Collected Obituraries for R.A. Lafferty

Please send more if you have them.

URL: Science Fiction Writers of America

R. A. Lafferty (1914-2002)

Raphael Aloysius Lafferty passed Monday, March 18th, after an extended illness. The Funeral Mass will Friday, March 22 at 11:00 AM at Christ the King Catholic Church, South Quincy at 16th, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Internment will be that afternoon at 2:00 PM in Mount Carmel Catholic Cemetery in Perry, Oklahoma.

Lafferty was born in Neola, Iowa, but moved to Perry, Oklahoma at the age of 4. He didn't start writing until he was in his late 40s. His first published science fiction was "Day of the Glacier" which appeared in The original Science Fiction Stories in 1960. Over the next 20 years he wrote over 200 short stories and over 20 novels. At least 19 collections of Laffrey's work were published.

He stopped writing following a st[r]oke around 1980 and following a more severe st[r]oke in 1994 was very inactive. He spent the last years of his life in the Franciscan Villa Health Care Center in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.

Lafferty's work won many awards including the Phoenix Award, the Hugo (1972) for "Eurema's Dam," World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Arell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award.

AP story which appeared in March 21, 2002 (Daily Oklahoman).

Tulsa sci-fi author dies at 87
The Associated Press

TULSA -- R.A. Lafferty, an award-winning and prolific science fiction author, has died in a Broken Arrow nursing home. He was 87.
The World Science Fiction Society gave Lafferty its Hugo Award in 1973 for his short story "Eurema's Dam."

He also won the 1995 Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries for excellence in a body of literary work.

His other works include "Past Master," a novel published in 1968; "Okla Hannali," a historical novel published in 1972; other historical, science fiction and fantasy novels; and nearly 200 short stories.

Lafferty was born Nov. 7, 1914, in Neola, Iowa. He attended the University of Tulsa and was a longtime resident of Tulsa.

His funeral is planned Friday, said Crystal Urias, a spokeswoman for Fitzgerald's Funeral Home.

His science fiction novels included "The Reefs of Earth," "Space Chantey," "Fourth Mansions," "The Devil Is Dead," "Arrive at Easterwine: The Autobiography of a Ktistec Machine," "Not to Mention Camels, Apocalypses, Archipelago, Aurelia" and "The Annals of Klepsis."

Tulsa World March 21, 2002

Sci-fi author R.A. Lafferty rites set

Raphael A. "R.A." Lafferty, an award-winning author of numerous short stories and novels, died Monday. He was 87.

A rosary is set for 10:30 a.m. Friday, followed by a funeral Mass at 11 a.m. Friday at Christ the King Catholic Church.

A graveside service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at Rose Catholic Cemetery in Perry under the direction of Fitzgerald's Ivy Funeral Home.

Lafferty, born Nov. 7, 1914, in Neola, Iowa, moved to Perry when he was 4.

His family later moved to Tulsa, where he graduated from [C]ascia Hall High School in the early 1930s. He went on to take correspondence courses in electrical engineering from the University of Tulsa and worked many years for Clark Electrical Supply Co.

He served in World War II from 1942 to 1946.

At the age of 45, Lafferty began to explore his passion for writing. His first short story was published in 1959. In 1971, Lafferty quit his job so he could write full time.

He published hundreds of short stories and more than 20 science - fiction and historical fiction novels, including "Nine Hundred Grandmothers."

Lafferty was nominated for numerous Nebula and Hugo awards. The World Science Fiction Society awarded him the Hugo award in 1972 for "Eurema's Dam."

He also received the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990 and was nominated for the Phillip K. Dick Award in 1993 for "Iron Tears." In 1995 he won the Arell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Department of Libraries for excellence in a body of literary work.

His collected papers are available at the University of Tulsa's McFarlin Library in the Special Collections Department.

From the New York Times, March 29, 2002

R.A. Lafferty, Science Fiction Writer, Dies at 87

Rafael A. Lafferty, a prolific science fiction writer best known for his short stories and his fresh, eccentric style, died on March 18 in Broken Arrow, Okla. He was 87.

Mr. Lafferty, who wrote under the name R.A. Lafferty, had a strong, satirical style and pushed the limits of his genre. One story asked what would happen if everyone on earth had a gun, and another created a world in which fads were created, peaked and died all in a day. A Roman Catholic, he was known for the theological content of his writing.

He wrote more than 200 short stories and 21 novels - historical novels as well as science fiction.

Mr. Lafferty received the Hugo Award from the World Science Fiction Society in 1973 for his short story "Eurema's Damn."

Rafael Aloysius Lafferty was born on Nov. 7, 1914, in Neola, Iowa, and his family moved to Perry, Okla., when he was 4. He eventually settled in Tulsa and lived most of his life there. He was mostly self-taught, though he attended the University of Tulsa for a year and took several correspondence courses.

Mr. Lafferty did not start his career until his 40's. He had worked mostly at the Clark Electrical Supply Company in Tulsa until then, and had served for four years in the Army during World War II in the South Pacific. His first story was published in 1959, and his first novel, "Past Master," in 1968; it was nominated for a Hugo Award.

Mr. Lafferty left no immediate survivors. A bachelor whose one extravagance was his collection of books, Mr. Lafferty lived with his sister until she died; he never learned to drive. Though he had worked with and studied electronics for many years, he never wrote on anything but a manual typewriter.

From the Washington Post, April 4


R.A. Lafferty, who died at 87 on March 18, was undoubtedly the finest writer of whatever it was that he did that ever there was. He was a genius, an oddball, a madman. His stories (his short stories were, in the main, more powerful than his novels) are without precedent: If he can be compared to anyone it might be to a more whimsical Flann O'Brien, but comparisons are pointless. The world only got one Lafferty. Nine Hundred Grandmothers was the first collection of Lafferty's shorter fiction. It is currently in print -- the small presses work to keep Lafferty in print -- and is a fine place to start. It contains a number of points of view you may never have encountered, embodied in stories such as "Narrow Valley," the tale of a huge valley in a tiny ditch, or "Primary Education of the Camiroi," a short story that is mostly syllabus, or "Slow Tuesday Night," which tells of a world running at Internet speed. Funny, wise and odd, his tales are unique. One sentence in and you know who you're reading. Lafferty never fit as an sf writer, as a fabulist or as a horror writer, although his work was sold as such and he won the Hugo Award and the World Fantasy Award. He was a genre in himself, and a Lafferty story is unlike any story by anybody else: tall tales from the Irish by way of Heaven, the far stars and Tulsa, Okla.

(Neil Gaiman's books include the Sandman graphic novels, "American Gods" and the forthcoming miscellany "Adventures in the Dream Trade.")

From the Independent, April 2

John Clute

WITH R. A. LAFFERTY, who has died at a great age after a short career, comparisons are more than usually misleading. He stood alone.

Unlike almost all American science fiction writers, he came very late to his craft, in 1960; and he stopped writing after less than a quarter of a century, in 1984. Unlike most science fiction writers, he was deeply religious; moreover, unlike almostanyone else in the field, his Roman Catholicism governed not only the surface of his work, but its deep structure as well. And unlike most of his fellows he was deeply pessimistic about the value of the life experiences of Fallen Man.

Rafael Aloysius Lafferty was born in Midwestern America, in the tiny town of Neola, Iowa, in 1914. By the age of five he was living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, several hundred miles south, and never moved again. He served in the Second World War for four years,in the South Pacific theatre of action. He spent a normal working life with the Clark Electrical Company in Tulsa, not retiring until 1970, after he had been publishing short fiction for a decade.

He lived with his sister until her death; he was a bachelor, a good drinker, a non-driver; an only occasional visitor to science fiction conventions, where his deep shyness and his massive frame combined to generate a sense of massive, formidable reserve. But behind that barrier, and in his work, he was a joker.

There were four books before 1970, each of them remarkable. Space Master (1968), his first, retells the life of Sir Thomas More as the President of a Utopian planet - but the deep structure of More's tragic life is re-enacted here, and he is martyred, as must be. Space Chantey (1968) exuberantly retells the Odyssey as a myth of the future; The Reefs of Earth (1968) introduces some aliens to the tangled world of Earth, where they utterly fail to get rid of humanity; and Fourth Mansions (1969) invokes what became an abiding theme: the argument that the battle between Good and Evil is conducted through a series of extravagant, slapdash, hectic, deadly conspiracies.

Each of these books is spatchcocked with literary allusions, twice- told myths, puns and jokes, all of which helped Lafferty gain his early prominence, while at the same time concealing, for a while, his underlying grimness, his dark Catholic sense that we live in shadow.

It was only after his retirement that Lafferty became a full-time writer; almost all of the more than 50 books and pamphlets released during his lifetime appeared after 1970. There were many collections of stories - beginning with Nine Hundred Grandmothers (1970) - and novel after novel, most of them loosely linked together into a great patchwork of conspiracies against Good.

Lafferty's later career was commercially unsuccessful, for he paid decreasing attention to his publishers' requirements. His work became more eccentric, private, brilliant, unstoppable. When he retired in 1984, small press publishers continued to inveigle him into releasing already written material. His bibliography is, therefore, chaotic. There are something like 29 novels in all, and at least 200 short stories.

His last years were shuttered by illness, and he is not now in print. But a 1990 Nebula Award for lifetime achievement signalled that he had not been forgotten. A proper sorting of his work, and its subsequent release in organised form, could bring this solitary giant back into our ken.

John Clute

Rafael Aloysius Lafferty, writer: born Neola, Iowa 7 November 1914; died Broken Arrow, Oklahoma 18 March 2002.