Bud Webster (1952-2016)

Bud Webster w books

SFWA’s Estate Project manager Bud Webster died February 14. He had been suffering for over a year from bile duct cancer and was in hospice care for the last weeks of his life.

Webster_BudBorn Clarence Howard Webster in Roanoke, VA in 1952, he studied music at Virginia Commonwealth University, majoring in composition.

He was a fan for over 40 years, becoming involved in fandom in the early 1970s, and he was a pro for over 20 years, beginning when his first published story “The Rabbi’s Tale” appeared in Bill Bridges’ Drums Around The Fire anthology (1993).

His fantasy fiction appeared in F&SF, other genre magazines, and collections.

Webster’s most popular fiction was the four Bubba Pritchert stories that appeared in Analog, starting with “Bubba Pritchert and the Space Aliens” (July, 1994). Two stories in the series came in at the top of their category in the annual Analog Readers Poll (1995, 1997).

He had a sharp sense of humor, one often directed at himself. His Goodreads author page began –

Bud Webster is a big know-it-all who can empty a room in three minutes just by blabbing trivia about science fiction and fantasy….

— and listed his influences as “Cheddar cheese, recalcitrant cats, good music.”

FuturopolisHe also worked on Steve Segal’s and Phil Trumbo’s film Futuropolis (1984), voicing a bearded guard, a computer, and Spud.

At least once, though, he began to write a story with humorous intent and ended up dealing with life wounds that he did not set out to reveal. “Christus Destitutus,” a nominee for the 2005 Southeastern SF Achievement Awards, was “originally envisioned as a satire, the sort of wry observation that Damon Knight and others used to write for Galaxy or F&SF. It turned into a dark and angry commentary on my own religious upbringing, something I honestly did not expect.”

Webster was a respected sf historian, too. He discussed long neglected genre works in F&SF’s “Curiosities” department. His Past Masters and Anthopology 101 columns for various publications including the SFWA Bulletin (available as free reads here), were collected in Past Masters, & Other Bookish Natterings (2013), and Anthopology 101: Reflections, Inspections and Dissections of SF Anthologies (2010). His autobiographical The Joy of Booking (2011) chronicles Bud’s adventures as a collector and seller of science fiction books at regional conventions.

He had a long association with Black Gate, recounted by John ONeill in a tribute at the blog:

I was already a fan of Bud Webster’s Past Masters column, thoughtful biographical pieces on the enduring impact of our finest writers, when I first approached him to become a Contributing Editor. His first article for us, a marvelous discussion of Tom Reamy, and a continuation of his Who? series on neglected genre authors, appeared in Black Gate 15.

….It was the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership with Bud. He was briefly our poetry editor, before the death of the print magazine made that title superfluous. He became a prolific early blogger for us, contributing a dozen posts, mostly on his favorite subjects — the pros and cons of selling vintage books, his role as an stfnal historian, and the magical books that first lured him into the hobby.

ONeill’s obit includes the text of Webster’s last column proposal, bound to be an interesting and controversial one, that was never written because his health failed.

As a poet, Webster’s most famous work was the narrative SF hobo poem, “The Ballad of Kansas McGriff,” which took first place in the National Hobo Association Rendezvous 2000 Poetry Contest, where he read it to an audience of over 5,000 hobos.

Webster won the 2012 Service to SFWA Award for his efforts on The Estate Project, which collects information about deceased members of the professional sf community. This data is used by editors, publishers and agents to research rights, obtain permissions, make payments, and ensure legitimate publication without copyright violations.

Michael A. Ventrella interviewed Webster in 2014 and learned how he became SFWA’s point man for author estates.

VENTRELLA: Tell us about the SFWA Estates project.

WEBSTER: Well, SFWA had been tracking estates for years when I was asked to take it over in ’07, but it was catch-as-catch-can and some of the information they had was either outdated or inaccurate. I was on the verge of leaving SFWA after several events had transpired, and then-president Russell Davis and former president Michael Capobianco offered me the position of Estates Liaison not to placate me but to give me a legitimate reason to stay on and be productive. I had already been able to track down a few estates through the network of email lists I was on, so it was right up my alley. It appealed to my sense of history, and it fit in with my interest in keeping classic sf and fantasy alive.

A typical Bud Webster appeal to get writers to make provision for their literary estates began with a frank description of how things would look if they didn’t:

Do you want your intellectual property rights to be so profoundly screwed up that your heirs sell it off just to be rid of the bother, or so unutterably confused that it will take years to straighten out?  Okay, then, start thinking about what to do now, while you can still make phone calls, send e-mails and sign papers.

Bud is survived by his wife and long time companion Mary Horton whom he married in 2013.

Update 02/15/2016: Added information from Kermit Woodall’s comment on another post.

20 thoughts on “Bud Webster (1952-2016)

  1. Bud was a good friend and a great talker, and a sartorial role model (it is thanks to his influence that I have a red fez). Bud played a part in the “Con Man and Fanboy” superhero radio show at Sci-Con, which he also favored with his annual “Sci-Fi Hi-Fi” slide show of LP jackets with audio clips from the worst science-fiction-infected pop albums of past decades, all from his large collection, until my cassette player quit working in mid-show. It’s too bad nobody thought to record it, now that I think on the matter. It was always fun to anchor “The Kip & Bud Show” with him at MarsCon, doing whatever we felt like (presenting audio and video clips and bantering) for the length of the panel. I’ve been missing that since 2005, when I moved from the area.

    I last saw Bud two years ago in Williamsburg, at MarsCon, sitting at his dealer’s table. He had been sick for some time, though I don’t recall hearing him talk about his troubles at all.

    One of the MarsCon organizers, Bob Snare, brought me into the loop about Bud’s current condition a few weeks ago, when Bud was admitted to hospice and was given about a week to live, which he exceeded. Bob told me that Bud had beaten one life-threatening illness only to succumb to another. A number of friends from the area spent time daily in his room, chatting and joking with him, or just being there. Talking didn’t come easy to him, but Bob reported that Bud knew what was going on around him.

    Bob also told me that Mary’s health is not good, and that if Bud’s illness had not been so far along, she would be the one everybody would be concerned for. If anyone wants to do something for Bud Webster or Mary Horton, it would be good to donate to the fund at the MarsCon store (encrypted link) and defray some of the hospice costs.

    There should be a book of his columns, fiction, and verse. Just saying.

    All of which is another way of saying, more or less, “Farewell, Bud, and thanks.”

  2. Bud was amazing and wonderful. He worked zealously at the SFWA Estates Project, helping countless folks untangle some complicated stuff. He will be sorely missed.

    If you haven’t read his Past Masters and Other Bookish Natterings book, it is a fun look at a lot of our history. I was hoping to see it Hugo-nominated last year, but alas.

  3. I knew Bud primarily through conventions. I would see him in the dealers room at Ravencon and Balticon and we would talk about Groff Conklin.

  4. He was a lovely man, and a walking history of the field. I wish I’d had a chance to know him better.

  5. I don’t have words yet.

    Even knowing this was coming, I don’t have words yet.

    What I will say is that if you have not yet read it, go read Christus.

  6. Mary told me this morning that Bud died about 1am Sunday actually.

    I’ve known Bud since 1978 when we met in college at VCU. He was someone I was proud to call one of my very good friends and a raconteur of no small renown.

  7. *SIGH* I didn’t know Mr. Webster, I never met him, but everything I’ve read by or about him makes me wish I had. Requiescat In Pace.

  8. Dave Weinstein: What I will say is that if you have not yet read it, go read Christus.

    Can you point to a source, now that Fictionwise is defunct?

  9. Can you point to a source, now that Fictionwise is defunct?

    I can indeed. Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic is available on Kindle.

  10. I met Bud in the ’70s, in Richmond. He was a fine fellow, with a wicked sense of humor and a contagious laugh. He took me to my first SCA event (which didn’t end well, since I wore Japanese Armor). Wish we hadn’t lost touch. Now I see I have some additions to my reading list… Rest easy, Bud, and my sincere condolences to your wife.

  11. Bud was a cool guy. Living on opposite coasts, I didn’t see him that much, but when I did, it was always cheering to see his fez and smile at cons.

  12. As someone who manages a writer’s estate, while I never needed Bud’s help, I very much appreciated what he managed to do for others. The field is in better shape for his work.

  13. Bud was a longtime friend of mine, and one I encouraged in his writing. A note that Bud could appreciate — The first edition of Joy of Booking came out from SRM Publisher in 2004 and was the result of us having been side-by-side at a convention where he loaded his table in about eight minutes while he was explaining the true publishing history of one of L. Sprague DeCamp’s early novels. I commissioned Joy of Booking as a chapbook on the spot and after a typical Websterish set of excursions and diversions it arrived and was published in an edition of 200 copies. We reverted the rights as SRM was closing down and he had a new publisher for an updated edition almost immediately.

    Here’s a review of the original:

  14. Bud, I knew him folks… A man of infinite wit and wisdom…

    I first met him at Sci-Con 4 MANY years ago, and again, many times both there and then, at Mars-Con in Williamsburg.

    His stories were fun and a good read, but he himself, he was what I considered a good friend, although I would see him so infrequently.

    I feel that he improved the lives of all those around him, as he certainly did mine.

    I lost touch with everyone back East when I moved out of Virginia, and lost touch with him.

    Finding out that he’d passed comes as a shock and leaves the world poorer for the loss.

    Rest In Peace, Bud

    And may flights of angels with kegs, fly you to your rest.

  15. I never knew him well, but I became lightly acquainted with him via the SFWA forum. Hearing of his death came as a shock.

    2016 must think it’s Joss Whedon or something. Yes, yes, anyone can die, you’ve made your point, now STOP IT ALREADY.

  16. Reposting important info about the fund drive from Bud’s facebook fan page:

    The out-of-pocket medical expenses that Bud and Mary have incurred are staggering. Many of you have asked how you can help. Donations for these medical expenses are being accepted through the MarsCon online store at https://squareup.com/market/marscon/bud-webster-medical-fund

    100% of every donation will go to Bud’s out-of-pocket medical and final expenses. The MarsCon Executive Committee has agreed to cover all of the fees that are levied by Square on each transaction. Thank you for any help you can give.

    As an added thanks for your donation, you are entitled to receive some ebooks courtesy of ReAnimus Press, publisher of the ebook editions of three of Bud’s books. (Past Masters / The Joy of Booking / Anthopology 101: Reflections, Inspections and Dissections of SF Anthologies)

    $25-$49 donation – Your choice of any one of Bud’s ebooks

    $50-$99 donation – All three of Bud’s ebooks

    $100-$199 donation – All three of Bud’s ebooks + any other three ebooks from the ReAnimus Press store

    $200+ donation – As above, plus any one additional ReAnimus Press book per additional hundred dollars (example: $300 = 3 of Bud’s + 5 any other)

    Codes to claim your ebooks will be sent as an acknowledgement of your donation. Thank you again for all your help.

    Also wanted to add the reminder that 100% of sales of Bud’s ebooks from ReAnimus Press is going to Mary as well. http://www.ReAnimus.com/authors/budwebster (For maximum benefit to Mary, it’s best to purchase through the store, so Amazon/etc. don’t take their large bite.)

  17. ps: Been enjoying Bud’s Past Masters while working out at the Y. I hear them in his voice. If anyone decides to make an audiobook of it, I’d be happy to undertake reading it.

    The other two books are waiting patiently on my tablet. I look forward to the time when his fiction will be similarly available.

    My hat’s off to ReAnimus Press. Oh, and when I bobbled the coupon code, they were immediately helpful. Good service.

  18. I also saw Bud Webster at MarsCon and at Terry Gray’s July 4th Cookout in Newport News. He always had a great selection of Sci Fi books for sale. He was always jolly and a great story teller. We missed him at MarsCon 26. I always took time off from Registration duties to see what books Bud Webster was selling at MarsCon.

  19. Well, now Mary is gone as well. A longtime Richmond fan and a crafter of quilts, she took care of Bud in his final illness at a time when her health was also failing. They are missed.

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