Philip Jose Farmer, a writer who was shaking up fantastic fiction right out of the gate with his novella “The Lovers” (STARTLING STORIES, 1952, and the single biggest marker that STARTLING was ready to challenge all the other sf magazines as a source of first-rate fiction, and briefly led to STARTLING apparently being the best-selling magazine in the sf field), has died at age 91, family members report.
“The Lovers” was a borderline horror sf story, involving the affair between a human man and a humanoid alien woman, where things, it can be said, don’t quite work out the way he expected. A lot closer to William Burroughs than Edgar Rice, a comparison that Farmer would explore in later work (such as his WB’s version of Tarzan story, “The Jungle Rot Kid on the Nod.”). Farmer would go on to write further major work dealing with sexual themes, playful notions of the interface between fiction and reality (notably TO YOUR SCATTERED BODIES GO), and some relatively straightforward, if sometimes pornographic, horror fiction. He also wrote fiction as if by the characters in Kurt Vonnegut’s books, “Kilgore Trout”’s VENUS ON THE HALF SHELL and more, mostly for THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION in the 1970s.
A restless innovator, by no means always achieving what he set out to do, but I think he mostly had fun doing it. He’d been suffering from a long illness.