Philip Jose Farmer
January 26, 1918 - February 25, 2009
February 28, 2009

Philip José Farmer died in his sleep peacefully, at the age of 91.

“He has had a full life”, “He had the age”, “It was to be expected”, “He had a blessed age”, all that and more you hear when people want to cheer you up.
All that and more is true, maybe very much so, but that doesn’t mean that you are prepared to read that a very good friend has just died.
I got a full blow with the hammer, a blow that hurts.
Phil in 2002
photo by Rias Nuninga

Around the age of fifteen I read my first Farmer, Cache from Outer Space, in a German translation, published in a pulp magazine. A few years later I discovered another Farmer, a Dutch translation of The Green Odyssey.
These books did not blow me right away, but made enough impact on me to remember the writer's name and stay hooked to Farmer for many more years. I bought and read every book and story by Farmer that I could get, most of them in their original publication. I started collecting his novels and stories, first editions of novels, first publications of stories, new editions, and even all the reprints. Not only of the original US editions, but also of every publication in all the different languages from around the world. It became a huge collection, and I still don’t have all the books and story publications. His books are widely spread around the globe.
For more than forty years now Farmer is a part of my life. He became a friend.

Twenty years ago I published a bibliography of Philip José Farmer’s work. I wanted to share my love for his work. Everyone should know which books and stories were out there, ready for their reading. I could shout it from the 'Dutch mountains' (alas, there are no mountains in the Netherlands), but the bibliography was never really finished and only distributed in a very small way. All my friends got a copy. Alas, not my big friend himself. I had tried to reach him numerous times, without success.

Ten years ago I started the website ‘Philip José Farmer – International Bibliography’. I still wanted to share my love for his work. The website has grown enormously during these years. What did not happen before, did happen now. I came in contact with other Farmerphiles around the world, people wrote to me from everywhere. The sharing became visible. Even more so with the Farmerphiles in the US. They organized special meetings with Farmer as the sole Guest of Honor, that later became the FarmerCons.

Finally, in 2002 I met Farmer for the first time in person. With a group of Farmerphiles we were having dinner at a restaurant when, surprising most of us, Phil and Bette entered and took their seats at the table. We introduced ourselves to them, giving our names and the place or country we came from. After is was my turn, Phil looked at me and said: “You look familiar!” Wow, if that could have been true… I would have loved to meet Phil before.
At dinner the following night we had more conversations and laughs. The food went cold, but we had a wonderful time. He was a bit tired and wanted us to talk, he would listen. But when he finally shared the conversation, we were the ones to listen. Phil was just as other people had described him, nice, charming, witty and really funny. He was smiling most of the time. So were we.

I met Phil again in 2008. We were invited to a party at Farmer’s home. Phil was too sick to attend FarmerCon90 that weekend. He was lying in his bed in the living room, where we could meet him for just a moment. When we left I knew or felt that I would never meet this man again. I said my goodbyes with tears welling up in my eyes.

Thank you for meeting me, Phil. I will miss you. I won’t be able to meet you again, or it must be on the banks of Riverworld.
But most of all, thank you for all the stories you have written. I will be able to read these again and again whenever I want to. I won’t have to miss them. And I will stay sharing my love for your work with other people.

One last thought. A recurring theme in Farmer’s fiction is that of the trickster. Phil himself was a trickster, a nice one, but a trickster nevertheless.
Do we think we will be able to meet Phil again on the banks of Riverworld? No way!
It is his biggest trick yet. Phil is one of the Others, the Ethicals as he called them.
Who do you think created Riverworld?
Bye Phil.

-- Rias

© Zacharias L.A. Nuninga -- Page last updated: 8 Aug 2012