Some Peorians may be unaware that one of the most creative and brilliant literary minds of our time resides right here in the River City. Philip José Farmer, who celebrated his 90th birthday in January, is known for his wildly imaginative science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories. Born in 1918 in Terre Haute, Indiana, Farmer moved to Peoria with his family in 1923.
At the age of ten, he discovered science fiction and began reading the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Jules Verne. An excellent student athlete, he graduated from Peoria Central High School in 1936 and later attended Bradley University, from which he graduated with an English degree. After 11½ years at Keystone Steel & Wire, Farmer quit to write full-time.
“I have written about 75 books during my lifetime. We lived in New York, Arizona, Ann Arbor and Los Angeles, and finally [in 1970] decided to settle back in Peoria, so I guess you can ‘go home again,’” says Farmer.
Farmer’s list of honors and awards runs for miles. He has won numerous Hugo awards for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy, and in 2001, he received the Grand Master award for lifetime achievement from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. That year, the Peoria Public Library held a Living Legend Reception to honor Farmer, and fans traveled to Peoria from all over the country for the event.
The next year, the library hosted a 50th anniversary celebration of Farmer’s first science fiction story, The Lovers, for which he won his first Hugo Award as most promising new talent. Farmer is fortunate to have some of the most devoted fans in the world, many of whom have descended on Peoria in recent years for an unofficial convention of friends, fans and “Farmerphiles” known as Farmercon. Farmerphile is also the name of a quarterly magazine published by Farmer fans, which includes many of his unpublished short stories, articles and speeches.
Philip and his wife, Bette, have two children, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. For more information, visit the official Philip José Farmer website at pjfarmer.com.
- Favorite artist: Right now it’s Bob Eggleton, who just did the cover for my newest book, Venus On The Half-Shell and Others.
- Favorite aspect of Peoria: The history of Peoria is fascinating.
- Favorite treat: Vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberries.
- Favorite film: Hell’s Angels.
- Top pet peeve: Racial prejudice.
- Secret ambition: To win the Nobel Prize.
- Proudest moment of achievement: Receiving the World Science Fiction and World Fantasy awards...both in one year.
- Most impulsive thing I ever did: Threw myself down the steps of Bradley Hall to get the attention of Bette Andre, whom I married almost 67 years ago.
- Words to live by: Character Determines Destiny.
- Favorite occupation: Biographer. A&S