andrew j. offutt (1934-2013)

offuttandy offutt, perennially popular convention toastmaster, prolific sf/fantasy author and two-term President of SFWA (1976-1978), died April 30 at the age of 78.  

offutt, who typed his byline in lower-case, wrote dozens of published novels, many under pseudonyms (most frequently, “John Cleve”), producing fiction so rapidly he teased that his idea of “writer’s block” was getting stuck for 45-minutes as he dramatized in the introduction to his story “For Value Received” in Harlan Ellison’s Again, Dangerous Visions.

i fought. i kept sitting down and trying to type. i snarled, cursed, cussed, obscenitized. Kept on fingering keys. (i use three fingers, one of which is on my left hand. it gets sorest.) i kept on. Come on, damn you! i know what a block is. i’d liefer forget, and i will never stop at a stopping point again!

His first professional sf story was the winner of the College SF Contest sponsored by If.  “And Gone Tomorrow” appeared in 1954. His next sale, “Blacksword,” appeared in Galaxy in 1959. “Population Implosion” was selected by Wollheim and Carr for Ace’s World’s Best SF (1968). His first science fiction novel followed a Sixties vogue for funky titles – Evil Is Live Spelled Backwards (1970).  

Prior to becoming a full-time writer offutt worked several years for Proctor & Gamble, then ran insurance agencies in three Kentucky towns.

He married Jodie McCabe in 1957. They have two daughters and two sons, including author Christopher Offutt.

An energetic and amusing speaker, offutt was constantly in demand as a convention toastmaster. But, at the peak of his popularity, when called upon to emcee the 1974 Worldcon banquet, things seemed to get away from him. He extemporized for so long it was perceived as a discourtesy to GoH Roger Zelazny. Although offutt’s reputation suffered, his friends rallied and showed their affection by making him the 1975 Midwestcon guest of honor – the only GoH the con had ever had up to that time.

offutt promptly rebounded in professional circles and was twice elected President of SFWA. Jodie Offutt wrote that among her husband’s greatest pleasures as president was giving the Grand Master Award to Clifford B. Simak (1977).

“Cliff,” he said, lip trem­bling as he handed it to him, “I’ve got tears in my eyes just presenting this. Why the heck aren’t you cry­ing?”

“Andy,” Cliff told him, “when I’m in my room by my­self and I look at it, then I’ll cry.”

Highly regarded by pros, offutt also was fan-friendly, often writing for fanzines. He contributed “A Chatty, Preferably Controversial Column” to Tom Reamy’s Trumpet, actively participated in all the arguments in Richard Geis’ various fanzines, and wrote letters to Algol, Mobius Trip and my own zines (though I heard from Jodie far more often).

He was honored with the Phoenix Award for lifetime achievement at the 1986 DeepSouthCon – where he was also, of course, toastmaster.

Later in life he had various health problems: a heart bypass in 1999, and a perforated ulcer in 2001 that forced him to step aside as toastmaster for Kubla Khan 29.

One of his collaborators, Richard K. Lyons, recalls:

As things worked out, Andy and I wrote and published four novels together. The problem that finally made us stop was that we were having too much fun. While that was fine by me since I was in it mostly for fun, Andy had a living to earn and the fun was eating a lot of his time.

For a man who needed to make a living, andy offutt was always remarkably generous with his time and writing talents. I won’t forget that.

[Thanks to Sam Long for the story.]

Cheer The Toledo Walking Carpets

MudhensFans around the country are preparing to celebrate Star Wars weekend — “May the Fourth Be With You” (Saturday, May 4) and “Revenge of the Fifth” (Sunday, May 5). The luckiest will be those attending Toledo Mud Hens minor league baseball games. The team is going to wear Chewbacca-themed jerseys and allow fans to participate in all kinds of activities — 

  • Kazoo giveaway (first 3,000 fans) for postgame Kazoo-Along to Star Wars music
  • Appearances by Star Wars characters from the 501st Legion, including Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, Storm Troopers, and X-Wing Pilots
  • Star Wars themed face painting opportunities
  • Star Wars costume photo booth
  • Star Wars-themed food and beverage items, including Yoda Soda, Darth Chocolate Brownie Sundae, and MORE
  • Star Wars sound effects and music throughout the game
  • Star Wars-themed postgame fireworks (Saturday only)

At last Toledo will show its true face to a world that thinks John Denver said it all (“They roll back the sidewalks precisely at ten / And people who live there are not seen again…”)

And if the Wookiees win, that will be a good thing.

[Thanks to Janice Gelb for the story.]

LA Gets Its Own Wizarding World

Universal Studios Hollywood is replacing The Gibson Ampitheatre with a new Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction.

This represents a phase in NBCUniversal’s $1.6 billion Evolution Plan, unanimously approved by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors on April 23. Universal sweetened its proposal by agreeing to contribute $13.5 million to help revitalize the L.A. River and improve its adjacent bike path.

That means work can begin this summer on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, as well as upgraded TV production studios, office space and infrastructure on the Universal Studios lot. Besides the new attraction, NBCUniversal’s 25-year plan calls for upgrades throughout the 391-acre Universal City property, including new office, retail and studio space and post-production facilities.

Swanwick Resigns From Science Fiction. Not.

Michael Swanwick told Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow on April 22:

In my adopted hometown of Philadelphia there’s a move afoot to put up a plaque where Isaac Asimov lived while he was working (and writing seminal Foundation and Robot stories) at the Naval Yard during WWII. Asimov hated Philadelphia while he lived here but came back for the conventions year after year. He gave back. Now it’s time to Philadelphia to give back to him. The petition seems to have stalled at 364, 136 short of its goal. This despite the fact that you don’t have to be a citizen of Pennsylvania to sign it. I don’t want to be a part of a genre that can’t give Isaac five hundred signatures.

Swanwick’s plea must have worked. He was looking for 500 signers. The petition hit 3,000 signatures on April 25. Today it’s up to 3,223 on the way to a target of 5,000.

The mightiness of the internet has been verified once again with much pressing of the enter key.

Yet there’s still no plaque on Asimov’s old apartment building.

There never will be until somebody springs to have one made. The Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program isn’t going to pay for it even if they accept the application —

It is important that you consider the availability of funds in making this nomination. For your information, city-type markers cost approximately $1,400; roadside markers cost approximately $1,875. Final figures may vary slightly, and there are usually other costs incurred with the installation of markers and dedication ceremony.

Think Asimov needs plaque on his old apartment house? Buy one and go ask the landlord’s permission to glue it to the building. Come back and declare victory on the internet when it means something.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

A Century of Taral Celebrated in Drink Tank

By Taral Wayne: So many issues of The Drink Tank, so little time to fill them.  However, as of this issue, I’ve filled 100 of them!  To commemorate the event, Chris Garcia and I collaborated on a Special Issue!  I began my appearances in DT way back in 2007, with a two part interview conducted by Frank Wu.  I was a little slow reappearing, but once I got into the habit, it was a hard one to break.  In the 187 issues since, I’ve added to the pages somewhat more often than once every other DT.  Most of the pieces I contributed were moderately short, but that’s still a lot of writing any way you slice it.  Somebody should have told me it was habit forming.

There has been a lot of careless talk about the zine’s “golden touch,” as though to be a regular contributor was a punched ticket to the Hugo Ceremonies, right up front where the other nominees sit.  It has won Chris the Rocket for Best Fanzine, along with his co-editor, James Bacon.  It has also won DT’s frequent cover artist, Mo Starkey a Hugo for Best Fanartist.  But I recommend caution before throwing around irresponsible theories like that.  If it were so … where’s my Hugo?  I am the living proof that Chris and Mo earned their Hugo some other way than by merely appearing in Drink Tank.  Bribery perhaps?

Drink Tank 340 was finished a couple of days ago, and ought to be posted on eFanzines just before this issue of Broken Toys.  Oh … and by the way.  As a Special Celebration of the Special Issue, I have ceased writing for Drink Tank.

It is said that the best way to create a demand is to limit supply, you see.  Now that my writing in Drink Tank will be in very short supply, perhaps it will stimulate voter interest, so that I may someday – finally – have my very own silver rocket to cradle in my arms!

Hamit Back on the Air

Francis Hamit returns to Jim Lynch’s radio program “Everything Is Broken” on Tuesday, April 30, talking about the West, Texas tragedy.

The fertilizer plant blew up, killed 15 people and destroyed much of the town. “It didn’t have to happen,” says Hamit, “and I’ll be discussing that with Jim. I used to be a Security Consultant and have some knowledge in this area.”

This code will take you to the online broadcast. Hamit is scheduled for 10:20 AM PDT, but the timing may not be precise because it’s a public radio station and they are fund-raising.

SF Writer Stamps Delayed

Inverted Jenny

Only in the future could we expect to see science fiction writers on stamps – a future that is a little more distant now that the US Postal Service has postponed til 2014 an anticipated set of commemoratives honoring five of them.

The set was originally announced to subscribers of the USPS Commemorative Panel program in February with a July 2013 release date. Ever since there has been fevered speculation about the honorees, who were unnamed. Would the set be composed only of Americans? Would they be a diverse group? Did honorees have to be deceased (no), and if so, had Bradbury been dead long enough to make the list?

Linn’s Stamp News for April 29 carried news of the postponement and reportedly named the writers who will appear on the stamps —

  • Isaac Asimov
  • Ray Bradbury
  • Philip K. Dick
  • Robert A. Heinlein
  • Frank Herbert

Collectors discussing the delay observed the science fiction writer issue isn’t the only casualty of the 2013 program. They say the Ingrid Bergman stamp, Just Move stamps, and Medal of Honor Winner stamps and the March on Washington stamp were all set back.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

2013 Aurora Awards Shortlist

The nominees for the 2013 Aurora Awards are:

Best Novel – English
Destiny’s Fall by Marie Bilodeau, Dragon Moon Press
Food for the Gods by Karen Dudley, Ravenstone Books
Healer’s Sword: Part 7 of the Okal Rel Saga by Lynda Williams, EDGE
The Silvered by Tanya Huff, DAW Books, Inc.
Thunder Road by Chadwick Ginther, Ravenstone Books
Triggers by Robert J. Sawyer, Penguin Canada

Best YA Novel – English
Above by Leah Bobet, Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic
The Calling by Kelley Armstrong, Harper Teen
Dissolve by Neil Godbout, Bundoran Press
Mik Murdoch, Boy Superhero by Michell Plested, Five Rivers
Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow, TOR Teen
Under My Skin: Wildlings Series (Book 1) by Charles de Lint, Razorbill Canada

Best Short Fiction – English
“Delta Pi” by Matt Moore, Torn Realities, Post Mortem Press
“Happily Ever After” by Marie Bilodeau, When the Villain Comes Home, Dragon Moon Press
“Knights Exemplar” by Al Onia, On Spec #90, Fall
“Synch Me, Kiss Me, Drop” by Suzanne Church, Clarkesworld, Issue #68, May
“The Walker of the Shifting Borderland” by Douglas Smith, On Spec #90, Fall

Best Poem/Song – English
“A sea monster tells his story” by David Clink, The Literary Review of Canada, July/August
“The Ghosts of Birds” by Helen Marshall, Phantom Drift 2: Valuable Estrangements, Wordcraft of Oregon
“Hold Fast” by Leah Bobet, Strange Horizons, June 11, 2012
“Roc” by Sandra Kasturi, Come Late to the Love of Birds, Tightrope Books
“Zombie Descartes Writes a Personal Ad” by Carolyn Clink, Tesseracts Sixteen, EDGE

Best Graphic Novel – English
Goblins by Tarol Hunt, webcomic
Looking for Group by Ryan Sohmer and Lar DeSouza, webcomic
Raygun Gothic by GMB Chomichuk, Alchemical Press
Weregeek by Alina Pete, webcomic
West of Bathurst by Kari Maaren, webcomic

Best Related Work – English
Shanghai Steam edited by Ace Jordyn, Calvin D. Jim, and Renée Bennett, EDGE
Imaginarium 2012: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing edited by Sandra Kasturi and Halli Villegas, ChiZine Publications
Hair Side, Flesh Side byHelen Marshall, ChiZine Publications
Blood and Water edited by Hayden Trenholm, Bundoran Press
On Spec published by the Copper Pig Writers’ Society

Best Artist
Richard Bartrop, illustrations for fiction on Reality Skimming blog
GMB Chomichuk, Raygun Gothic, Alchemical Press
Costi Gurgu, cover art for Inner Diverse, (Starfire World Syndicate)
Michelle Milburn, cover art for Gathering Storm and Healer’s Sword, (EDGE)
Erik Mohr, cover art for ChiZine Publications

Best Fan Publication
BCSFAzine, edited by Felicity Walker
Broken Toys, edited by Taral Wayne
In Places Between: The Robyn Herrington Short Story Contest, edited by Renée Bennett
Reality Skimming blog, content coordinator Michelle Carraway
Space Cadet, edited by R. Graeme Cameron
Speculating Canada blog, edited by Derek Newman-Stille

Best Fan Filk
Morva Bowman and Alan Pollard, Concert at FilKONtario 22
Debs & Errol (Deborah Linden and Errol Elumir), Songs in the Key of Geek CD
Brooke Lunderville, International Guest of Honour Concert at Consonance
Kari Maaren, Body of Work
Peggi Warner-Lalonde, Concert at NEFilk 22 ConCertino 2012

Best Fan Organizational
Andrew Gurudata, Organizing the Constellation Awards, Toronto
Evelyn Baker, Amy De Ruyte, and Peter Halasz, Executive Committee of WFC Toronto, 2012
Sandra Kasturi, Helen Marshall, and, James Bambury, Co-Chairs, Chiaroscuro Reading Series, Toronto
Sandra Kasturi and Laura Marshall. Co-Chairs, Toronto SpecFic Colloquium: Beyond the Human
Randy McCharles, Chair and Programming, When Words Collide, Calgary

Best Fan Related Work
Ron Friedman, conception and delivery of the Aurora Awards voter package
Helen Marshall, “The Book is Dead; Long Live the Book!”: Some Thoughts on the Coming of eBooks, lecture at the 2012 Toronto SpecFic Colloquium
Michael Matheson, compilation and maintenance of the Can Spec Fic List
Lloyd Penney, for fanwriting and letter and article writing for fanzines and e-fanzines
Peter Watts, “Hive Minds, Mind Hives” lecture at Toronto SpecFic Colloquium

 Members of CSFFA (Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association) may vote on the awards from May 6 until September 13 (at Noon PDT). The awards will be presented at Can-Con in Ottawa, Oct 4-6.