Philip Jose Farmer's continuing research led him to revelations about an ongoing war between two rival camps of aliens living here on Earth, and these impinged on some well-known cultural figures' lives and works, and when he discovered them, he sometimes worked them out and presented his findings in book form. Of course, he had to present them as fiction, since no one would believe the alien bit. This is one of those books.
Farmer tells us directly, "This is not a novel but a reconstruction of a true story" (Page 57). Farmer doesn't pretend to have all the answers. That would not be possible. He does make mistakes, for example he didn't himself know that the American intercontinental railroad didn't go all the way to San Francisco, that it came only as far as Sacramento. This would not be important except for something Farmer tries to do, as I relate below, with knowledge that depends on this. Since Verne leaves out how Fogg got to Sacramento, there is what turns out to be a crucial lacuna in the story as Farmer would have us believe it, though it is not difficult to believe that the actual Phileas Fogg just took a coach for that particular 85 miles, or took an everyday ship up the Delta. Farmer seems not seem to have known of even the existence of the Port of Sacramento.
Here is one evidence that the story is not "made up." The back story of the war between the aliens casually mentions on page 222 that the two methods by which the aliens might bring down the Earth were by introducing nuclear weapons, or by global pollution. In 1973 the first possibility was generally believed, but the second was far outside the realm of the plausible. Now we know otherwise. With their advanced technology, the aliens knew what the actual risks were, and studying them, Farmer came across the truth about the pollution problem, which was already advanced enough that some scientists had begun to notice it, though no one suspected the enormity it would later assume. In 1973, a fiction writer would know about the nuclear threat. But a fiction writer would be far less likely to be so sure that an Armageddon of pollution was actually a possibility.
Farmer isn't omniscient. He misses some obvious points. Sometimes he has only a plain storyteller's proximate understanding of the "story" so he misses for example that Fix could not kill Fogg once they were back in London, since that would blow his cover. Farmer temporizes "mixed emotions" that Fix didn't have. But he tries hard, and sometimes catches his fellow scribe, Verne, making similar mistakes. For example, Verne thinks that the only way Fix could have stopped Fogg once in London was with a warrant. But we know Fix didn't have a warrant; Farmer calls Verne on that point. In reality, Fix just put his hand on Fogg's shoulder, and said "I arrest you in the Queen's name." The explanation of why Fogg but not Passepartout was arrested makes perfect sense: Fix wanted to keep the butler at large so his chiefs might still have a chance to steal the distorter from him. Fix only used as much English law as was necessary to achieve his sinister alien purposes.
Farmer's revelation that Nemo is Sherlock Holmes's nemesis James Moriarty is compelling. But an interesting typo appears in the TOR edition, which says: "IT IS not likely that... Captain Nemo... is... James Moriarty," when it should have said "IS IT not likely..." (My emphasis.) I think further research into this whole question is needed. This is a pretty broad typo to be in this particular place. Apparently, the project of revealing Nemo's true identity was obfuscated right up to the time of publication, with Farmer trying to get his information across, though with the enemy aliens trying to tamper with the text right through the publication process, to desperately prevent the truth from being stated in plain English. It seems the alien war extends right onto the desks of the editors themselves. It will be interesting to see what this much-lauded new edition is like. Upon what small editorial matters will the angels, or should I rather say aliens, dance?
Farmer knows the situation well enough to be given a reading. He knows for example that Nemo cannot be a trustworthy person, since he has "the black eyes of the Byronic hero-villain." He remarks on "the superior Anglo-American literary code which requires all heroes to have steely grey eyes." This was one aspect of the ways things are that Edgar Rice Burroughs understood when he told us John Carter has grey eyes. His eye color tells us he is trustworthy, a genuine hero, and no villain. But I wonder whether, even with his erudition and insight, Farmer was ever ready for the truth about Burroughs and Mars. If he knew about it, he took the secret with him to his grave.
Farmer withholds some facts that are too hot to handle, but leaves it to the inferrential powers of his readers. It should be obvious that the unnamed American Eridanean scientist whose lab burns down is Tesla. But of course the secret truth about the use by the US government of Tesla technologies, and their suppression by American industry insistent to make continued profits using the old technology, means that Tesla has to be downplayed here. Farmer's big mistake was to succumb to one certain temptation. He tried to write himself into the story in a conspicuous way. On the last page he dissembles coyly about the most important of these, when he says, a propos of nothing, that it is only a coincidence that his and Phileas Fogg's names have the same initials. You are by this time supposed to find it suddenly very easy to figure out that the real reason Philip Farmer knows so much about Phileas Fogg, is that Philip Farmer is, in fact, Phileas Fogg. However, this could not be the case. Farmer never knew know how Fogg got to Sacramento. If he had been Fogg, he would not have failed to relate that item. And there is no reason an alien would leave his name prone to decypherment through similar initials in names. On that point, Farmer is just playing with us. Or perhaps, he knows enough to be Fogg's brother, but simply doesn't know the last detail.
There is a large and growing literature that has been passed through writers who acknowledge that they are not writers, and actually call themselves merely editors: in this discussion alone we have met with Farmer, Verne, and Burroughs. There are many others. Some people think there may be some truth in Solzhenitsyn, for example. I believe that it is time for a comprehensive history of transmitted histories to be compiled and written by some ambitious crossover historian, eager to make a name for himself by blowing wide open a whole world of knowledge previous thought merely "fictional."
Second version posted 2/15/2012, same day as the first, by CAPF, Ph.D.