February 25, 2009
Philip Jose Farmer, one of the most celebrated science fiction, fantasy and short story writers of the 1960s and '70s, died Wednesday. He was 91.
Farmer died "peacefully" in his sleep, according to a message posted on his official Web site.
The longtime Peoria resident wrote more than 75 novels, including the Riverworld and World of Tiers series. He won the Hugo Award three times and the Grand Master Award for Science Fiction in 2001.
Farmer was "one of the great ones," according to a statement on the web site of Subterranean Press, which published his later novels.
"He was always a joy to work with, and we will dearly miss his intelligence and good nature," the statement said.
Farmer's first published story, "The Lovers," caught the attention of the science fiction world in 1952 with one of the genre's first serious treatments of sexuality. At the time, he was working full time at a Peoria steel mill and writing on the side.
"The Lovers" was based on a love affair between an Earth man and an alien woman, and Farmer rocked the science fiction community by dealing with sex in a frank manner. The story inspired some of the greatest science fiction writers, including Robert Heinlein, whose classic "Stranger in a Strange Land" was dedicated to Farmer.
Farmer tried to survive as a full-time freelance writer but finances forced him back to work as a technical writer in the defense industry in 1956. He bounced from New York to Arizona and California before finally quitting and moving back to central Illinois in 1969 to concentrate all his energies on his science fiction writing.
Farmer's celebrity in the science fiction world did not translate to Peoria, where he grew up and attended college.
"I am obscure in Peoria," Farmer told The Associated Press in 1988. "I guess they don't read much around here."
Farmer's last novel, "The City Beyond Play," was published in 2007.
He is survived by his wife, Bette, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Many thanks to Deathwatch Central for posting this obituary.