Tribute to Philip Josť Farmer
 
Photo of Phil and M Brizzi

Philip Josť Farmer, Mary Turzillo, and Jack Lynn Brizzi Jr., Peoria, circa 1977



For PJF

Between his ears,
behind his faintest grin,
a hero lived,
a thousand heroes lived,
a world grew,
a thousand worlds:

heroes roaring with contempt
for all the banal tripe we call inviolate,
heroes who bend spacetime,
heroines, goddesses
kings of intellect, giants of sexual prowess.

He smiles his slightest smile:
the Horn of Shambarimen sounds:
galaxies of imaginary worlds
turn real.  The river flows.
The portals open. Our gray sensorum
floods with color.

The impossible becomes the truth.

Where did he come from? Where has he gone?
The worlds spin. The portals open.
The Horn sounds.
The River sweeps us up.


--Mary A. Turzillo



Philip Josť Farmer, Memories

    Phil Farmer is gone, and I am brutally unprepared for his passing.   I knew he couldn’t live forever,  but somehow I stayed in denial.  He was one of the immortals. 
     Starmont published my book about Phil and his work in 1980, and I hope that guide pays proper homage to his genius.  I went to Peoria to interview him for the book, and even brought my toddler son Jack.   Bette and Phil were so welcoming, as they were the last time I came to their home at what the Farmerphile group calls Farmercon.  Every time I talked to Phil, I was amazed anew at how such huge, crazy flights of imagination could come from a man with such an unpretentious and quiet demeanor.  
    Oh, I lie, you could believe it.  He had a puckish smile.  And he was so witty, in a dry, understated way.
    He was one of the kindest, gentlest, most tactful men in the world. For example:
    When I came to see him, he showed me the manuscript of a book that he hadn’t, at that point, published.  This showed his modesty, because I assumed that no publisher would ever turn down a work by Philip Josť Farmer.  He even let me read some of it.  It was a disaster novel, a thriller, and I got really engrossed in it.  I must have read most of it right then and there.  It was a little over the top -- and Phil definitely could be over the top in ways hard to describe. Farmerphile published it two years ago as Up from the Bottomless Pit.  
    Phil let people read his research and unfinished work.  The Evil in Pemberley House, the collaboration he did with Win Scott Eckert, came out of Phil’s willingness to open his extensive files of planned, unfinished novels.  Phil worked with extremely detailed outlines, so getting a peek at these was like seeing a Farmer book in utero.  Phil was open to collaboration and never set himself up as a sacrosanct genius -- despite the Hugos on his mantle.
    When I finished the draft of The Starmont Guide to Philip Josť Farmer, I had the temerity to send it to him, mostly because I wanted to check for accuracy.  Phil actually copy-edited the manuscript for me.  He corrected spellings and even punctuation, and caught a couple places I had misspelled his name.   
    And yet he put up with fans like me.  How did I ever deserve that?
    He told me all the behind-the-scenes stuff about the Fantastic Voyage contract, and about the Shasta Award money-that-didn’t-materialize -- stuff I put in my book with the innocence only a young scholar/fan could exhibit.
    He told me about the Venus on the Half-Shell imbroglio with Vonnegut. He told me about As you Desire.  He said didn’t have a copy of it for me to look at, but I later saw a manuscript that purported to be that very book, in a rare bookstore in Warren, Ohio.  Maybe it was a hoax; I’ve lost contact with the bookseller.  Or maybe it was an elaborate joke, like Phil channeling fictional characters to write his own books, and then impersonating his own characters to write still other fiction.  What a mind he had!  What a dead-pan prankster!  
    He even had me believing his proposed trip to Norway was to look up Viking ancestors named “Ragnar Hairybreeches, Ivar the Boneless, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye,Thorfinn the Skull-Splitter, Narald Fine-Haired” and female ancestors named “Sigrid the Haughty and Aud the Deep-Minded.”  Maybe these people did exist.   Phil could make you believe anything.
    A writer-hero for the ages.  A giant of the imagination.
    But still: he always answered my stupid questions, and he always, many years later, inquired after my son.  He even Tuckerized me in Red Orc’s Rage as a ditzy William Blake scholar.  He was a consummate genius and yet as unassuming as anyone I’ve ever met.   
    And yes, he did sound like Cary Grant.   
    And he lives: he’s Kickaha, he’s Father Carmody, he’s Leo Queequeg Tincrowder, he’s Peter Jairus Frigate (both of them), he’s Hal Yarrow, he's Chibiabos Winnegan, he’s Jadawin, he’s all the characters he created with his own initials and his own incredible mind.
    P.J.F is immortal.  
    I wish he was still in this world.