Ten Things You Need to Know about Philip José Farmer


1. Philip José Farmer was an award winning author: Named a Grand Master in 2001 by the Science Fiction Writers of America, he also won three Hugo Awards during his career: 1953 as the most promising new author, 1968 for the short story "Riders of the Purple Wage," and in 1972 for the novel TO YOUR SCATTERED BODIES GO (the first novel in the Riverworld series).

2. He burst onto the science fiction scene in 1952 with "The Lovers": This was the first magazine science fiction story to openly deal with sex. Despite the racy magazine covers of the day, the stories were all about space, science, inventions, aliens, with women usually acting as props to be rescued. "The Lovers" was famously rejected by the leading magazines of the day, but published in Startling Stories to great fanfare. The majority of the letters that poured in over next two years lauded the story and some even speculated that Philip José Farmer was a pseudonym for an established author afraid to put his name on such a controversial story; because how could a first time writer have published something so maturely written?

3. He was very prolific: He published over 50 (mostly science fiction) novels, over 100 short stories, dozens of articles as well as poems, reviews, introductions to other author's books, countless letters to magazines and fanzines...you name it, he probably wrote it. Besides science fiction he also wrote a mainstream novel, a mystery, two biographies and was granted permission to write "official" novels about his favorite childhood characters: Tarzan, Doc Savage and the Wizard of Oz.

4. He is now best known for the Riverworld series: which primarily consists of five novels: TO YOUR SCATTERED BODIES GO (1971), THE FABULOUS RIVERBOAT (1971), THE DARK DESIGN (1977), THE MAGIC LABYRINTH (1980), and GODS OF RIVERWORLD (1983). The first two novels have just been repackaged in one volume titled RIVERWORLD. A much earlier lost version, which contained the whole story in one novel, was published as RIVER OF ETERNITY (1983). He also wrote several short stories set in Riverworld: "Riverworld" (1966), "Crossing the Dark River" (1992), "A Hole in Hell" (1992), "Up the Bright River" (1993), and "Coda" (1993). The last four were published in two shared-world anthologies, TALES OF RIVERWORLD (1992) and QUEST TO RIVERWORLD (1993), along with Riverworld stories by other authors. In the 1980s the ABC Network was going to do a Riverworld series, but a change in management killed the project. The Sci Fi channel aired a pilot for a Riverworld TV series in 2003, over a year after it was filmed and well after they could have picked it up for a series. The ratings were strong enough for them to try again with a new miniseries in 2010.

5. However, many fans consider The World of Tiers to be his best series: THE MAKER OF UNIVERSES (1965), THE GATES OF CREATION (1966), A PRIVATE COSMOS (1968), BEHIND THE WALLS OF TERRA (1970), THE LAVALITE WORLD (1977), and MORE THAN FIRE (1993). These six novels are about a race of Lords who have the technology to create their own "pocket universes" which contain their own physical laws as well as any life form a Lord can imagine and then create. However, the protagonist of the last four novels is a human named Paul Janus Finnegan (note the initials), also known as Kickaha. Philip José Farmer described Kickaha as having the characteristics, the derring-do, he wished he had himself. There is also the novel, RED ORC'S RAGE (1991) but it is not considered part of the main series. It is based on true story about a psychologist using "Tiers therapy" with juvenile delinquents to have them identify with characters from the novels.

6. What you should read after the Riverworld and Tiers series: We're asked some form of this question all the time. Philip José Farmer wrote so many different types of novels and stories, it's hard to know which may appeal to you, but some of our favorites are: FLESH, NIGHT OF LIGHT, A FEAST UNKNOWN, LORD OF THE TREES, THE MAD GOBLIN, LORD TYGER, THE STONE GOD AWAKENS, TARZAN ALIVE, TIME'S LAST GIFT, THE OTHER LOG OF PHILEAS FOGG, DOC SAVAGE: HIS APOCALYPTIC LIFE, THE ADVENTURES OF THE PEERLESS PEER, HADON OF ANCIENT OPAR, VENUS ON THE HALF-SHELL (by Kilgore Trout), FLIGHT TO OPAR, THE UNREASONING MASK, DAYWORLD, and ESCAPE FROM LOKI, just to name a few. Be sure to also check out his many collections of short stories, which contain some of his finest work.

7. His most enduring creation may be the Wold Newton Family: In the two biographies he penned: TARZAN ALIVE and DOC SAVAGE: HIS APOCALYPTIC LIFE, Phil wrote about events surrounding the meteorite that landed in Wold Newton England in 1795. People who were traveling past where the meteorite landed were affected by its radiation, which caused mutations in their children and grand-children, making them smarter, stronger, and more driven than they would have normally been. Many of these people went on to become quite famous: Richard Wentworth, Dennis Nayland Smith, Leopold Bloom, Lord Peter Wimsey, Monk Mayfair, A. J. Raffles, Nero Wolfe, Professor Challenger, and even Sherlock Holmes. Wold Newton scholars have continued the work Phil began, and expanded his Wold Newton Family into the Wold Newton Universe.

8. Philip José Farmer passed away February 25th, 2009: He was 91 years old, and had been in frail health for a few years. The very large number of notices published show that he was still remembered and highly regarded.

9. In addition to carrying on this website, we are also selling many of his books for his family: On the Estate Sale page you will find hundreds of books for sale from his personal collection. There are many signed copies of his own titles, signed copies of anthologies his stories appeared in, and books signed by other authors, many "association" copies inscribed to him personally. You will also find books from his Edgar Rice Burroughs collection and his impressive Richard Francis Burton collection.

10. What's new: In the summer of 2010 Meteor House published THE WORLDS OF PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER 1: Protean Dimensions, a collection of stories, essays, interviews, and speeches all by, or about, Philip José Farmer, including stories using his characters and worlds. At the end of 2010 Subterranean Press published UP THE BRIGHT RIVER, their fifth outstanding short story collection. In the summer of 2011 Titan books began a series of reprints with THE PEERLESS PEER and Meteor House published THE WORLDS OF PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER 2: Of Dust and Soul another collection of material all by or about Farmer. Visit the forthcoming books page to see what new titles there are to look forward to.


Return to Main Page