The Strange Saga of a Sci-Fi Author Who Became a Prolific Pornographer
Andrew Offutt was a brilliant and determined man. At the age of 36, with a wife and four kids to support, he abandoned a successful business in order to pursue his lifelong dream of writing science fiction. His first two novels, The Castle Keeps and Evil Is Live Spelled Backwards, are ambitious and heavily researched. His son Chris believes they are his father’s best work.
“There’s an element of prescience to his paranoid imagination toward the near future, and a lot of that has come true,” Chris Offutt says in Episode 191 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “I wish he had written more that way.”
Unfortunately the books were commercial failures, and Andrew turned to writing pornography in order to support his family. Chris chronicles this strange saga in his new memoir My Father, the Pornographer.
“Many science fiction writers had moved to porn, temporarily, around the same time,” he says. “Most of them returned to science fiction as the markets began to re-emerge, but dad continued to write porn even when the opportunities to write and publish science fiction had re-emerged.”
Chris had always believed that his father wrote only a small amount of porn, but when he inherited his father’s papers in 2013, he discovered that virtually all of his father’s 400 novels were porn. Chris also found an unpublished 4,000-page comic book about characters who did nothing but act out violent sexual fantasies.
“They were doing the same things over and over,” he says, “which was just capturing women and torturing them to death.”
Chris was baffled to learn that his father, who demanded total silence from his family in order to write, had been so absorbed in this personal project. My Father, the Pornographer raises troubling questions about why a talented man like Andrew Offutt would choose to spend his time this way.
“I think he could have done anything,” Chris says. “He had the charisma and the drive, the ambition and the intelligence. But he followed his own path, and that path led to writing porn and being secret about it.”
Listen to our complete interview with Chris Offutt in Episode 191 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Chris Offutt on Thieves’ World:
“The character Hanse Shadowspawn was [dad’s] favorite creation [and] was in all those anthologies. … That series was very ahead of its time, in the way that Bob Asprin conceived of it, which was that he would create the world and the city of Sanctuary, and make a map, create the politics of it, and the royalty, and the areas of town, and then he presented that material to multiple writers and suggested that they invent their own character to live in this world, and they could interact with each other’s characters. The only rule was you weren’t allowed to kill somebody else’s [character] off, which is a good rule. But that kind of writing, I had never seen anything like that before then, and rarely since.”
Chris Offutt on secrecy:
“Keeping the pornographic output a secret was crucial where we lived. It was the buckle of the Bible Belt. In fact, my home county is the same county that was in the news last year where the county clerk refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples in Kentucky. … We knew that woman, we knew her mother, the family. So you can understand the necessity of keeping the pornography secret. But dad also wanted to get some attention for it, he wanted people to know what he was doing, and at cons he could let people know that, in addition to the science fiction and fantasy, he wrote this other stuff, and the fans were not judgmental.”
Chris Offutt on porn novels:
“[Dad] said he was the first person to include the clitoris as an anatomical detail in his novels. He also thought that the porn that had preceded him in general did not include a woman’s enjoyment of sex, or the ability to achieve orgasm. So dad thought that he had pioneered this by including the clitoris in his work. It’s hard to know. I did not do the necessary research to verify this. Dad told me though that he noticed other writers doing it after he did it first, so he thought that he was being copied. … It doesn’t really matter if it’s true or not in terms of dad, because what he believed was what was important, and that’s what he believed.”
Chris Offutt on science fiction conventions:
“People were there to hear Roger Zelazny speak and not dad, and dad was going on a little too long. No surprise to anybody who knew my father. And people had begun leaving, and Harlan [Ellison] approached the stage and whispered something to dad, and cut his speech short. I don’t know what Harlan said to dad, other than what dad told me, which was, ‘Pick it up, pick up the pace, cut it short.’ … Well, believe me that’s the biggest crime of all for my father, one I committed many times. You don’t interrupt, particularly in public like this, and dad took it incredibly personally, and refused to go to cons and be in rooms with Harlan. It was ridiculous.”
Originally posted here: