Philip Jose Farmer
Clute, John, The Independent (London, England)
Prolific and influential science-fiction writer
Most science-fiction writers begin young, and have much to outgrow. Some like Robert A Heinlein or Philip Jos Farmer come late to the field, and have much to impart. Farmers first science- fiction story, and still perhaps his most famous, The Lovers, was published in a minor magazine because the more prestigious genre magazines would not touch it. John W Campbell Jnr, whose Astounding had been the central journal of the field for more than a decade, found it nauseating. Though his reaction was priggishly provincial, even today one can understand the shock he felt.
The tale depicts in some detail a love affair between a human male and a female humanoid insect whose reproductive system was savagely non-mammalian, clearly violating several obvious taboos sex, race, miscegenation that writers in the genre had not yet seriously challenged. But The Lovers also shook to the roots the only slowly fading sci-fi (and western) presumption that First World mores were natural templates for behaviour in other cultures and other worlds. Perhaps surprisingly, the science-fiction community was less shocked than its ostensible spokesmen, and Farmer received his first Hugo Award in 1953 as most promising new writer. Photographs at this time show that the young Farmer bore an unmistakeable resemblance to Jack Palance about to face off against Shane; only this time, Shane might be the loser. For those who knew him only recently, in his benign (though occasionally testy) old age, these shots can seem electrifying.
Philip Jos Farmer was born in North Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1918, and raised in the small cities of the American Midwest. His first adult job was in a steel mill, and he was married young, in 1941, to Elizabeth (Bette) Andre. He was throughout a secret reader, and from childhood absorbed the works of a wide range of authors, from Lord Dunsany to Henry Miller. It may be that the relative isolation of his early years explains his impact, for he never seemed to understand just how upsetting his work could be, how alarming his incessant fertility might seem to some of his staider fellows. He came to sci-fi full-grown: but he came from some far- away silent place in deepest America.
From the early 1950s on, he was always present, always publishing, but never quite a member of the club. His first novel, Owe for the Flesh, won a publishers contest, but the firm was soon bankrupt, the money was never paid, and the manuscript was lost. His first published novel, The Green Odyssey (1957), was set on a vast low-gravity planet huge enough to allow endless adventurings; but its combination of fantasy and sci-fi material was …
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Publication information: Article title: Philip Jose Farmer. Contributors: Clute, John - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: March 4, 2009. Page number: 32. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.