Well, this really sucks. Lucius Shepard, the great SF short story writer, died today at 66 following complications from a stroke and a spinal infection.

Shepard was distinguished among writers of his generation for focusing on the short form over novels or endless sagas. Starting in the early '80s, he wrote a series of remarkable short stories, often blending SF and horror tropes with Latin American-style magical realism and autobiography (Shepard was an inveterate world traveler). As a teenager, I encountered these stories and novellas in the pages of magazines like F&SF, Asimov's, and Twilight Zone, as well as Gardner Dozois' Year's Best anthologies — stuff like the Vietnam in '90s Nicaragua story "R&R" (later expanded into one of his few novels, 1987's Life During Wartime), "The Jaguar Hunter," "Salvador," "Aymara," "Night of the White Bhairab," and "The Man Who Painted The Dragon Griaule," a story that could be accurately described as "epic fantasy" but is nothing like anything else published under that term. He could even turn out a pretty conventional genre story, like "Barnacle Bill The Spacer" or the vampire novel The Golden and make it seem completely different and weird. To me he will always be one of the great SF writers to come out of the '80s, though he was never well known outside of the community, and never got much attention from mainstream critics or readers.

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He kept producing new stories and the occasional novel up until he fell ill last year. I hadn't kept up with his work, but I did meet him once at a book signing, and he was a friendly, gracious guy; we also chatted a bit on various social media over the years. I look forward to catching up with his post-'90s output, though I am saddened that there won't be any more forthcoming works. If you've never read or heard of him, Amazon has the Kindle edition of The Best of Lucius Shepard for three bucks. It's a fantastic value and a great place to start.