Thursday, February 26, 2009

Philip Jose Farmer

Well, crapola, I just read that Philip Jose Farmer has passed away.

If you haven't read any of Farmer's work, you really should give it a try. It will certainly take you to places you've never dreamed of.

Try to imagine a world where everyone who has ever lived suddenly wakes up beside a seemingly endless river. Each person has been supplied with a type of kit, keyed just to them. Several times each day, you insert your kit into a giant structure (these are spaced along the river) and miraculously, you have food and an assortment of human vices (liquor, cigarettes, etc.). All of your immediate needs are met.

Everyone from time immemorial is scattered along this river, so you might have Cro-Magnons, 12th century warriors, Richard Burton and Mark Twain, all interacting. Or Genghis Khan, or Peter Sellers, or John the Baptist, you get the idea.

So what kind of mind comes up with this concept? Philip Jose Farmer, of course, in his amazing Riverworld series. A must read if you haven't, so many concepts, so many fresh ideas.

And this was originally conceived in the 1950s . . .

Then there is his World of Tiers series, another unique reality from his fertile imagination.

It should be noted that Farmer was the first author to introduce sex into Science Fiction, which had previously been some kind of sexually neutered genre. His very first published story, the Lovers (1953) changed Science Fiction forever and won him the coveted Hugo Award for Most Promising New Writer.

I have to admit that my very favorite work from Philip Jose Farmer is Venus on the Half Shell, where he wrote as Kilgore Trout. Farmer often wrote of fictional heroes as real people, but in this instance, he wrote as a fictional character (thanks to Kurt Vonnegut, another favorite of mine). If you are at all a fan of Vonnegut's work, you'll recognize the name of Kilgore Trout and if you are a fan of Farmer, you'll really appreciate this book. It's satire at it's finest and unlike any other book you will ever read.

His imagination stirred me, and somewhere in the back of my mind, I always thought I would get to meet him.

And now I never will. It makes my heart hurt.

Maybe some day we'll wake up next to each other along the banks of the great River.

Life is still Good, but just a tiny bit less so today.

RIP Philip Jose Farmer 1918-2009


photowannabe said...

Well, my ignorance is showing big time. I am sorry I never heard of the author or his work. I may have to look into them sometime.

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