About Neal Barrett, Jr.
Neal Barrett, Jr.
|Born in 1929, award-winning Texas-based author Neal Barrett, Jr. started writing fiction in a variety of modes and genres in 1959, when he made his first short story sales to Galaxy and Amazing magazines (the book A Different Vintage collects some of the best of Barrett's early work). Barrett continuously published short fiction from that time until his death in 2014, including three stories published in 2011 and new stories published in 2013's Impossible Monsters and Rayguns Over Texas.
In the 1970's, Barrett became known for several science fiction/fantasy novels, culminating in the Aldair quartet, which was completed in the early 80's.
Barrett became even more widely known in the 80's for a series of successes in both long and short form, including the novels Through Darkest America, Dawn's Uncertain Light, and The Hereafter Gang and the shorter works "A Day at the Fair", "Ginny Sweethips' Flying Circus", and "Stairs". In the 90's and 00's, Barrett was prolific writing for the comics, including collaborations with Joe R. Lansdale and Andrew Vachss. He also turned his hand to crime fiction, creating the successful "Blues" and Wiley Moss novels. In the 90's and into 00's, Barrett continued writing long and short works that were becoming increasingly harder to slot into a genre, including the short novel Piggs and the novels Interstate Dreams and The Prince of Christler-Coke. In the 00's, Barrett also wrote two well received fantasy novels that were marketed to a young adult audience.
Starting in at least the 1980's, Barrett wrote a variety of "franchise" novels that many writers would consider work-for-hire, but which Barrett has always managed to treat like an art form, whether a Daniel Boone or Hardy Boys novel in the 80's, a Judge Dread or Babylon 5 novel in the 90's, or a Dungeon's and Dragons novel in the year 2000.
In 2010, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America named him Author Emeritus. Neal Barrett, Jr. left this Earth on January 12, 2014, leaving behind loving family and friends, and also a tremendous body of work and a growing legion of fans. It's hard to find words. To read one of the last things Neal wrote and published, click through to this rememberance of the day JFK was shot, published in the Austin Chronicle, Nov 22, 2013.
Free Online Reading by Neal Barrett, Jr.
- Perpetuity Blues, a novelette published at Infinity Plus (also, a poignant review of this story)
- grünwelt, a short story published on the Infinite Matrix web site in 2002 (in two parts, Part I and Part II)
- the last cardinal bird in tennessee, a one-act play published on the Infinite Matrix web site in 2003
The above list of online NBJ stories used to be longer, but I had to trim out some broken links. Please let me know if we should add a link.
2010 SFWA Author Emeritus Award
In 2010, Neal Barrett, Jr. was inducted as a Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America Author Emeritus. Click through on that link for a very nice SFWA article summarizing Mr. Barrett's career to date, with some retrospective quotes from the author. Here is my favorite quote from the article, which points to one of the things I like about reading and collecting Neal Barrett, Jr.
"Like many professional writers, I’ve written westerns, mystery-suspense, horror, noir, air war stories, the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, novelizations such as Judge Dredd, Barb Wire and Dungeons & Dragons,” he said. “One of my all-time favorite jobs is writing comic books–I think I’ve turned out over a thousand pages by now. That’s what writers do, you know–they often do what needs to be done. And I’ve found that a real pro puts everything he or she has into whatever project comes along. You name it. I can’t tell you how many names besides mine are out there over the work I’ve done for a series or special projects."
In addition to the main SFWA article, several other articles about Mr. Barrett came out in connection with the Author Emeritus designation:
- Keeping Lone Star literature weird, in the Statesman of Austin, TX; also includes mentions of Robert E. Howard, Sutton Elbert Griggs, John D. Rullman, Joe R. Lansdale, Howard Waldrop, Don Webb, Mark Finn, Scott Cupp, and William Browning Spencer. A couple of excellent photos of Mr. Barrett in his home are included with the article--dig the framed cover art, including the Don Ivan Punchatz Hereafter Gang painting!.
- Meet S.A. native Neal Barrett Jr., SFWA Author Emeritus award winnerin the blog My San Antonio
- Author Neal Barrett, Jr., in the blog The Damned Interviews
- Neal Barrett Jr's Archive held at Texas State, in Alkek Library News, an article that connects the Author Emeritus occassion with the achive of Mr. Barrett's papers
- Made in S.A.: Neal Barrett Jr. (Wayback Machine link, so give it a minute to load), in the online publication Missions Unknown: Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror in San Antonio; a roundtable interview that also includes Joe Lansdale and Scott Cupp. Since the website where the interview was published is no longer around, I took the liberty of rescuring this photo and this photo of Neal at a celebration of the SFWA award. In the first photo he is holding copies of some of his earliest publications.
- Neal Barrett Jr.’s Author Emeritus Party, a collection of candid photos
- 2010 SFWA Author Emeritus: Neal Barrett, Jr., an appreciation blog post at Tor.com, by John Kilma