Philip Josť Farmer
Philip Josť Farmer, Mary Turzillo, and Jack Lynn Brizzi Jr.; Peoria, circa 1977
Between his ears,
behind his faintest grin,
a hero lived,
a thousand heroes lived,
a world grew,
a thousand worlds:
heroes roaring with contempt
for all the banal tripe we call inviolate,
heroes who bend spacetime,
kings of intellect, giants of sexual prowess.
He smiles his slightest smile:
the Horn of Shambarimen sounds:
galaxies of imaginary worlds
turn real. The river flows.
The portals open. Our gray sensorum
floods with color.
The impossible becomes the truth.
Where did he come from? Where has he gone?
The worlds spin. The portals open.
The Horn sounds.
The River sweeps us up.
Josť Farmer, Memories
Phil Farmer is gone, and I am brutally
unprepared for his passing. I knew he couldn’t live
forever, but somehow I stayed in
denial. He was one of the immortals.
Starmont published my book
about Phil and his work in 1980, and I hope that guide pays proper
homage to his genius. I went to Peoria to interview him for
the book, and even brought my toddler son Jack. Bette and
Phil were so welcoming, as they were the last time I came to their home
at what the Farmerphile group calls Farmercon. Every time I
talked to Phil, I was amazed anew at how such huge, crazy flights of
imagination could come from a man with such an unpretentious and quiet
Oh, I lie, you could believe
it. He had a puckish smile. And he was so witty, in
a dry, understated way.
He was one of the kindest, gentlest,
most tactful men in the world. For example:
When I came to see him, he showed me the
manuscript of a book that he hadn’t, at that point,
published. This showed his modesty, because I assumed that no
publisher would ever turn down a work by Philip Josť Farmer.
He even let me read some of it. It was a disaster novel, a
thriller, and I got really engrossed in it. I must
have read most of it right then and there. It was a little
over the top -- and Phil definitely could be over the top in ways hard
to describe. Farmerphile published it two years ago as Up from the Bottomless Pit.
Phil let people read his research and
unfinished work. The
Evil in Pemberley House, the collaboration he did with Win
Scott Eckert, came out of Phil’s willingness to open his extensive
files of planned, unfinished novels. Phil worked with
extremely detailed outlines, so getting a peek at these was like seeing
a Farmer book in utero. Phil was open to collaboration and
never set himself up as a sacrosanct genius -- despite the Hugos on his
When I finished the draft of The Starmont Guide to Philip
Josť Farmer, I had the temerity to send it to him, mostly
because I wanted to check for accuracy. Phil actually
copy-edited the manuscript for me. He corrected spellings and
even punctuation, and caught a couple places I had misspelled his
And yet he put up with fans like
me. How did I ever deserve that?
He told me all the behind-the-scenes
stuff about the Fantastic Voyage contract, and about the Shasta Award
money-that-didn’t-materialize -- stuff I put in my book with the
innocence only a young scholar/fan could exhibit.
He told me about the Venus on the Half-Shell
imbroglio with Vonnegut. He told me about As you Desire.
He said didn’t have a copy of it for me to look at, but I later saw a
manuscript that purported to be that very book, in a rare bookstore in
Warren, Ohio. Maybe it was a hoax; I’ve lost contact with the
bookseller. Or maybe it was an elaborate joke, like Phil
channeling fictional characters to write his own books, and then
impersonating his own characters to write still other
fiction. What a mind he had! What a dead-pan
He even had me believing his
proposed trip to Norway was to look up Viking ancestors named “Ragnar
Hairybreeches, Ivar the Boneless, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye,Thorfinn the
Skull-Splitter, Narald Fine-Haired” and female ancestors named “Sigrid
the Haughty and Aud the Deep-Minded.” Maybe these
people did exist. Phil could make you believe anything.
A writer-hero for the ages. A
giant of the imagination.
But still: he always answered my stupid
questions, and he always, many years later, inquired after my
son. He even Tuckerized me in Red Orc’s Rage as a
ditzy William Blake scholar. He was a consummate genius and
yet as unassuming as anyone I’ve ever met.
And yes, he did sound like Cary
And he lives: he’s Kickaha, he’s Father
Carmody, he’s Leo Queequeg Tincrowder, he’s Peter Jairus Frigate (both
of them), he’s Hal Yarrow, he's Chibiabos Winnegan, he’s Jadawin, he’s
all the characters he created with his own initials and his own
P.J.F is immortal.
I wish he was still in this world.