Happy birthday, Mr Farmer!
At the best-organized birthday parties there's always one bore of a guest who insists on talking about himself rather than the centre attention, and today that tedious person is me. I have happy memories of three early encounters with Philip José Farmer.
First Contact came in roughly 1966, when I was a mere schoolkid and frequented a disreputable novelty shop that sold sneezing powder, stink bombs and occasional American magazines – including Worlds of Tomorrow for January 1965, containing "Day of the Great Shout". Even at novella length this bowled me over: little did I know I was reading the seed of the mighty Riverworld saga that was to follow....
In 1970, Sphere Books released The Maker of Universes and its first two sequels in British paperback. Passing over such technical terms of literary criticism as "Gosh Wow!", let's just say that I became instantly addicted to the World of Tiers.
And in June 1976, Mr Farmer helped get my marriage off to a fine start. No, this didn't involve nervous study of Flesh on the wedding night. Hazel and I interrupted our honeymoon because the great man himself was visiting England and speaking at the university in Reading (where we lived and still do). I have a unique souvenir of that evening. It's a copy of the British SF Association newsletter for May 1976, which by happenstance includes a story by me and cover art by my brother Jon Langford – and which, for lack of any other handy writing material, is signed across the front cover: Philip J Farmer. This, like the Hugos, is among the SF memorabilia they'll have to prise from my cold, dead fingers. And Hazel and I are still married, too.
Thanks again from both of us, Mr Farmer; and many happy returns.