Virgil Finlay Illustrations – Strange Compulsion by Philip José Farmer

Science Fiction Plus October 1953

Science Fiction Plus October 1953 (First Printing)

Strange Compulsion by Philip Jose Farmer Science Fiction Plus - October 1953

Dr. Gaulers and his assistant Rhoda Tu are called to investigate a strange occurrence on the spaceship Erkling under the command of Captain Everlake: a member of the crew has disappeared! Likewise, Captain Everlake’s daughter Debby is afflicted with odd symptoms: “I still feel like I am going to burst” (63) she proclaims, with a deeply unsettling aroma of fish… Her relationship with her father perplexes the doctor. Gaulers falls in love with Debby despite her ailments. He is unable to find the root of the illness. Soon the narrative utterly shifts gears from the spaceship to the religions and mores of Moon cults.

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The crew, perhaps on the paranoid side, reveals to Gaulers the existence of a Moon cult—with various rituals involving rings and virgins and “pageants which depicted the persecution and martyrdom of Victor Remoh” (91)—which Captain Everlake and his daughter are members. And through a watery medium in religious excitement and the more carnal contact of sex, a certain parasites finds a happy home.

 

Philip José Farmer Literary themes
Farmer’s work often handles sexual themes; some early works were notable for their ground-breaking introduction of such to science fiction literature. His first (with one minor exception) published science fiction story, the novella The Lovers, earned him the Hugo Award for “most promising new writer” in 1953, and is critically recognized as the story that broke the taboo on sex in science fiction. It instantly put Farmer on the literary map. The short story collection Strange Relations (1960) was a notable event in the genre. He was one of three persons to whom Robert A. Heinlein dedicated Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), a novel which explored sexual freedom as one of its primary themes.

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Moreover, Fire and the Night (1962) is a mainstream novel about an interracial romance; it features sociological and psychosexual twists. In Night of Light (1966), he devised an alien race where aliens have only one mother but several fathers, perhaps because of an unusual or untenable physical position that cannot be reached or continued by two individuals acting alone. Both Image of the Beast and the sequel Blown from 1968–1969 explore group sex, interplanetary travel, and interplay between fictional figures like Childe Harold and real people like Forry Ackerman. In the World of Tiers series he explores Oedipal themes.

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