PM Press Blog

Goodbye to the exceptional Terry Bisson

By Rick Klaw

All of us at Tachyon are saddened by the news of the sensational Terry Bisson’s death.

Activist, editor, and writer Terry Bisson was the award-winning author of over 40 novels, numerous short stories, comic book adventures, and screenplays. His best known novels included Wyrldmaker (1981), Talking Man (1986), Fire On the Mountain (1988), Voyage To the Red Planet (1990), The Hole In the Hole, Pirates of the Universe (1996), Saint Leibowitz And The Wild Horse Woman (1997 with Walter M. Miller, Jr.), The Pickup Artist (2001), NUMBERS DON’T LIE (2001), and Any Day Now (2012). Bisson produced several movie novelizations including Virtuosity (1995), Johnny Mnemonic (1996), The Fifth Element (1997), and Galaxy Quest (1990).

Outside of comic book stories for series such as CreepyEerie, and the short-lived Web Of Horror (which he also edited), Bisson published no short fiction until 1990. These works headlined by “Bears Discover Fire” (made into an acclaimed short film and winner of the SF ChronicleAsimov’s Reader, Locus, Hugo, Sturgeon, and Nebula awards), “Press Ann,” “They’re Made Out of Meat” (made into an acclaimed short film that won the Grand Prize at the Seattle Science Fiction Museum‘s 2006 Film Festival), “The Shadow Knows,” “Dead Man’s Curve,” “Necronauts,” “Get Me to the Church on Time,” and “macs” (winner of the Locus, Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, and Nebula awards) cemented Bisson’s reputation as a master storyteller. For Locus, Bisson wrote the long-running micro-fiction series This Month in History. Many of these acclaimed stories were collected in Bears Discover Fire And Other Stories (1993), In The Upper Room and Other Likely Stories (2000), GREETINGS AND OTHER STORIES (2005), Cuando los osos descubrieron el fuego (2007 Spain), The Left Left Behind plus… (2009), Billy’s Book (2009 also as Billy’s Picture Book [2020 with illustrations by Rudy Rucker] and Billy’s Book: True Crime for Kids [2020 with illustrations by Rudy Rucker]), Tva Baby And Other Stories (2011), and They’re Made Out of Meat and 5 other All-Talk Tales (2019).

On a rainy November day in 1961, members of the Grinnell 14 pause for a moment before starting their long drive to Washington, D.C. Left to right: Bayard Catron, Terry Bisson, Michael Horwatt, Mike Montross, Bennett Bean, Philip Brown, Peter (Cohon) Coyote, James Smith, Celia Chorosh Segar, Jack Chapman, Mary Mitchell, Sarah (Mary Lou) Beaman-Jones, Ruth Gruenewald Skoglund, and Larry Smucker (Source: Grinnell College)

Bisson’s non-fiction articles and reviews appeared in The NationMonthly ReviewGlamourSf AgeAutomotive NewsNew York NewsdayWriter’s DigestCommon GroundCovert Action Information BulletinThe Los Angeles TimesThe Washington PostThe Whole Earth Catalog, and others. Among his numerous book length nonfiction were Nat Turner: Slave Revolt Leader (1988), Car Talk With Click And Clack, The Tappet Brothers (1991 with Tom and Ray Magliozzi), A Green River Girlhood (1992 with his aunt Elizabeth Ballantine Johnson), and On A Move: The Story Of Mumia Abu-Jamal (2001).

While a student at Grinnell College (Iowa) in 1961, Bisson was involved with student protesters who supported President Kennedy’s proposed test-ban treaty and “peace race.” While protesting in Washingto, Bisson along with 13 other classmates, dubbed the Grinnell 14 by the press, met with Kennedy’s National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy. They were the first such group to meet with anyone from the Kennedy White House. This event is seen as the impetus for the student peace movement.

Jacob & Rina Weisman, Terry Bisson, Michael Moorcock at SF in SF at the American Bookbinders Museum in San Francisco on April 9, 2018
Photo by Arley Sorg

Among all these other accomplishments, Bisson was the editor of the Outspoken Authors Series for PM Press which features such SF icons as Nalo Hopkinson, Nisi Shawl, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K. LeGuin, Rudy Rucker, Cory Doctorow, and Kim Stanley Robinson. In conjunction with Tachyon Publications, he hosted the monthly SF in SF reading series in San Francisco.

Our thoughts are with his loved ones.