Monday, August 27, 2018

book found in the worldcon dealer's room

Where Memory Hides: A Writer's Life by Richard A. Lupoff (Bold Venture Press, 2016)

When I was a young sf fan in Berkeley, among the older people I met and got to hang out with a bit were Dick and Pat Lupoff. (Not the only fannish couple I've met named Dick and Pat, none of whom were in any other way like the Nixons.) They were known for having once published a Hugo-winning fanzine called Xero, an anthology of which was subsequently published by Tachyon, and Dick under his formal byline had become a professional fiction writer of note.

In that capacity he was protean, capable of everything from homages to pulpsters like ERB and HPL to the most esoteric New Wave style science fiction or exotically Japanese-influenced epic fantasy. Perhaps because he didn't have a single definable authorial personality, Lupoff's sf/fantasy career never gained traction, and he subsequently sailed off into the friendlier waters of detective/mystery fiction.

With a few small exceptions, I found that I bounced off most of his fiction, or it went into areas I just wasn't interested in following, but I really enjoyed Dick and Pat themselves and their company. I was consequently a good audience for a book Dick wrote a couple decades ago called Writer At Large, a collection of essays about various experiences, in particular his stint teaching writing to inmates at San Quentin. It was highly illuminating and worth reading for anyone with an interest in inmate life or indeed in adult education.

There's a bit more about that in this memoir, which I think was compiled by stitching together various autobiographical writings. It rambles around with little regard to chronological order and repeats the same anecdotes in different places, even acknowledging that it does so. It talks about his sf and fantasy, his mysteries, how an old white male writer created a young black female detective character (by observing the black women he'd known over his life, he says), his dealings with editors and publishers, his fanzines, his childhood, his time in the army and as a bureaucrat in a soulless government department, teaching at Q and working as a radio personality and in a fabulous independent bookstore. It also contains a chapter attempting to argue, by use of selected quotes, that there is absolutely no difference in literary quality between high literature and pulp fiction, which I find hard to credit from a writer with such sensitivity to differences in style, but let that pass.

I doubt this book would be of much interest to anyone not as fond of Dick Lupoff the man as I am, unless they were really powerfully interested in his fiction. So why am I writing about it? Because I find from its pages that today - this very day! - is Dick and Pat's 60th wedding anniversary. I haven't seen either of them in several years, but I hope they're doing OK, and I wish them a very merry anniversary.

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