(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The science-fiction publishing establishment always has shown some conservatism regarding matters of sex, religion, and race. Startling Stories published Philip José Farmer’s short story “The Lovers,” which was shocking for its time, in 1952. Virtually immediately, other writers began writing and publishing stories with sex as a central focus. Farmer therefore is generally credited with overcoming the taboo against sex in science fiction.

In The World of Tiers, Farmer’s cosmology involves gods, called Lords, who have created worlds and universes solely for their emotional needs and amusement. This notion is heretical to practitioners of most religions, certainly to Christians and Muslims. In the 1960’s, books with religious implications such as Farmer’s were not viewed favorably by science-fiction publishers. By this time, Farmer had amassed a considerable reputation, having won a Hugo Award as best new science-fiction author in 1953 and another for his novella “Riders of the Purple Wage” in 1968. Whether The World of Tiers contributed to the relaxation of publishing standards regarding religious matters is not as clear as is Farmer’s role in the matter of sex. Nevertheless, The World of Tiers is one of the first works by a major science-fiction writer to question, directly or indirectly, the motives of a god as creator.

The World of Tiers never openly addresses the theological...

(The entire section is 459 words.)