Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Brief History of the Crossover Universe

In 1997, Win Scott Eckert created the website An Expansion of Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton Universe, based on the Science Fiction Grand Master's series of books, stories, and essays about the Wold Newton Family, a family tree consisting of heroes and villains from literary and pulp fiction such as Tarzan, Doc Savage, Sherlock Holmes, the Shadow, Professor Challenger, Fu Manchu, C. Auguste Dupin, and numerous others. Inspired by Dave Stevens' comic The Rocketeer, in which the title character met disguised versions of Doc Savage and the Shadow, Win put what he called "The Crossover Chronology" on his site, a timeline of stories in which characters utilized by Farmer in his Wold Newton works appeared alongside other fictional characters, using those crossovers to create an expanded Wold Newton Universe (WNU) in which other characters existed alongside the Wold Newton Family members, who may or may not be members of the Family themselves. Stories in which those characters not included by Farmer met still other characters were included as well, in a form of six degrees of separation. Win continued to post updates to the chronology for several years. In addition to the timeline, Win also had a page briefly outlining chains of television shows that were in the WNU via crossovers, a page dealing with crossover stories that, for various reasons, usually involving major continuity conflicts, had to take place in alternate realities or dimensions to the WNU , and a list of the crossover characters in Kim Newman's Anno Dracula series of alternate history novels. Several Wold Newton fans provided Win with crossover info that was incorporated into the chronology. Eventually, Eckert began to have his own fiction published, which often had crossover references, including ties to Farmer's mythos.

In 2010, Win turned the Crossover Chronology into a massive two-volume tome Crossovers: A Secret Chronology  of the World, published by Black Coat  Press. The entries that had previously appeared on Win's site were revised to refer to the Crossover Universe (CU) rather than the WNU, since the Universe had grown many degrees beyond Farmer's family tree. Besides Farmer's writing, Eckert used another template from which to build on the CU: biographies of fictional characters that treated their subjects as real people. Examples of these include Farmer's own Tarzan Alive (which introduced the concept of the Wold Newton Family) and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, William S. Baring-Gould's Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, and John Pearson's James Bond: The Authorized Biography of 007. In addition to the revisions of the listings on Win's site, Win included new material that he and others had discovered. One of those who contributed crossover information included in the books was Sean Levin, a fan of Farmer and the Wold Newton Family since 2002 and a good friend of Win's (and also the author of this post.) Sean was listed in the identical acknowledgments in both volumes. The TV crossovers, alternate universes, and Anno Dracula pages were revised and expanded as Appendices to the two volumes.

After the publication of Win's books, he announced that he was officially retired from documenting crossovers. However, in 2012, the stage was set for his successor. Sean Levin posted a list of the crossover references in Adam Lance Garcia's novel The Green Lama Unbound on one of the groups devoted to the Wold Newton Universe on Yahoo. Win replied by saying that it was an interesting writeup, and asking Sean if there were more Crossovers-style writeups in his future. Sean in turn answered that he was thinking about it, and soon after posted writeups (more in the style of Win's chronology this time) of the stories in Kim Newman's collection Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the d'Urbervilles. As Sean continued to post more writeups for crossovers not included in Win's books, Win and others offered him much-valued praise and feedback. Eventually, Win paid Sean a major compliment by inviting him to write Crossovers Vol. 3. Sean was thrilled and honored, and took Win up on the offer, incorporating his writeups so far into a word document, and continuing to add new entries and revise his existing ones.

In summer of that year, Sean attended FarmerCon, the annual celebration of Phil Farmer's life and work. There, Sean had an informal conference with Win, Michael Croteau, and Paul Spiteri. The three are the masterminds behind the publishing company Meteor House, whose primary output is new fiction set in Farmer's various universes.  It was decided that Meteor House would publish the new volume, and many plans were discussed. Sean sent a Word .doc of the manuscript so far to Win when he returned to his home in Chicago, and was deeply flattered when Win said he was greatly impressed. At the 2013 FarmerCon, Sean discussed the book further with Win and Mike over dinner, and it was ultimately decided that Sean would in fact write Volumes 3 and 4 simultaneously.

In December of 2013, Win was interviewed by Anthony R. Cardno on his blog, Rambling On. Anthony asked Win how often, if at all, he planned on updating Crossovers. Win explained his own retirement from those duties, and made the formal announcement that Sean was writing Volumes 3 and 4. Both Win and Sean shared the link on Facebook and Yahoo, and were met with an outpouring of enthusiasm. Sean encouraged any of his acquaintances on either site who knew of any crossovers not listed in Win's book, either due to lack of access, time, or coming out after the publication of the first two, to provide him with the relevant info, and got some valuable responses.

This blog is intended to be a companion to all four volumes of Crossovers. I will post excerpts and teasers from Volumes 3 and 4, cover art for crossovers included in all four volumes, and other goodies. Win will occasionally post, but I will be the primary author. Following in Win's footsteps is an honor, and I am very lucky to have him as such a dear friend.  I hope that this blog will heighten people's interest in Win's amazing work, as well as my own more recent efforts. Expect many more posts to come!


  1. Wonderful, Sean! You are indeed, absolutely, the right guy to continue the Crossover Universe! You bring together the right mix of rigor, logic in terms of determining what fits into continuity and what does not, knowledge of characters, and writing skills. You're the man!

  2. Thanks, Win! That means so much to me. :)

  3. I'm very excited to learn about the new volumes and this website. Sean, I'm not surprised to see you carrying on the mantle. I can't wait for the release of the books, and I'll be subscribing to the site.