Philip Jose Farmer, 1918-2009

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I was going to blog about the new series of D&D podcasts featuring the Penny Arcade guys, Scott Kurtz (PvP) and Wil Wheaton. They’re here. Check out Wheaton when he casts Radiant Vengeance at about 16:00. Dude gets agitated. (Then he rolls a 5.)

Then I noticed this post on io9: Philip Jose Farmer died. He was 91.

You don’t hear him mentioned with the A list, usually, but I spent many months of my young life powering through the Riverworld and World of Tiers books. There’s a lot of pages there, and the signal-to-noise ratio is not always what it could be, but there are moments of supreme power in those books. I still have a copy of the GURPS Riverworld role-playing game.

My memories of the Riverworld books are pretty jumbled, but I spent a lot of time thinking about what I would do if I were, in fact, resurrected naked along the banks of a huge river with a canister that regularly produced food and dreamgum. His use of historical figures was fascinating — it reminds me of the pop syncretism of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I will never not read Mark Twain through the lens of Riverworld, where Twain (or Samuel Clemens, anyway) built a Mississippi-style steamboat called the Not for Hire.

Ditto Richard Burton. I always used to wonder if I would have the stones to travel through the Riverworld by repeatedly committing suicide like he did … probably not.