The Age of Lucius Shepard

How old Lucius Shepard was when he died proved to be a controversial question here.

Shepard’s Wikipedia entry and the obit posted at the SFWA Blog listed 1947 as the year of his birth. However, I followed the Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s lead and reported he was born in 1943.

Which is right?

The 1947 date was favored by Shepard. It appears in his official bio. He also did not demur when Jason S. Ridler posed a question in a Clarkesworld interview that stated the writer was 33 when he went to Clarion – assuming a 1947 birth date.

However, with Dave Langford’s help I was able to learn more about the SF Encyclopedia’s preference for 1943, based on Mike Ashley’s search of the public record.

  • The 1945 Florida census includes a Lucius Shepard, age 2, listed as born in Virginia. (Shepard’s official bio states he was born in Lynchburg, VA.)
  • The US Public Records Office lists Lucius T. Shepard as living in Seattle in 1993, with a birth year of 1943.
  • Finally, Shepard said he attended the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill — and a Lucius T. I. Shepard is listed as attending there in 1962 aged about 20.

So there’s persuasive support in official records for a 1943 birth date, in which case Shepard was 70 years old when he died.

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Lucius Shepard (1943-2014)

Celebrated sf writer Lucius Shepard died in Portland (OR) March 18 at the age of 70. He reportedly suffered a stroke last year and had been in poor health for some time.

He won a Hugo and a Nebula, and a host of other awards, but the truest measure of his popularity in the sf genre may be the Locus Poll, where he registered eight wins between 1985 and 2001 – for seven pieces of fiction and a collection.

Shepard attended the Clarion Writers’ Workshop at Michigan State University in 1980 and sold his first story, “Black Coral,” in 1981 to New Dimensions, an anthology edited by Marta Randall.

Critics found in his work the influence of his travels throughout Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and concern for impoverished third-word countries generally. During the early 1980s he worked as a freelance journalist covering the civil war in El Salvador. Thereafter he primarily wrote fiction. His first novel, Green Eyes, appeared in 1984.

Fans grouped him with the cyberpunk movement. In 1985 he won the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer. His novella “R&R,” which won a Nebula in 1986, later became part of his novel Life During Wartime (1986). He won a Hugo for his novella “Barnacle Bill the Spacer” in 1993.

He was also an award-winning poet whose “White Trains” received a Rhysling Award in 1988.

Update 03/20/2014: Deleted reference to service in armed forces. Corrected age at death.