Thursday, February 26, 2009

Philip José Farmer, RIP


Philip José Farmer, a science fiction writer who shocked readers in the 1950s by depicting sex with aliens and who went on to challenge conventional pieties of the genre in caustic fables set on bizarre worlds of his own devising, died Wednesday. He was 91 and lived in Peoria, Ill.


In his Riverworld series Mr. Farmer imagined a river millions of miles long on a distant planet where virtually everyone who has died on Earth is physically reborn and given a second chance to make something of life. In his Dayworld series, Earth’s overpopulation crisis has been relieved by a technical fix; each person spends one day of the week awake and the other six days in suspended animation. In his World of Tiers series, mad demigods create pocket universes for their own amusement, only to face rebellion from their putative creatures.

In a genre known for prolific writers, Mr. Farmer’s output was famously prodigious. At one point in the 1970s he had 11 different series in various stages of completion. Even some of his admirers deplored his tendency to write too much too fast. The literary critic Leslie Fiedler agreed that his work was sometimes “sloppily” written but found that that was a small price to pay for the exhilarating breadth of his imagination.

Mr. Farmer himself made no apologies for his excesses. “Imagination,” he said, “is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got.”

Any Riverworld or Venus on the Half-Shell fans?


Anonymous said...

The Riverworld books probably added to my HS learning as much as Bunny Moses' history classes. Plus, they were scifi books with real, live, *sex* in them.

B. said...

I remember enjoying Venus on the Half-Shell but thinking it fell a little short of my idea of Kilgore Trout. Or maybe was a little too ... adequate. Sort of demonstrated that no one can top Vonnegut in any way.