Lou Antonelli (1957-2021)

Lou Antonelli posing with sign outside Hugo, Oklahoma.

SF author Lou Antonelli died October 6 at his Clarksville, TX residence. He was 64.

Antonelli made a late start as a science fiction writer, initially posting his first story “Insight” to get feedback on the Speculative Visions website in 2002. His first published story came at the age of 46, “Silvern” in the June 2003 issue of RevolutionSF.  His first professional sale was “A Rocket for the Republic”, to Gardner Dozois at Asimov’s Science Fiction, where it appeared in September 2005 and was well-received, placing third in Asimov’s annual Readers Poll in the short story category.

Antonelli grew up in Massachusetts. He discovered sf in grade school, reading Scholastic Book Club novels. The first one he bought was The Runaway Robot by Lester Del Rey.

He eventually sold 125 short stories. Gardner Dozois gave eleven of them honorable mentions in The Year’s Best Science Fiction. And his 2012 short story “Great White Ship” was nominated for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. 

Antonelli capitalized on his good relationship with editor Dozois to produce a nonfiction book about writing, Letters From Gardner, analyzing the development of 16 of his short stories, which also appeared in the book.

By profession Antonelli was a journalist, and he explained the launch of his career in sf this way: “There’s an old saying you have to write a million words before you are any good.  I think that’s true. One advantage I had was that my million words were in newspapers.  No one ever read my amateurish fiction, because my amateur stuff was published in newspapers.  I was first published in a local newspaper when I was 12.  I first started writing fiction when I was 46.  That’s why, after my first acceptance, the editor said, ‘You seemed to have skipped the novice stage.’”

Late in life he and his wife, Patricia, acquired and produced the local Clarksville, TX newspaper.

Antonelli was politically active, and sometimes registered his dissent by running against incumbents. In 1982, at the age of 25, he ran as a Republican for Congress in a Manhattan-area district, losing by a margin of 85%–15%. In 2020, he ran for Congress in Texas’s 4th congressional district as a Libertarian, trailing both major parties with just 1.9% of the vote.

He did have one successful run for public office. In 1985, Antonelli moved to Texas, and in 1992, he was elected to a term as a member of the Cedar Hill ISD school board and served three years, but was not re-elected.

Antonelli likewise voiced his dissent within the science fiction field. His personal blog offered harsh criticism of an industry he considered controlled by those who were to the left of him politically. He co-founded an organization to rival SFWA, the Society for the Advancement of Speculative Storytelling (SASS) in 2012, with Michael A. Burstein as President, Brad R. Torgersen as Vice-President, and himself as Secretary. He even quit SFWA in 2017, but later rejoined and tried unsuccessfully to get elected as a Director in 2020.

He was a vocal sideline supporter of the Sad Puppies’ efforts to get their works nominated for the Hugo. In return, both Torgersen’s Sad Puppies slate and the Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies slates propelled Letters From Gardner and his short story “On A Spiritual Plain” onto the 2015 Hugo ballot.

That same year, Antonelli wrote a letter to the Police Department of Spokane, Washington, telling them to be on the lookout for someone who may incite violence — Sasquan guest of honor David Gerrold. In the uproar that followed, Antonelli published an apology which Gerrold publicly accepted and advocated that Antonelli not be banned from the convention. Antonelli was subsequently allowed to attend. However, Antonelli later resumed trying to justify what he had done. That same year he gained increased notoriety for publishing Carrie Cuinn’s contact information after she revoked plans to anthologize one of his stories, exposing her to abuse in email and social media.

The family’s obituary notice is on the Clarksville Funeral Home website. He is survived by his wife Patricia.

[Thanks to Olav Rokne for the story.]

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32 thoughts on “Lou Antonelli (1957-2021)

  1. While I didn’t approve of Lou’s controversial stunts, he was a gentleman towards me. My sympathy to his loved ones.

  2. I did not know him, for good or ill. I offer sympathy to his family and friends.

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  4. On his Facebook wall, Lou Antonelli announced in March that he was having heart-related problems requiring catheterization. He wrote that he had calcium deposits of almost 3,000 and would require a stent or a bypass.

    He had a different reputation in his hometown than he did in the SF community, judging by this memorial post from a local who said he had been ill with pneumonia.

  5. He wanted people like me dead – though possibly only passively, from suicide and neglect. It seems worth recording that along with the rest

  6. I knew of Lou only through the reporting and interactions that could be found online, nothing about the whole man so…

    For those who loved him may their grief pass by and leave only happy memories.
    May whatever good he did live on through them.
    May whatever ill he did leave this world with him.

    He had a family, he had a filer nickname, he had a writing career, he had a newspaper.

    And now his watch is ended.

  7. It’s a shame that he didn’t leave a better lasting memory for fandom to keep.

    Condolences to his loved ones.

  8. Andrew Porter: For his family and friends, it is still a grief. And you will note how many of the comments focus upon that. More, the obituary itself is a marvel of balance.

    I tend for my part to wish no-one dead, and to acknowledge that when those for whom I have ill feelings die, outside of certain rare extremes of behaviour, there will be good, decent people who will feel a loss. Suffice to say, I will not be offering similar condolences to his kin when A Certain Person who renewed his already excessive notoriety via the Rabid Puppies passes — but I don’t wish even A Certain Person dead, and moreover, Lou Antonelli was not that extreme.

  9. Condolences to Lou’s friends & family.

    I interacted with him in the old Asimov’s fora and even then, it was clear that our politics were different, but we had some fun & interesting discussions. When the fora were discontinued, I moved on, and when he later came to my attention promoting the Puppies, I was saddened..

  10. @Andrew: It may be that many people believe in not speaking ill of the dead and thus just aren’t saying anything here. Or “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

    Did he get the bypass or stent and it just didn’t work? A friend of mine had a heart attack recently and got a multiple bypass within a couple of weeks, and so far so good. But another friend had to have his stents replaced regularly and new ones added. It’s a crapshoot.

  11. lurkertype: It may be that many people believe in not speaking ill of the dead…

    … on the post which is that person’s obit. Yep.

  12. Mm, it took me awhile to comment because I didn’t want to… not… say anything at all… but also, I have a standing policy of not going in for any hardcore shit-talking on someone’s obituary where their loved ones might reasonably be expected to drop by. Still not sure I got it where I wanted it.

    I was impressed with the tightrope walking Mike pulled off in the OP, though.

  13. Bill: I’m not aware of him wanting the death of anyone.

    I don’t think it’s a virtue to brag about unawareness.

    Meredith: I was impressed with the tightrope walking Mike pulled off in the OP, though.

    I will agree, this post is indeed a masterwork of kindness and diplomacy under the circumstances, especially given the treatment to which Mike has previously been subjected.

  14. I was no fan of his, to say the least. He sowed discord where he thought it politically expedient, and there were those he actively wished ill upon for no other reason than bigotry.

    But there were those he loved and was loved by, too. My thoughts are with them right now.

  15. My sole interaction with him, whether meatspace or virtual, was observing a few moments of good-spirited merriment he enjoyed with a few friends. We were all crammed together in an elevator just after the Sasquan Hugo ceremony and they were admiring the upsized wooden “asterisk” medallions the Finalists were presented. (The Puppies later retconned this out of their history, insisting they knew right from the get-go that they understood the implied insult, but oh well, that’s on them.)

    I’ve read some of his fiction and while it’s not groundbreakingly original it’s not terrible either. We’d all be better off had he honed his storytelling instead of getting up to all manner of shenanigans.

    Kindness towards the bereaved friends and family are what’s socially expected even though they were his enablers.

  16. Well, that’s an end to that particular phase.

    I won’t miss his voice in the community; I’m sure others will.

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