Philip Josť Farmer on Kurt Vonnegut & Kilgore Trout

One of Phil Farmer's grand-daughters was writing a paper about him for college and as we all do these days, she went online to do some research. While searching for "Kilgore Trout" she came across this Kilgore Trout home page.

On this web page there is part of an interview with Vonnegut where he discusses Farmer. She sent Phil a copy of it and he decided that he would like to have his version of the story online as well. So here it is:


   VOTH-S was first published in Feb. 1975. I was 57 years old then. Now, I'm 81. I thought all that hoo-hah about VOTH-S was long behind me. Then, a grand-daughter who's online sent me the Vonnegut website papers. She was indignant about what KV said about her beloved Baba. I read V's comments about me. I thought, "Oh, God! I don't want to go through this youthful indiscretion again! Let it die!"

   But I must answer some of V's accusations. First, however, I will repeat and insist upon the fact that it was not the money I hoped to make from writing as Kilgore Trout that caused me to write the novel. It was a tribute to KV inspired because of my admiration of his works--up through KV's Breakfast of Champions. I don't care what KV says. I did it because it would be a testament of my great love for his works. And I thought it'd be a splendid idea if a book by Trout, whom everybody thought was a fictional character, did appear. Fantasy would become reality--at least for a while.

   I was not burned up about KV's decision to stop me from writing sequels to VOTH-S. Actually, all I really wanted was to write SON OF JIMMY VALENTINE, then I'd quit the Trout thing. I was not burned up; I was saddened. But, after all, Trout was KV's character. And I was lucky to and delighted to have written VOTH-S.

   When KV says that I made more money on one Trout book than I'd made on all of my works before, he's wrong. I made more money on just one of my Riverworld books (the series started in 1971) than I have ever made on VOTH-S.

   Now, Kilgore Trout was a writer who was often ripped off. I identified with Trout when I wrote VOTH-S. I, too, had been ripped off since my early days as a writer, and today, at eighty-one, I am again being ripped off.

   It is true that Dell put out that I'd done exceedingly well with VOTH-S. Several writers congratulated me on the coup. But when the first royalty report came in, it was evident that Dell had greatly exaggerated the sum. I thought Dell had hyped it for marketing purposes.

   Then Dell's science-fiction editor informed me that he had been fired because he claimed that Dell had siphoned off much of the moneys due me. He had protested to Dell, and he was fired for doing so. I believe him.

   This should please KV because I didn't profit so much on VOTH-S after all.

   Some time after this happened, I was talking to Lester del Rey, an old science-fiction writer who was then an editor of del Rey publications. He asked me if I felt that I'd not gotten the proper royalties from my books published by "early" Ballantine. I said I'd thought I'd been ripped off by "early" Ballantine and a number of others, too, when I was starting in my career. Lester told me that, somehow, by the time an author's royalties trickle down to him, a lot has been siphoned off.

   This was true, and it was not a situation confined only to me. Let me say, however, that I've also been handled by many honest publishers.

   It's been more than a year that the first hardcover edition of VOTH-S came out. My contract called for a very limited edition to be published. And I was to get regular semi-annual statements and a specified amount of author's free copies. Now, I've been informed by booksellers that far more than the legal amount of copies has been issued. I've gotten no royalty statements. I was sent only part of the author's copies contracted for. My agent can't even get in contact with the entrepreneur publisher. He's as elusive as The Shadow.

   Apparently, as Kilgore Trout and as myself, I'm destined to suffer the fate of the fictional Trout. In some respects, anyway.

   As for KV not getting any of the money (however small) made by the sale of VOTH-S, before I wrote it, I offered to share with KV any monies made by the book. He turned that offer down.

   Seventy-five of my books have been printed and reprinted. Some are classics, some are very good books, some are so-so. My most recent work, issued in early 1999, non-science-fiction, NOTHING BURNS IN HELL, a private eye tale set in Peoria and central Illinois, has been purchased by the French publisher, Gallimard, as part of its series of noir fiction.

   I've done fairly well in my writing career. And I had great fun while writing VOTH-S as Kilgore Trout. I'm sorry that KV thought it was a lousy book and was angered by it. I think, despite KV's judgment, that it was and is a very funny book. So do many others.

   If I could go back to 1974 knowing what I know now, I wouldn't write it. It left too bad a taste in my mouth. But, what the hell! You can't get through life, if you live very long, without biting down on bad fruit or rotten meat now and then.

  --Philip Jose Farmer, Peoria Illinois, Feb. 25, 1999.

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