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Philip Jose Farmer dead at 91

PEORIA ~ February 25, 2009: Science fiction author Philip Jose Farmer died this morning at his home. He was 91. 

The Peoria-based writer had written more than 75 books and was awarded the top honors in his field. That includes the Grand Master Award for Science Fiction in 2001, an award also given to noted authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein. Farmer had a world-wide following, with fans travelling to Peoria once or twice a year. 

He was once quoted as saying that, particular in his early career, he had more fans in France, Italy, Germany and Japan than in the United States. Even after he retired from writing, his fans continued to produce “Farmerphile,” a magazine devoted to his life and works. 

Critics have said that Farmer's influence over the science-fiction community is becoming more apparent over. He was the first author to address adult sexual themes in science-fiction novels. Jonathan Strahan, an editor and critic for Locus magazine, said Farmer treated sex seriously, not in a juvenile manner or for cheap thrills. "It wasn't pornography and it wasn't just about the sex of it. It was about the sexuality of people in an interesting and intelligent way." 

Joe Lansdale, a critic, writer and friend of Farmer's, credited Farmer with changing the face of science fiction. "I just can't begin to tell you how important he is to the field as well as other fields." Lansdale said Farmer was fearless when it came to the subject matter for his stories.

Mr. Farmer did much to carry on the memory and legacy of Edgar Rice Burroughs. In addition to being a dedicated fan and scholar he wrote many stories in the spirit of ERB. 

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For full tributes see
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Ref: Peoria Journal Star

Philip José Farmer Remembered
by George McWhorter
Phil Farmer sailed down the River Iss last week, January 25, 2009, on his final journey into the unknown. Most national newspaper obits, such as the New York Times, skipped over his preoccupation with Tarzan and the Burroughs legend, but faithful fans remember him well through his many Tarzan oriented books such as Tarzan Alive, The Peerless Peer, Lord of the Trees, Mother Was a Lovely Beast, Flight to Opar, and numerous magazine interviews.

I first met him face to face at a Chicago dinner in 1989 at the Adventurer's Club where we both received awards from the Normal Beans Chapter of the Burroughs Bibliophiles. He was delightful company, and so was his beautiful wife Bette. To cement our friendship, he sent me the large original painting of the Greystoke Coat of Arms which he had researched and which was painted by Bjo Trimble. The motto (in archaic French script) is pictured at the top of the heraldic shield, and reads: "Je Suys Encore Vyvant" ("I Still Live"). The watchword at the bottom reads: “Kreeg--ah!” Phil gave a speech at the 1971 Detroit Dum-Dum on his Greystoke Coat of Arms, and it was published in Burroughs Bulletin #22 (Summer, 1971) by his good friend Vern Coriell, editor and publisher of the magazine.

We exchanged many letters over the years, and in 1996 we both appeared in a French documentary entitled "Moi Tarzan" in which Phil was filmed in his own home giving a talk on how he met the real Tarzan. His imagination was vast, as demonstrated in the huge array of books he published in the science fiction genre, most notably his Riverworld and World of Tiers series.

Most of all, we remember him for his original view of the Tarzan myth which he tried to convince his reading public was not myth but reality. He made no bones about Tarzan inspiring him to become a writer. He won two Hugo awards (1967 and 1970), was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 2001, and was always in demand by publishers for more of his brand of writing skills. He spent most of his life in Peoria where he grew up, went to college, and where he died last week, survived by his wife Bette, two children, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, so he managed to fill his life with good memories and to inspire friendship in those who knew him. He will be missed.

by John Allen Small
(Written March 3, 2009)

The world of science fiction literature lost one of its brightest stars and most imaginative voices last week... and I lost a good friend.

Philip José Farmer, the creator of the classic “Riverworld” and “World of Tiers” series, died last Wednesday, Feb. 25, at his home in Peoria, Illinois. He died peacefully in his sleep, almost a month to the day after celebrating his 91st birthday – a “good science fictional age,”  one of his fans observed after hearing the news.

Farmer has been rightfully acknowledged as having played a major role in revitalizing the SF genre during that period in the 1950s when the type of pulp fiction that had been so popular since the early days of the century had lost its appeal. Readers of the era were looking for something new, something different – and, boy, did Farmer give it to them!

He was the “New Wave” before anyone thought to call it that; he crafted stories that dealt with more adult themes than fans were used to seeing in their science fiction stories at the time, and inspired other writers to follow his example (One of the most notable of these was Robert Heinlein, whose classic Stranger In A Strange Land was dedicated to Farmer.)

Yet at the same time, Farmer probably did more to keep the spirit of those old pulp stories alive than any other writer of the past half century. A fan since childhood of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan stories and such popular adventure heroes as Doc Savage and The Shadow, Farmer gave those and other characters new life through his creation of the Wold Newton Universe, a series of books and short stories in which these and other characters co-exist and interact (and in many cases are related to one another). In "Tarzan Alive" and "Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life," Farmer crafted not only a pair of fun yet believable biographies of his two favorite characters, but painstakingly created family genealogies that should have been the envy of everyone who had ever been inspired to research their own family histories after reading Alex Haley’s "Roots."

Farmer essentially was playing the same game enjoyed by fans of Sherlock Holmes, but built upon that game by devising new rules and bringing in characters from a myriad variety of sources, ranging from "Pride and Prejudice" and "Raintree County" to James Bond and King Kong! In doing so he introduced more young readers to the works of such authors as Jane Austen and William Blake than will likely ever be known.

I considered Phil Farmer my friend long before I ever met the man. He became my friend the moment I began reading my first Farmer book, the aforementioned "Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life," in 1975 at the age of 12. Maybe it was the recognition of a kindred spirit; like Phil I became a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs as a child (the first so-called "grownup" book I ever read, while still in the third grade, was my dad's old Canaveral Press edition of "The Land That Time Forgot") and used my love of Burroughs as a stepping stone to other literature.

From there I found "Tarzan Alive," the Riverworld and World of Tiers novels, "The Adventure of the Peerless Peer "After King Kong Fell," "Time’s Last  Gift" and so many others. Farmer's writings played a part in my wanting to become a writer myself - so much so that when I found myself invited to become part of a group of writers, fans and scholars who were building new layers upon the foundation of Farmer's Wold Newton mythos, it was (as the kids like to say these days) a no-brainer.

The publication of one of my articles in the 2005 anthology "Myths For The Modern Age: Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton Universe" remains for me the most exciting achievement in a professional writing career that has spanned over two decades, a handful of awards, a few sleepless nights and a great deal of fun and personal satisfaction. The realization that something I had written had been published in the same book as a man three times honored with the Hugo Award – whose name is typically mentioned in the same breath as such SF luminaries as Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke or Pohl – is something I sometimes still have trouble processing whenever I happen to catch a glimpse of that volume on my bookshelf.

And having the opportunity to actually meet Phil and his lovely wife Bette, and to spend time at their home in Peoria on more than occasion since – and to spend time with other fans and fellow writers, such as Joe Lansdale –  is a memory that I will forever cherish.

And then there was that e-mail I received from Phil last June, wishing me a happy birthday. It was almost like a little kid getting a letter from Santa Claus...

My personal encounters with Phil Farmer were all too brief, but the source of great joy.  The impact he has had on my life – as a reader, as a writer, as a fan of literature and pop culture – is incalculable. I am proud to have known him.

(Copyright © 2009, by John A. Small)

Ballantine 1977  - Darrell Sweet art
Doubleday & Company Inc., HC 1st - 1972 - Milton Glaser art

Tributes from fellow authors on SciFi Wire

Anne McCaffrey, creator of the Dragonriders of Pern series, was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2006.
I am very sorry to learn of Phil Farmer's death. I vividly remember reading his first story and reminding myself that this was a new author to watch out for. Then we both had stories up for Hugos and were tied that year. Good company to be in, and I'm sorry he won't be around anymore, but he will be remembered.

Robert Silverberg, multiple Hugo and Nebula Award-winning writer, was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 2004.
His work was revolutionary in its time and still holds much for modern readers. He was a splendidly original writer, one of the giants of science fiction, and a grand human being. It was a privilege to know him.

Michael Moorcock edited the British science fiction magazine New Worlds, which heralded the New Wave movement, and is the creator of the fantasy hero Elric of Melniboné.
Phil was one of the first sf writers I ever read and enjoyed—The Green Odyssey—and I became a great fan. We ran his "Jungle Rot Kid on the Nod" in New Worlds—William Burroughs writing Edgar Rice Burroughs—and I thought it was brilliant. He was a writer with a wide talent and wide tastes which he combined to provide his readers with a huge amount of top quality fiction. And he was a very nice man. He graced the field he made his own.

Cory Doctorow is the co-editor of the blog Boing Boing, winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2000, and author of the bestselling novel Little Brother.
I never knew Philip Jose Farmer; he was of an older generation of sf writers. But Riverworld's scope, audacity, richness, and mystery forever changed the way I viewed epics. For me, Farmer is the eternal master of the saga.

David Hartwell has worked in publishing since 1971 and has been an editor at Tor Books since 1984, where is is currently Senior Editor.
Phil was the first SF writer to pick human sexuality as a primary theme in his writing. He was often very much on the cutting edge over decades of work, and an influence on many later writers, not the least of whom was Roger Zelazny.

Fly with the eagles. . .

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