Chad Oliver

(March 30, 1928 — August 9, 1993)

Symmes Chadwick Oliver was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and died — after a long battle with cancer — in Austin, Texas. In between he did a lot of living, much of it as a writer.

Most of Chad's writing, first as an amateur and then as a professional, was connected in some way with science fiction. As a teenager he penned numerous letters of comment to the SF pulp magazines (67 of them published between 1942 and 1952, with some of them signed "Chad Oliver, the Looney Lad of Ledgewood"), and edited/published his own fanzine with a friend, Garvin Berry. They named their fanzine The Moon Puddle, the title a takeoff on A. Merritt's classic 1919 fantastic novel, The Moon Pool. This one-shot fanzine, of which only 50 copies were published, is credited with being the first fanzine in Texas. It included a contribution by Dr. David Keller, a physician and psychiatrist, who was also a prominent SF writer during the 1930s-1940s.

Chad's first published story, "The Imperfect Machine," for which he was not paid, appeared in the Summer, 1948, issue of the Texas Literary Quarterly. His first story for which he was paid was "Land of Lost Content" (November, 1950, issue of Super Science Stories), although he had another story ("The Boy Next Door") accepted for publication in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction earlier, and usually spoke of it as his first sale. "The Boy Next Door" was originally written for Weird Tales, and is a fantasy/horror story reminiscent of some of Ray Bradbury's early pulp fiction.

Later in life, after he had earned a Ph.D. in anthropology and was an honored professor at a major university, Chad often said that he was not ashamed of his early fannish activities nor of his lifelong involvement with SF: "The best thing about my life in science fiction has just been being a part of it. I love the stuff, I love the writers, and I love the fans."

He and Betty Jane Jenkins (Beje), whom he met in an anthropology class at The University of Texas, were married on November 1, 1952, in Los Angeles. Roger Phillips Graham (who wrote most of his SF as Rog Phillips) was best man, Ray Bradbury was a member of the wedding party, and the reception was held at the home of famous SF personality Forrest J Ackerman.

While in California in the l950s — attending graduate school at UCLA —Chad became friends with other SF writers. William F. Nolan has labelled this group of friends the West Coast Writers Group. In addition to Chad, the group included Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, and Nolan himself. Chad later wrote a group of stories with Beaumont. In 1971 Nolan anonymously edited Chad's second short story collection, The Edge of Forever.

Chad published his anthropological work as Symmes C. Oliver, and his fiction as Chad Oliver, the name by which his friends knew him. Three of his early books were published by Ballantine Books, two of them in both paperback and hardcover editions, with no priority of issue. Among his books were seven SF titles: Mists of Dawn (1952), Shadows in the Sun (1954), Another Kind (1955), Winds of Time (1957), Unearthly Neighbors (1960), The Shores of Another Sea (1971), and Giants in the Dust (1976). He also wrote three historical/western novels, two of which won awards. Some of his early paperback books were later reprinted as hardbacks in Crown's Classics of Modern Science Fiction series in the early 1980s.

In the last 20 years or so of his life he was joined in Austin by other SF writers, including Neal Barrett Jr., Bruce Sterling, Lewis Shiner, Howard Waldrop, Leigh Kennedy, Steve Utley, and Lisa Tuttle. Chad said of this group of writers: "They are gifts from the gods." Most of them contributed stories to the SF anthology Lone Star Universe (1976).

Two posthumous collections of Chad's short fiction were assembled by Priscilla Olson for NESFA Press: A Star Above It and Other Stories and Far From This Earth and Other Stories, both published in 2003.

"Chad Oliver in Paperback: An Annotated Bibliography and Some Personal Recollections" by Jon D. Swartz, a colleague of Oliver's at The University of Texas at Austin, was published in the September, 2006 issue (#66) of Paperback Parade.

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