Sunday, January 13, 2013

R.I.P. Steven Utley, 1948-2013

Chris Roberson and Steven Utley, Armadillocon
Damn it all to hell. I was just winding down for the night when I saw the awful, wretched news that Steven Utley had passed away. Words can't express how angry this makes me. Hell, I didn't even know Steven was sick. I saw him at Armadillcon (that's a photo from a previous Armadillocon to the right--Chris Roberson's on the left, Steven is on the right) this past summer and he looked healthy and in good spirits. We passed in the hall several times on the way to different events, but promised to catch up with each other later on and chat. Of course, we never did. Now I'm kicking myself. Lawrence Person's posts sum it up:

I just received word from Jessica Reisman:

Molly let me know that Steve passed last night at about 10:40 pm, eastern. His family was with him.

I’ll miss him.

As will we all.

Utley announced to his friends that he had been diagnosed with Type 4 cancer in his intestines, liver, and lungs, and a lesion on his brain on December 27, 2012. On January 7, he sent out an email saying that he was losing his motor skills and designated Jessica as his literary executor (and hopefully she’ll be able to get some of his swell stories back in print). On the morning of January 12 he slipped into a coma and died that night.
Steven was one of the original members of the legendary Turkey City Writers Workshop. I became a fan of Steven's maybe 20 years ago at a Monkey House party in College Station, during some AggieCon or other. Perusing the bookshelves (they've got great bookshelves at the Monkey House) I came across a copy of Lone Star Universe, the anthology Steven co-edited with George W. Proctor. I was besmitten. I mean, that Texas-centric anthology spoke to me, and I vowed to put together another myself, come hell or high water. And I almost managed to pull it off a time or two, but Cross Plains Universe and now Rayguns Over Texas have pretty much taken the wind out of those sails for good. Still, I got Steven to sign my copy at Armadillocon 30 (as well as his collection Beasts of Love) so it's all good.

I first "met" Steven online, in the late 90s, on comic book message forums, believe it or not. I can't remember what we talked about, but we exchanged quite a few messages back and forth. Then I began tracking down his other fiction, having only read the magnificent "Ghost Seas" in Lone Star Universe previously. His story, "Custer's Last Jump," co-written with frequent collaborator Howard Waldrop, is as brilliant (and outrageous) an alternate history romp as ever I have read. But what is truly amazing is that during my tenure as fiction editor at from 2002-2005, Steven became my most-frequent contributor, sending me both classic works for reprint and original pieces. This is particularly amazing, considering the fact that I paid him "all the prestige he could eat." But I made sure to assign the best illustrators to his stories, so that's something. I was fortunate enough to publish several installments of his classic Silurian cycle, including "Another Continuum Heard From!" which takes a skewed look at voting rights when they come into conflict with the technicalities of time travel. It makes for a poor memorial, but here is a comprehensive list of every Steven Utley story I published while at RevSF. It is the best that I can do:

The Age of Mud and Slime
Another Continuum Heard From!
Chaos and the Gods
Getting Away
Little Whalers
My Evil Twin
Pan-Galactic Swingers

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