Detailed view for the Author: Phillip Jose Farmer

Full Name:
Phillip Jose Farmer
North Terra Haute, Indiana, USA
Birth date:
Death date:


Average Enjoyability:
14 votes
Average Rereadability:
12 votes
Average Complexity:
10 votes
Average Character Development:
8 votes

Author Biography: aka Kilgore Trout, John H. Watson

Philip Jos?? Farmer is known primarily for his Science Fiction, but has produced two Fantasy series World of Tiers and Riverworld, the latter an afterlife fantasy in the tradition of John Kendrick Bangs.

Farmer is best known for his novel series, especially the World of Tiers (1965-93) and Riverworld (1971-83) novels. He is noted for the pioneering use of sexual and religious themes in his work, his fascination for and reworking of the lore of celebrated pulp heroes, and occasional tongue-in-cheek pseudonymous works written as if by fictional characters.

Farmer was born on January 26, 1918 in North Terre Haute, Indiana. According to colleague Frederik Pohl, his middle name was in honor of an aunt, Josie. Farmer grew up in Peoria, Illinois where he attended Peoria High School. His father was a civil engineer and a supervisor for the local power company. A voracious reader as a boy, Farmer said he resolved to become a writer in the fourth grade. He became an agnostic at the age of 14. At age 23, in 1941, he married and eventually became the father of two children ??? a son and a daughter. After washing out of flight training in World War II, he went to work in a local steel mill. He continued his education, however, earning a bachelor???s degree in English from Bradley University in 1950.

Farmer???s first literary success came in 1952 with a novella called ???The Lovers,??? about a sexual relationship between a human and an extraterrestrial. It won him the Hugo Award as "most promising new writer", the first of his three Hugo Awards. Thus encouraged, he quit his job to become a full-time writer, entered a publisher???s contest, and promptly won the $4,000 first prize for a novel that contained the germ of his later Riverworld series. Literary success did not translate into financial security, however, and in 1956 he left Peoria to launch a career as a technical writer. The next 14 years were spent working in that capacity for various defense contractors, from Syracuse, New York to Los Angeles, California, while writing science fiction in his spare time.

A second Hugo came after publication of the 1967 novella Riders of the Purple Wage, an exuberant pastiche of James Joyce???s Ulysses as well as a satire on a future cradle-to-grave welfare state. Reinvigorated, Farmer became a full-time writer again in 1969. Upon moving back to Peoria in 1970, he entered his most prolific period, publishing 25 books in 10 years. His novel To Your Scattered Bodies Go (a reworked version of the prize-winning first novel of 20 years before ??? which had never been published) won him his third Hugo in 1971. A 1975 novel, Venus on the Half-Shell, created a stir in the larger literary community and media. It purported to be written in the first person by one ???Kilgore Trout???, a fictional character appearing as an underappreciated science fiction writer in several of Kurt Vonnegut???s novels. The escapade did not please that eminent author when some reviewers not only concluded that it had been written by Vonnegut himself, but that it was a worthy addition to his works. (Farmer actually had permission from Vonnegut for the playful hoax.)

Farmer had both critical champions and detractors. Leslie Fiedler proclaimed him "the greatest science fiction writer ever" and lauded his approach to storytelling as a ???gargantuan lust to swallow down the whole cosmos, past, present and to come, and to spew it out again???. Isaac Asimov noted that Farmer was an "excellent science fiction writer; in fact, a far more skillful writer than I am...." But Christopher Lehmann-Haupt described him in The New York Times in 1972 as ???a humdrum toiler in the fields of science fiction???.

Farmer died on February 25, 2009. At the time of his death, he and his wife Bette had 2 children, 6 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.
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