It's all over my news sources this morning that SF author Philip Jose Farmer passed away yesterday. At 91 years old, it's not exactly a tragedy, except in the sense that humanity hasn't discovered a way of making its better representatives immortal yet, but nevertheless his passing should be noted. In a perfect universe, he'd be on a riverboat with Sir Richard Burton and Tom Mix right now.
Farmer was one of my first and strongest science fiction influences. He, along with Robert
Heinlein, was responsible for blasting open the doors of my developing teenaged mind. "Image of the Beast" remains a very conflicting novel for me, more than 20 years after first reading it, while "Riders of the Purple Wage" was an early philosophical influence. His work on Doc Caliban and the other icons of the pulp age was a clear inspiration to many of my favorite writers and my own writing as well.
Farmer was one of those eclectic writers, like Harlan Ellison or Stephen King, who was capable of going in any direction with his work, often delighting and surprising with an unexpected change of course. From hard SF to eroticism to pulp fiction to dead-on humour, his fiction was always rewarding to read.
If you've never read any of Farmer's work, it's worth your while to seek some out. If you'd like to start out with something on the cheap, why not try the heavily Edgar Rice Burroughs influenced "Green Odyssey" audiobook available for free over at Librivox.
Sail on, sail on, Philip Jose Farmer.