In Memoriam: Tom Purdom

Tom Purdom (19 April 1936 – 14 January 2024), was a science fiction writer, a charter member of SFWA, and held two roles within the organization. He served as the Vice President from 1971-1972 and was the first SFWA Eastern Regional director from 1976-1978.

Published in 1957, he wrote five science-fiction novels from 1964 to 1972 starting with his debut, I Want the Stars, and then reemerged as a prolific writer of short fiction in the 1990s, continuing to write and publish as recently as last year. His novelette “Fossil Games” was nominated for a Hugo Award in 2000. In 2014, he wrote a non-fiction book about the genre, Reentry and Other Thoughts on Science Fiction.

SFWA Member, writer, and photographer Sally Wiener Grotta says, “The picture of Tom that I will carry in my mind for the rest of my days will be of him striding into a room, his trench coat tightly belted, his cap squarely on his head, and a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He was a master craftsman as a writer, creating crisp, compelling stories. But he was also a grand-gentleman (and gentle man), modest and straight-forward, with a kind word for anyone he met and a stubborn sense of what is correct. I’ll miss his wide-open smile, his dry humor, and the winding paths conversations took when he was with us.”

Novelist and scholar Camille Bacon-Smith adds, “Tom was one of my best friends. I first met him at Philcon, in 1985, where we became close friends over music. As a critic, he only reviewed groups he had something good to say about. Mostly I will miss just bumping into him walking in the neighborhood or sitting in Rittenhouse Park, where we would stop for a few minutes to chat before continuing on our way.”

SFWA member, writer, and publisher Gideon Marcus notes, “Tom was a titan. His career spanned eight decades, putting him among the Top 5 active SF authors in terms of longevity. Moreover, he was ahead of his time, featuring persons of color, positively portrayed queer couples, and polyamory in his SF works…in the early sixties. But most of all, Tom was a mensch of the first order, doing good without tooting his horn. And he was a good friend. I miss him terribly.”

SFWA member and author Michael Swanwick asks, “Is it more important that Tom was a fine writer who, sixty-six years after his first sales was crafting stories as contemporary and award-worthy as anybody or that he was a warm and witty man whose passing leaves his family and many, many friends bereft? Either way, he has left his mark on our lives.”

We believe it is both.

Tom Purdom lived 87 years.