Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Philip José Farmer RIP, 1918--2009

So, it's taken me over twelve hours to sit down for this, because...that's what happens when you lose someone to whom you're close.

I started as a fan, waaay back when I was 8 years old and had my first taste of Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life. Then Tarzan Alive, and The Other Log of Phileas Fogg, and The Grand Adventure, and Peerless Peer. Time's Last Gift— time traveling Jungle Lord, holy cow!

Then, over 10 years ago, the Wold Newton Universe website, and several more years of fandom, followed by a book (thank you, Chris Roberson), and... an invitation to meet the man himself.

I had a sleepover at Phil Farmer's house.

And I set off the burglar alarm at 2 am.

Since then I've visited Phil and Bette once or twice a year. The great thing about Phil is how many friendships he created, by bringing together so many people who otherwise never would have met.

Well, that, and his mind-blowing imagination and captivating prose.

Phil, you are responsible for this overflowing library (my wife also thanks you for that), for my varied reading tastes (hard boiled detective to adventure pulp to sf to...Pride and Prejudice?? Seriously?

Yes, seriously. Because that's the kind of well-rounded guy Phil was. And he passed it on.

Thank you. Thank you so much.

Because of you, and that book when I was 8, and your generosity 30 years after that, I am a writer.

I've gotten so many notes today that read something like, "I didn't know him as well as you, but this still hit me hard..." or "I never had the chance to meet Phil in person, but he helped shape me as a writer..."

The thing about a writer like Phil, whose work spoke to so many people in so many different ways, is that you didn't need to know him personally to be hit hard by this. His books have been a part of our lives for so long, his ideas and curiosity have permeated our beings, and his envelope-pushing—or breaking—imagery is seared indelibly into our brains.

That's what counts.

I last saw Phil Farmer one month ago today, on January 25. His 91st birthday fell on a Monday, and we had come in the preceding weekend to celebrate with him and Bette. "The boys" (Bette's affectionate term for us Farmerphiles) were there: Mike Croteau, Chris Carey, Paul Spiteri, and Dennis Power. Phil and Bette's family came in and out at various times. Their close friends were there. Sandwiches and cake and laughter and great conversation ensued.

I showed Phil the Doc Savage Coat of Arms drawn up by Keith Howell for Farmerphile and for the chapbook for The Evil in Pemberley House, from Phil's description and notes. He loved it; he didn't say much, but he got the biggest grin. And although he didn't talk much that weekend, he'd smile and give a little wave to let us know he was listening in and enjoying it all.

When it came time to leave, I said my goodbyes, I waved at Phil and smiled. He waved back, smiled, and thanked us for coming. Him thanking us, our hero, thanking us. Because that's how he was.

We hugged Bette and left, and I knew I wouldn't see Phil again. Just knew it. And at the airport, by myself, I cried.

And again today, more tears.

Exit Phil Farmer, smiling.

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