(photo: Bradley University)

(photo: Margaret Ford

(photo: Walter J.

(photo: Don Fanzo)

as Kilgore Trout
(photo: Emily Sutton)

(photo: Jay Kay Klein)

(photo: ?)

(photo: ?)

(photo: Frank Olynyk)

(photo: ?)

(photo: ?)

(photo: Frank Olynyk)

(photo: ?)

(photo: Duana Zehr)

(photo: Mark. R. Kelly)

(photo: Rias Nuninga)

(photo: Jonas Ramanauskas)
Biography, Awards and Photos

Born: January 26, 1918 in (North) Terre Haute, Indiana (USA).
Father: George Farmer (1884-1950).
Mother: Lucile Theodora Jackson (1899-2000).
Married: Bette Virginia Andre (born April 5, 1923) on May 10, 1941.
Children: son Philip Laird (born 1942) and daughter Kristen (born 1945).
Education: B.A. in creative writing from Bradley University, 1950.

Philip died: February 25, 2009 in Peoria, Illinois (USA). [See here]
Bette died: June 10, 2009 in Peoria, Illinois (USA). [See here]


Awards, Nominations and Polls
1953 - Hugo Award (Most promising new author / "The Lovers")
1960 - Hugo Nominee ("The Alley Man")
1961 - Hugo Nominee ("Open to Me, My Sister")
1966 - Hugo Nominee ("Day of the Great Shout")
1968 - Nebula Nominee ("Riders of the Purple Wage")
1968 - Hugo Award (novella: "Riders of the Purple Wage")
1972 - Hugo Award (novel: To Your Scattered Bodies Go)
1972 - Locus (novel/2nd: To Your Scattered Bodies Go)
1972 - Locus (novel/8th: The Fabulous Riverboat)
1972 - Locus (collection/9th: Down in the Black Gang)
1972 - Ditmar Nominee [Australia] (To Your Scattered Bodies Go)
1973 - Locus (novella/10th: "Seventy Years of DecPop")
1973 - Locus All-Time Poll (all-time favorite author/14th)
1974 - Locus (novella/4th: "Sketches Among the Ruins of My Mind")
1974 - Locus (collection/9th: The Book of Philip Jose Farmer)
1975 - Locus All-Time Poll (all time novel/17th: To Your Scattered Bodies Go)
1975 - Nebula Nominee ("After King Kong Fell")
1977 - Locus All-Time Poll (all-time author/17th)
1978 - Locus (sf novel/14th: The Dark Design)
1978 - Annual Playboy Editorial Award (for "The Henry Miller Dawn Patrol")
1980 - Locus (collection/4th: Riverworld and Other Stories)
1981 - Locus (sf novel/10th: The Magic Labyrinth)
1982 - Locus (sf novel/18th: The Unreasoning Mask)
1982 - Locus (collection/14th: Father to the Stars)
1984 - Locus (sf novel/16th: Gods of Riverworld)
1986 - Locus (sf novel/23rd: Dayworld)
1987 - Locus All-Time Poll (all time sf novel/27th: To Your Scattered Bodies Go)
1988 - Writers of the Past Award
1988 - Nova [Brazil] (for Best Book: To Your Scattered Bodies Go)
1993 - Locus (anthology/6th: Tales of Riverworld)
1999 - Locus All-Time Poll (all-time best sf author/38th)
2001 - Grand Master Award (SFWA, website)
2001 - World Fantasy Award (Life Achievement)
2002 - International Philip José Farmer Fan Club Award
2003 - Forry Award for Lifetime Achievement (LASFS, website)
2003 - SFBC: Top 50 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books,
period 1953-2002
           (50th: To Your Scattered Bodies Go)
2003 - First Fandom Hall of Fame Award (website)
2007 - Locus (collection/3rd: The Best of Philip José Farmer)
2007 - Locus (non-fiction/3rd: Myths for the Modern Age)

2012 - Locus Online 20th Century Poll (sf novel/43rd: To Your Scattered Bodies Go)
2012 - Locus Online 20th Century Poll (novella/29th: "Riders of the Purple Wage")
The Most Anarchic SF Writer

By David Pringle and John Clute
Although a voracious reader of sf in his youth, Philip José Farmer was a comparatively late starter as an author, and his first story, "O'Brien and Obrenov" for Adventure in 1946, promised little. A part-time student 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). Although originally rejected by John 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, "Moth and Rust" (1953), was billed as a sequel to "The Lovers" but bore little relation to the earlier story. "Rastignac the Devil" (1954) was a further sequel. PJF then produced two novels, both of which were 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 abandon full-time authorship, a status to which he did not return until 1969.

Nevertheless, he produced many interesting stories over the next few years, such as the Father Carmody series in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, published in book form as Night of Light (1966) and Father to the Stars (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). The last named is the best of PJF's biological fantasies; like The Lovers, it was repeatedly rejected as "disgusting" before its acceptance by F&SF.

PJF's first novel in book form was 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), a model for the flowering of the 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), 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) 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 (1982) and Riders of the Purple Wage (1992) -- won PJF a 1968 Hugo; written in a wild and punning style, it is 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 (1981) show PJF in a lighter vein, though the architectural elaborateness of the universe in which they are set prefigures Riverworld. The original volumes are The Maker of Universes (1965), The Gates of Creation (1966), A Private Cosmos (1968), Behind the Walls of Terra (1970) and The Lavalite World (1977). 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 observer serves 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 the other'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 of the 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 Image of the Beast (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) and The Mad Goblin (1970), the latter two being assembled as The Empire of the Nine (1988). A Feast Unknown is a brilliant exploration of the sado-masochistic fantasies latent 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 narrative tour 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 to Tarzan, 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. 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), 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 works which contain Wold Newton material include "Tarzan Lives: An Exclusive Interview with Lord Greystoke" (1972), "The Obscure Life and Hard Times of Kilgore Trout" (1973), Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (1973), 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 (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 acclaim with 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 (1971), The Fabulous Riverboat (1971), The Dark Design (1977), Riverworld and Other Stories (1979), The Magic Labyrinth (1980), Riverworld War: The Suppressed Fiction of Philip Jose Farmer (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 (1992) and Quest to Riverworld (1993), both edited by PJF.

After The Unreasoning Mask (1981), an extremely 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-Crosswise Only-on-Tuesday World" (1971): in a vastly overcrowded world, the population 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 becomes increasingly peripheral in a tale whose complications invoke A.E. Van Vogt. Here, as in all his work, PJF is governed by an instinct for extremity. Of all sf writers of the first or second rank, he is perhaps the most threateningly impish, and the most anarchic.


Publihed with permission from the authors.
Previously published in:
The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1993/1996)


More online biographies:

SFE - The Encyclopedia of SF
Wikipedia (several languages)
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© Zacharias L.A. Nuninga -- Page last updated: 16 Jun 2020