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Tom Reamy in the mid-1970s
Thomas Earl Reamy
January 23, 1935
Woodson, Texas, USA
|Died||November 4, 1977 (aged 42)|
Independence, Missouri, USA
Tom Reamy (January 23, 1935 – November 4, 1977) was an American science fiction and fantasy author and a key figure in 1960s and 1970s science fiction fandom. He died prior to the publication of his first novel; his work is primarily dark fantasy.
Fan, editor, convention organizer
Thomas Earl Reamy was born in Woodson, Texas during the Great Depression. While still in his teens in the early 1950s, Reamy became active in science fiction fandom's fanzine and convention culture, as both a fan writer and fan artist. During this period, Reamy began to experiment with writing fantasy and science fiction stories. He was never quite satisfied with or confident enough to submit his stories to the editors of the professional genre magazines of the era, despite encouragement from friends and others who felt he had talent; Reamy continued to hone his writing for many years, while exploring other expressions for his growing creativity.
Reamy, along with transplanted Texan Orville W. Mosher, founded the first organized science fiction fan club in Texas: The Dallas Futurian Society (DFS), so named after the earlier New York Futurians. The DFS was founded in late fall of 1953 when Reamy was eighteen, and the club was continually active until July 6, 1958, when it expired in a colorful fashion. During that five-year period, Mosher and Reamy traded off editing the club's fanzine CriFanAc (a fandom term for Critical Fan Activity), attracting a variety of contributors, both local and from greater science fiction fandom; Reamy became its sole editor with its sixth issue. He had been contributing both artwork and commentary to its pages, as he was also doing to other science fiction fanzines of the era.
With fellow Dallas Futurians James and Gregory Benford, Reamy organized the first science fiction convention held in Texas. A rotating city and state regional convention of the era, Southwesterncon's sixth incarnation was held in Dallas on the weekend of July 5, 1958, concluding the next day, July 6; the professional guest of honor was new writer and well-known fan Marion Zimmer Bradley, who by then had replaced Fredric Brown. Longtime science fiction fan personality, collector, and literary agent Forrest J Ackerman came from Los Angeles and served at the convention's banquet as toastmaster.
During the mid-to-late 1960s, while working as a technical illustrator for aerospace contractor Collins Radio at their Dallas branch, Reamy became the editor and publisher of Trumpet, a slickly produced, professionally printed fanzine (the norm for the era was to use the much less expensive ditto or mimeograph reproduction for fanzines). Between 1965 and 1969 ten issues appeared, the later issues having full-color front covers. In 1966 Trumpet received enough nominations for inclusion on that year's final Hugo Awards ballot; it was later ruled as being ineligible because it failed to meet the Hugo's minimum number of published issues requirement needed for nomination. In 1967 and then again in 1969 Trumpet made it on the final ballot in the Best Fanzine category for science fiction's Hugo Award.
In the late 1960s Reamy also organized and became chairman of Dallas fandom's long-running "Big D in '73" bid to host the 31st World Science Fiction Convention. He also edited and designed the bid's official publication, The Dallascon Bulletin, which, like Trumpet, used photo-offset printing. Nothing like them had been produced by previous Worldcon bidders. Each issue's appearance polarized strong support for or against the Texas bid, due to its widespread, free circulation to 6000+, and the large amount of paid advertising each issue carried. As a result, the Texans were sometimes accused of trying to buy a win for the Dallas bid. Ultimately, the long-running Dallascon bid collapsed for complex reasons unrelated to this controversy, several months before 1973's site-selection vote was taken at Noreascon, the 1971 Worldcon in Boston. As a result, the Toronto bid won the 31st Worldcon, becoming Torcon II.
Early in the 1970s, Reamy became one of the founders of the Dallas area's Turkey City Writer's Workshop. Many new Texas genre writers emerged from this workshop, eventually giving birth in 1976 to the all-Texas original speculative fiction hardcover anthology, Lone Star Universe; the workshop continues to this day.
Reamy's high-profile Worldcon bid in science fiction fandom and its Dallascon Bulletin had a lasting impact: These and Reamy's ten issues of Trumpet inspired the formation on July 3, 1971 of the still-ongoing Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society (KaCSFFS) and several year's later, Kansas City's bid for the 1976 Worldcon. Many of Dallas' "Big Bid" concepts were adopted by KC and used in its multi-level bidding strategy. Reamy joined the KC bid at chairman Ken Keller's request, shortly before their victory in 1974, filling two key department head positions on the convention committee. The ill-fated "Big D in '73" bid was reborn in Kansas City as "KC in '76." Kansas City went on to win their Worldcon bid at Discon 2, held during Labor Day weekend 1974.
Following his move to KC in the late summer of 1974, Reamy retired Trumpet and began publishing the similar Nickelodeon. There, with new business partner Ken Keller, he started a typesetting and graphic design business, Nickelodeon Graphics Arts Service. Together, they created the publications division for KC's now official MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention. Reamy immediately established a strong editorial style and modern graphic design approach to the convention's progress reports and other publications. That included a first: a full-sized, hardcover program book, a concept left over from the old Dallascon bid. All of this had a permanent influence on all Worldcon publications that followed. Reamy was also the department head of the convention's ambitious film program department that developed another first: a comprehensive, 80-hour, all 35mm science fiction film retrospective within a World Science Fiction Convention. The concept included a movie theater-style concessions area that offered freshly popped popcorn, selections of soda, and candies.
In the early 1970s, having honed his writing craft quietly for many years, Reamy felt confident enough to begin submitting his fiction to the genre's magazines and original short story anthologies; his work began selling almost immediately, the first two stories on the very same day. Thirteen stories of various lengths and one novel were completed before his untimely death.
Reamy's only novel Blind Voices, published posthumously in both hardcover and mass-market paperback editions, earned critical comparisons with the works of Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, and Harlan Ellison. The novel deals with the arrival of a strange and wonderful “freak show” at a rural town in Kansas during the 1920s and its effects on the lives of the residents. While not quite as polished as those authors’ works (there was some question as to whether Reamy intended another draft of the novel, at least), critics regarded Blind Voices as an exceptional first novel, causing both fans and critics to ponder how important a figure he could have become if he had lived.
Other than Blind Voices, the only other Tom Reamy book is a posthumous collection of his shorter fiction, San Diego Lightfoot Sue and Other Stories, also published in both hardcover and mass-market paperback (with an introduction by Harlan Ellison). "San Diego Lightfoot Sue," the individual story, won the 1975 Nebula Award for Best Novelette, and was a finalist for the 1976 Hugo Award for Best Novelette.
Only one original, 17,000-word Reamy story remains unpublished after all this time: the novella "Potiphee, Petey and Me" was sold to Harlan Ellison for his now infamous Last Dangerous Visions original anthology and was supposed to have been published in the third and final volume of that series; the anthology never appeared in Ellison's lifetime.
Tom Reamy died on November 4, 1977 at age 42 while at his home in Independence, Missouri. He was found dead from a heart attack, slumped over his typewriter seven pages into a new, untitled story for editor Edward L. Ferman at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. He was laid to rest in Woodson Cemetery in Woodson, Texas, where other members of the Reamy family were interred. Prior to his death, Reamy and artist George Barr had begun working again on their graphic novel adaptation of Poul Anderson's fantasy novel The Broken Sword, which had begun appearing a decade before in the pages of Reamy's Trumpet; the project languished after his untimely death.
- Blind Voices (1978)
- San Diego Lightfoot Sue and Other Stories (1979)
- Anthologies containing stories by Tom Reamy:
- Nova 4 (1974)
- Orbit 17 (1974)
- New Dimensions 6 (1975)
- Nebula Award Stories 10 (1975)
- Lone Star Universe (1976)
- The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction #22 (1976)
- Nebula Award Stories 11 (1976)
- Six Science Fiction Plays (1976)
- The Thirteen Crimes of Science Fiction (1980)
- New Voices 4 (1981)
- Sci-Fi Private Eye (1984)
- Light Years and Dark (1984)
- A Treasury of American Horror Stories (1985)
- Demons! (1987)
- The Best Horror Stories from the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (1988)
- Passing for Human (2009)
- Published short stories:
- "Beyond the Cleft" (1974)
- "Twilla" (1974)
- "San Diego Lightfoot Sue" (August 1975) The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction pages 6–45, 151
- "Under the Hollywood Sign" (1975)
- "Dinosaurs" (1976)
- "Mistress of Windraven" (1976)
- "The Sweetwater Factor" (1976)
- "The Detweiler Boy" (1977)
- "Insects in Amber" (1978)
- "Waiting for Billy Star" (1978)
- "2076: Blue Eyes" (1979)
- "M is for the Million Things" (1981)
- One unpublished 17,000-word story sold to The Last Dangerous Visions:
- "Potiphee, Petey and Me" (1975)
- One unpublished, untitled, unfinished short story
- Untitled (1977)
- "The Goddaughter" (produced 1972; Reamy credited only as Assistant Director)
- "The Mislayed Genie" (produced, 1973)
- "Sting" (1975) (unproduced)
- "The Screaming Night: A Screenplay" with Howard Waldrop (?) (unproduced)
- Hollywood Film Crew:
Awards and nominations
- Hugo: Best Fanzine nominee (1967) for Trumpet
- Hugo: Best Fanzine nominee (1969) for Trumpet
- Nebula: Best Novelette nominee (1974) for "Twilla"
- Nebula: Best Novelette winner (1975) for "San Diego Lightfoot Sue"
- Hugo: Best Novelette nominee (1976) for "San Diego Lightfoot Sue"
- John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: winner (1976)
- Nebula: Best Novel nominee (1978) for Blind Voices
- Hugo: Best Novel nominee (1979) for Blind Voices
- Tom Reamy at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Tom Reamy on IMDb
- Tom Reamy at Find a Grave
- Tom Reamy's online fiction at Free Speculative Fiction Online
- Tom Reamy, Find a Grave.
- Budrys, Algis. "Tom Reamy: A Masterful Fantasist". Trumpet magazine #12, Fall, 1980, Kansas City, MO. No ISSN. (Posthumous essay on Reamy's professional works and their place in fantasy and science fiction literature.)
- Cadigan, Pat. "Interview: The Genie-us of Tom Reamy." Shayol magazine #1, November 1977, Flight Unlimited, Kansas City, MO. No ISSN. (Lengthy Reamy interview published posthumously the same month of his death.)
- Sanders, Joe. Science Fiction Fandom. Greenwood Press, Westport, CT., 1994. ISBN 0-313-23380-2.
- Waldrop, Howard. "Tom Reamy Dies", Locus #206 (Vol. 10, No, 9), November 1977, The Newspaper of the Science Fiction Field. (Original draft version of Reamy's obituary that Waldrop would later expand as an Afterword for the Reamy short story collection. See next entry.)
- Waldrop, Howard. "Tom, Tom! A Reminiscence", 1979, Earthlight Publishers, Kansas City, MO. ISBN 0-935128-00-X. (Lengthy book Afterword to Reamy's short story collection San Diego Lightfoot Sue and Other Stories, containing many biographical details.)
- Warner, Jr., Harry. A Wealth of Fable: An Informal History of Science Fiction Fandom in the 1950s. SciFi Press, Van Nuys, CA., 1992. ISBN 0-9633099-0-0.