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Original introduction to Thoan RPG by Philip Jose Farmer


I was eighteen years old when, in late September of 1936, I was stricken with an intense fever. For five days, it burned my body and brain. Our family doctor visited me once, said I had influenza (but he didn't really know what it was), and gave me some medicine. It did little good; recovery was left up to me. Most of the time, I lay on my bed in my room in the attic. I was too sick to read, so I suffered doubly.
During these fits of flames, as I call them, I had recurring dreams or hallucinations. Time and again, I saw a rather shadowy figure invade a series of tunnels and large rooms that seemed to be hollowed out of a mountain of solid jade. Actually, the whole honeycombed mountain was a city. The invader was armed with bows and arrows, and his aim never failed. The citizens were American Indians dressed like pre-Columbian Aztecs or Mayas. They were holding prisoner a woman whom the archer was trying to rescue.
Over and over again, the man dressed in a deerhide headband, loincloth, and moccassins, appeared in the ill-lit corridors deep in the jade mountain. More than once, he used a wily ruse to outwit the dwellers in the jade city. Thus, I knew he was a consummate trickster.
I was the feverish spectator of clips of a movie which were being played over and over. Occasionnally, I saw a scene different from the others. These were never repeated.
And, now and then, a vision of a monstrously sized and vividly multicolored parrot appeared. It spoke in a language I could not interpret, and it exuded evil. It, however, seemed to have nothing to do with the trickster and his adventures in the corridors of the jade city.
At this time, I was a senior in Peoria Central High School. I knew I would be a writer some day. After I recovered, I made notes of my dreams or nightmares or hallucinations or, as I now believe, distorted visions of scenes momentarily appearing from another world. Somehow, when the fever was at its heights, it opened to me windows to another dimension or parallel universe. I was not in that world, but I did see what was taking place in a smal area in it.
Though I never saw at this time the entire planet on which these events were taking place, I got the "impression" that the planet was in a relatively small universe made by a more or less human entity. This planet was shaped like a multitiered Tower of Babylon and had one tiny sun and a tiny moon, both of which revolved around it. The Terrestrial principle of gravity had been modified for this artificial world.
I don't know why I knew that the trickster in these visions was named Kickaha. I later rationalized that my subconscious mind had formed his name from a fusion of Kickapoo, the name of a native American tribe which once dwelt in the Peoria area, and from the last syllable in Minnehaha, the heroine of Longfellow's poem, Song of Hiawatha. I no longer believe this. There was and is a Kickaha, and he was born near a small Indiana town. That his birthday and birthyear are also mine and that our initials are the same indicated, to me anyway, that we were "psychic" twins.
Somehow, during that fever, I got vibrations or waves from Kickaha. Thus, I began the distorted and infrequent reception of these impressions from Kickaha the Trickster.
As for the giant malignant parrot, I have so far received no more vibrations. But they may come even though 54 years have elapsed since I saw him.
I wrote the first of the Tiers series many years after I received the first impressions or messages or whatever they were from the other universe. This was "The Maker of Universe". Kickaha was a secondary though vivid figure in this. He did not even appear in the second book, "Gates of Creation". But, while I was Writing "Gates", I began to receive more impressions, sometimes in dreams, sometimes when I was fully awake. They came as intense flashes. Mostly, these concerned the names, physical appearance, and activities of some of the villainous Lords in their war against Kickaha. So strong were the flashes, they made me change my original names in the manuscript. Then, perhaps by accident, perhaps not, I read the prophetic books of William Blake (1757 - 1827), the great English poet, painter, engraver, and mystic. I was astounded. Some of the names for the Thoan or the Lords, which I thought I'd invented, were similar to or exactly like those Blake had penned. I did not tell anybody about this because I knew that no one would believe me.
Kickaha took over the next book in the series, "A private cosmos", and he became the protagonist in all the sequels except "Red Orc's Rage". Looking back, I see that I made an error in starting off with Robert Wolff. But I did not then know the full story, and it took me many years to do so. What I believe now (a belief described in "Red Orc's Rage'') is that both Blake and I received impressions from theses "leaks" in the "walls" between Earth's universe and the many artificial universes created by the Lords. Blake's were from a different source than mine, however. Both of us were receiving filtered and distorted waves, as it were. Our different personae then distorted these even more. Blake used them in his semi-fictionalized prophetic books to project his own ideological ideas in poetic epics. I used mine to tell a semi-fictionalized story in prose. Neither of us have probably depicted the events in these other worlds exactly as they were. Not in every detail, anyway.
While I am nowhere near the poet or mystic that Blake was, I have had several experiences which can only be descibed as mystic. These were not drug-induced ; except for a little marihuana smoked many years ago, I have never used narcotics. Like the writer Harlan Ellison, I won't need drugs until I come down from my inborn high. And I'm convinced that other people on Earth have had similar visions or impressions but that they have not recorded these. Not, as far as we know, on Earth.
Thus, the games you will be playing in the Thoan volume, are based, I firmly believe, partly on reality, partly from imagination. The latter has supplied the fillings in the gaps among the visions and impressions. But, for all I know, Blake and I may not be using our imaginations as gap-fillers. Our subconsious minds may hold deeply buried visions and impressions which we fooled ourselves into thinking were imaginary products.
It does not matter that the tale of the artificial universes (and that includes Earth's universe) are based on the extrapolation of logic and imagination. Essentially, the adventures of Wolff and Kickaha are all true. They are not "fiction" in the usual meaning of that word.
Still, the visions of that huge, sentient, and malicious parrot bother me. Were they entirely unconnected to the worlds of the Lords ? Or is the answer to the mystery something else ? Perhaps, the parrot embodies an untold story. He may have been involved in one of Kickaha's adventures. But, for some reason, I could not receive the story. It may be that the wicked bird himself shut the windows of perception as soon as he was aware that I was receiving the visions of him.
But that parrot haunts me even now.
Philip Jose Farmer, Peoria, 1994.