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,
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.