Farmer is best known for his sequences of novels, especially the World of Tiers (1965–93) and Riverworld (1971–83) series. He is noted for the pioneering use of sexual and religious themes in his work, his fascination for, and reworking of, the lore of celebrated pulp heroes, and occasional tongue-in-cheek pseudonymous works written as if by fictional characters. Farmer often mixed real and classic fictional characters and worlds and real and fake authors as epitomized by his Wold Newton family group of books. These tie all classic fictional characters together as real people and blood relatives resulting from an alien conspiracy. Such works as The Other Log of Phileas Fogg (1973) and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (1973) are early examples of literary mashup.
Literary critic Leslie Fiedler compared Farmer to Ray Bradbury as both being "provincial American eccentrics" who "strain at the classic limits of the [science fiction] form," but found Farmer distinctive in that he "manages to be at once naive and sophisticated in his odd blending of theology, pornography, and adventure."
Philip José Farmer
|Born||January 26, 1918|
Terre Haute, Indiana, U.S.
|Died||February 25, 2009 (aged 91)|
Peoria, Illinois, U.S.
|Pen name||more than a dozen (below)|
|Occupation||Novelist, Short story writer|
|Genre||Fantasy, science fiction|
Farmer was born in North Terre Haute, Indiana. According to colleague Frederik Pohl, his middle name was in honor of an aunt, Josie. Farmer grew up in Peoria, Illinois, where he attended Peoria High School. His father was a civil engineer and a supervisor for the local power company. A voracious reader as a boy, Farmer said he resolved to become a writer in the fourth grade. He became an agnostic at the age of 14. At age 23, in 1941, he married and eventually fathered a son and a daughter. After washing out of flight training in World War II, he went to work in a local steel mill. He continued his education, however, earning a bachelor's degree in English from Bradley University in 1950.
Farmer had his first literary success when his novella The Lovers was published by Samuel Mines in Startling Stories, August 1952. It features a sexual relationship between a human and an extraterrestrial and he won the next Hugo Award as "most promising new writer" (his first of three Hugos). Thus encouraged, he quit his job to become a full-time writer, entered a publisher's contest, and promptly won the $4,000 first prize for a novel, Owe for the Flesh, that contained the germ of his later Riverworld series. But the book was not published and Farmer did not get the money. Literary success did not translate into financial security so he left Peoria in 1956 to launch a career as a technical writer. He spent the next 14 years working in that capacity for various defense contractors, from Syracuse, New York to Los Angeles, while writing science fiction in his spare time.
He won a second Hugo for the 1967 novella Riders of the Purple Wage, a pastiche of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake as well as a satire on a futuristic, cradle-to-grave welfare state. Reinvigorated, Farmer became a full-time writer again in 1969. Upon moving back to Peoria in 1970, he entered his most prolific period, publishing 25 books in 10 years. His novel To Your Scattered Bodies Go (a reworked, previously unpublished version of the prize-winning first novel of 20 years before) won him his third Hugo in 1971. A 1975 novel, Venus on the Half-Shell, created a stir in the larger literary community and media. It purported to be written in the first person by one "Kilgore Trout," a fictional character appearing as an underappreciated science fiction writer in several of Kurt Vonnegut's novels. The escapade did not please Vonnegut when some reviewers not only concluded that it had been written by Vonnegut himself, but that it was a worthy addition to his works. Farmer did have permission from Vonnegut to write the book, though Vonnegut later said he regretted giving permission.
Farmer had both critical champions and detractors. Leslie Fiedler proclaimed him "the greatest science fiction writer ever" and lauded his approach to storytelling as a "gargantuan lust to swallow down the whole cosmos, past, present and to come, and to spew it out again." Isaac Asimov praised Farmer as an "excellent science fiction writer; in fact, a far more skillful writer than I am...." But Christopher Lehmann-Haupt dismissed him in The New York Times in 1972 as "a humdrum toiler in the fields of science fiction."
The Riverworld series follows the adventures of such diverse characters as Richard Francis Burton, Hermann Göring, and Samuel Clemens through a bizarre afterlife in which every human ever to have lived is simultaneously resurrected along a single river valley that stretches over an entire planet. The series consists of To Your Scattered Bodies Go (1971), The Fabulous Riverboat (1971), The Dark Design (1977), The Magic Labyrinth (1980) and Gods of Riverworld (1983). Although Riverworld and Other Stories (1979) is not part of the series as such, it does include the second-published Riverworld story, which is free-standing rather than integrated into one of the novels.
The first two Riverworld books were originally published as novellas, "The Day of the Great Shout" and "The Suicide Express," and as a two-part serial, "The Felled Star," in the science fiction magazines Worlds of Tomorrow and If between 1965 and 1967. The separate novelette "Riverworld" ran in Worlds of Tomorrow in January 1966. A final pair of linked novelettes appeared in the 1990s: "Crossing the Dark River" (in Tales of Riverworld, 1992) and "Up the Bright River" (in Quest to Riverworld, 1993). Farmer introduced himself into the series as Peter Jairus Frigate (PJF).
The Riverworld series originated in a novel, Owe for the Flesh, written in one month in 1952 as a contest entry. It won the contest, but the book was left unpublished and orphaned when the prize money was misappropriated, and Farmer nearly gave up writing altogether. The original manuscript of the novel was lost, but years later Farmer reworked the material into the Riverworld magazine stories mentioned above. Eventually, a copy of a revised version of the original novel surfaced in a box in a garage and was published as River of Eternity by Phantasia Press in 1983. Farmer's Introduction to this edition gives the details of how it all happened.
The series is set within a number of artificially constructed parallel universes (of which Earth is one), created tens of thousands of years ago by a race of human beings not from Earth who had achieved an advanced level of technology which gave them almost godlike power and immortality. The principal universe in which these stories take place, and from which the series derives its name, consists of an enormous tiered planet, shaped like a stack of disks or squat cylinders, of diminishing radius, one atop the other. The series follows the adventures of several of these godlike humans and several "ordinary" humans from Earth who accidentally travel to these artificial universes. (One of those "ordinary" humans was Paul Janus Finnegan (PJF) who becomes the main character in the series.) The series consists of The Maker of Universes (1965), The Gates of Creation (1966), A Private Cosmos (1968), Behind the Walls of Terra (1970), The Lavalite World (1977) and More Than Fire (1993). Roger Zelazny has mentioned that The World of Tiers was something he had in his mind when he created his Amber series. A related novel is Red Orc's Rage (1991), which does not involve the principal characters of the other books directly, but does provide background information to certain events and characters portrayed in the other novels. This is the most "psychological" of Farmer's novels.
Farmer's work often handles sexual themes; some early works were notable for their ground-breaking introduction of such to science fiction literature. His first (with one minor exception) published science fiction story, the novella The Lovers, earned him the Hugo Award for "most promising new writer" in 1953, and is critically recognized as the story that broke the taboo on sex in science fiction. It instantly put Farmer on the literary map. The short story collection Strange Relations (1960) was a notable event in the genre. He was one of three persons to whom Robert A. Heinlein dedicated Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), a novel which explored sexual freedom as one of its primary themes. Moreover, Fire and the Night (1962) is a mainstream novel about an interracial romance; it features sociological and psychosexual twists. In Night of Light (1966), he devised an alien race where aliens have only one mother but several fathers, perhaps because of an unusual or untenable physical position that cannot be reached or continued by two individuals acting alone. Both Image of the Beast and the sequel Blown from 1968–1969 explore group sex, interplanetary travel, and interplay between fictional figures like Childe Harold and real people like Forry Ackerman. In the World of Tiers series he explores Oedipal themes.
His work also sometimes contains religious themes. Jesus shows up as a character in both the Riverworld series (in the novelette "Riverworld" but not in the novels, except for the mentioning of him dying early in The Magic Labyrinth) and Jesus on Mars. Night of Light (1957, expanded 1966) takes the rather unholy Father John Carmody on an odyssey on an alien world where spiritual forces are made manifest in the material world. In Flesh (1960) astronauts return to an Earth 800 years in their future dominated by a pagan Goddess-worshiping religion. Other examples include the short stories "J.C. on the Dude Ranch", "The God Business", "The Making of Revelation, Part I", and the novels Inside, Outside (1964) (which may or may not be set in Hell) and Traitor to the Living (1973), among many others.
Many of Farmer's works rework existing characters from fiction and history, as in The Wind Whales of Ishmael (1971), a far-future sequel to Herman Melville's Moby-Dick; The Other Log of Phileas Fogg (1973), which fills in the missing time periods from Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days; and A Barnstormer in Oz (1982), in which Dorothy's adult son, a pilot, flies to the Land of Oz by accident.
He has often written about the pulp heroes Tarzan and Doc Savage, or pastiches thereof: In his novel The Adventure of the Peerless Peer, Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes team up. Farmer's Lord Grandrith and Doc Caliban series portrays analogues of Tarzan and Doc Savage. It consists of A Feast Unknown (1969), Lord of the Trees (1970) and The Mad Goblin (1970). Farmer has also written two mock biographies of both characters, Tarzan Alive (1972) and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (1973), which adopt the premise that the two were based on real people fictionalized by their original chroniclers, and connect them genealogically with a large number of other well-known fictional characters in a schema now known as the "Wold Newton family." Further, Farmer wrote both an authorized Doc Savage novel, Escape from Loki (1991) and an authorized Tarzan novel, The Dark Heart of Time (1999). In his 1972 novel Time's Last Gift, Farmer also explored the Tarzan theme combined with time travel, using the transparently reverse-syllabled name of "Sahhindar" for his hero (and the book's initials, TLG, as code for "Tarzan, Lord Greystoke"). A short story on this theme is "The Jungle Rot Kid on the Nod" (1968): "if William S. rather than Edgar Rice [Burroughs] had written Tarzan," Farmer also wrote Lord Tyger (1970) about a ruthless millionaire who tries to create a real Tarzan by having a child kidnapped and then brought up subject to the same tragic events which shaped Tarzan in the original books.
In his incomplete historical Khokarsa cycle — Hadon of Ancient Opar (1974) and Flight to Opar (1976) — Farmer portrayed the "lost city" of Opar, which plays an important part in the Tarzan saga, in the time of its glory as a colony city of the empire of Khokarsa. One of the books mentions a mysterious grey-eyed traveller, clearly "Sahhindar"/Tarzan.
Farmer wrote Venus on the Half-Shell (1975) under the name Kilgore Trout, a fictional author who appears in the works of Kurt Vonnegut. He had planned to write more of Trout's fictional books (notably Son of Jimmy Valentine), but Vonnegut put an end to those plans. Farmer's use of the pseudonym had caused confusion among many readers, who for some time assumed that Vonnegut was behind it; when the truth of Venus on the Half-Shell's authorship came out, Vonnegut was reported as being "not amused." In an issue of the semi-prozine The Alien Critic/Science Fiction Review, published by Richard E. Geis, Farmer claimed to have received an angry, obscenity-laden telephone call from Vonnegut about it. Thereafter Farmer wrote a number of pseudonymous "fictional author" stories, mostly for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. These were stories whose "authors" are characters in other stories. The first such story was "by" Jonathan Swift Somers III (invented by Farmer himself in Venus on the Half-Shell but inspired by one of the dead voices of Spoon River Anthology). Later Farmer used the "Cordwainer Bird" byline, a pseudonym invented by Harlan Ellison for film and television projects from which he wished to disassociate himself, and perhaps related to the name Cordwainer Smith, a pseudonym used by Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger.
In a writing career spanning more than 60 years (1946–2008), Farmer published almost 60 novels, over 100 short stories and novellas (many expanded or combined into novels), two "fictional biographies" and numerous essays, articles and ephemera in fan publications.
A Barnstormer in Oz: A Rationalization and Extrapolation of the Split-Level Continuum is a 1982 novel by Philip José Farmer and is based on the setting and characters of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
The central character of the novel is Hank Stover, a pilot and the son of Dorothy Gale, who finds himself in Oz when his plane gets lost in a green cloud over Kansas in 1923. The Oz he discovers is on the brink of civil war; he encounters Erakna, the new Wicked Witch.
Farmer takes an unusual approach to the corpus of Oz literature; he depends almost solely on Baum's original Oz book and neglects its many sequels. This "originalist" approach to the Oz mythos is rare but not unique; a few other writers have taken similar tacks, including Roger S. Baum, the great-grandson of L. Frank Baum. In Barnstormer, Dorothy has made only one visit to Oz; when Hank Stover arrives, the Scarecrow still rules the Emerald City, just as at the end of Baum's first Oz book.
Since Farmer wrote for adults rather than children, there are elements of sex and violence in Barnstormer that are not typical of the Oz literature. As the book's subtitle indicates, Farmer indulges a rationalizing and explanatory bent: he treats Oz as a parallel universe in the science fiction vein. He attempts explanations and analyses of some of the fantastic elements in Baum's fictional world, including magic and talking animals. The book is also subtly anti-socialist, the character constantly points out the flaws of the near-communist Oz. Others have projected a gun control view on the book. Gunpowder and firearms are outlawed by the ruling magicians, as they believe it would cause an upset of power and allow their subjects to level the playing field.
Opinions of Farmer's contribution to the literature of Oz span the entire critical spectrum; Jack Zipes called the novel "splendid," while Katharine Rogers considered it "revision to the point of debasement."Farmer wrote several other books that take fresh views of famous figures of popular and pulp literature: A Barnstormer in Oz can be grouped with his Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke (1972), Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (1973), and The Other Log of Phileas Fogg (also 1973), among other works.A Feast Unknown
A Feast Unknown is a novel written by American author Philip José Farmer. The novel is a pastiche of pulp fiction, erotica, and horror fiction. It was originally published in 1969, and was followed by two sequels, Lord of the Trees and The Mad Goblin.
The book contains many elements in common with Farmer's Wold Newton family concept, but there is some dispute as to whether it actually takes place in the same setting with Farmer's other Wold Newton fiction. In addition, the novel is infamous for its graphic depictions of sex and violence, and especially the combination of the two.Flight to Opar
Flight to Opar is a fantasy novel by American writer Philip José Farmer, first published in paperback by DAW Books in June 1976, and reprinted twice through 1983. The first British edition was published by Magnum in 1977; it was reprinted by Methuen in 1983. It was later gathered together with a preceding novel, Hadon of Ancient Opar, and a sequel, The Song of Kwasin, into the omnibus collection Gods of Opar: Tales of Lost Khokarsa (2012). The work has also been translated into French. It and the other books in the series purport to fill in some of the ancient prehistory of the lost city of Opar, created by Edgar Rice Burroughs as a setting for his Tarzan series.Gods of Riverworld
Gods of Riverworld (1983) is a science fiction novel by American writer Philip José Farmer, the fifth and last in the series of Riverworld books. It was reprinted in 1998 by Del Rey under the title The Gods of Riverworld.
This book concludes the chronicles of the adventures of such diverse characters as Sir Richard Burton, Alice Pleasance Liddell, Aphra Behn and Tom Turpin through a bizarre afterlife in which every human ever to have lived is simultaneously resurrected along a single river valley that stretches over an entire planet.
Although Farmer's 1980 novel The Magic Labyrinth was originally intended to be the last in the series, Farmer continued it in this novel, which picks up with the characters who have just arrived in the alien-built tower at the headwaters of the river from which this constructed world gets its name; they must decide how to use the resurrection machinery they now control, and also solve the mystery of the murder of the mysterious stranger.Hadon of Ancient Opar
Hadon of Ancient Opar is a fantasy novel by American writer Philip José Farmer, first published in paperback by DAW Books in April 1974, and reprinted three times through 1983. The first British edition was published by Magnum in 1977; it was reprinted by Methuen in 1993. The first trade paperback edition was published by Titan Books in 2013. The work has also been translated into French. It was later gathered together with its sequels Flight to Opar and The Song of Kwasin into the omnibus collection Gods of Opar: Tales of Lost Khokarsa (2012). It and its sequels purport to fill in some of the ancient prehistory of the lost city of Opar, created by Edgar Rice Burroughs as a setting for his Tarzan series.Opar (fictional city)
Opar is a fictional lost city in the Tarzan novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs and later the Khokarsa novels of Philip José Farmer and Christopher Paul Carey and various derivative works in other media. The city first appeared in the second Tarzan novel, The Return of Tarzan (1913).Phantasia Press
Phantasia Press Inc. was an American small publisher formed by Sidney Altus and Alex Berman publishing short-run, hardcover limited editions of science fiction and fantasy books. It was active from 1978 to 1989. The company was based in West Bloomfield, Michigan. The publisher specialized in limited quality first hardcover editions of authors prominent in the field, particularly Philip José Farmer, C. J. Cherryh, L. Sprague de Camp and Alan Dean Foster. Some of its offerings were true first editions; others, the first hardcover editions of works previously published in paperback. In a few instances there had been previous hardcover editions.
The press started publication with a reprint of Wall of Serpents (L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt) and then The Reign of Wizardry (Jack Williamson).
Authors published by Phantasia were Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov (2 books), Steven Barnes, David Brin (2 books), Fredric Brown, Orson Scott Card, C. J. Cherryh (7 books), Arthur C. Clarke, Catherine Crook de Camp (2 books), L. Sprague de Camp (5 books), Harlan Ellison (2 books), Philip José Farmer (9 books), Alan Dean Foster (5 books), William Gibson, Stephen King, Larry Niven (3 books), Jerry Pournelle, Fletcher Pratt, Mike Resnick (2 books), Spider Robinson, William Shatner, Robert Silverberg, Jack Williamson (2 books), and Roger Zelazny.
Artists contributing cover art to Phantasia editions included Randall Asplund, Wayne D. Barlowe, George Barr (3 covers), Doug Beekman, David A. Cherry (7 covers), Alex Ebel (3 covers), Stephen Fabian, Frank Kelly Freas (2 covers), Kevin Eugene Johnson (6 covers), Eric Ladd, Paul Lehr (4 covers), Carl Lundgren, Jane Mackenzie, Chris Miller, Rowena Morrill (2 covers), Phil Parks, John Pound, Victoria Poyser (3 covers), Kirk Reinert, Romas, Alex Schomburg, Barclay Shaw (2 covers), Darrell K. Sweet, Vaclav Vaca, Ed Valigursky, and Michael Whelan.Philip José Farmer bibliography
In a writing career spanning more than 60 years (1946–2008), American science fiction and fantasy author Philip José Farmer published almost 60 novels, over 100 short stories and novellas (many expanded or combined into novels), two "fictional biographies", and numerous essays, articles and ephemera in fan publications.The Adventure of the Peerless Peer
The Adventure of the Peerless Peer is a 1974 adventure pastiche novel written by Philip Jose Farmer, writing as Dr. John H. Watson, about the meeting of Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan. This was one of several works Farmer wrote that involved Tarzan.The Alley Man
"The Alley Man" is a science fiction short story by Philip José Farmer. The story tells of the life of Old Man Paley, who may — or may not — be the last Neanderthal (or "Paleolithic" man, as his name suggests), still alive in the 20th century.The Dark Heart of Time
The Dark Heart of Time: A Tarzan novel is a novel by American writer Philip José Farmer, authorized by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. Published in 1999, the book was first announced under the title Tarzan's Greatest Secret in 1997. A 2018 reissue of the novel will mark the book's first hardcover edition, and will be retitled as Tarzan and the Dark Heart of Time.Set in October 1918—during Tarzan's search for Jane—the novel takes place between Tarzan the Untamed and Tarzan the Terrible.The novel's antagonist is James D. Stonecraft, an American oil magnate who believes that Tarzan knows the secret of immortality. Stonecraft hires hunters to track and capture Tarzan for the secret, leading to a conflicts at the "City Built by God" and the "Crystal Tree of Time". Through all of the adventure Tarzan is focused on escaping his pursuers so that he may return to his search for his wife.The Green Odyssey
The Green Odyssey is an American science fiction novel written by Philip José Farmer. It was Farmer's first book-length publication, originally released by Ballantine in 1957. Unlike Farmer's most prolific earlier short story work, this book contains no sexual themes, though his next book Flesh returned to these motifs. The novel also appeared in the back ground of the first episode of The Twilight Zone.The Other Log of Phileas Fogg
The Other Log of Phileas Fogg is a science fiction/steampunk parallel history novel written by American author Philip José Farmer in 1973. It was originally published by DAW Books and later reprinted in 1979 by Hamlyn and again in 1982 by Tor Books. Tor has subsequently reissued the novel in 1988 and 1993.To Your Scattered Bodies Go
To Your Scattered Bodies Go (1971) is a science fiction novel by American writer Philip José Farmer, the first book in the Riverworld series. It won a Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1972 at the 30th Worldcon. The title is derived from the 7th of the "Holy Sonnets" by English poet John Donne:
At the round earth's imagin'd corners, blowYour trumpets, angels, and arise, ariseFrom death, you numberless infinitiesOf souls, and to your scattered bodies go.Venus on the Half-Shell and Others
Venus on the Half-Shell and Others (ISBN 978-1-59606-128-6) is a collection mostly of science fiction author Philip José Farmer's pseudonymous fictional-author literary works, edited by Christopher Paul Carey and published in 2008. Farmer describes a fictional-author story as "a tale supposedly written by an author who is a character in fiction." Carey, who had access to Farmer's correspondence while editing the book, reveals in his introduction that in the early to mid-1970s Farmer planned to edit an anthology of fictional-author stories by other writers. Farmer solicited fictional-author stories from authors such as Arthur Jean Cox, Philip K. Dick, Leslie Fiedler, Ron Goulart, Howard Waldrop, and Gene Wolfe, urging them to submit their stories to venues such as The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Only Cox, Waldrop, and Wolfe completed their stories and had them published, although Philip K. Dick's never realized fictional-author story "A Man for No Countries" as by Hawthorne Abendsen is said to have led Dick to write his posthumous novel Radio Free Albemuth. In the end, Farmer's fictional-author anthology never materialized.Wold Newton family
The Wold Newton family is a literary concept derived from a form of crossover fiction developed by the American science fiction writer Philip José Farmer.