The exceptional, award-winner Terry Bisson was born 82 years ago

Photo by Rosalie Winard

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), Pirates of the Universe (1996), Saint Leibowitz And The Wild Horse Woman (1997 with Walter M. Miller, Jr.), The Pickup Artist (2001), and Any Day Now (2012). Alongside Stephanie Spinner, Bisson delivered the Gemini Jack children’s books, Be First in the Universe (2000) and Expiration Date: Never (2001). He produced several movie novelizations including Virtuosity (1995), Johnny Mnemonic (1996), The Fifth Element (1997), and Galaxy Quest (1990). Bisson penned a pair of Star Wars: Boba Fett novels, The Fight to Survive (2002) and Crossfire (2002). Under the house name Brad Quentin, he wrote four The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest novels: Jonny Quest: The Demon of the Deep (1996), Jonny Quest: Peril in the Peaks (1997), Jonny Quest: Attack of the Evil Cyber-God (1997), Trouble on Planet Q (1997), and The Lake of Terror (1998).

Outside of comic book stories for series such as Creepy, Eerie, 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 Chronicle, Asimov’s Reader, Locus, Hugo, Sturgeon, and Nebula awards), “Press Ann,” “They’re Made Out of Meat” (made into three different short films in 2005 [Grand Prize at the Seattle Science Fiction Museum‘s 2006 Film Festival], 2010, and as “Meat” in 2021), “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), NUMBERS DON’T LIE (2001), 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).

Bisson’s non-fiction articles and reviews appeared in The Nation, Monthly Review, Glamour, Sf Age, Automotive News, New York Newsday, Writer’s Digest, Common Ground, Covert Action Information Bulletin, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The 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).

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)

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 Washington, 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.

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 was the long time host of the monthly SF in SF reading series in San Francisco.