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Wednesday 15 May 2002

Appreciations of George Alec Effinger

[Editor's note: As suggested by Gary Westfahl in his Commentary on the deaths in 2002, there may not be enough room in Locus Magazine to acknowledge the passing of the present generation of SF writers and fans. That is the case with the June issue of Locus; thus the following appreciations of George Alec Effinger appear here on Locus Online.]

by Harlan Ellison

I first saw him standing beside Dia, at the sink in Damon and Kate's Anchorage, in Milford, Pike County, Pennsylvania. It was 1964, and he was drying the dishes Dia had washed. I asked him his name and he said, "Call me 'Piglet'." And so I did for thirty-eight years. We were friends, good friends. He lived with me; I visited him in N'Walins for Mardi Gras many times; I gave him the plots for novels; he borrowed money from me; we laughed like madmen together. We chased women. We drank coffee with beignets most of a night at the Du Monde on the levee. We talked Poe, and we wandered through the St. Louis Cemetery. He had the most spectacular sense of humor, the most exquisite wit, of any three dozen of my other closest pals. He had a way of looking slantwise at you, just before he would launch the mot, and his velvety voice would drop an octave, and he'd give you a fast hard one right across the letters, too close for you to jump back, but not so close it'd brush you. And o boy could he write. Right out of the gate, he was hot from the git-go.

As time and travail, age and unreachable expectations, illness and bad habits overwhelmed him, he lost the sly whimsical look, he lost the gamin cuteness, he lost his way. What he gave us will either be remembered, or not, as is the fate awaiting all of us who make our precarious living by the word. But apart from having been a terrific writer in his day, apart from being terrific company in his day, apart from having been a choice wit in his day, I've mused on this for several weeks and the truest thing I think I can say about my dear friend, now gone, is that he was a guy who simply couldn't get out of his own way.

You're released, finally, kiddo. Goodbye Geo. Alec Effinger. Good night, Piglet. Sleep easily, chum.

Harlan Ellison

George Alec Effinger: An Appreciation
by Amy Stout

Editors aren't supposed to have favorites, but the truth is certain editors and writers do gravitate toward each other. It's a mixture of content, style, and personality. Or maybe it's where you've come from, where you are and where you're going. Doesn't matter really; a friend is a friend.

In George's case, I loved his wit on and off the page. I loved his charm and graciousness despite life-long health problems. I loved his determination to keep writing. I loved reading his work.

When I was a baby editor, I had the privilege of doing a reading on When Gravity Fails. I was fortunate enough to work with George directly on the subsequent books in the series. It's been years since those books were published, but they still stand as truly fine work.

And George will always stand as a truly fine writer.

I'll miss George's work and I'll miss George.

Amy Stout

The following are by members of George Alec Effinger's writing workshop.

Laura J Rowland:
George Alec Effinger deserves to be remembered not only for his talent and the many wonderful novels and stories he wrote, but for the generosity of his spirit. His advice, encouragement, and friendship helped many an aspiring author, including myself. He had a rare ability to pass on his knowledge of wordcraft, and he did it with kindness and humor. I owe him considerable credit for my own writing career. Thanks, George. I'll miss you.

John W. Webre:
For several years, George and I appeared together on a panel, ďBaseball and Science Fiction,Ē at the local con that used to run annually. We never discussed science fiction; the panel was just an excuse to talk baseball with other fans. George loved baseball — especially his Indians — and he loved to write. Last year when he found out I was rereading The Old Funny Stuff, a collection of his early, humorous stories, he became very excited. He loved those stories and talked gleefully about writing them. That same enthusiasm for his craft led to his creating our writing workshop, a gift that has endured for thirteen years. George was a terrific writer and a great friend, and Iíll miss him dearly.

Andrew J. Fox:
Taking George's class in world building (writing science fiction and fantasy), then joining the monthly writing workshop group he'd founded, were essential steps on my road to becoming a professional writer. George was a marvelous teacher, full of insight regarding what made classic works classic, and always amazingly funny. He was at his best in the middle of a circle of friends or students, cracking wise and telling hilarious anecdotes, often with himself as the fall guy. I'm sorry I never had the chance to walk around the French Quarter with him and have him point out all his favorite places, the places he imaginatively transformed in his Budayeen books. I'm sorry that New Orleans, the city where he did almost all of his writing, never gave him the appreciation he'd earned while he was still with us. But my two biggest regrets are that he'll never have the chance to read the books he helped me write, and I'll never have the chance to read the books he was writing when he died.

Marian D. Moore:
When I was younger, I would read anecdotes of the science fiction clubs of the 40ís and 50ís in envy. They included stories of budding writers sleeping on a friendís couch writing stories until finally one story came out right. The SF literary world appeared to have a system of apprenticeship that I could only dream about. George Alec Effinger was my tie to that world. His criticism on a story could be as striking as summer hail, his praise like spring rain. Everyone held their breath as we went around the circle and reached George. One testimonial to George is that the workshop continues. The chain to the past in unbroken.

Larry Gegenheimer, Jr:
George and I became very close friends very quickly. He knew so many facets of my life, as I his. We were planning on working closely together; he was going to help me with a master's program at the university in creative writing. His willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty and to sacrifice so much of his own precious time, proves what true dear friendship is. George is, was and always will be my mentor, my hero, and a very close true and dearly loved friend. I will never ever forget him as long as I live.

Fritz Ziegler:
In one of our workshops, someone submitted a story that began, "I was in her mouth when the phone ejaculated." It turns out he meant that she was giving him oral sex when the phone rang, but you couldn't tell for sure just by reading his text. As we went around the group, everyone seemed to be afraid to touch that line. When it was George's turn, he said to the author, "I thought you had a plumbing problem." We all cracked up, and George proceeded to make the serious point that anything is possible in a science fiction story so the first rule is to be clear. As valuable as his advice was, I'll miss George's wit most of all.

Janet McConnaughey:
George gave his time and attention to all of us, cutting through bullshit without brutality and pointing out what worked as well as what was wrong. When he said something didn't work, he was per'near always right; the time he wrote "Wow!" on a first page, I wanted to frame it.

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