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 didnâ€™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.