Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Philip Jose Farmer, R. I. P.

I just received this news from Todd Mason. Farmer was a giant in the SF field, one of my favorites for more than 50 years. Here's what Todd had to say:

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.


Victor Gischler said...

I loved Venus on the Half Shell. Wish we could have had more "Trout" novels.


Bill Crider said...

I believe Trout and Emerson LaSalle were pals.

Todd Mason said...

Victor, look through the 1970s F&SFs for stories by "Jonathan Swift Somers III" and others who might be familiar from passing references in Vonnegut's fiction...and I typo'd Farmer's age...he was 91.

Todd Mason said...

I've just realized that the first Farmer story I read was almost certainly his Three Stooges tribute, "But Who Can Make a Tree?" (F&SF 1971).