February 01, 2004

Jack Cady, Life and Memories

by Jeremy Lassen

Jack Cady died on January 14th.  He was 71.  On that day, the Sf/fantasy/horror community lost one of its great writers.  As is usually the case with great writers, the genre paid him little attention during his lifetime.  Likewise, he had little time for the genre.  He was too busy living and writing.  He spent a career writing damn good stories and novels, without regard for marketing categories and genre boundaries.  While writing these stories and novels, he worked a variety of blue collar jobs. In his own words, from a 2001 bio-blurb:

"...I was raised in the auction business, went to the Coast Guard in Maine for four years, got a bachelor's from Univ. of Louisville, worked for Social Security for awhile, got sick of it, then drove trucks through the southeast. My first novel (though not the first published one) was rough drafted on an old Royal typewriter that sat on the seat of a 750 Ford. From the southeast I went to Boston where I worked for a tree company, then to San Francisco where I was foreman for a landscaping outfit. By then I had won an Atlantic First award and made a couple of sales to John Palmer at Yale Review. That was enough to get me hired at University of Washington where I taught writing for 5 years, then got fed up. I went to Knox College in Illinois for a year, then to Clarion College in Pennsylvania, then came back to Port Townsend and ran a little landscape construction outfit. Then I went to Sitka for a year, then came home. Finally ended up at Pacific Lutheran University where I spent 13 happy years before retirement. After much doings with a series of crazy ladies, I met the writer Carol Orlock, 26 years ago and we've been happy ever since."

During his writing career, he was honored with just about every writing award that is given, including (from the sf/fantasy field) the P. K. Dick Award, the World Fantasy Award, The Nebula Award, and the Stoker Award.

Not long after he retired from teaching, I had the pleasure of working with Jack in assembling what turned to be his final collection: GHOSTS OF YESTERDAY.  During the 2 years that we worked together, Jack's enthusiasm and energy was evident in every conversation, in every email, and in every story.

Jack lived briefly in San Francisco, where the first story of GHOSTS OF YESTEDAY is set.  This story ("The Lady with the Blind Dog") is a lyrical yet melancholy examination of the narrator's life, and suggests that all too often people let their dreams and goals succumb to the slow creep of time and inertia.  This was no autobiographical story: rather a cautionary one -- Jack spent his life living and achieving his goals and dreams.  Jack was both a teacher and a story teller.  I got to know him well through his fiction, but I was lucky enough to work with him briefly, and feel a little bit of his seemingly boundless energy first hand.  Neither he, nor his work will be forgotten.

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