RIP, Philip Jose Farmer

RIP, Philip Jose Farmer, one of the great, towering talents of science fiction, the man whose Riverworld books transported me farther than any other sf I'd read at that point.
Philip José Farmer passed away peacefully in his sleep this morning.

He will be missed greatly by his wife Bette, his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, friends and countless fans around the world.

January 26, 1918 - February 25, 2009. R.I.P.

We love you Phil.

The Official Philip José Farmer Home Page (via MeFi)


  1. One of my favorite writers. His work had a profound effect on me. Save a hole in the grailstone for me, Phil!

  2. I wasn’t a big fan of the Riverworld books — it struck me as Gee-whiz SF.

    I’m not a big fan of death, either.

  3. Philip wrote so much I’m sure you can find something other than Riverworld and then praise it. Give him his due, let your words on his passing uplift you both.

  4. I stopped reading PJF because it annoyed me so much that he never really finished a story. I waited years for “World of Tiers” books for example.

    He eventually did finish Riverworld, at least mostly, I guess.

    Bye, Phil. Thanks for Venus on the Half Shell and Lord Tyger.


  5. #7, my thoughts exactly. He already new how to create heaven–it was there waiting for his arrival. I’m so glad we were all able to enjoy his worlds.

  6. Although I enjoyed Riverworld greatly, I was truly blown away by Mr. Farmer’s ability to meticulously imitate other author’s styles. The term “versatile” doesn’t even scratch the surface of what he was capable of.

    In addition, he had a raw, unbounded funny bone. I have never laughed harder than I did while reading “J. C. on the Dude Ranch.” Seriously, if that short story doesn’t make you painfully convulse in laughter then you are either dead or a religious fundamentalist.

    I think I’ll hoist one tonight in his memory and reverently pass his books to my teenage son.

  7. My consolation is he lived a long life, and definitely made his mark. It’s still sad to hear of the passing of someone who gave so many people so much.

  8. Just twenty minutes or so ago I was holding my copy of Nothing Burns In Hell and thinking about how wonderful it was that a writer of his age was still willing to experiment — and that the results of that experiment were so vital. It’s a really good book and as I looked at the cover I hoped that he’d write more noir.

    My favorites of his works are his crazy over-the-top surrealist porno stuff, books like A Feast Unknown and In The Flesh. Right from the start of his career he pushed back the boundaries of what was permitted in genre fiction. And when he wanted to, he could write absolutely top-notch prose.

    At his best he was as good as anyone who worked in the genre — which means he deserves recognition from the larger literary community. I hope he gets it.

  9. Aw, damn. The man lived a long, fine life, but I’m still sad to see him go. His writing spans several eras in science fiction, and was relevant to each of them. The Riverworld Trilogy blew a tidy little hole in the fusilage of my childhood, and I’ll always be grateful for that.

  10. I’m sure his wathan is still floating around here somewhere…

    I was a big fan of PJP growing up. He had a great ability to give an interesting perspective on our world by taking our minds to another, which is science fiction’s highest point. In addition to the Riverworld series, I really enjoyed the Dayworld series. Maybe I’ll spend some time re-reading those as my own personal tribute to him.

  11. Ah man…

    I fell asleep late last night re-reading Riders of the Purple Wage and woke up to this news.

    So much of my adolescence spent on the Riverworld.

    At the round earth’s imagin’d corners, blow
    Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise
    From death, you numberless infinities
    Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go.


  12. Portrait of Farmer’s Lord Grandrith, India Ink on paper, digital color, 2005

    My favorite writer, Philip Jos̩ Farmer (January 26, 1918 РFebruary 25, 2009) gave up this mortal coil, this morning.
    I felt fortunate to have not only read all his books, but I actually got to meet the man in person a few years ago.

    Ironically, one of the recurring themes in Farmer’s work was the actual (albeit fantastic possibility of immorality for us humans), many of his characters have undergone some sort of transformation that results in them being forever young and healthy. So even after I met the aged author in person, there was a small part of me thinking that there was a young hero wearing a sophicated disguise and playing the part of a long lived old man, biding his time, until he was ready to make his escape to the amazing worlds of high adventure and daring do that his books celebrated. I would like to think this is the case.
    Farmer was the spiritual heir Edgar Rice Burroughs, his work often had the same superficial glow of Adventure for Adventures sake, but inside, in the heart of the tales, were amazing complex self aware deep literary currents. His stories would often reference, Shakespeare, Freud and Jung, Nietzsche, William Blake, Joseph Campbell, Mythology,structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism and post-structuralism. Farmer loved pulp adventure, but he loved it enough to breath new life and cunning intellect into it. He dissected it, remade it, parodied it, swam in it. HIs love of Tarzan produced Tarzan Alive, a masterpiece in which Farmer attempted to prove that Lord Greystoke actually existed as a living man in our world. HIs book A Feast Unknown, totally deconstructed the entire concept of the Adventure Hero, he took all the criticism that has been leveled on action adventure; that it is inane childish power fantasy with imperialist and homoeroctic sub-texts, and said, yes that’s all true, hilariously true.

    Farmer tapped into the deepest wishes of all the boys who live half there lives in books, the secret knowledge that all these tales are actually true. That the tales of Tarzan, the Shadow, Doc Savage, and Captain Nemo, and all the rest are thinly veiled reportage. For Farmer the world of the imagination was as real as any thing else, it was up to us to make the connections for us to build a bridge to the amazing, it was our duty to aspirer to fantastic and make it real, to flesh it out, to realize the hidden adventures and secret wars of heroes and villains that are happing everyday under our noses. Alan Moore, Frank Miller, and Garht Ennis, owe Farmer greatly.

    I owe Farmer a great deal, I discovered his work in 1997 right as I was begging my fully adult life, I had just graduated from Art School, and was caught in a go nowhere office job, in a soon to be loveless relationship, and in general a frustrated person, that needed to find a way to tap into and take charge of my imagination and my life. I picked up a copy of Farmer’s book Flesh, which is an playful fusion of Space Adventures with Robert Graves’ White Goddess, and the Battle of the Sexes. I soon discovered Michael Croteau’s Farmer website which allowed me to create a check list of all of Farmer’s books, and Reading Farmer’s books, reminded me of the reason I was a artist, it helped me connect to my noble heroic self. It helped me realize that the Heroic could be an intelligent and complex a force in culture. That my burden as an artist was to create worlds, worlds upon worlds, and fill those worlds with Gods, Monsters, Villains, and Heroes, and Heroines.

    Farmer’s two great book cycles are The World of Tiers and the Riverworld series, both are classic sci-fi adveture series, but also touch on many wonderful aspects of mythology, history, and culture. The World of Tiers depicts an ever increasing multi-verse where the character from William Blake’s poems are real and caught in a life or death struggle for control of universes that they have created and lost control of. The Riverworld series deals with actual famous person from history, Sir Richard Francis Burton, Mark Twain, King John, Alice Liddell, and countless other in a fully realized afterlife.

    I have not even touched upon some of Farmer’s great one-shot novels, such as Jesus on Mars, Dark is the Sun, A Barnstormer in Oz, Dare, The Unreasoning Mask, and The Lovers. Or is great short stories and essays. Do yourself a favor READ THESE BOOKS!

    I always try to honor Farmer in my professional work as a visual artist, I dedicated my Caveman Robot Gigantic Mega-Annual Comic in 2004 to Farmer, I mention him anytime I am interviewed, and I did a multi-media project that was a dramatic reading the first six chapters of A Feast Unknown. . I really love this guy.

    Like all great prophets Farmer was under appreciated and cheated by his fellow humans, many of his books are out of print, many of his ideas were ripped off by lesser artist, butchered by hack editors, and the all to few adaptions of his works in film are mediocre at best. My only hope is that as often the case when a real artist passes, people finally begin to see how great they really are. Long Live Philip José Farmer.

  13. I read his early novel “The Green Odyssey” when I was a kid in New York and loved it. It is a fun story with so many twists and turns. Thank you Mr. Farmer.

  14. @#7: I was thinking the same thing.

    His was a unique voice in a great generation of SF writers.

    @#18: Don’t forget J.C. on the Dude Ranch!

  15. I remember reading Riders of the Purple wage in in Dangerous Visions and just loving it. Thankfully we have a lot of his work to remember him by.

  16. I grew up in a small town in the 60s and my passion was reading SF (which I could not always get easily).

    However, I loved his work after 1st encountering it in a Hugo collection around 1969 (I think it wasRiders of the Purple Wage). He was a real inspiration to me, as someone who was clearly willing to take chances with his craft.

    I am very sorry to hear of his passing, but I am grateful for his legacy.

  17. My favorite PJF: The ‘Hadon of Ancient Opar’ books. ERB pastiche, sure, but possibly the best ERB pastiche EVER.

    He was one of the writers who turned me on to sci fi, and whatever you can say about his writing, that mind? No one else ever was like him.

    He’ll be profoundly missed.

  18. Steampunk fans should check out Farmer’s “The Other Log of Phileas Fogg.” I think Alan Moore may have been just a little bit influenced by it when he created “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.” Nothing against Moore.
    RIP PJF!

  19. A great man who had a long life and who enriched the lives of others. I am not sad because you can only celebrate someone who had such a life of achievement and influence… and maybe, just maybe has moved on to some other world to amaze and surprise other beings and other lives.

  20. Fred, I agree. That’s long been a favorite of mine. Riverworld and the World of Tiers (took me years actually to notice the pun in that title) were tremendous.

    Farewell sir, the world is a bit dimmer without the light of your mind.

  21. Oh..almost forgot. My altime favorite moment from a PJF book: The Phillips Screwdriver (drink).

    At least I think it was in one of his…

  22. I read all his riverworld books and it made me see things way diffrently than reading any other sci fi, he will be missed. i wish his family and friends the very best.

  23. I just wikipediaed him the other day out of curiosity. Sad to know he’s gone from this world.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the romp that was Riverworld. Thank you PJF for such a great read.

  24. thanx for the fun and horizon expanding! almost made the century mark. enjoy the journey to come, pjf. u sure earned it!

  25. Several people have mentioned “Riders of The Purple Wage,” one of my all time favorites, so I’ll remind everyone of “The Alley God.” Knew this day would come but it still makes me terribly sad.

  26. Ouch! He must have seen what SciFi did to Riverworld. On a more serious note, the Riverworld series was one of my first forays into science fiction and it’s stuck with me to this day. He did live a long, fruitful life though.

  27. “Discretion is the better part of velour.”

    I’ll never forget that line from one of his short stories. It still cracks me up.

    May we finally meet on the banks of the great river, Mr. Farmer.

  28. Tom of the netherlands I read many time,s the great book cycles The World of Tiers and many other

    Farewell sir, the world is a bit dimmer without the light of your mind.

  29. Some books have concepts larger than the books that introduce them. The Riverworld Series was one of my first favorites. I always considered Zelazny’s Amber series a weak imitation of Farmers superior Tiers series. The fact that he had central NY roots and set Dark Is the Sun in Syracuse also helped. He is my official favorite author though I haven’t read him in years. His Savage/Tarzan lineage stories also amazed me.
    The world is that much bleaker because PJF is no longer with us. thank you for all the great ideas.

  30. Just found out today of PJF’s trip to the Riverworld. I discovered Mr. Farmer in 1970ish as a junior in high school. 40-50 books and 40 years later, I have just turned new friends on to Riverworld and hopefully others.

    I don’t know how many thousand SiFi books I’v read, but PJFs’ different take, his puns, his taking chances and not looking back, and his ownership of the genre of rewritting other authors charactors as homage are unique.

    Read his stories! Phillip Jose Farmer may have passed but he is not dead.

    Please, read his stories.

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