Andrew J Offutt passed away yesterday, April 30, 2013, and sadly, his death seems to have gone relatively unnoticed.
Outside of Wikipedia adding his date of death and a small obit on the Locus website, if you do a search you’ll get very few indications that he passed. In fact, a search for “Andrew J Offutt obit” brings up another “Andy” Offutt, no relation, who passed away April 9th.
Which makes me sad. Maybe he wasn’t among Fiction’s Giants, maybe he didn’t have the name recognition of a Ray Bradbury, but Offutt had as much influence upon my life, both as a reader and a writer, as many other more heralded authors did.
Offutt was an author and editor in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He began his writing career winning a young writers or college writers writing contest in 1954 (I read this somewhere but can’t just now verify this), and the story”And Gone Tomorrow” was published in “If” magazine. Despite that, he didnt make his first professional sale with the short story “Blacksword,” until 1959 to Galaxy magazine. His first novel under his own name (he had at least two pseudonyms, J X Williams and John Cleve), “Evil is Live Spelled Backwards” was published in 1970.
He became a major player in the sword and sorcery genre shortly thereafter, which is when he came to my attention. In the 1970s, I devoured sword and sorcery. Anything by or related to Robert E Howard and his creations interested me, along with anything similar to Edgar Rice Burroughs and his sword and planet adventures.
That’s about when AJO arrived. I don’t believe he ever created a Conan-like barbarian as many of his peers did (e.g. Lin Carter’s Thongar, John Jakes’ Brak), but he was still very involved in writing pastiches of REH’a Cormac Mac Art and Conan. He also wrote what I thought was a memorable erotic parody of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series with “Ardor on Aros.” A novel I have been trying to find to replace my now time-lost copy.
But his greatest contribution might have been as editor for a top notch sword and sorcery anthology series, “Swords Against Darkness.” It consisted of five volumes of which I currently own the first two.
Seems I have a lot of eBay searching to do to restock my paltry collection of AJO paperbacks that I once owned but sadly today do not.
Offutt’s writing came out at a time when I was becoming an avid reader and an awkward writer. He impacted my formation as a writer within the fantasy genre positively. I owe him a debt of gratitude.
Thank you, Andy. May you rest well.