Frequently Asked Questions about George Alec Effinger

This is a Frequently Asked Questions document (version 3.2) for George

Alec Effinger, an American author who wrote novels and short stories.

Much of his work was classified as science fiction. Latest version of FAQ posted in May 2007.

New this time: Information on a newly-announced third posthumously published George Alec Effinger

short story collection. (See question 14).

Compiled by Thomas E. Jackson (tom.jackson (at) gmail.com).

1. Who is George Alec Effinger?

2. What did GAE write?

3. Was he a hardcore science fiction author? Was SF the only fiction

he could write?

4. Did GAE win any major awards?

5. Did GAE write any series?

6. Did GAE have any recurring characters?

7. What's this business about GAE and pink flamingos?

8. What were GAE's hobbies (outside of literature)?

9. How do I get copies of GAE's books? Are they in print?

10. What are GAE's best books?

11. Was GAE active on the Internet?

12. What do the titles of GAE's books allude to?

13. Are there significant unpublished or uncollected works?

14. Are there any posthumous publications?

15.. Did GAE use any pseudonyms?

16. Did GAE write any media tie-in novels?

17. Did other writers like his work?

18. Who is GAE's literary executor?

19. Why wasn't he more famous?

20. How can I find out more information about George Alec Effinger?

21. Why did you do this FAQ?

1. Who is George Alec Effinger?

George Alec Effinger (1947-2002) was an American novelist and short

story writer who

was a native of Cleveland but lived for much of his life in New

Orleans. He was known

primarily as a science fiction author, although he wrote other work.

He was a successful science fiction author, neither very famous nor a

minor author, but well-known to all well-read SF fans. He won

attention early in his career -- his first novel, WHAT ENTROPY MEANS

TO ME, was nominated for the Nebula Award, and early stories such as

"All the Last Wars at Once," also attracted notice. He was nominated

for SF awards throughout his active career, and won for the novelette

"Shroedinger's Kitten" (1988), which won the Hugo, Nebula and Theodore

Sturgeon awards.

2. What did GAE write?

Here is a short bibliography: His novels published as science fiction


(1975) (with Gardner Dozois), _THOSE GENTLE VOICES (1976), DEATH IN

FLORENCE (1978) (reprinted in paperback as UTOPIA 3), HEROICS (1979),




ROBIN SCIENCE NOVEL (1991) (with Jack Chalker and Michael Resnick). He

also wrote SHADOW MONEY (1988) and FELICIA (1976). Short story

collections include MIXED FEELINGS (1974), IRRATIONAL NUMBERS (1976),



AWAY (1990), was published as a stand alone book by Axolotl Press/

Pulphouse Publishing. Three short story collections have been published posthumously: BUDAYEEN NIGHTS (2003), GEORGE ALEC EFFINGER LIVE! FROM PLANET EARTH (2005) and A THOUSAND DEATHS (2007). He also wrote four "Planet of the Apes"

novelizations. This short summary omits short stories, chapbooks,

articles, etc. Incidentally, the book CHAINS OF THE SEA, although

technically not an Effinger book, consists of three SF novellas, one

of which is Effinger's classic "And Us, Too, I Guess."

3. Was he a hardcore science fiction author? Was SF the only kind of

fiction he could write?

No, he published a mainstream novel, FELICIA, and a work of crime

fiction, SHADOW MONEY, and also wrote poetry, although little of it

was published. The three Marid Audran books are detective novels as

much as they are science fiction. While he was generally identified as

a science fiction author, he clearly had other literary interests.

4. Did GAE win any major awards?

GAE won the Hugo, Nebula and Sturgeon awards for his 1988 novelette,

"Shroedinger's Kitten." He was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula many

other times, both for novels and for stories.

5. Did GAE write any series?

He wrote at least two: The three novels about Marid Audran, WHEN


time-travel novels, THE NICK OF TIME and THE BIRD OF TIME, both of

which would make a nice omnibus (hint, hint, Science Fiction Book

Club.) A fourth Marid Audran novel was never completed. The only material actually completed for the fourth novel was published as a short story, “Marid Throws a Party,” in BUDAYEEN NIGHTS, a short story collection published in September 2003 by Golden Gryphon Press.

6. Did GAE have any recurring characters?

Yes, often. Here are some examples. An angelic character named Glorian

of the Knowledge appears in two of the best early novels, WHAT ENTROPY


computer, TECT, appears in some of the stories and is the villain in


Many of the later stories include a group of characters that Effinger

used over and over. He explained them in this way in the introduction

to THE OLD FUNNY STUFF, a short anthology he did in 1989 for Pulphouse

Publishing's "Author's Choice Monthly" series: "I think of the

characters as my repertory company. They usually play the same kind of

roles in each appearance, although what happens to them in one story

doesn't usually affect them in the next. I mean, Henry Fonda could

die in one movie and come right back in the next." In the same

introduction, Effinger termed the recurring character Sandor Courane

as "kind of a jaundiced self-portrait. He's usually a science fiction

writer of only moderate success, and he tends to die a lot." Sandor

Courane is the protagonist of THE WOLVES OF MEMORY. Effinger also

wrote a series of stories about a college coed, Muffy Birnbaum.

Some of the works feature a recurring university, Ivy University,

obviously Effinger's Ivy League alma mater, Yale.

So far as I know, however, Effinger is the only author to ever feature

a recurring pop quiz in his novels. DEATH IN FLORENCE includes a test,

Have You Been Paying Attention?, about three-quarters of the way

through the novel, promising autographed copies of the short story

collection DIRTY TRICKS to the first ten readers to send in correct

answers. (The back of DIRTY TRICKS lists the correct answers and the

ten winners.) In THE NICK OF TIME, a follow-up, Son of Have You Been

Paying Attention, invited readers to "spot the fallacy in the nuhp's

solution to instantaneous interstellar travel." The back of THE BIRD

OF TIME solves the problem and lists 11 winners. The quiz illustrates

Effinger's absurdist humor and to my mind tops such postmodern

literary tricks as including a character named after the author in

novel (as in Martin Amis' MONEY or Richard Powers' GALATEA 2.2). The

nuhp, by the way, recur as the insufferable know-it-all aliens in the

short story "The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, EVERYTHING," which was

nominated for the Hugo and the Nebula awards.

7. What's this business about GAE and pink flamingos?

After GAE completed the manuscript of FELICIA, his publisher

complained that the

hurricane in the novel had not killed enough people. Effinger resented

having to revise his

novel and reacted by adding a scene in which a pink flamingo lawn

ornament blown by the wind hits a character in the head, knocking him

unconscious so that he slips beneath the floodwaters and drowns.

Effinger's friends ribbed him about the incident by giving him pink

flamingoes. (I read about this in an article Effinger wrote for the SF

fanzine "Thrust," although I cannot give an exact citation yet.)

8. What were GAE's hobbies (outside of literature)?

Effinger was a sports fan who particularly loved baseball. His short

story collection, IDLE PLEASURES, was the only SF collection I have

heard of that was devoted solely to SF sports stories. His sports

allegiances included the Yale Bulldogs, the Cleveland Indians and the

New York Knicks. When he finally received a Hugo Award, in Boston in

1989 (after being repeatedly nominated for the Hugo or Nebula and

always losing) he quoted Lou Gehrig's famous farewell line: "Today I

am the luckiest man in the world."

Effinger liked to collect Depression glass (much of which was lost in

a disastrous apartment fire in 1986) and he contributed to "Depression

Glass Daze," a Depression glass trade paper. (The heroine of the novel

HEROICS is a Depression glass collector.) He read plenty of SF and

mysteries, but his literary references in his stories also mention

classic authors such as Jane Austen, beatnik writers such as Jack

Kerouac and pulp heroes. He was seriously interested in food: He

wrote a detailed guidebook to New Orleans restaurants for Nolacon II,

the World Science Fiction Convention held in New Orleans in 1988.

Effinger enjoyed music; he played the guitar and particularly liked

The Who and the operas of Richard Wagner.

For more than 25 years, Effinger was a fan of the TV soap opera, "Days

of Our Lives." (It is a very long-running afternoon soap opera in the

U.S. that is still on the air.) According to a Usenet posting by Dave

Slusher, "I recall him being out of town for a few days and sheepishly

admitting that he had been at a DOOL convention (which he said was in

no way more "normal" than any SF convention.) Not sure of the exact

nature of what he did, but I think he was a researcher or something

similar for the DOOL website at one point. I also recall him posting

that he found trying to untangle DOOL continuity to be far more

difficult than writing the trickiest time-paradox SF."

Effinger also was a fan of movies made by the Coen brothers and would

post messages at the Usenet newsgroup alt.movies.coen-brothers.

9. How do I get copies of GAE's books? Are they in print?

At the time of this writing (May 2007) many if not all of Effinger's

books are out of print. A few are listed as still in stock at Amazon

(www.amazon.com) and the Barnes and Noble We site (www.bn.com).

However, you can obtain them at public libraries (nearly every public

library in the U.S. offers a free interlibrary loan service for titles

that are not in stock) or buy them used -- good sites for finding

used books are the out of print section at the Barnes and Noble Web

site (www.bn.com),. Abebooks (www.abebooks.com), Fetch Books

(www.fetchbooks.info) . In addition, the Fictionwise e-book Web site

(www.fictionwise.com) currently offers 12 works by Effinger -- eight

short stories, three novels, THE NICK OF TIME, THE BIRD OF TIME and

WHAT ENTROPY MEANS TO ME, and the short story collection, DIRTY


10. What are GAE's best books?

This is necessarily a subjective judgment, but some answer should be

attempted to aid readers who want to sample his work. The most

commercially successful were the three Marid Audran books, the science

fiction detective novels WHEN GRAVITY FAILS, A FIRE IN THE SUN and THE

EXILE KISS. In the opinion of the FAQ author, THE WOLVES OF MEMORY was

perhaps his best novel. The two playful time travel novels, THE NICK

OF TIME and THE BIRD OF TIME are well-regarded. All of the short story

collections are good. HEROICS is another good, neglected novel.

11. Was GAE active on the Internet?

Effinger had e-mail addresses and made some postings on Internet

Usenet newsgroups, which can be accessed by searching for his name on

the Usenet archive at Google (www.google.com). He did not have an

official home page on the Internet, as far as I am able to determine.

12. What do the titles of GAE's books allude to?

WHEN GRAVITY FAILS is derived from lyrics to a Bob Dylan song ("Just

Like Tom Thumb's Blues"), as is "A FIRE IN THE SUN" ("It's All Over

Now, Baby Blue") . The title to THE EXILE KISS was apparently inspired

by the quotation from Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" quoted in the

epigraph in the front of the book ("O! A kiss/ Long as my exile, sweet

as my revenge," Act 5, Scene 3). THOSE GENTLE VOICES would appear to

refer to a Moody Blues song, "Tuesday Afternoon." DEATH IN FLORENCE

plays off the title of the famous Thomas Mann novel, DEATH IN VENICE.

13. Are there significant unpublished or uncollected works?

When this FAQ was last published, many of the best short stories had not been published in book form. This has been remedied by the publication of the two Golden Gryphon press anthologies, which do a fine job of gathering up most of the best material that needed a book home; see question 14. There are still quite good short stories which have not been collected yet. I do not know how many unpublished stories Effinger left


Apparently there are some unpublished novels. In a letter dated Dec.

2, 1986, Effinger wrote that he had sold several books "to various

publishers that, for one reason or another, never appeared. They're in

limbo now. One has been resold to TOR and should be out in '87; the

others may never see the light of day. My agents thinks they may be

too clumsy, haven been written early in my career; I'm supposed to

become a big success after WHEN GRAVITY FAILS comes out in January,

and my agent doesn't want any old crummy books diminishing the

effect." [The reference to TOR probably refers to SHADOW MONEY, which

was published by TOR in 1988].

Barbara Hambly, Effinger’s literary executor, reported on August 13, 2005, that she is attempting to get two novels published and that in 2006 she was publish a novel under here own name that actually is a collaboration between Effinger and herself. Hambly explains:

“There were two unpublished novels by George that I think are worth seeing print, and the Golden Gryphon folks and I have just began to talk about what it would take to untangle the rather messy rights situation of the first (a story far too long to go into here.) (Since they’re Books 1 and 2 of an unfinished trilogy, there’s no point in publishing 2 without 1.)

“Also, starting when he got the idea in 1995, George had been talking about writing a novel about Renfield, Dracula’s bug-eating henchman. We outlined it together, and he got about two chapters finished, which were largely unusable because by that time he was too ill to really focus. However, as soon as I cleared a little time for myself after his death, I took over that manuscript and rewrote it from his notes and our remembered conversations. Since I did most of the work, though the original idea was his, RENFIELD is coming out under my name (for reasons having to do with publishing and marketing – I wanted to have both our names on it and the publishers nixed that very firmly), probably next year sometime.”

Effinger’s literary papers were left behind in an unorganized state, and Hambly is still trying to get them organized.

“George left a filing-cabinet full of papers with me that I haven’t had the time to go through (except for a search for some manuscripts that he sold to someone over the Internet and never delivered – I never found them, either, and can only assume that he took them with him to New Orleans and they were lost).

“For the rest, eventually I’ll sort them out, but being a full-time self-supporting writer myself, I really have simply not had the time to devote to the project. (I’m still working on triaging the cubic mile of books he left with me – some useful, most crap.)

“As far as I know, he gave up actually filing things in that filing cabinet sometime in the mid-1980s. After that it simply traveled with him, and everything else got slung into boxes.”

14. Have any books been published posthumously?

Three books have been published so far.

GEORGE ALEC EFFINGER LIVE! FROM PLANET EARTH, edited by Marty Halpern, was published in May 2005 and is a good introduction to his career. Copies are available from Amazon if you can’t find it in your local bookstore.

The book reprints many of Effinger’s best-known stories, including “The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, EVERYTHING,” and “All the Last Wars at Once” and also reprints stories which appear in book form for the first time. All of the previously uncollected stories written under the “O. Niemand” pseudonym are reprinted in it. Each story was chosen as a favorite GAE story by a science fiction author and editor and includes an introduction written by the “guest editor.” The participants are Michael Bishop, Mike Resnick, Howard Waldrop, Pamela Sargent, Barbara Hambly, Lawrence Person, Neal Barrett Jr., Bradley Denton, Jack Dann, Richard Gilliam, Gardner Dozois and Neil Gaiman. For more details, see www.goldengryphon.com/gaelive-frame.html.

Intriguingly, Halpern notes in his introduction that additional stories picked by Richard Bleiler, Paul Di Filippo, Barbara Hambly and Gordon Van Gelder were squeezed out for lack of space. “However, these stories, and introductions, may yet find a home,” Halpern wrote.

In addition, Golden Gryphon Press released a new George

Alec Effinger story collection, BUDAYEEN NIGHTS, on Sept. 1, 2003. The collection includes all of the Budayeen-related and Marid Audran stories that

Effinger wrote, including "Shroedinger's Kitten," a Hugo Award

winning story. The anthology also includes previously unpublished material, including the beginning section of a fourth Marid Audran novel.

Early in 2006, Golden Gryphon Press announced plans to publish a third collection, A THOUSAND DEATHS. The book, a collection of the Effinger's stories about Sandor Courane, will include the novel THE WOLVES OF MEMORY and seven short stores. Mike Resnick will write the introduction, Andrew Fox will write the afterword and John Picacio will do the cover art. The book is being released on June 1, 2007.

15. Did GAE use any pseudonyms?

Two early pseudonyms for short stories were John K. Diomede and Susan

Doenim (look closely at that second pen name). Later in his career, he

wrote literary pastiches in the style of famous authors and published

them as by O. Niemand. "Niemand" is the German word for "no one."

16. Did GAE write any media tie-in novels?

GAE wrote four novelizations from the "Planet of the Apes" TV series.

Effinger did not recommend them to his fans. "I did it to pay for

three major operations I had in 1975-76," Effinger wrote (personal


17. Did other writers like his work?

Throughout his career, Effinger was a "writer's writer" who was

well-appreciated by other authors. Perhaps because he was particularly

well-regarded for his short stories, he was often lauded by other

masters of the short form.

Mike Resnick, for example, wrote a forward for the last book published while Effinger was alive, MAUREEN BIRNBAUM, BARBARIAN SWORDSPERSON. Theodore

Sturgeon wrote a forward for Effinger's first story collection, MIXED

FEELINGS. Harlan Ellison often tried to promote his fellow Ohio native

with contributed laudatory quotes for the covers of some of Effinger's

books, including one for HEROICS that labeled it "the best Effinger


18. Who is GAE's literary executor?

His literary executor is his ex-wife, author Barbara Hambly. Hambly worked closely on the two Golden Gryphon books mentioned in question 14, contributing unpublished GAE material and introductions for the two books.

19. Why wasn't he more famous?

It wasn't a lack of talent. I believe he would have been more

successful if he had not suffered from painful chronic illnesses.

A science fiction writer in the U.S. who has not become hugely famous

(i.e, he isn't a household word like Isaac Asimov or Robert Heinlein was)

has two main methods of keeping his name before the science fiction

public -- the constant publication of new books, and frequent

appearances at science fiction conventions.

Effinger often had serious health problems and had huge hospital bills

he was unable to pay. (Health insurance in the U.S. is generally

obtained through one's employer and can be expensive for self-employed

persons, such as novelists.) Consequently, he often could not afford

to travel to conventions, and he at times was too incapacitated by

illness (or accompanying problems, such as substance abuse) to do

serious work. There are serious gaps in his production when he wrote

little or no important novels, particularly in most of the 1990s. He

also was forced to write a series of "Planet of the Apes" books in

the 1970s to earn money, works that had little chance of winning a

major award or enhancing his reputation.

I have been told that at one point Effinger had to declare personal

bankruptcy and was in danger of losing control over the copyrights to

his works (a quirk in Louisiana law, which is derived from the

Napoleonic code rather than English common law.) Effinger retained

control over his copyrights when he won the trial by default when his

creditors didn't show up (personal correspondence from Lawrence


It also has been asserted that Effinger's work suffered from "too

much" originality -- it was difficult for marketers to categorize.

20. How can I find out more information about George Alec Effinger?

Information about GAE is available at the Science Fiction Writers of

America Web site at www.sfwa.org/News/effinger.htm. A Wikipedia entry is available at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Alec_Effinger.

Much of the available material on GAE can be found by running searches

for "George Alec Effinger" and "George Alec Effinger bibliography" at


21. Why did you do this FAQ?

George Alec Effinger was one of the best writers in the SF field. His

stylish stories, sometimes written with a flavor of surrealism and

often featuring humor, were unlike anyone else's. Effinger's clean

prose was always easy to read. His subject matter never bored, because

it was never hackneyed or trite.

If you want to see for yourself, try one of the works referenced under

the question, "What are GAE's best books?"

Credits: I appreciate the information and suggestions I received from Barbara Hambly,

Marty Halpern, Ann Morris, Lawrence Person and Dave Slusher.

Updated in May 2007

FAQ Maintainer

Thomas E. Jackson

tom.jackson (at) gmail.com