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Bruce Chrumka
Posted on Thursday, October 07, 2004 - 09:46 pm:   

Dear La Cadigan,

Are you still on-line and would you please entertain such a thread? I ask because: It's been 25 years since "San Diego Lightfoot Sue and Other Stories" was published {an omnibus collection of the 13 stories plus "Blind Voices" would be most excellent, Nightshade Publishing please note}, the fact that you were the dedicatee of that wonderful collection, and, last but not least, the marvelous birthday present my wife Carlene gave me this week: a signed copy of Chacal #1 by the man himself! Still pinching myself.

Kind regards,

Bruce Chrumka
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La Cadigan
Posted on Wednesday, December 29, 2004 - 06:05 am:   

Hello, Bruce--

Yes, I still live. I've had a horribly busy autumn that has kept me too busy to post even irregularly here. Obviously, given the date of your post!

Nonetheless, here I am again. And yes, I would entertain a remembering Tom Reamy thread.

Just FYI, there is one last unpublished piece of Reamy fiction, a novelette called "Potiphee, Petey, and Me," which is part of an anthology that has yet to appear.

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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, December 29, 2004 - 05:10 pm:   

Am I correct in assuming the anthology is That Which Can't Be Named, i.e., this one: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pw.cgi?6792b6?
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, December 29, 2004 - 05:29 pm:   

I can't seem to access that url but I'm guessing we're thinking of the same one :-)
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La Cadigan
Posted on Wednesday, December 29, 2004 - 06:28 pm:   

Internal Server Error? No, a different one.:-)
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, December 29, 2004 - 07:09 pm:   

Oops, the question mark got caught in the URL. Here's the link: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pw.cgi?6792b6
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, December 29, 2004 - 07:27 pm:   

Any way to pry the rights away from you know who? (I'll bet Gordon has the same idea)
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Michael Walsh
Posted on Wednesday, December 29, 2004 - 08:21 pm:   

Some number of the stories have appeared - the Cordwainer Smith & Zenna Henderson stories NESFA acquired.

& there's a Pangborn story I'll want to include in the eventual Complete Short Fiction. Amusingly the Pangborn Estate and Harlan have the same agent... ain't life grand.
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Pat
Posted on Thursday, December 30, 2004 - 03:37 am:   

Tom was represented by the Virginia Kidd Agency.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Thursday, December 30, 2004 - 06:54 am:   

I've used some of his stories on SCIFICTION and the Kidd Agency is easy to deal with.
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Bruce Chrumka
Posted on Thursday, December 30, 2004 - 08:02 am:   

Hi Pat,

Thanks for the response! I'll frame a longer posting concerning the topic of this thread but I thought I'd mention that John Varley retrieved the rights to 'The Bellman' fairly recently. He doesn't imply there was any real difficulty in doing so [in his introduction to the story re: 'The John Varley Reader'] and there didn't seem to be any hard feelings. Maybe Mr, Ellison would be amenable to including 'Potiphee, Petey and Me' in an omnibus anthology 'The Compleat Tom Reamy'.

...and it would be churlish of me not to say how much I've enjoyed your terrific collections!

Cheers, Bruce
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Bruce Chrumka
Posted on Monday, January 10, 2005 - 12:25 pm:   

I have no personal recollections of Tom Reamy but I recall how strongly impressed I was when I discovered his short fiction and lone novel over 25 years ago. I’d read that he’d won a Nebula for a story I hadn’t yet read…this was at a time when it seemed quite rare that a relatively unknown name would snag one of the big awards. I still hadn’t read his work when I found to my chagrin that he’d passed away at such a young age. I found copies of ‘Twilla’ and ‘San Diego Lightfoot Sue’ in F&SF, and then tracked down five other stories dispersed throughout anthologies and magazines. When the Earthlight collection came out, I skipped a few meals – I was a student at the time - and picked up the first copy I found. I gave that book to my girlfriend who’d loved it, and I’ve reread the stories over the years. It’s like seeing old friends. ‘Blind Voices’ I enjoyed as well though I agree it seems somewhat incomplete and fragmentary. Sure glad it was published though.

A Tom Reamy omnibus would be hugely welcome. It would obviously have to contain the novel and the eleven stories in ‘San Diego Lightfoot Sue and Other Stories’, ‘M is for the Million Things’ from New Voices 4 and, oh please, ‘Potiphee, Petey and Me’. I understand that it’s a novelette[!] and I’ve been dying to read it for decades. Surely this would be a fine venue for it, though F&SF would be a very appropriate place for first publication.

What else should be included? IMHO, certainly Harlan Ellison’s and Howard Waldrop’s essays from the collection, as well as George R.R. Martin’s and Algis Budry’s commentaries from ‘New Voices 4’. I believe there was an interview with Tom Reamy in an issue of Shayol that would be great to read. Some of his artwork…I don’t believe I’ve ever seen any. A couple of photographs as well; the fine portrait La Cadigan took that graces the collection and novel, and a great shot of a grinning Tom Reamy from Chacal #1. A new cover by Leo and Diane Dillon would be sensational. Selections from ‘Trumpet’ and ‘Nickelodeon’. And, of course, reminiscences by his friends, first and foremost Ms. Cadigan!

I understand that Tom Reamy wrote some excellent pieces of fiction and essays but did not submit many of them for publication although his friends and colleagues implored him to do so. Is it possible that he’d indicated his willingness to submit some of his favorite unpublished pieces in conversation prior to his demise? Last but certainly not least, there was the seven-page fragment found at his death. It would be a fascinating, poignant document. I have a copy of Michael Swanwick’s ‘Moon Dogs’ wherein he presents collaborations with Avram Davidson undertaken after Mr. Davidson’s passing. I respectfully submit something similar might be considered as well.

It has been nearly thirty years since the last Tom Reamy work appeared. I believe an omnibus, as complete as possible, is long overdue. This would introduce his wonderful oeuvre to a new generation of readers and be a fine book for his fans from decades past.


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sheena white
Posted on Friday, January 14, 2005 - 08:01 pm:   

Anyone notice similarities between Blind Voices and the HBO show Carnivale? Very very loosely of course but I suspect that the creator of the show might have encountered this book at some point in his life.
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Bruce Chrumka
Posted on Friday, June 03, 2005 - 10:10 pm:   

This essay appeared in the dANDelion, vol. 31, Issue 1, printed by the University of Calgary, May, 2005. It is my first professional publication. I can only thank the memory of Tom Reamy...and, of course, La Cadigan!


Tom Reamy: Joseph Conrad in Kansas


Tom Reamy was the most promising dark fantasist of the late 1970’s prior to his tragic death at the age of 42 on November 4, 1977. Harlan Ellison called it a writer’s death: Reamy was found slumped over his typewriter, seven pages into a new story for Ed Ferman - editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction - dead of a massive heart attack. He left just one novel, ‘Blind Voices’ and one collection, ‘San Diego Lightfoot Sue and Other Stories’, both published posthumously to great acclaim. Ellison’s forward to the collection has been most accurately described by Algis Budrys as a eulogy, and serves not only to introduce the eleven stories in the collection but underscores the terrible loss of a brilliant writer at the outset of his career. Says Ellison, “He was a teller of tales whose work had the heft and the graceful line and the vibration of creatures readying themselves to fly.”

Tom Reamy was a native Texan who is inextricably linked with the Turkey City Writer’s Workshop, an Austin-based affiliation of young Texan writers that produced an astonishing number of professionals: Howard Waldrop, Lewis Shiner, Lisa Tuttle, Bruce Sterling, Chad Oliver, Steve Utley and many others. Howard Waldrop referred to Reamy as the most talented of them all, but Reamy was less enchanted with his own work and declined to submit his short fiction for publication despite the encouragement of his peers. He preferred instead to publish his own highly regarded semi-professional magazines, Trumpet and, later, Nickelodeon, work on screenplays and draw – Reamy was a talented painter and graphic designer. He did in fact spend several years in Hollywood where he wrote treatments, worked as property manager for the film ‘Flesh Gordon’, and completed numerous other artistic projects before moving to Kansas City in 1975.

It was in Kansas City that he returned to writing prose. His first professional sales occurred on the same day to two discerning and experienced editors, Damon Knight and Harry Harrison. Both novelettes were assured, polished pieces of existential horror. ‘Under the Hollywood Sign’ details the descent of a Hollywood policeman who becomes sexually obsessed with angelic entities that attend violent deaths. A moody, graphic story, it stirred considerable controversy when published and remains a striking example of Reamy’s skills as a fantasist. ‘Beyond the Cleft’ marks Reamy’s first foray into terrain explored by Ray Bradbury and Clifford D. Simak, writers who injected terrifying sensibilities into placid, bucolic settings. The novelette echoes Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s masterpiece ‘Childhood’s End’ wherein a final generation of children have become transformed into something ineluctably alien, neither more nor less than human. In Reamy’s tale, the children metamorphose into savages wildly beyond ‘Lord of the Flies’; they are predatory, cannibalistic and mature physically at preternatural rates. Obviously a disturbing piece, it is thematically congruent to ‘Under the Hollywood Sign’ in terms of alienation and ferocity as is his short story [not available in the collection] ‘M is For the Million Things’ that recapitulates ‘Beyond the Cleft’ to chilling effect.

Reamy’s next stories introduced readers of ‘The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’ to the town of Hawley, Kansas and the strangeness and horror that can lurk in the most tranquil of settings. Comparisons with Ray Bradbury and Jack Finney have been drawn by many critics and reviewers since Reamy’s only novel ‘Blind Voices’ dealt with a theme familiar to readers of ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ and ‘The Circus of Dr. Lao’ – that is, the dark carnival come to town for a limited engagement, leaving a trail of murder and magic. The novel, as noted previously, was published posthumously, and was still most of a draft and final polishing away from being delivered by Reamy prior to his death. It was decided by those who controlled Reamy’s estate that the manuscript was publishable despite some fragmentary chapters and lack of overall cohesion, but no effort was made to retain a writer to ‘fill in the blanks’ as it were. Though flawed, it remains a powerful and moving novel of American dark fantasy.

Prior to ‘Blind Voices’, Reamy wrote the novelette ‘Twilla’, the story of a beautiful twelve year old girl who blithely brings murder and an ancient evil to Hawley, the setting of ‘Blind Voices’. This story garnered Reamy his first Hugo and Nebula award nominations and was widely anthologized. ‘San Diego Lightfoot Sue’, Reamy’s most famous piece, details the escape from Hawley by a fifteen year old John Lee Peacock to an uncertain future in 1960 Hollywood. An emotional and beautifully told tragedy, it won Reamy a Nebula Award for Best Novelette in 1975 and was one of the reasons Reamy subsequently won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, one of the genre’s highest accolades.

‘The Detweiler Boy’, set in Los Angeles in the early 70’s is an effective and stylish novelette. It harkens to the hard-boiled detective milieu, the story of a private eye, researching a series of violent accidents that always attend a deformed young man who inexplicably has an alibi for dozens of such episodes. The story features a turn by an older, jaded John Lee Peacock of his earlier novelette, tying the story back into an overall metafiction centered about the mythical town of Hawley, Kansas.

Another novelette ‘Insects in Amber’ also features strange goings-on in Hawley. It is reported that Reamy himself hated the story but needed the grocery money it could afford him, and was surprised Ed Ferman accepted it. Harlan Ellison also declared it an embarrassment, as truly it is…a derivative, un-involving haunted house pastiche that hardly deserves to be included in Reamy’s oeuvre.

Reamy made several forays into science fiction; post-apocalyptic tales set long after a nuclear holocaust has destroyed the environment. ‘Dinosaurs’ and ‘2076: Blue Eyes’ are both slight additions to the genre but do have flashes of Reamy’s brilliant eye for emotionally wrenching situations.

This leaves just four tales. ‘The Sweetwater Factor’ is an O. Henry-ish dark chuckle; ‘Mistress of Windraven’, a riff on the heroine disappearing into her own book [When asked for a tag-line for the story for Chacal #1, the magazine it originally appeared in, Reamy quipped “She wanted true love but only got animal lust”!] and ‘Waiting for Billy Star’, a quiet, effective ghost story. The last novelette, ‘Potiphee, Petey and Me’ has been held for decades by Harlan Ellison for inclusion in his ‘The Last Dangerous Visions’ and has never seen print.

As Ellison said in his foreword, Tom Reamy was as good a writer as he was when he died, and that it is unnecessary to mythologize him or make his early passing bathetic. What is necessary is that his tales be made available to another generation of readers: Nightshade Books may possibly be considering an omnibus of Tom Reamy’s work, featuring the complete fiction, extant essays by George R.R. Martin, Harlan Ellison, Algis Budrys and Howard Waldrop, reminiscences by close friends such as Pat Cadigan, and, with great good luck, even reproductions of Reamy’s art and essay selections from Trumpet, Nickleodeon and elsewhere.

Tom Reamy wasn’t a short-lived prodigy like Mozart or Galois, and he didn’t change the map of English literature, but he was a fine writer with talent to burn, still learning his craft at forty two, an artist of extraordinary promise whose life was cut unfairly short. We are the poorer for the brevity of his career but much the richer for the fine tales he did leave us.
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Mike Emery
Posted on Thursday, June 09, 2005 - 06:26 pm:   

I had a few passing encounters with Tom Reamy during what turned out to be his final years. He attended science fiction conventions with regularity, and because of his newfound success as a science fiction author, he was one of the guests of honor at Solarcon, an El Paso convention sponsored by the UT-El Paso Science Fiction Club, I believe in 1975. (I'm on vacation so I can't confirm the year. It might have been 1976.)

I was the general chauffeur and go-to guy for the guests of honor, including Tom. I went to a great deal of trouble shuttling him (and the others) around downtown El Paso to the various locations of the convention, including in pouring rain. Never once did he say "thanks" for the trouble I went to. I wasn't doing it to be thanked, but it took some of the pleasure out of the activity for me.

At the convention, we showed a 16-mm print of MIGHTY JOE YOUNG. It struck me as infantile and silly, especially in comparison to KING KONG. When I said so during a meal shared with him (one of several, since conventioneers are thrown together at mealtime), he quickly set me straight on how wrong I was about it. Tom was a film buff and had worked in the film industry, so he had every right to his views. But I thought then (as now) that it was a matter of taste, and I still don't think much of that film. We disagreed about other films as well, but I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut about them.

Perhaps it was a tough time for him, or something was bothering him, but I found him to be hostile, peremptory, and unpleasant. I suspect my comment on MIGHTY JOE YOUNG set him against me from the very start, and nothing could have connected us after that. I can't know that for sure, though.

I admire Tom's short fiction, especially the story "Under the Hollywood Sign," originally in the Damon Knight anthology, ORBIT 17. I still share it with people who don't otherwise read science fiction. Tom's props for the independent film FLESH GORDON were also clever. He falls into a distinct group of genre writers who died before their time, including Stanley G. Weinbaum, H. P. Lovecraft, and C. M. Kornbluth.
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India Ocean
Posted on Saturday, February 11, 2006 - 02:58 pm:   

I read "Potiphee, Petey & Me" at a workshop in Evanston, IL in the seventies. Don't know how much it was revised for TLDV. It had several gay characters trying to escape over a wall, out of some closed-off environment, as I remember. The background was quite different from Mr. Reamy's usual locations. He was a nice guy at the workshop. I still have a copy somewhere in a trunk.

Hey, since so many LDV stories have seen publication, why not buy reprint rights to them & publish an anthology anyway---"Stories Escaped from to LDV" or something?

India Ocean
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Bruce Chrumka
Posted on Saturday, February 11, 2006 - 05:52 pm:   

Dear India Ocean,

Any chance of glimpsing a copy? I've been waiting for thirty years to read that story!

I never met Tom Reamy and only heard of him after his death. Many years later, my wife bought me an extensively signed Chacal with Tom Reamy's signature on the 'Mistress of Windraven'. It's one of the two or three jewels of my collection.

Hope this finds you well, and thanks for posting.

Cheers,

Bruce Chrumka
Calgary, Canada
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India Ocean
Posted on Sunday, February 12, 2006 - 02:58 pm:   

Hello, Bruce!

I live in LA and the story is buried in a trunk in Carol Stream, IL in my brother's basement, with a ton of other workshopped stories. When I go to visit I'll pull it
out and make a posting here (assuming it hasn't seen publication).
My memory doesn't tell me whether it's a classic for the ages or just a curiosity piece now. I do remember a member of the workshop (actively reviewing books today) grilling Mr. Reamy (in a friendly manner)on his sexuality for writing gay characters.
(We also workshopped an excerpt from Gene Wolfe's Shadow of the Torturer, prior to publication. As I recall, that had a mixed reception at the workshop.)
Those were the days!

India Ocean

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Bruce
Posted on Sunday, February 12, 2006 - 04:10 pm:   

Hi, India Ocean!

That would be fantastic if you could locate it...I'd love to read it even if it isn't a classic. Just as an aside, I certainly don't mean to abrogate any copyright laws but as I understand it, Harlan Ellison has had title to the story for decades and won't relinquish it. I'm sorry that it seems that TLDV is one challenge he won't best in his lifetime, and I'll be happy to send him twenty bucks if I can read that piece before it gets any older.

Interesting comment of '...Torturer'! Wolfe's been my favorite writer for many years, and that's one of his best novels.

Cheers, thanks again,

Bruce
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India Ocean
Posted on Monday, February 13, 2006 - 03:36 pm:   

Just in case anyone's reporting back to Ellison, for the record let me say that I have no intention violating anyone's rights---but I DO own the copy of "Potiphee" (the particular pieces of paper Tom Reamy photocopied it on to)which was submitted to the workshop, and may pass it around at a convention or two for free, if there's any interest. I don't think that would break any laws.
But FIRST I have to travel 2000 miles & dig it out!
(By the way, I believe ANOTHER story destined for LDV, by the great Algis Budrys, was also workshopped at the same venue (small world!); I have a copy of that also. That story has since been published.)
Later
India Ocean
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Roger
Posted on Saturday, February 18, 2006 - 07:30 pm:   

If anyone publishes the Compleat Reamy, in addition to Blind Voices and the stories noted in this thread, it would be cool to include Sting!, a screenplay published in Six Science Fiction Plays, a 1976 paperback. Not his best work, to be sure, but any Reamy is worth reading.
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Bruce
Posted on Saturday, February 18, 2006 - 08:01 pm:   

Works for me, Roger. It's a fairly derivative monster movie shtick, but it's Reamy in Kansas...always worth a look! Howard Waldrop talks about Tom Reamy walking him through the blocking in 'Tom, Tom!', the afterword to the collection.

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