TO LEE BATTERSBY, THE WORLD’S GREATEST UNPUBLISHED 18 YEAR OLD, BEST WISHES AND GOOD LUCK, ALGIS BUDRYS
Back in 1989, I did a couple of things in quick succession: read Algis Budrys’ novel Michaelmas and discovered the Writers Of The Future contest, which Budrys was co-ordinating. In those pre-net days (how did we ever survive?) you had to write in to get details of the competition. So I did- a gushing half-query, half-fan letter in which I signed myself off as ‘the world’s greatest unpublished 18 year old’.
Shaddup. I was young, okay?
In due course, back came the guidelines sheet. But also: a copy of the latest Writers Of The Future anthology, with an inscription inside— the title of this post.
Was I inspired? I had a story in the mail within a fortnight. It didn’t win, it didn’t even place. But the fuse was lit. Over the next 19 years I’ve written and performed stand-up comedy and one-act plays; published poetry, cartoons, reviews, interviews and short stories; completed my first novel; written a feature film and a television series pitch; and on and on and so forth. The whole of my bibliography, set into motion by an act of kindness.
In 2001, after several years away doing other things, I entered the Writers of the Future competition for the second time, and became the first Western Australian to win. In August of 2002, I flew to LA as part of my prize, where I was going to be able to meet Budrys and tell him, face to face, what he’d inspired in me. To make things even better, before I flew out, I sold and saw published a reworked version of that story I’d originally written back in 89 (there’s a hint, kids. Never throw anything out….). It’s still archived: you can read it here. Sadly, Budrys fell ill, and so we never met, but I was able to tell the story, and have it relayed to him.
Last night, as reported over at Ed Gorman’s blog amongst others, Algis Budrys died of cancer, aged 77. We never did get to meet, but he was, and always will be, a central figure in my karass. He was a writer of important works: Michaelmas is a major SF novel and unarguably one of the major precursors of cyberpunk, and Who? is an astonishingly humanist reworking of the cold war/spy thriller. But more than that—he was an inspirational and kindly figure who will be remembered by a generation of writers for the hand he held out to them along the way.