Assorted Farmeriana

This page features a selection of miscellaneous Farmeriana. First up is an article by Philip José Farmer on Kilgore Trout and Kurt Vonnegut. Beneath that is a nice selection of Phil's poetry, including the complete verse as well as publication info. Finally, we have a bunch of PJF quotations submitted by fans and visitors to this site. Send in your favorite!

One of Phil Farmer's grand-daughters was writing a paper about him for college and as we all do these days, she went online to do some research. While searching for "Kilgore Trout" she came across this Kilgore Trout home page.

On that web page there is part of an interview with Vonnegut where he discusses Farmer. She sent Phil a copy of it and he decided that he would like to have his version of the story online as well. So here it is: Philip José Farmer on Kilgore Trout and Kurt Vonnegut.

VOTH-S was first published in Feb. 1975. I was 57 years old then. Now, I'm 81. I thought all that hoo-hah about VOTH-S was long behind me. Then, a grand-daughter who's online sent me the Vonnegut website papers. She was indignant about what KV said about her beloved Baba. I read V's comments about me. I thought, "Oh, God! I don't want to go through this youthful indiscretion again! Let it die!"

But I must answer some of V's accusations. First, however, I will repeat and insist upon the fact that it was not the money I hoped to make from writing as Kilgore Trout that caused me to write the novel. It was a tribute to KV inspired because of my admiration of his works--up through KV's Breakfast of Champions. I don't care what KV says. I did it because it would be a testament of my great love for his works. And I thought it'd be a splendid idea if a book by Trout, whom everybody thought was a fictional character, did appear. Fantasy would become reality--at least for a while.

I was not burned up about KV's decision to stop me from writing sequels to VOTH-S. Actually, all I really wanted was to write SON OF JIMMY VALENTINE, then I'd quit the Trout thing. I was not burned up; I was saddened. But, after all, Trout was KV's character. And I was lucky to and delighted to have written VOTH-S.

When KV says that I made more money on one Trout book than I'd made on all of my works before, he's wrong. I made more money on just one of my Riverworld books (the series started in 1971) than I have ever made on VOTH-S.

Now, Kilgore Trout was a writer who was often ripped off. I identified with Trout when I wrote VOTH-S. I, too, had been ripped off since my early days as a writer, and today, at eighty-one, I am again being ripped off.

It is true that Dell put out that I'd done exceedingly well with VOTH-S. Several writers congratulated me on the coup. But when the first royalty report came in, it was evident that Dell had greatly exaggerated the sum. I thought Dell had hyped it for marketing purposes.

Then Dell's science-fiction editor informed me that he had been fired because he claimed that Dell had siphoned off much of the moneys due me. He had protested to Dell, and he was fired for doing so. I believe him.

This should please KV because I didn't profit so much on VOTH-S after all.

Some time after this happened, I was talking to Lester del Rey, an old science-fiction writer who was then an editor of del Rey publications. He asked me if I felt that I'd not gotten the proper royalties from my books published by "early" Ballantine. I said I'd thought I'd been ripped off by "early" Ballantine and a number of others, too, when I was starting in my career. Lester told me that, somehow, by the time an author's royalties trickle down to him, a lot has been siphoned off.

This was true, and it was not a situation confined only to me. Let me say, however, that I've also been handled by many honest publishers.

It's been more than a year that the first hardcover edition of VOTH-S came out. My contract called for a very limited edition to be published. And I was to get regular semi-annual statements and a specified amount of author's free copies. Now, I've been informed by booksellers that far more than the legal amount of copies has been issued. I've gotten no royalty statements. I was sent only part of the author's copies contracted for. My agent can't even get in contact with the entrepreneur publisher. He's as elusive as The Shadow.

Apparently, as Kilgore Trout and as myself, I'm destined to suffer the fate of the fictional Trout. In some respects, anyway.

As for KV not getting any of the money (however small) made by the sale of VOTH-S, before I wrote it, I offered to share with KV any monies made by the book. He turned that offer down.

Seventy-five of my books have been printed and reprinted. Some are classics, some are very good books, some are so-so. My most recent work, issued in early 1999, non-science-fiction, NOTHING BURNS IN HELL, a private eye tale set in Peoria and central Illinois, has been purchased by the French publisher, Gallimard, as part of its series of noir fiction.

I've done fairly well in my writing career. And I had great fun while writing VOTH-S as Kilgore Trout. I'm sorry that KV thought it was a lousy book and was angered by it. I think, despite KV's judgment, that it was and is a very funny book. So do many others.

If I could go back to 1974 knowing what I know now, I wouldn't write it. It left too bad a taste in my mouth. But, what the hell! You can't get through life, if you live very long, without biting down on bad fruit or rotten meat now and then.

Here are all of the poems by Philip José Farmer that we are aware of. Most of these are from the 40s and 50s, and newly discovered ones keep popping up.

The thing that ran and screamed and fell a pace
From me was he whom I had never thought
To see in Hell, where none like him were brought
To flee the blacksih glare of Satan's grade.
He scrambled up and clutched my hand to brace
Himself against what he on Earth had wrought
And now, no matter where he ran, was caught
By it before he had begun to race.

I dropped his hand, for what is there to do
For one whose gift from Satan is a tail
Whose tip is fastened to an angel's head
With fiery lips that shriek, "It is too late to rue
The man you might have been, too late to veil
My face - your face - the horror you would shed!"

  • Bradley Quarterly, August 1949 (First appearance)

Can imagination act
Perpendicular to fact?
Can it be a kite that flies
Till the Earth, umbrella-wise,
Folds and drops away from sight?

Miles above the Earth we know,
Fancy's rocket roars. Below,
Here and Now are needles which
Sew a pattern black as pitch,
Waiting for the rocket's light.

Poet, steer your rocket down.
Lights are useless, though they crown
Half of space with glory, yet
Leave this hard old globe in jet.
Earth's the start, the end of flight.

Far pre-father of feathers, you are flying
Through cerebral Jurassics in a spasm
Of leathery vanes, afraid to sound the chasm
Where saurian trades of tooth and loin are plying.
Wing-fingered feeder on metaphysics, signing
From withering bowels denotes enthusiasm
Wasted chasing toothsome ectoplasm
And omens a skeleton decease while trying.

Sawbeaked epitome of bodiless
Idea, tossed by gusts of ether, dive
Through abstract mists and raid the sea of fact
Eat rich strange fish, grow long bright feathers, press
Form's flesh around thought's rib, and so derive
From the act of beauty, beauty of the act.

One thing is sure, O comrades, that the love
That fights to keep us rooted in the earth,
But also urges us to dare the stars,
This irresistible, this ancient power
Wedged in the soul, unshakable, is the light
That burns our rootsand leaves us free for Space.

The way is open, comrades, free as Space
Alone is free. The only gold is love,
A coin that we have minted from the light
Of others who have cared for us on Earth
And who have deposited in us the power
That nerves our nerves to seize the burning stars.

Courage, comrades! Let the fire of stars
Reflect their flames in your hearts till men lack space
To say enough of the enough of the inexpressible power
That gives the strength to sever us from love
Of beautiful women, strength which makes large Earth,
Once so close, now only a spurt of light.

Eyes forward! Sing a paean to the light
That God gives us to net the distant stars
In eyes that once were blinded with black earth.
Man had no time for aught but toll, no space
For aught but war. Yet God, in His great love,
Has cleared our eyesand given a hint of Power.

Now we have lit a candle to the power
Of atoms; now we know we're heirs of light
Itself and know no more that fleck whose love
And hates are far from us, as far as stars
Once were, now let us swear to leave no space
Unconquered till we find a better earth.

Yes, we hope to seed a new, rich earth.
We hope to breed a race of men whose power
Dwells in hearts as open as all Space
Itself, who ask for nothing but the light
That rinses the heart of hate so that the stars
Above wil be below when man has Love.

God, Whose hand holds stars, as we lump earth
In our fingers, give us power, give us light
To hold all love within our breast's small space.

Beauty in this Iron Age must turn
From fluid living rainbow shapes to torn
And sootened fragments, ashes in an urn
On whose gray surface runes are traced by a Norn
Who hopes to wake the Future to arise
In Phoenix-fashion, and to shine with rays
To blast the sight of modern men whose dyes
Of selfishness and lust have stained our days
With acid blotches, days that should be white
With other Helens' sea-foam breasts, with wheat
Of Deirdres' hair be rippling, days whose flight
From Timo is hand in hand with Beauty fleet.

Reader, pray that soon this Iron Age
Will crumble, and Beauty escape the rusting cage.

  • Starlanes #11, Fall 1953 (First appearance)
  • PEARLS FROM PEORIA, Subterranean Press, 2006 Hardcover

Prometheus, I have no Titan's might,
Yet I, too, must each dusk renew my heart,
For daytime's vulture talons tear apart
The tender alcoves built by love at night.

  • Starlanes #14, April 1954 (First appearance)
  • PEARLS FROM PEORIA, Subterranean Press, 2006 Hardcover

Bright-eyed surmise on a grey twist like my mind:
Flirt-tailed punctuation, fluid sign
That branches, like phrases and mazes,
Never end but link
In aerial conjunction, I'd think
You're a luciferous nuciferous
Metaphysics that I'd like to swallow
Whole. Not for your flesh. To fill a hollow
Lust to interpret me through you, but can see
You know no me nor you, only fear food frenzy;
That tipping your tiny skull as cup, grey bead
Of brain as exquisite shot will bring no readback
Trick of using your eyes in fusing feedback.

Oh, I'd reach beyond the comma of you
To the invisible phrase, the dangling Omega! No use. No act
Of mine or mind denies the ante-cerebellum fact
Of furry you, poised fleetingly, bright flex,
Black reflex, too leaping for me to ink and fix
As period to end what has no period, no, no
End, just quo vadis? Quid nunc? Cui bono?
Myself am quo quid cui -- quit
Of that big black question mark on branch
Of brain only when Death'll crack me, crunch
Me, chattering quo quid cui

We too. No wisdom to utter.
You've beauty, flux, and terror
To tell. So've I. And they're
Very hard to mutter
Through so much chatter and stutter.

A Jungian Analysis

Job as Simple Simon, soul as pail,
And Beauty, Leviathan: the king of deep
On deep, unbribed guard of the sunken keep
Where primal gods deman expensive bail.
Let those who think the soul is shallow rail,
They must be warned before they dare to leap
They'll plunge into the twilight depths where sweep
In ceaseless thirst great teeth too swift to fail.

Job's Word is bait; the big fish strikes; the line
Grows taut; vast treadings crush abysmal grapes;
Drowned idols swirl like seeds in chaos' wine.
Look, Job! Caught Beauty, held to light, now apes
A good, now evil, thing--the shifting sign
And spectrum of archaic, psychic shapes.

The idea for PJF quotations came from Eileen Parker when she asked Phil to submit a quote to her webpage, Author Sound Bites.

Here are some favorite quotations submitted by Phil's fans. If you have a favorite, something particularly funny or poignant, or something that just struck a cord with you, send it to Mike for inclusion on this page.

"If we were not given immortal souls, then we must create our own."

"Ah, Mennirox is good to his favorite worshiper." said Miran. "He that loves thee shall profit, Book of the True Gods, Chapter Ten, Verse Eight. And Mennirox knows I love him with compound interest!"

"Any bad fiction, no matter the genre, is a wild exercise of the imagination which explodes in the night of our minds, makes garish pyrotechnics, then dies, leaving the night blacker than before. But good fiction is a steady light—even if sometimes a small one. By it we walk without stumbling, and we may return at any time to see under its flare other topographical features we did not understand the first trip."

"Kiss the south end of a duck flying north." and "She’s a witch, but she’s not a miracle worker."

"I still live!"

  • From TARZAN ALIVE (Phil quoting Edgar Rice Burroughs). Submitted by Win Scott Eckert.

"If Jules Verne could really have looked into the future, say 1966 A.D., he would have crapped in his pants. And 2166, oh, my!"

  • From Riders of the Purple Wage. This can be found in the book Science Fiction Quotations: From the Inner Mind to the Outer Limits.

"There is nothing that bugs an omniscient like not knowing something."

"As science pushes forward, ignorance and superstition gallop around the flanks and bite science in the rear with big dark teeth." and "There are universes begging for gods, yet He hangs around this one looking for work."