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more A.J. Budrys thoughts

In last night's post about A.J. Budrys, I mentioned that I met the man at WindyCon 20. Here's a bit of an insight into who he was:

A.J. was on a panel of SF giants including Frank Kelly Freas, Joe Haldeman, and Frederik Pohl. The panel's topic along the lines of "SF greats talk about their heroes." This took place in a major auditorium holding perhaps 400 spectators. The moderator was a much younger, less-experienced editor whom I shall call "Billy Doe."

Billy posed a question early in the discussion, something like, "Tell us why you call this person your hero." The guests told their stories one by one, A.J. second to last. When it came his turn to talk, A.J. described how Lester Del Rey took him under his wing, inviting the young A.J. to live with him, how Del Rey taught him everything A.J. knew about editing.

In the middle of an anecdote about how Del Rey helped shape the SF genre, Billy interrupted. He did not interrupt to add evidence supporting Budrys' argument, which was reasonable in light of all Del Rey did for SF, nor did Billy add another anecdote about how kind Del Rey was to beginning authors like A.J. In fact, Billy interrupted one of the panelists talking about another great who had helped him not only become a fine editor but who also helped him on a personal level, how they had become friends: This he interrupted to describe how Del Rey had "ruled science fiction with an iron fist," and how Del Rey's editing harmed SF. He didn't just interject this; he ranted about it for a couple of minutes.

Billy was supposed to be the moderator, a relative unknown compared to the towering figures around him. Instead, he drew the focus to himself while tearing down one of the panelist's heroes. The audience, shocked at first, began to murmur as Billy continued to speak.

Many people might have reacted indignantly to such an interruption. Many others would have waited for Billy to finish, perhaps refuting him after Billy had finished his ill-timed interruption. But A.J. Budrys was not someone to shrink into the background.

All during Billy's commentary, A.J.'s face grew redder. Mind you, this was a man of Eastern European descent, with very pale skin and pure white hair: He could not hide his blossoming blush. When the redness had spread from the centers of his cheeks across his face and brow, he slammed down one big hand on the table and shouted, "Billy Doe! Lester Del Rey forgot more about editing than you'll ever know."

He began shoving papers into his bag as he went on to describe how Billy "couldn't edit his way out of a paper bag" and so forth. Finally, after putting all his materials away, A.J. stood, whirled in place, and pointed at Billy.

"Billy Doe, don't you ever speak to me again." Then he descended the stage and threaded his way out of the silent auditorium.

After the door closed, Billy tried to regain his long-lost composure and said, "What was that all about?" The audience began to discuss Billy's thick-headedness, and Frederik Pohl wore a small grin.

That scene gelled my image of A.J. Budrys as a man of principle who loved his friends, someone with strongly held beliefs who understood powerful feelings, a literary giant who took no shit from anyone.

I wish I had visited him during the time he was mostly confined to his Evanston, Illinois home. We're losing more and more of those who founded science fiction. Don't miss the opportunity to spend some time with them, because when they're gone, we lose access to the nuances of history they experienced first-hand.



( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 10th, 2008 04:09 pm (UTC)
Frederik Pohl wore a small grin.

Fred, who will be writing the introduction to my first collection of Del Rey's short stories, had Lester as the best man at his most recent wedding.
Jun. 10th, 2008 04:11 pm (UTC)
The joy he must have taken in hearing A.J. tear up this disrespectful man.

Edited at 2008-06-10 04:30 pm (UTC)
Jun. 10th, 2008 04:29 pm (UTC)
Chris-- Hope you don't mind, but I put up links to your reminiscences in the obit at IROSF. If you'd prefer, let me know and I'll pull them, but I thought they gave a pretty good image of him.
Jun. 10th, 2008 08:55 pm (UTC)
No problem, and thanks for the kind words.
Jun. 10th, 2008 04:52 pm (UTC)
thank you for sharing this; I'm wistfully envious that you got to meet these men.
Jun. 10th, 2008 08:58 pm (UTC)
I feel so honored to have worked with people like Budrys, Gunn, and Pohl; that I get to work with Jim Gunn on a daily basis is a constant source of pleased-ness; that Frederik Pohl has critiqued several of my stories over the years at Jim's workshop has honored me greatly.

I've been lucky.
Jun. 10th, 2008 04:53 pm (UTC)
I am sure it was as you describe it, and Billy acted like an asshole. On the other hand, he was right.
Jun. 10th, 2008 04:59 pm (UTC)
Hahahaha! Well, I just wanted to share this to help define who was A.J. Budrys.
Jun. 10th, 2008 06:03 pm (UTC)
I wish I could have been there.

BTW, my attempts to Google the panels of WindyCon 20 to figure out the identity of Billy Doe yielded me nothing, so I'm going to have to pin you down in a bar at a future con to pry his identity out of you!
Jun. 10th, 2008 06:59 pm (UTC)
...and that's a good thing! *g*

(Billy Doe's still alive...)
Jun. 11th, 2008 12:19 am (UTC)
Oh, I'm sure the answer is out there somewhere!

I can think of several people so ill-mannered as to behave that way, but none of them seem like the right one for this particular instance.
Jun. 11th, 2008 01:31 am (UTC)
Next con, in the bar, all shall be revealed!
Jun. 10th, 2008 08:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing this Chris. I concur about losing so many now so fast. Janet Kagan died this past year, and though not nearly the writing giant Budrys was, she paid it forward too, and I appreciated her encouragement several years back.
Jun. 10th, 2008 09:03 pm (UTC)
Everyone who helped build our beloved ghetto is vital to what it has become, especially those who paid it forward, as you say. Losing any of them means we've lost their future work, lost their teachings, and most important lost part of our collective memory.
Jun. 10th, 2008 10:58 pm (UTC)
Ahh, honey, I'm sorry. I remember hearing you talk about how much he meant to you. Give him a great wake at your programs this summer, okay?
Jun. 11th, 2008 01:30 am (UTC)
Yes indeed. We did a remembrance of Jack Williamson last year; this year we'll have a few to mourn.
Jun. 11th, 2008 03:32 am (UTC)
Thanks for posting these memories, Chris. I can't help feeling it would be the sweetest tribute to A.J.'s editorial eye if that sure-fire selling trilogy he saw in your ms. were to be published one day soon . . . you could dedicate it to him! Wouldn't that be nice . . . just sayin' . . . ; )
Jun. 11th, 2008 03:36 am (UTC)
Aw. Y'know, it's not dedicated to anyone at the moment. How perfect to dedicate it to the agent who saw the publishing potential (and of course to Jim, who guided me through the writing of it).
Jun. 11th, 2008 07:29 pm (UTC)

We're losing more and more of those who founded science fiction. Don't miss the opportunity to spend some time with them, because when they're gone, we lose the nuances of history they experienced first-hand.

those are really big shoes to fill. but others will fill them, others like you.

thank you for sharing these stories with us.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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