January 26, 1918 - February 25, 2009
|February 28, 2009
Philip José Farmer died in his sleep peacefully, at the age
“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.
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
For more than forty years now Farmer is a part of my life. He became a
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
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
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?