FARMER, Philip Jose


FARMER, Philip Jose
(1918-)
   US writer. Although a voracious reader of sf in his youth, PJF was a comparatively late starter as an author, and his first story, "O'Brien and Obrenov" for Adventure in 1946, promised little. A part-timestudent at Bradley University, he gained a BA in English in 1950, and two years later burst onto the sf scene with his novella THE LOVERS (1952 Startling Stories; exp 1961; rev 1979). Although originally rejected byJohn W. CAMPBELL Jr of ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION and H.L. GOLD of GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, it gained instant acclaim and won PJF a 1953 HUGO for Most Promising New Author. It concerned XENOBIOLOGY, PARASITISM and SEX, an explosive mixture which was to feature repeatedly in PJF's best work. After writing such excellent short stories as "Sail On! Sail On!" (1952)and "Mother" (1953), PJF became a full-time writer. His second short novel, A Woman a Day (1953 Startling Stories; rev 1960; vt The Day of Timestop 1968; vt Timestop! 1970), was billed as a sequel to THE LOVERSbut bore little relation to the earlier story. "Rastignac the Devil" (1954) was a further sequel. PJF then produced two novels, both of whichwere accepted for publication but neither of which actually saw print at the time, the first due to the folding of STARTLING STORIES (it eventually appeared as Dare (1965)). The second, I Owe for the Flesh, won a contest held by SHASTA PRESS and Pocket Books, but the Pocket Books prize money was used by Shasta founder Melvin Korshak to pay bills, Shasta foundered, and the manuscript was lost (the idea eventually formed the basis of the Riverworld series; see below). This double disaster forced PJF to abandonfull-time authorship, a status to which he did not return until 1969.Nevertheless, he produced many interesting stories over the next fewyears, such as the Father Carmody series in The MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION , published in book form as Night of Light (1957 FSF; exp1966) and Father to the Stars (coll of linked stories 1981), featuring a murderous priest who becomes ambiguously involved in various theological puzzles on several planets. The best of the sequence is Night of Light, a nightmarish story of a world where the figments of the unconscious become tangible. Other notable stories of this period include "The God Business" (1954), "The Alley Man" (1959) and "Open to Me, My Sister" (1960; vt "MySister's Brother"). The last named is the best of PJF's biological fantasies (BIOLOGY); like THE LOVERS, it was repeatedly rejected as "disgusting" before its acceptance by FSF.PJF's first novel in book formwas The Green Odyssey (1957), a picaresque tale of an Earthman escaping from captivity on an alien planet; the intricately colourful medieval culture of this planet, the high libido of its women, the mysteries buried within the sands of the desert over which the hero must flee, and the admixture of rapture and disgust with which the hero treats the venue - all go to make this novel, along with Jack VANCE's Big Planet (1952 Startling Stories; cut 1957; full text 1978), a model for the flowering ofthe PLANETARY ROMANCE from the 1960s on. It was the first of many entertainments PJF has written over the years. Later novels in a not dissimilar vein include The Gate of Time (1966; exp vt Two Hawks from Earth 1979), The Stone God Awakens (1970) and The Wind Whales of Ishmael(1971), the last-named being an sf sequel to Herman MELVILLE's Moby-Dick (1851). Flesh (1960; rev 1968) is more ambitious: a dramatization of the ideas which Robert GRAVES put forward in The White Goddess (1947 US), it presents a matriarchal, orgiastic society of the future. Rather heavy-handed in its humour, it was considered a "shocking" novel on first publication. Inside Outside (1964), a novel about a scientifically sustained afterlife, also contains some extraordinary images and grotesque ideas which resonate in the mind, though the book suffers from a lack of resolution. The novella "Riders of the Purple Wage" (1967) - later collected in The Purple Book (coll 1982) and Riders of the Purple Wage (coll 1992) - won PJF a 1968 Hugo; written in a wild and punning style, itis one of his most original works. It concerns the tribulations of a young artist in a UTOPIAN society, and has a more explicit sexual and scatological content than anything PJF had written before. "The Oogenesis of Bird City" (1970) is a related story.The novels assembled as The World of Tiers (omni in 2 vols 1981; vt World of Tiers \#1 1986 UK and \#2 1986 UK) show PJF in a lighter vein, though the architectural elaborateness ofthe universe in which they are set prefigures Riverworld. The original volumes are The Maker of Universes (1965; rev 1980), The Gates of Creation (1966; rev 1981), A Private Cosmos (1968; rev 1981), Behind the Walls ofTerra (1970; rev 1982) and The Lavalite World (1977; rev 1983). The sequence unfolds within a series of POCKET UNIVERSES, playgrounds built by the masters - who are perhaps gods, originally humanoid - whose technology is unimaginable. The most notable character is the present-day Earthman Paul Janus Finnegan (his initials, PJF, show that this ironic observerserves as a stand-in for the author: it is a signal repeated often in later work); he is also called Kickaha, under which significantly Native American name he acts out the role of a trickster hero indulging in merry,if bloodthirsty, exploits. The books sag in places, but have moments of high invention; and the Jungian models upon which the main characters are constructed supply one key to the understanding of Red Orc's Rage (1991), a novel which RECURSIVELY dramatizes the use of the previous titles in the series as tools in role-playing therapy for disturbed adolescents. In a late addition to the primary sequence, More Than Fire (1993), some of the cosmological puzzles are resolved, and the conflict between Kickaha and Red Orc takes on an increasingly Jungian air, with each being seen as theother's shadow.At about the same time, ESSEX HOUSE, publishers of pornography, commissioned PJF to write three erotic fantasy novels, taking full advantage of the new freedoms of the late 1960s. The Image of the Beast (1968), the first of the Exorcism trilogy, is an effective parody ofthe private eye and Gothic horror genres. It was followed by a perfunctory sequel, Blown, or Sketches Among the Ruins of my Mind (1969), both being run together into one novel as The Image of the Beast (omni 1979); the third Exorcism volume, Traitor to the Living (1973), was not published by Essex House. The Essex House contract was completed with A Feast Unknown:Volume IX of the Memoirs of Lord Grandrith (1969), the first volume of the Lord Grandrith/Doc Caliban series, followed by Lord of the Trees (1970 dos) and The Mad Goblin (1970; vt Keepers of the Secrets 1985 UK), the latter two being assembled as The Empire of the Nine (omni 1988 UK). A Feast Unknown is a brilliant exploration of the sado-masochistic fantasieslatent in much heroic fiction, and succeeds as SATIRE, as sf and as a tribute to the creations of Edgar Rice BURROUGHS and Lester DENT. It concerns the struggle of Lord Grandrith (Tarzan) and Doc Caliban (Doc Savage) against the Nine, a secret society of immortals. It is a narrativetour de force.All three books point to an abiding concern (or game) that would occupy much of PJF's later career: the tying of his own fiction (and that of many other authors) into one vast, playful mythology. Much of this is worked out in the loose conglomeration of works which has been termed the Wold Newton Family series, all united under the premise that a meteorite which landed near Wold Newton in 18th-century Yorkshire irradiated a number of pregnant women and thus gave rise to a family of mutant SUPERMEN. This family includes the characters involved in the Lord Grandrith/Doc Caliban books, as well as several other texts devoted toTarzan, though excluding Lord Tyger (1970), which is about a millionaire's attempt to create his own ape-man and is possibly the best written of PJF's novels (APES AND CAVEMEN). Central to Wold Newton is Tarzan Alive:A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke (1972), a spoof biography in which PJF uses Joseph Campbell's ideas (from The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949)) to explore the nature of the HERO's appeal. The appendices and genealogy, which link Tarzan with many other heroes of popular fiction, are at once a satire on scholarship and a serious exercise in "creative mythography". Tarzan appears again in Time's Last Gift (1972;rev 1977), a preliminary novel for a subseries about Ancient Africa, employing settings from Burroughs and H. Rider HAGGARD. Hadon of Ancient Opar (1974) and Flight to Opar (1976) continue the series. Other workswhich contain Wold Newton material include "Tarzan Lives: An Exclusive Interview with Lord Greystoke" (1972), "The Obscure Life and Hard Times ofKilgore Trout" (1973), Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (1973; rev 1975), The Other Log of Phileas Fogg (1973), "Extracts from the Memoirs of 'Lord Greystoke'" (1974), "After King Kong Fell" (1974), The Adventure of the Peerless Peer (1974), Ironcastle (1976), a liberally rewritten version of J.H. ROSNY aine's L'etonnant voyage de Hareton Ironcastle (1922), and Doc Savage: Escape from Loki: Doc Savage's First Adventure (1991). Other characters incorporated into the sequence include Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper, James Bond and Kilgore Trout, a Kurt VONNEGUT character under whose name PJF also published Venus on the Half-Shell (1975). As a whole, the series parlays its conventions of "explanation" into something close to chaos.Though these various books perhaps best express his playfully serious manipulations of popular material to express a sense of the Universe as chaotically fable-like, PJF gained greatest popular acclaimwith his Riverworld series, set on a planet where a godlike race has resurrected the whole of humanity along the banks of a multi-million-mile river. The series is made up of TO YOUR SCATTERED BODIES GO (1965-6 Worlds of Tomorrow; fixup 1971), The Fabulous Riverboat (1967-71 If; fixup 1971), The Dark Design (1977), Riverworld and Other Stories (coll 1979), TheMagic Labyrinth (1980), Riverworld War: The Suppressed Fiction of Philip Jose Farmer (coll 1980), The Gods of Riverworld (1983) and River of Eternity (1983), the last being a rediscovered rewrite of the lost I Owe for the Flesh. The first of these won a 1972 Hugo. Such historical personages as Sir Richard Burton (1821-1890), Samuel Clemens (Mark TWAIN) and Jack LONDON explore the terrain and relate to one another in their search to understand, in terms mundane and metaphysical, the new universe which has tied them together. As surviving characters begin to overdose on the freedoms (or powers) they have discovered in themselves, the plots of the later volumes become increasingly chaotic, perhaps deliberately, a tendency not reversed in two late anthologies of work by other authors set in the Riverworld universe: Tales of Riverworld *(anth 1992) and Quest to Riverworld* (anth 1993), both ed PJF.After The Unreasoning Mask (1981), anextremely well constructed SPACE OPERA about a search for God, who comprises the Universe but is still a vulnerable child, PJF embarked on the Dayworld series, whose premise derives from "The Sliced-Crossways Only-on-Tuesday World" (1971): in a vastly overcrowded world, thepopulation is divided into seven, each cohort spending one day of the week awake and the rest of the time in "stoned" immobility. In Dayworld (1985), Dayworld Rebel (1987) and Dayworld Breakup (1990), this premise becomesincreasingly peripheral in a tale whose complications invoke A.E. VAN VOGT. Here, as in all his work, PJF is governed by an instinct forextremity. Of all sf writers of the first or second rank, he is perhaps the most threateningly impish, and the most anarchic.
   DP/JC
   Other works: Strange Relations (coll 1960); The Alley God (coll 1962); Fire and the Night (1962), associational; Cache from Outer Space (1962 dos; rev as coll with "Rastignac the Devil" and "They Twinkled like Angels" vt The Cache 1981); The Celestial Blueprint and Other Stories (coll 1962 dos); Tonguesof the Moon (1961 AMZ; exp 1964); Reap: The Baycon Guest-of-Honor Speech (1968 chap); Love Song (1970), associational; Down in the Black Gang, andOthers (coll 1971); The Book of Philip Jose Farmer, or The Wares of Simple Simon's Custard Pie and Space Man (coll 1973; rev 1982); Dark is the Sun (1979); Jesus on Mars (1979); Flesh, and Lord Tyger (omni 1981); Greatheart Silver (coll of linked stories 1982); A Barnstormer in Oz (1982); Stations of the Nightmare (1974-5 in Continuum \#1-\#4 ed Roger ELWOOD; coll of linked stories 1982); The Classic Philip Jose Farmer (coll 1984 in 2 vols); The Grand Adventure (coll 1984).As Editor: Mother Was a Lovely Beast: A Feral Man Anthology of Fiction and Fact about Humans Raised by Animals (anth 1974).
   About the author: "Philip Jose Farmer" by Sam MOSKOWITZ, in Seekers of Tomorrow (1966); "Thanks for the Feast" by Leslie A. Fiedler, in The Book of Philip Jose Farmer (1973); Philip Jose Farmer (1980) by Mary T. Brizzi; Magic Labyrinth of Philip Jose Farmer (1984 chap) by E.L. Chapman; Philip Jose Farmer: Good-Natured Ground Breaker: A Working Bibliography (2nd edn 1990 chap) by Gordon BENSON Jr and Phil STEPHENSEN-PAYNE.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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