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Philip Jose Farmer, science-fiction writer, dies at 91

Old 02-25-09, 09:39 PM
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Philip Jose Farmer, science-fiction writer, dies at 91

By Robyn Sidersky
CNN
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(CNN) -- Author Philip Jose Farmer died in his sleep Wednesday, according to a message on his Web site.

Farmer was known for his science-fiction and fantasy novels and short stories. He was 91.

The Peoria, Indiana, native's most popular work was his "Riverworld" series, written in the 1970s.

Joe Lansdale, a critic, writer and friend of Farmer's, credited Farmer with changing the face of science fiction.

"I just can't begin to tell you how important he is to the field as well as other fields," Lansdale said.

Critics said Farmer was the first author to address adult sexual themes in science-fiction novels.

Jonathan Strahan, an editor and critic for Locus magazine, said Farmer treated sex seriously, not in a juvenile manner or for cheap thrills.

"It wasn't pornography and it wasn't just about the sex of it," Strahan said. "It was about the sexuality of people in an interesting and intelligent way."


His influence over the science-fiction community is becoming more apparent over time, critics said.

One of the most well-known science-fiction novels to be influenced by Farmer was "Stranger in a Strange Land" by Robert Heinlein. Strahan said Heinlein was good friends with Farmer.

Farmer was one of a handful of writers to win the lifetime achievement award from the World Fantasy Society and the Grand Master Award presented by the Science Fiction Writers of America.

Winning both the awards is rare, Strahan said, because not many writers wrote as expansively in both fields as Farmer did.

Lansdale said Farmer was fearless when it came to the subject matter for his stories.

Farmer's latest books were published by Subterranean Press. His last novel, "The City Beyond Play," was published in 2007.

A statement on Subterranean's Web site Wednesday noted the death of Farmer, "who we have been lucky to publish, but have been even luckier to be readers of for so many years."

"You can imagine it's been a sad day here -- we're still working through our emotions about it," the statement said. "But we can say that our memories of him are good ones. He was always a joy to work with, and we will dearly miss his intelligence and good nature."
I read "To Your Scattered Bodies Go" (the first Riverworld book) after seeing the Riverworld TV movie in 2003. It was alright but I enjoyed the movie more.
Old 02-25-09, 11:20 PM
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Re: Philip Jose Farmer, science-fiction writer, dies at 91

Hate to hear this. I've always been a huge fan of the Riverworld series books. Even tracked down a copy of the Easton Press Leatherbound To Where Your Scattered Bodies Go.

He was a true pioneer in the realm of science fiction.
Old 02-26-09, 02:44 AM
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Re: Philip Jose Farmer, science-fiction writer, dies at 91

I must admit that he had somewhat dropped off my radar and I didn't even know he was still with us. He had a good innings. I loved the first few Riverworld books and, short stories aside, am lucky that I've yet to read many of his other works. I should look around for them. Maybe others posting memories and thoughts could make recommendations....
Old 02-26-09, 11:49 AM
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Re: Philip Jose Farmer, science-fiction writer, dies at 91

RIP Philip Jose Farmer
Old 02-26-09, 12:28 PM
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Re: Philip Jose Farmer, science-fiction writer, dies at 91

I've read a few things of Farmer's. Like most people, I was introduced to him through the "Riverworld" series. While the revelations in the later books aren't as much fun as the set-up and mystery of "To Your Scattered Bodies Go", I like the entire series.

Admittedly, Farmer's work can be spotty. Like Riverworld, other things that I've read start off with terrific ideas but doesn't hold together for the completion. And the sex books ... err, they're kind of an acquired taste. I think his more subtle mixes of sexuality and sci-fi/fantasy work better than the more graphic stuff. And I think it really helps with some of these if you're familiar with the subjects that he's satirizing (like Tarzan and Doc Savage).

What to recommend? Well, like I said, I think he's a bit of an acquired taste - and if you pick the wrong Farmer book you may come away thinking he's horrible (especially for a supposed "master" of the genre). Certainly the Riverworld series (through "The Magic Labyrinth", which was the proper ending). Farmer's not really mainstream, and I notice a lot of his stuff is out-of-print. Looking at Amazon, I notice one collection (in print) that looks to be really good: "Strange Relations". 760 pages of 2 novels and 5 novelettes ... the early stuff that gave Farmer his reputation for being a ground-breaking sci-fi writer. "Inside Outside" was another early book that I liked ... mind-bending stuff. If you can track down a nice collection of short stories, Farmer has written a lot of really good ones. And if you're into the characters of Tarzan and Doc Savage, you'll probably like his faux biographies of them.

There's still a lot of Farmer that I haven't read. Looking at his output on wikipedia, I've maybe read a quarter of it. Including nothing of the "World of Tiers" series, which some seem to speak highly of.
Old 02-26-09, 03:35 PM
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Re: Philip Jose Farmer, science-fiction writer, dies at 91

I picked up a couple of his books at Half-Price Books last weekend (The Lovers and Maker of the Universes). I didn't know that he was even still alive.
Old 02-27-09, 04:06 PM
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Re: Philip Jose Farmer, science-fiction writer, dies at 91

Everyone should check out a detective novel he wrote in 1998, called "Nothing Burns in Hell." It's hilarious, a la Carl Hiaasen.
Old 02-28-09, 09:22 AM
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Re: Philip Jose Farmer, science-fiction writer, dies at 91

Farmer also wrote Venus on the Half-Shell, the otherwise made-up novel by Kurt Vonnegut's fictional author Kilgore Trout (with Vonnegut's permission).

I Loved Riverworld. I read some others such as the World of Tiers series and I remember an (unofficial) Oz book, A Barnstormer in Oz, as well as a book about Verne's lead character from Around the World in Eighty Days, The Other Log of Phileas Fogg.

Riverworld made him one of my favorite sci-fi authors. I read them as they came out and eagerly anticipated each one.

Farmer was weird and wonderful and will be missed.
Old 02-28-09, 09:55 PM
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Re: Philip Jose Farmer, science-fiction writer, dies at 91

Oh no! Farmer was a Sci-Fi pioneer! I loved A Brainstormer in Oz as a teenager and his Wold Newton Family concept was a stroke of genius. Farmer was also the author who peaked my interest in Doc Savage & Tarzan as well.

RIP, man. You'll be missed.

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