Stu Shiffman (1954-2014)

Stu Shiffman (middle) in 1981.

Stu Shiffman (middle) in 1981.

Stu Shiffman died November 26, almost two-and-a-half years after suffering a stroke; he was 60. The renowned fan artist, who generously shared his talents in fanzines, apas and convention publications, received the Best Fan Artist Hugo Award in 1990 and the Rotsler Award in 2010.

Stu was a native New Yorker but moved to Seattle about 20 years ago with his partner Andi Shechter.

Stu always was fascinated by the traditions and in-references of science fiction fandom and loved to incorporate them in unexpected settings that might involve anything from cartoons of talking animals to intricately rendered Egyptian tomb art and hieroglyphs.

When he got into fandom in the 1970s mimeographed fanzines were still quite common. Taral Wayne admired that Stu “was as much a master of pen and ink as he was of stylus and stencil.”

Stu also had a special interest in drawing literary characters like Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Burrough’s John Carter (interests which sometimes merged, as in his ERBzine contribution Adventure of the Martian Hegira: fragments from the Barsoomian Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes.)

In fact, one of his earliest contributions to a fanzine appeared in the sword-and-sorcery oriented Amra (October 1975) — “Goric & Other Limericks” co-authored with NY fan John Boardman.

Stu’s own publications, such as Raffles, co-edited with Larry Carmody, began appearing around 1977.

He became a leader in New York’s faannish fandom when he hosted Fanoclasts. He also chaired the Flushing in ’80 hoax Worldcon bid committee composed of Moshe Feder, Joe Siclari, Gary Farber, Hank Davis, Elliot Shorter, and Jon Singer.

Stu’s soaring popularity led to him being voted the 1981 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate. The following year he began his TAFF report, A Raffles Lad Abroad or The Road to Yorcon. (See Chapters 1 and 2 here.)

Stu ordinarily enjoyed his fannish accolades as much as anyone, but he did become frustrated that during the 1980s he established a record for the most fan Hugo nominations without winning. Everyone was gratified when he broke through at last in 1990.

All this productivity happened despite a medical condition Stu was coping with at the time. The symptoms became apparent when he was invited by fellow artists Schirmeister and Taral to join them hiking on Mt. Wilson in 1984 and he had difficulty keeping up. Taral explained in The Slan of Baker Street, “Stu will have to forgive me if I relate this imperfectly, but he had an abnormal connection between the blood vessels of his brain that allowed venous blood to mingle with arterial blood. The intermixing robbed his bloodstream of oxygen, and he tired easily.” Doctors corrected this by performing brain surgery in 1985 – an operation lasting 12 hours according to Ansible.

Stu’s interest in mysteries was strong enough to fuel three fandoms with art and articles. He was a Sherlockian (Sound of the Baskervilles, Hounds of the Internet) who contributed to publications like Baker Street Journal, and a Wodehouse enthusiast who sent material to such journals as Plum Lines and Wooster Sauce. And Stu was just as likely to write something about them for an sf fanzine. For example, a 1999 issue of Mainstream featured his “Adventures of the Danzig Mien,” the script of a Sherlockian parody: Stu had a great time festoon­ing a Conan Doyle-esque plot with ridiculous references and in-jokes.

He also produced some similarly-inspired short stories for an anthology series. In “The Milkman Cometh” (Tales of the Shadowmen 5: Vampires of Paris) Tevye meets Sherlock Holmes and confronts Boris Badenov. In “Grim Days” (Tales of the Shadowmen 7) Lord Peter Wimsey and Colonel Haki meet in Istanbul.

He drew a backup feature for Captain Confederacy, the black-and-white comic produced by Will Shetterly and Vince Stone (published by Steeldragon Press), involving two steampunkish characters named Saks & Violet.

So it is not surprising that Stu was attracted to alternate history and for many years was a member of the judging panel for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History.

His convention guest of honor stints included Hexacon (1980), Minicon XX, Wiscon XII, Corflu 6 (1989) and Lunacon 2000.

At Corflu 5 (1988) he was named a Past President of Fan Writers of America (fwa).

He had a recipe in the Tiptree fundraiser The Bakery Men Don’t See (1991) – “Grandma Ethel Katz’s Noodle Kugel.” Stu co-edited the 1986 issue of Science-Fiction Five-Yearly with the Nielsen Haydens and Lee Hoffman. He illustrated the 1991 edition of Beyond the Enchanted Duplicator…To the Enchanted Convention by Walt Willis and James White.

On June 14, 2012 Stu suffered a stroke. Two brain surgeries followed. For several months he went back and forth between ICU and acute care, depending on his breathing and heartbeat. Eventually he was reported to be on a gradual upswing and thereafter, though he periodically had serious setbacks, Stu enjoyed sustained improvement.

Andi Shecter visited constantly. Tom Whitmore maintained a CaringBridge online journal that let Stu’s friends keep abreast of important changes in his status.

Andi Shechter and Stu Shiffman on their wedding day, June 18, 2014,

Andi Shechter and Stu Shiffman on their wedding day, June 18, 2014,

In 2013 Andi and Stu, who had been together for 25 years, announced their engagement. On June 18, 2014 they married in a ceremony at University of Washington’s Burke Museum with nearly 100 in attendance.

By October, Stu had recovered to the point that he’d been able to use a powered wheelchair for the first time since his stroke. However, only a week later, he had a fall and required surgery from which he did not regain consciousness.

Then, this afternoon, he died after his heart stopped. Tom Whitmore explained: “Aides found him when they went to prepare him for a shower. He was given CPR and 911 was called. The EMTs were able to get a heartbeat and pulse back and he was being readied to go to Harborview Emergency Department when he heart stopped again. They were unable to get him back. They tried for about 40 minutes.”

I am so sad that Stu wasn’t able to make the recovery we all hoped he would have, and am very sorry for Andi’s loss.

Stu Shiffman and Mike Glyer in 2004. Photo by Rich Coad.

Stu Shiffman and Mike Glyer in 2004. Photo by Rich Coad.

Stu Shiffman Update 11/21

Stu Shiffman has been unresponsive since a fall suffered in October caused a recurrence of swelling in his brain. Tom Whitmore told followers of Stu’s Caringbridge page on November 19: “Unfortunately, this kind of swelling is hard to control. So Stu has an open place in his skull, which means he’s wearing a protective helmet. And it means that he’s likely to be unresponsive for a while. The standard estimate, to be safe, is 90 days.”

The fanartist suffered a stroke in 2012 and had made gradual but good progress til his recent setback.

Doctors plan to close his skull again in February. “This has been known to result in a return to responsiveness of unresponsive patients,” adds Whitmore. “It’s very possible that Stu will regain a lot of the function he had regained before, and possibly more. It’s also possible some good things will happen during that 90 days — we don’t know.” All Stu’s friends look forward to his taking that next step in recovery soon.

1964 Hugo Voting Stats Unearthed

Let us take you back to those thrilling days of yesteryear…when the Hugos were presented at Pacificon 2, the 1964 Worldcon. A memo containing that year’s Hugo voting statistics has been discovered by Tom Whitmore in the records of the late Alva Rogers.

Kevin Standlee has posted a copy [PDF file] on the official Hugo Award website.

Standlee notes that the 1964 awards were decided by a plurality of votersWay Station won Best Novel with just 24% of the vote. Later the rules were changed to require ranked voting and an elimination runoff, insuring winners would have the support of a majority.

No wonder voter support was splintered all to hell that year – look at the nominees in the Best Novel category, listed in order of finish.

  • Here Gather the Stars (alt: Way Station) by Clifford D. Simak
  • Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Witch World by Andre Norton
  • Dune World by Frank Herbert
  • Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

The winner, Way Station, has long been one of my favorite sf novels.

Herbert’s Dune World, defeated in 1964, was the version serialized in Analog; a longer fix-up novel incorporating this material would win the author a Hugo in 1966 and go on to be recognized as a classic in the field.

Despite the plethora of good work, 7 people voted No Award! Good grief, what were they waiting for?

Andi and Stu Engaged

Congratulations to Andi Shecter and Stu Shiffman who became engaged on July 18 in a ceremony at the rehab facility where Stu’s been staying. Tom Whitmore reported on CaringBridge:

Stu was fetching in a panama hat, and Andi was her usual dapper self. Rabbi Jessica K Marshall officiated, and a very pleasant time was had by all. This was Stu’s first trip outside in a very long time (aside from being transported from one facility to another). The weather was completely cooperative, warm with a slight breeze and very clear.

As Andi and Stu explained last month:

We have been together for 25 years. On June 13, 2012, Stu suffered a serious stroke from which he has recovered to a major extent, although he still has more healing to do. In March of 2013, Andi turned 60 years old, while Stu will have his 60th birthday in February of 2014. We feel that we have good reason to talk about love and commitment.

They will be married next June.

Stu Shiffman Update 6/3

Nearly a year has passed since fanartist Stu Shiffman suffered his stroke and his accelerating improvement is encouraging. Tom Whitmore wrote in a new post for Stu’s Caring Bridge page:

Stu’s been on the speaking valve pretty much every day, which means he’s getting more chances to talk. He’s been talking to his family on the phone, including his sister; and people are having no trouble understanding him. He sounds a lot like himself at this point — a bit quacky, perhaps, but the phrasing and pauses are classic Shiffman. He’s eating pureed foods regularly, and getting lots of visits from therapists. They’re always glad to work with him because he’s doing so well. For now, there’s no big news, but lots of positive small news.

 

Stu Shiffman Update 4/22

Ten months after suffering a stroke Stu Shiffman is regaining his speaking ability reports Tom Whitmore on Stu’s Caringbridge page

Stu is now doing almost all his communication by speech (rather than spelling things out). He’s still a little croaky, but only a little difficult to understand. He’s also continuing to work out a couple of times a week at the gym upstairs. He still can’t stand or walk, but they’re working on keeping his muscles in shape.

This is very fine news!

Stu Shiffman Update 4/4

Fanartist Stu Shiffman’s recovery from last June’s stroke has entered a new phase. Tom Whitmore reported on Stu’s CaringBridge page that he’s managing to talk for several minutes at a time (despite still having a trache in place) –

 A bit over a week ago when I was visiting, he managed clearly to say the number 6 while counting to 10 — according to Andi, he can now manage a lot of words in a row. We’re all very excited about this. His speech and respiratory therapists are continuing to spend more time with him just because he’s so responsive.

Stu Shiffman Update 2/12

On Stu Shiffman’s birthday — February 12 — friends celebrated both the date and his continuing, gradual recovery from last June’s stroke. As Tom Whitmore told followers of Stu’s CaringBridge journal —

Stu is continuing to be off the ventilator for a part of each day — it varies a lot depending on how much therapy he’s had, and he’s the one who has to decide when he’s going to be on or off it. Which is pretty cool. He’s forming words well now with his mouth, and he’s starting to be able to write again — the words are sprawled and a bit difficult to recognize, but he’s using a normal pen and I could read a couple of the words Andi showed me from Sunday.

Shiffman Update 8/12/12

Stu Shiffman is almost ready to move onto the next stage of his recovery, says Tom Whitmore on the Caring Bridge journal – this time it’s a literal move, to a skilled nursing facility.

Within a day or two Stu’s expected to be transferred to Health and Rehabilitation of North Seattle. See their FAQ for visiting hours and parking information (it’s free). Andi Shecter and Astrid Bear visited and met some staff and residents already. Stu’s stay will be covered by Medicaid.

Tom cautions, Stu’s still not speaking well, so no phone calls. When they know his room number it will be posted on Caring Bridge so that it can be included when addressing letter.

Update 08/13/2012: Stu’s room number is 110.

Shiffman Update 8/8

Andi Schecter says Stu Shiffman is doing much better. She told Tom Whitmore, who maintains Stu’s Caring Bridge journal, Stu has returned to the best level he’s been at since his stroke in June. Yesterday he tried writing, and managed to hug Andi using his right arm (the one affected by the stroke).

Today doctors will x-ray Stu’s kneecap to learn whether it has properly healed from the break and, if so, they will take the immobilizer off his leg.