March 2nd, 2016
We lost a friend last week.
If you knew Jef Smith, you knew that the man could talk. A lot. To anyone. And if you spoke with Jef Smith, you would quickly learn about his many passions: Speculative Fiction, Radical Politics, Indie Music, the cool things his friends were doing, methods for surviving the zombie apocalypse, and getting through life without wearing proper “pants” – to name a few.
What you might not learn, right away, is that Jef had spent most of his life in and out of hospitals for a wide variety of debilitating maladies. Instead of gathering sympathy for himself, he chose to work on bringing a little bit more joy and justice to the world.
Over the course of his life, he was an active supporter of Anti-Racist Action Chicago, an organizer for the Chicago Anarchist Defense Fund, and a stalwart member of Think Galactic, a reading group that discussed books with a radical left analysis. He was a constant presence at the feminist science fiction convention, Wiscon – where he would be seen on panels, hosting parties, or working in the dealers room. He was also the impetus behind the Think Galactic crew putting together their own bi-annual convention (Think GalactiCon) – which focused on cross-pollinating activism and fandom through mass amounts of discourse.
Jef spent a decade working at IPG, an independent book distributor – which helped to further his connections in the book world. He was an evangelist for many small, smart presses such as Tachyon, No Media Kings, and especially PM Press – who he continued to work with and table for, even after his health issues made his office job impossible. During the same time, he conceived of and brought to existence the feminist SF anthology, Sisters of the Revolution – simply because he thought that such a thing should exist.
Jef Smith died of cancer last week and the world of Anarcho-geekdom lost an emissary. The rest of us, who knew him, lost a deep, supportive, wacky, insightful comrade and friend. He will be sorely missed.