiers (disambiguation)

'Tiers is a variant of checkers.

Tiers may also refer to:

Tiers, a municipality in South Tyrol

Tiers, the French for triens or tremissis, coins of the Roman and Merovingian periods

World of Tiers, a series of science fiction novels by American writer Philip José Farmer


In the mythology of William Blake, Urizen () is the embodiment of conventional reason and law. He is usually depicted as a bearded old man; he sometimes bears architect's tools, to create and constrain the universe; or nets, with which he ensnares people in webs of law and conventional society. Originally, Urizen represented one half of a two-part system, with him representing reason and Los, his opposition, representing imagination. In Blake's reworking of his mythical system, Urizen is one of the four Zoas that result from the division of the primordial man, Albion, and he continues to represent reason. He has an Emanation, or paired female equivalent, Ahania, who stands for Pleasure. In Blake's myth, Urizen is joined by many daughters with three representing aspects of the body. He is also joined by many sons, with four representing the four elements. These sons join in rebellion against their father but are later united in the Last Judgment. In many of Blake's books, Urizen is seen with four books that represent the various laws that he places upon humanity.

Philip José Farmer's World of Tiers

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