Philip José Farmer died Feb. 25. He was a prolific science fiction writer with a ponderous and sometimes preposterous imagination. And he did his damnedest to move that imagination from his mind to the inked paged.

He was 91 when he died in his sleep, according to a statement on his Web site pjfarmer.com.

I first read Farmer while in grad school at Portland State University. I had stopped reading science fiction and fantasy to concentrate on more serious literature. But a good friend suggested Farmer, so I did, and I started with a whopper.

"A Feast Unknown," (1968) may not be literature, but at moments it approaches it. To call the novel jolting is understatement. Farmer explores some interesting and dark ideas in the novel, chief of which is, how would someone like a Tarzan really behave? Farmer pushes the reader with this work, as if to say, "I'm going to see just how fantastical I can get before you stop reading."

But Farmer was so good, you don't stop, if for no other reason than the desire to know just how far he would go (really, really far is the short answer). From the novel's opening he makes it clear, there is nothing - nothing - that is too taboo for him to explore.

"A Feast Unknown," is Farmer at his more extreme, though not his most, and arguably, not his best. But his creative power, even when more widely acceptable, was never tame.

Major newspapers published plenty of memorials about Farmer and justifiably so. So read one of those or his Web site or the wikipedia.org entry on him to learn about his works, achievements, critical reception and how he shocked the world of science fiction.

Or just read some of his stuff.

- Phil Wright

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