Eric Flint (1947-2022)

Eric Flint at Book Expo in 2011. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Prolific and distinguished author and editor Eric Flint died July 17 at the age of 75. David Weber made the announcement on Facebook.

Flint was frequently hospitalized for health problems in recent years. In 2019, he had to leave the NASFiC/Westercon/1632 Minicon where he was one of the guests of honor to be treated for pneumonia (though he did one of his panels by Skype from a hospital bed.) Before that he had cancer surgery in 2016. In 2017 had to forgo his GoHship at Balticon 51 due to a previous case of pneumonia. This May, he told Facebook friends he was in hospital for a staph infection.  

Flint’s incredible career in sff was all the more remarkable for having essentially started after he reached age 50.

Flint spent many years as a longshoreman, and then machinist, as well as serving as a labor organizer and member of the Socialist Workers Party, before beginning his writing career.

With his short story “Entropy, and the Strangler” he won the fourth quarter of the 1993 L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. However, it was another four years before his first novel, Mother of Demons, was published by Baen Books. He only moved into writing full-time in 1999.

Since then he has published over 70 novels, many in collaboration with other authors including David Freer, David Drake, David Weber, Ryk E. Spoor, Mercedes Lackey, and more.

Beginning in 1999, he became the first librarian of the Baen Free Library, working with Jim Baen to determine whether the availability of books free of charge on the Internet encouraged or discouraged the sale of their paper books. In a 2001 article in The Industry Standard — primarily composed of quotes from Harlan Ellison railing against e-piracy — Flint took a very different tack: “’The real enemy of authors – especially midlist writers – is not piracy,’ says Baen’s online librarian Eric Flint. ‘It’s obscurity.’ Two-thirds of the e-mail Flint has received since the Baen Free Library began posting books is from readers who purchased books they initially downloaded from the site.” 

Flint also helmed Jim Baen’s Universe, an e-zine published from 2006 until 2010.

The success of Flint’s 1632 series led to creation of The Grantville Gazette, now edited by Walt Boyes, which reached its 100th issue in 2022.

The 1632 series also earned Flint a Special Achievement citation from the Sidewise Awards for Alternate History in 2018

for his ongoing encouragement of the genre of alternate history through his support of the community and writers developed around his 1632 series. In 2000, Eric Flint published the novel 1632. Following the publication of the novel, Flint has encouraged an extensive on-line community to expand on his vision and explore the ramifications of alternate history through discussion and publication of fiction and non-fiction that builds off his original work, resulting in dozens of stories and novels and helping to launch the careers of many authors.

And he was a five-time Dragon Award nominee for novels he co-authored in the 1632 series, winning last year for 1637: No Peace Beyond the Line written with Charles Gannon.

Flint’s resume as a labor organizer for the Socialist Workers Party did nothing to keep him from being embraced by the many conservative authors connected with Baen Books. And during the Sad/Rabid Puppies contretemps of the last decade he wrote several maddeningly even-handed essays such as “Do We Really Have to Keep Feeding Stupid and his Cousin Ignoramous?” He also tried to get people to see things as he did on the topic of “The Divergence Between Popularity and Awards in Fantasy and Science Fiction”, an essay which helped trigger the development of the Best Series Hugo proposal in 2016.

Flint donated his archive to the department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University in 2008.

Some of Flint’s convention guest of honor appearances not already mentioned were at the 2010 NASFiC, ReConStruction, and as guest of the 1632 Minicon held in conjunction with the 2020 NASFiC in Columbus, OH.

He is survived by his wife Lucille, their daughter Liz, son-in-law Donald and his grandchildren.

[Thanks to Jeffrey Jones for the story.]

Eric Flint at Book Expo with co-author Charles Gannon. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

30 thoughts on “Eric Flint (1947-2022)

  1. “’The real enemy of authors – especially midlist writers – is not piracy,’ says Baen’s online librarian Eric Flint. ‘It’s obscurity.’

    That’s a really good quote. A lot of the good and bad of Baen books is reflected in that idea, and it would be hard to say that it is incorrect.

    Flint will be missed. At times I found his thoughts on issues maddening and other times deeply insightful and often both.

  2. My condolences to Mr. Flint’s family, friends and colleagues on his passing. I haven’t read his writing, but I have a lengthy anthology, The World Turned Upside Down, edited by Flint and Jim Baen and David Drake.

  3. He was GoH at this past October’s ICON in Cedar Rapids, and I was delighted to talk with him once more, as we had at so many other cons. I’d hoped his health was recovering.

    We argued as only a Trotskyist and a social democrat can; but I was proud to know him. Farewell, comrade.

  4. Many thanks for your moving recollections, Michael! However, I’m curious about your comment here: “We argued as only a Trotskyist and a social democrat can; but I was proud to know him. Farewell, comrade.” If you don’t mind my asking, which of you was which? I understand from the above tribute that Flint was once an organizer for the Socialist Workers Party, which I understand was once a Trotskyist party (although I had a Trotskyist friend who told me that they moved away from Trotskyism in some fashion).

  5. We are are worse off with the passing of Eric Flint, one of the most passionate, generous and kind souls I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing in fandom.

    May his memory be a blessing and a continuing inspiration to his friends and family.

    Ad Astra, Eric…

  6. @CarlRosenberg: Eric was a Trotskyist at heart, although like many other SWP people he was not doctrinaire about it. I’m a boring old Milwaukee-style Christian social democrat, the last surviving member of the old Tennessee Valley local of the Socialist Party U.S.A.

  7. My SO and I are really going to miss him. I considered him a friend, seeing him mostly at Windycon. He was who published my first story, which was about one of his special characters in the 1632 universe, and published two shorts since then. I’m one of over 200 writers who’ve played in that universe, and been published.

    His Ring of Fire Pres – currently publishing a new book a week (!!!), also published my first novel last year.

    It won’t be the same, without seeing him, and his pure Chi-ca-gah accent and bowler.

  8. I should add that he followed Jim Baen in wanting to develop new authors, and his Ring of Fire Press is a lot of us.

  9. Many thanks, Michael! (My views may be somewhat closer to yours, for whatever that’s worth.) In any case, I find all these ins and outs of various political groupings interesting.

  10. Sad news. I remember when he argued so much with Ryk E. Spoor on Usenet (about editing philosophy) that they ended up writing a book together.

  11. Speaking as part of the Capclave community we were very honored to have him as one of our GoH’s (along with Peter Beagle) at our convention last year.

  12. I used to hang out at Baen’s Bar, and had the pleasure of reading 1632, as well as his Belisarius series. He was a decent man who believed in the decency of everyone else.

  13. Condolences to his family, friends, and fans.
    (I have the Belisarius series. While I might argue with some of it – it’s still excellent. And I’ve read several of the 1632 series.)

  14. While this isn’t unexpected, it still stinks. 🙁 I read “1632” when it first came out, and then a couple of years later, I read it again and loved it even more. Someday, I will have the time to follow the many branches of the series.

    I can still remember how Eric Flint sort of accidentally started the Baen Free Library — after a post on Usenet about ebook piracy (and DRM) annoyed him. How different Baen Books would have been without him…

    I just visited the Ring of Fire Press website today and realized they have a lot more than 1632/Ring of Fire books. So I’ve subscribed to the newsletter.

  15. The world is worse for his passing, but better for his legacy. May his words live forever.

  16. I never met the man, but was a fan of many of his works. I’m personally grateful for what he did for Ryk Spoor, who I’ve been friendly with since Usenet days. His influence on the field will outlast most of us now living, I expect.

  17. I don’t know much about his fiction, which in my case is not a value judgement. However, he was the instigator of and editor (with Guy Gordon) for Baen’s series of James H. Schmitz reissues (2000 to 2002, perhaps?), which put one of my favorite authors back in print and got him some attention. I remain deeply grateful for that. RIP.

  18. Damn. I’ll miss his books. And the field as a whole will miss his cheerful, generous presence.

  19. Ann Marble – there are a lot of non-1632 books published by Ring of Fire Press. (My novel, 11,000 Years, surely isn’t 1632), and there are lot of good writers, including people he was bringing back to print.

  20. He was a fine example of a writer who made his way with invention and sweat. I’ll miss him as a judge on the WotFuture panel.

  21. I met Flint several times (including at least thrice when he was a guest at a Huntsvile con). He met so many people that I doubt he could’ve picked me out of a crowd, despite my being of a somewhat imposing size. However, I found him to be humane and thoughtful in ways that made him stand out from the crowd much more than I ever could. That was independent of, but certainly informed, his writing.

    I did, and do, consider him a friend of Huntsville fandom. He will be missed by many and that includes me.

  22. So sad to hear that. I know he had been in poor health for a long while, but also that he seemed in good spirits last I heard (a while ago, I admit). I chatted with him on Baen’s Bar and met him a couple times in Chicago too. He will be missed.

    A slight quibble on Jim Baen’s Universe. As far as I know, it paid more than SFWA minimum rates and was an approved market for SFWA membership. As such it was a precursor to today’s digitally distributed magazines like Lightspeed or Clarkesworld, and I think calling it an “e-zine” diminishes it.

  23. I did read his 1632, which was extra fun for a Swede to read because of his inclusion of one of our historical kings. When he was at one of the Worldcons, I took the opportunity to get a signed copy for my father who liked it very much. What I really appreciated was that Flint was one of the few authors who wrote about the Unions in a positive light.

    He will be missed.

  24. I’m sad: I will certainly miss his writings, especially his collaborations with Mercedes Lackey and Freer. Condolences to his family.

  25. Here’s a list of Eric Flint titles that have already been delivered and are on the schedule for Baen:

    July 2022
    1812: The Rivers of War-first Baen publication, trade pb

    August 2022
    The Crossing by Kevin Ikenberry-hardcover (not by Eric, but an Assiti Shards novel)
    September 2022
    To End in Fire by David Weber & Eric Flint-mass market reprint
    1637: Dr. Gribbleflotz and the Soul of Stoner by Kerryn Offord & Rick Boatwright-mass market reprint

    November 2022
    1637: The Transylvanian Decision by Eric Flint & Robert Waters-hardcover

    January 2023
    Grantville Gazette IX-mass market reprint

    April 2023
    1637: The Coast of Chaos by Eric Flint et al.-mass market reprint

    September 2023
    1638: The Siberian Enterprise by Eric Flint, Paula Goodlett & Gorg Huff-hardcover

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