"The Lovers" 50th Anniversary Celebration: Report and Photos
The 50th Anniversary Celebration of the publication of the novella "The Lovers" took place on Saturday August 10th, 2002 in Peoria, Illinois at the Peoria Public Library,  Lakeview Branch. The Friends of Peoria Public Library hosted the Writers Live Reception. The celebration had also been organized by Michael Croteau en Rick Beaulieu, the webmasters of The Official Philip José Farmer Home Page, and by Tracy Knight, author and friend of the Farmers.

---  Friday  ---

On Friday several people arrived who had to travel from across the United States or from as far as Bermuda, England and the Netherlands.

The festivities started on Friday for those already present. While having dinner at the Perkins restaurant Phil and Bette Farmer showed up unexpectedly, at least for most of the around twenty people at the table.

From left to right: 
Philip José Farmer, Roger Crombie (Bermuda) and Zacharias Nuninga (Netherlands)

From left to right: Jason Robert Bell (New York), Dean Marvin (Florida), Dan Getz (Nevada) and Rick Beaulieu (Texas)

---  Saturday  ---
On Saturday about seventy to eighty people gathered for the celebration, which was started by Maggie Nelson, Head of Public Relations for the Peoria Public Library, who warmly welcomed Philip and Bette Farmer.

Rick Beaulieu presented Phil a nice plaque from the International Philip José Farmer Fan Club, which no one knew existed until this day, engraved with text and the Virgil Finlay illustration used in the magazine Startling Stories of August 1952 with the publication of "The Lovers". The illustration is engraved on bright purple metal, a color special to Phil. The plaque has the following text:
1952 -1953 Hugo Award
Most Promising New Talent 
Thank you for keeping the promise for the past 50 years, and providing us with uncounted hours of Entertainment, Escape & Enlightenment!
Presented to Philip José Farmer in recognition of the incredibly rich imagination you have allowed us to share. Our dreams are all the better for you sharing yours.
The International Philip José Farmer Fan Club August 10, 2002
Next came Shannon Robicheaux who had made a drawing of Phil and Bette as The Lovers, done from a 1954 newspaper clipping. He presented this drawing to them and explained why he had choosen this particular picture to illustrate what The Lovers meant to him. The picture was used on the cover of a booklet. Shannon also did a drawing of a special PJF book signing session. Fifteen poster sized numbered copies, signed by Philip and Shannon, were sold at the celebration for $25 each. The picture has been used in the center of the booklet. There is also a nude version of this drawing done by Shannon, which only a few of us have seen at the celebration. That drawing was not for sale, alas.

Mike Croteau held a speech about the impact of "The Lovers" fifty years ago. He memorized many of the published letters from well known writers and editors in the magazines Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories mentioning the story. The magazines published more than 200 letters over a period of three years with comment The Lovers bookletabout the story, nearly all of them in favor of it.
As a memory of this celebration Mike Croteau had made a nice booklet, containing most of the stuff presented to Phil this day: drawings, the text of the plaque, letters on "The Lovers" reprinted from the magazines and most of the letters from the other science fiction authors. This booklet was given away to those present after the book signing session.
Tracy Knight concluded the speeches with reading the letters from other science fiction authors, sent to Phil  congratulating him with this 50th Anniversary Celebration of "The Lovers".
The letters came from Gene Wolfe, Jane Yolen, Joe Haldeman, Piers Anthony, Robert Sheckley, Bruce Sterling, David Brin, Ed Gorman, Joe L. Hensley, David Drake, Jean M. Auel, Julian May, Frederik Pohl, Michael Bishop, Andre Norton, Kim Stanley Robinson, Michael Moorcock, James Gunn, Howard V. Hendrix and Kilgore Trout, who wrote:
"I don't understand what the big deal is. Years before Farmer sold a sex story to a science fiction magazine, I was selling science fiction stories to sex magazines. So it goes."
These letters made it into the special The Lovers booklet. The letters that arrived too late to be included were only read during the ceremonies, they were from Larry Niven, Michael Swanwick and Gary Wolfe.

Philip José Farmer gave a short speech and showed everyone the Hugo, a rather small rocket, he received in 1953 for being the most promising new science fiction author.

He then did a book signing session, which was limited to five books per person. But it seemed that there were too many people and too many books to sign. Farmer had to cut short the signing because it was too tiring for him. Not everyone got their  books signed, alas.

I was lucky enough to get my books signed, five hardcovers: The Lovers (Del Rey, 1979), The Adventure of the Peerless Peer (Aspen Press, 1974), Venus on the Half-Shell (Buccaneer, 1996), The Fabulous Riverboat (Putnam, 1971) and The Alley God (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1970).

---  Saturday evening ---
That Saturday the festivities were closed with a dinner with Phil and Bette Farmer and some of their relatives. More than thirty people dined with them at the Lariat restaurant and had a nice meal and good talks and laughs.
Thanks to Mike I sat next to Phil, who still did feel tired from the celebration and the signing in the afternoon. But he came around after some time and we, the Farmerians at his table, had a nice conversation with him.
From left to right: Francine and Lee Barrie, Bette Farmer, Dean Marvin, Kelley Cullers and Don Mead
From left to right: Fernando Maldonado, Dale LaFleur, Rick Beaulieu, and two good friends of the Farmers Lynn Carl and on the side of his head Jack Cordes
From left to right: Dan Getz, Deborah DePree, Craig Kimber and me and Phil from the back
From left to right: Lisa Croteau, with the two children Kelly and Jordan on her both sides, Claire and Paul Spiteri, and their daughter Gina talking to Sharon Knight
After dinner was done Maggie Nelson had a little surprise. When the mystery novel and
serial book Naked Came the Farmer was published, as a fund raiser for the Peoria Public Library, the library had special T-shirts made for every author, thirteen T-shirts. Four of them remained for different reasons, and these four were put up for auction. They sold for $50.00 each, the proceeds of which go to the Library. I have never had such an expensive T-shirt, but it is a donation to the Peoria Public Library, for which Farmer has a warm heart.
The 'lucky winners' of the T-shirts are from left to right: Fernando Maldonado, Rick Beaulieu, Zacharias Nuninga and Susan Croteau
It has been a wonderful and memorable weekend for me and Frouwke, and for most of the other Farmerians too, some of who like me met Farmer for the first time.
It was also nice to meet so many Farmerians and to put a face to names of people I only knew through the internet and e-mail before, like Mike, Rick, Roger, Jonas, Lee, Dan, Dean, Paul, Craig, Tracy, Stevyn and Shannon.

All photos © 2002 by Frouwke Dijkhuizen & Rias Nuninga

© Zacharias L.A. Nuninga -- Page last updated: 9 Jun 2010