In memoriam

Algis "A.J." Budrys

By Ian Randal StrockJune 9, 2008

Editor and author Algis "A.J." Budrys died 9 June 2008. The cause of death has not been released, but he had recently been diagnosed with cancer, and had been suffering from diabetes for a long time. Born Algirdas Jonas Budrys in Königsberg, East Prussia (once and later Lithuania) on 9 January 1931, he was the son of the consul-general of the Lituanian government, which sent his family to the US in 1936.

After graduating from Columbia University, he worked as an editor for Gnome Press and Galaxy Science Fiction. He also wrote science fiction under his own name, as well as pseudonyms such as John A. Sentry, William Scarff, and Frank Mason. Of his fiction, Todd Mason writes "what might be his magnum opus, The Death Machine, a heavily symbolic sf novel that Fawcett Gold Medal issued as Rogue Moon (1960)… a cast of functionally insane characters deal with an enigma of an alien labyrinth/device on the moon, which seems to kill anything that passes through it, much like the transportation device the humans use to get to it and back to Earth, which also kills at the transmission point and reassembles a person at the destination, with no sense of the death in the 'new' transported person."

Some of his other novels include: False Night (1954), Man of Earth (1956), Who? (1958), The Falling Torch (1959), Some Will Not Die (1961, expanded into False Night), The Iron Thorn (1967, aka The Amsirs and the Iron Thorn), Michaelmas (1977), and Hard Landing (1993).

Budrys lived in the Chicago area from the 1960s, and it was during that decade that he branched out of the sf world, editing for other local publishers, including Playboy. He was a book reviewer for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction from 1975 to 1993 (he'd done the same for Galaxy from 1965 to 1971), and an instructor at the Clarion Writing Workshops.

In the 1980s, Budrys helped launch the Writers of the Future (and later the Illustrators of the Future) contests, served as coordinating judge for several years, and was the editor of the first eight volumes of the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future annual anthologies of winning and runner-up stories. He left the contests in the early 1990s, and in 1993, launched his own magazine, Tomorrow Speculative Fiction. The magazine was one of the first to transition from paper to web publication, and eventually succumbed in 2000.

The Internet Science Fiction Database has a remarkably complete bibliography. His brief autobiography from LoneStarCon 2, the 1997 World Science Fiction Convention (at which he was Guest of Honor) is here.

Budrys is survived by his wife, Edna F. Budrys; his sons Jeffrey, Steven, Timothy, and David; and his grandchildren Zia and Dexter. Visitation will be Friday from 3 to 9PM; the funeral service will be on Saturday at 10AM, both at Donnellan Family Funeral Home, 10045 Skokie Blvd (at Old Orchard Rd), Skokie, Illinois 60077 (847-675-1990). The funeral home has a guest book. Interment will be at Maryhill Cemetery. Donations in memory of Algis Budrys may be made to the American Diabetes Association, 30 N Michigan Ave, Suite 2015, Chicago, IL 60602; or to the American Cancer Society, 820 Davis St, Suite 400, Evanston, IL 60201.

Steven H Silver, who first reported his death, wrote for SFScope:

By the time I met Algis Budrys, I already knew him. After all, I had read his old Galaxy Bookshelf Reviews, his novels, his short stories… And when I met him, he was editingTomorrow Speculative Fiction. It was still a paper magazine at that time, before AJ decided to try an experiment and go to electronic publication, one of the first sf magazines to try that approach.

I met AJ at Windycon, the local science fiction convention, where he was a fixture, and for the next few years, I saw him each year at the con. Eventually, he moved, temporarily, out to Los Angeles, where he was working more fully with the Writers of the Future organization, which he supported with his time and editorial efforts.

I only submitted one story to AJ, and he rejected it, with a lengthy letter that summed up one of the problems the piece had. There were too many characters, I either needed to cut it down to size, or expand it to a novel. Since we all know that expanding is easier than cutting, 90,000 additional words and voila, my first novel.

After AJ moved back to Evanston, I never had the chance to see him. We tried to get him to attend the Nebulas when they were in Chicago in 2005, but he didn't feel up to it and we respected his decision. I had him in mind for a project that I think he would have found fun to participate in, but now it will never happen.

I'll miss AJ, a friend I haven't seen in too long a time.

—Steven H Silver

 

Algis Budrys left us today. He hadn’t been well for some time, but still the shock of this news is surprising. I can safely say that most of my writing career, Pulphouse, the workshops we run, everything wouldn’t have existed without Algis Budrys.

I first met AJ on one very hot summer evening in Michigan in 1982. He was teaching that first week of Clarion and he had been a god to me since I read his book Rogue Moon in 1961. But I suddenly understood that gods were real humans as he came into the room, overweight, huffing from the walk, his shirt soaked with sweat. His doctor had just forced him to quit a three pack-a-day habit and he was cranky. But he still cared about all of us, and over the next six weeks, he kept showing that. I grew to really like him as a person and admire him even more.

The following year, he stopped by my bookstore in Moscow, Idaho and stayed for a few days, sleeping in the store. And he did that every year for as long as I owned the bookstore, being both a friend and a mentor.

In 1983 he bought my second professional story for the very first volume of Writers of the Future. At the awards ceremony in the spring of 1985, at Chasen’s Restaurant, he let me be the very first person across the stage to accept my award for the very first Writer’s of the Future book. I still have that picture of AJ behind the podium, Robert Silverberg, and Roger Zelazny standing behind him, and Greg Bear handing me the award.

In 1986, he called me late one night in late April at the bar where I worked in Moscow, Idaho, and said, “You want to go to a workshop with eleven other writers at your level taught by Jack Williamson, Fred Pohl, Gene Wolfe, and me?”

I said, “Of course.”

He said, “One week from now in Taos, New Mexico. The workshop is free, paid for by Writers of the Future, but you have to pay for your own travel and your own room.” Without a second thought I said I would be there.

I had no money. I was working two jobs, living in a hotel. But none of that mattered. I would be there if AJ said it was worth being there. I threatened to quit both jobs if they didn’t give me the two weeks off. It was that important to me because AJ said it was worth my time as a new writer.

Six days later I find myself in Arizona when AJ called my father’s house where I was visiting on my way driving to New Mexico.

“Two writers need a ride from Albuquerque to Taos,” he said. “Got room to pick them up?”

I said sure and he gave me the address.

Kris and Martha Soukup were the writers who needed the ride. And Kris and I have been together ever since. All thanks to AJ. The standing joke was that he convinced me to “pick up” Kris.

The workshops we teach are patterned after what AJ started at Taos. He picked twelve writers from around the nation who were just starting to sell and decided to help them. Kris and I try to do the same thing, in honor of what AJ did for us.

Some of you also might not know that I started Tomorrow Science Fiction Magazine and hired AJ to be the editor. The first issue, which we got out for Worldcon in Orlando, was a hit. Shortly after that, Pulphouse started having money issues, so I gave the magazine completely to AJ. From the second issue onward he did a great job with it as both editor and publisher. A far better job than I would have done as publisher.

I have not had the chance, sadly, to see AJ in the last five years or so. My loss.

The world of literature is today missing a great writer, a great teacher, a great person.

Bye, AJ. Thanks. Literally for everything.

Dean