Wednesday, March 11, 2009

RIP, Philip Jose Farmer

Philip Jose Farmer passed away last week from natural causes. He was 91. For those that are true science fiction fans are familiar with his work.

My favorite has to be the Riverworld series. I read them as a kid and it has lasted with me all of these years. Riverworld is classified as straight science fiction, but it strikes me as being more in line with the predecessor of alternative history, in which famous people or events have a twist to it. This genre is one of my favorites and the most prolific author of this type is probably Harry Turtledove.

But to me, Farmer will be one of the earliest, and one of the best.


  1. I thought that the Riverworld series headed downhill into Frank Herbert talkiness somewhere in the second book and that the ending was too far away from the start to be a masterwork.

    For me there were three books that made Phil Farmer's work resonate for me. "Doc Savage: An Apocalyptic Life" "Tarzan Alive" and "Venus On The Half-Shell" were alternate histories made real by my other readings. If you add those to the loving homage paid to the pulps in "Showdown at Shootout" and the rest of the "Weird Heroes" set you can draw a straight line from Farmer to the works of Turtledove and Kim Newman and a score of others.

    Farmer never got the high-flying accolades of some of his peers. He may have outlived his references. But to many of us of a certain generation he will remain Greatheart Silver flying off to right (write?) the wrongs that face us all.

  2. I also feel into the whole alternate history vibe that Farmer pioneered - specifically TARZAN ALIVE, which I found when I was an impressionable 12 year old and swallowed hook, line and sinker.

    WATCHMEN, I believe, draws its inspiration from Farmer's whole "what if they were real" excercises.