George Alec Effinger (1947-2002)
George Alec Effinger passed away early Saturday morning at his home in New Orleans. He died peacefully from an internal hemorrhage from a bleeding ulcer.
George was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1947, and attended Yale University. He attended Clarion in 1970 and was immediately successful in his writing. with 4 stories being included in the first Clarion anthology. He published over 25 novels and short story collections. His 1988 novelette, "Schroedinger's Kitten" won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards.
He will be cremated, though the final disposition of the ashes remains to be determined. Plans are underway for posthumous publication of George's short stories in the near future and a memorial gathering as a part of Westercon in Los Angeles in July.
A memorial reading in his honor has been scheduled in New Orleans for Thursday, May 16. The reading will take place at Octavia Books, 513 Octavia Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70115, from 7 PM to 9 PM. The store's phone number is (504) 899-7323. Friends and fans are invited to read a 10-12 minute passage from their favorite George Alec Effinger story or novel. Refreshments will be served.
Obituary in the The Times-Picayune: http://www.nola.com/obituaries/t-p/index.ssf?/obituariesstory/effinger30.html.
I just heard about George Alec Effinger's death and it's a Damn Shame. At least Damon Knight and R. A. Lafferty had long lives behind them before they passed on. George's was too short, and much of it pretty crummy; the last ten or so years his health prevented him from writing most of the time. Plus Knight and Lafferty were people I had met and admired, but not knew; George was my friend.
George was a fine writer, and a one of the funniest the field's produced. Moreover, his talents weren't limited to Maureen Birnbaum, as good as the early "Muffy" stories were. (Who could possibly resist a Cthulhu Mythos parody entitled "Maureen Birnbaum and the Looming Awfulness"?) Take a look at "The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything" or "Mars Needs Beatniks". Fun stuff.
Of course, he was also an excellent serious writer. When Gravity Fails. (Now, of course, we'll never get the rest of the Marid Audran novels.) "Schrodinger's Kitten." A wonderful little story probably no one remembers from The Twilight Zone magazine in 1985 called "My Old Man," whose protagonist plays an electronic chess game for the soul of his father. And stuff that was funny on the surface, but really, really dark underneath, like "Two Sadnesses," where The Wind and the Willows gets paved over for a shopping mall and the Vietnam War comes to Winnie-the-Pooh's Hundred Acre Woods.
By the way, over the last ten years or so (if not longer), George HATED being called Piglet. It was a nickname given him back when there were an abundance of Georges (Zebrowski, R. R. Martin) in his neck of the SF woods; I don't think he ever picked it for himself. (Nor did he like it any better when Martin offered to call him "Big Rig" instead.)
George's health seemed to get worse and worse in the latter years of his life. Not only did he have the chronic, painful intestinal ulcers that plagued him most of his adult life, he also suffered from (in no particular order) hepatitis C., bad teeth, addiction to pain killers, you name it. He spent much of 2001 in a halfway house he had checked himself into voluntarily but from which he was unable to extract himself. Not to mention financial difficulties stemming from his illness, estrangement from his family, etc., etc., etc. George had a tough life.
George was a fan of baseball and soap operas. For a while he was getting a steady income from working on a Days of Our Lives web site. He was also a fan of good food. One of the best things about living in New Orleans was all the great restaurants ate at, and he did the dining guide for the 1988 Worldcon in New Orleans (where When Gravity Fails came in second in Hugo voting to The Uplift War). At one point he could finally afford to get some dental work done and told me he really looked forward to being able to eat ribs again.
George ended up coming to something like the second Turkey City Writer's Workshop I ever threw. He brought a story with him, "Shrunk," that he said he had just missed selling to Playboy. According to him, Alice Turner had said "Well, I looked at it, and looked at it, and I finally decided it just wasn't right for us." Said George: "Do you realize, she in effect said 'You just missed $5000 by _that much_.' 'Tell me what's wrong with it, and I'll walk to New York on my knees and fix it!"
Actually, that was good year for George. He had just won the Nebula for "Schrodinger's Kitten," and as we were driving off to dinner after the workshop he confided that now he really wanted to win a Hugo. He got his wish when "Schrodinger's Kitten" won in Boston. In his acceptance speech, George quoted Lou Gehrig's Yankee farewell, adding the public address system echo effect at the end:
"People say that I've had a lot of bad breaks, but today... today, I consider myself the luckiest man in the world...world...world..."
He will be missed.
I was fortunate to have a chance to visit George in New Orleans in 1993, while I was in the area on a business trip. We arranged to meet on King St. and went to Mr B's, a representative local restaurant, for dinner.
I picked up the tab, and we dined on some very tasty gumbo with bread pudding for dessert. George experienced the occasional abdominal pain while we were eating, but he endured it, as he surely did thousands of times over the years of his illness.
Afterward, we took a walk through his "Budayeen" of real life (the French Quarter), George pointing out all the places that translated into his fictional environment; naming names and even greeting a few of the people who featured prominently in the stories. We ended up stopping for a beer at a bar which featured live blues, and sat entranced for an hour listening to blind Bryan Lee, who was featured years later on the House Of Blues program. I have a couple of Bryan's CDs as a memory of that interesting evening.
Finally, I took my leave of George at his door, thanking him for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to delve into a writer's universe -- and have a walloping good time on the town in New Orleans as a bonus. I last saw George in person at Dragoncon a few years ago, and he was as delighted to see us as we were eager to find out what had been happening to him since our last encounter. He seemed unusually upbeat, and I'd like to remember him that way, as I remember the unique and entertaining stories that he left us to read.
We'll miss you, George!
Updated April 30, 2002