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I remember Stu

I met Stu Shiffman sometime in the 1980s. I think I knew him before he was Artist GoH at Minicon 20 in 1985, but can't point to a specific time or event, or even remember any specific conversations with him before Corflu 3 the following year. I surely saw his art and heard about him long before we met, mostly from Fred (pre-Levy) Haskell. The first thing I remember hearing about Stu was that he was a fan artist. The second was that his day job was in ladies lingerie. I've long since forgotten the details of that...something about the Garment District...someone who knew Stu back in the day, please fill me in.

My fanzine files contain RAFFLES #5, which Stu and Larry Carmody published in 1981 and a few copies of THE BIG SCHLEP (Part One; 1983, I think). But I'm pretty sure that POTSHERD number one (1985) is the first of Stu's fanzines that came in the mail.

Thirty years, that's not too many. Not nearly enough, as it turned out. Much as I can type the words, "Stu died last Wednesday"...much as I admire and appreciate the detailed obituary Mike Glyer wrote and published in File 770, my heart and mind are still back in the pre-Wednesday place. The place where Stu was unresponsive following a fall, where we were all waiting. Where we expected to keep waiting for another 90 days while brain swelling decreased, hoping Stu would regain responsiveness then. Instead, here we are, remembering.

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I mostly knew Stu thanks to our shared love of fanzines. When I finally published my own, the ToC page of IDEA #1 included additional credit and thanks to "Stu Shiffman and Mike Glicksohn: for encouragement to do a 'real' fanzine." Stu gifted me with bespoke art, fillos, covers, and more over the next 20 years, for IDEA and SCIENCE-FICTION FIVE-YEARLY as well as special projects like BEYOND THE ENCHANTED DUPLICATOR...TO THE ENCHANTED CONVENTION.

Idea6_Cover_20141129_220305

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When Fred was Fan GoH at Minicon 22 in 1987, Stu, along with Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden, published WORKINGMAN'S FRED. It's one of those 'zines that's impossible to quote without printing the whole thing, so here's the cover art & fan club ad:

WorkingmansFred_20141129_221732

FredHaskellFanClub_20141129_224531


In October, 1988, I attended a Fanoclast meeting in Stu's Washington Heights apartment at 19 Broadway Terrace. That was just a few months before he moved to Boston to be with Andi, and two years later, they moved to Seattle. And two years after that, they published FOLKAL POINT, "A Fanzine of Folk Music Opinion." Given my own interest in folk music, I'm surprised that I can't remember ever talking with Stu about it.

I saw him and Andi only rarely during the 1990s and had even less contact with them after I moved east and stopped flying here, there, and everywhere. But Andi's mother's death brought them to Connecticut in January, 2011, and the timing of that coincided with one of my early trips down to New York to spend time with Susan Palermo before her own death later that year. I stopped in West Hartford to express my condolences and visit for a brief hour or so. We'd all of course aged in the years since we'd last seen each other, but Stu was one of those rare people who looked better in his mid-50s than I'd ever seen him before. His always-boyish round face had matured into *woah* one darned attractive man. Stu was comfortable with his body in a way I'd never before witnessed, and his conversation reflected the fact that he was similarly comfortable with himself and his life. I loved being in his and Andi's presence, seeing his understanding and support through the shared grief and the reality of the work at hand.

It was a sad time for a visit and I couldn't have imagined it would be our last. Alas, that's what it turned out to be. And now we remember. Now we remember and grieve.

After Stu's stroke in June, 2012, I followed all of Tom Whitmore's updates on CaringBridge, all but holding my breath those first six months, when every step forward seemed to be accompanied by two steps back. Then the year turned, and slowly the balance shifted, there were more and more steps forward, then the joy of Stu and Andi's engagement, and their wedding this past summer. I'm thankful for all of that, and so loved their announcement when they decided to marry:

"We have been together for 25 years. On June 13, 2012, Stu suffered a serious stroke from which he has recovered to a major extent, although he still has more healing to do. In March of 2013, Andi turned 60 years old, while Stu will have his 60th birthday in February of 2014. We feel that we have good reason to talk about love and commitment.

Indeed. My heart goes out to Andi. I'm so very glad that she and Stu shared that love and commitment 'til death did them part, and I wish so very, very much that death had waited a good deal longer to come knocking.

That it didn't thoroughly sucks, dammit.

Comments

Andi Malala Shechter
Dec. 7th, 2014 05:10 am (UTC)
After the stroke in 2012, it took him a while to be able to communicate but once he did, he did like gangbusters. Stu had a way of going from zero to sixty in healing; from simple syllables to full sentences with multi-syllabic words. When he started speaking with the trach, he used a special valve (a PMV) which allowed air to move properly and he'd start out showing that it was working properly by saying "Encyclopedia Brittanica". On occasion, "World Book" or "Colliers" would sneak in. Later he'd just say "oy, vey" but he was very much there. There was a strong likelihood, due to the serious loss of strength in his right side, that he would not draw again. I think he knew that. But he was trying, he was writing, using his stronger left hand, and he was talking and thinking. I always thought he'd at least write again - another Stu Shiffman oh-my-gosh-where-does-he-get-it-all article. There was never a question, though, that he did not want to live.
The fall in October? We don't know. He never came back to tell us. There were some questions of what he would face and if he would want to, but until the day he left, at least until the day after he fell and I saw him and talked with him, he wanted to go on.

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