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David Feintuch (1944-2006)

I heard over the weekend that writer David Feintuch died on Friday night, at age of 61 years old.

I wasn't a big reader of Feintuch's books, but I do remember him very fondly. You see, I first met him because he beat me for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Feintuch's first three novels came out in 1994 and 1995, meaning that he had made a rather big splash by the time the 1996 World Science Fiction Convention, L.A.con III, rolled around. So when I found myself on a ballot against him, I figured my chances of winning were low.

Nomi and I went to Worldcon anyway -- my first -- and I sweated through my very first Hugo ceremony. (You can read a fuller account of my experiences in the article Worldcon, the Hugo, and Me from the fanzine Mimosa 19, published in November 1996.) When they announced Feintuch as the Campbell winner, I was naturally disappointed, but I knew that it was rare for a writer to win in his or her first year of eligibility. So that took a little bit of the sting off the loss. (And, in fact, I won in my second year.)

At the so-called Hugo Losers party, I approached Feintuch to congratulate him and to ask if I could see the Campbell plaque. Feintuch was a large man, well over six feet tall, but he was also a shy man, and he seemed nervous when I approached. I distinctly got the feeling that he was afraid I was planning to beat him up for winning the Campbell. Instead, we both exchanged a few gracious words, and he let me admire the plaque.

The next morning, Nomi and I were surprised to discover that Feintuch was on the same plane as we were, since it was first landing in Detroit before continuing on to Boston. Feintuch was delighted to see us, and during the flight he kept coming over to our seats to chat about life and writing. He gave us a signed copy of his first novel, Midshipman's Hope, which I still have.

I honestly didn't give him much thought until two years later. I was sitting in a cafe in Cambridge, Massachusetts, having coffee and tea with a former student, when I thought I recognized Feintuch at another table with someone. But, I kept telling myself, that couldn't be Feintuch, because he lived in Michigan. However, I noticed that he kept looking over at me. Finally, I walked over to his table and said, "David Feintuch, right? Michael Burstein. You beat me for the Campbell two years ago." It turned out that Feintuch had gone to Harvard Law School and had chosen to visit friends in Cambridge on his way back from Bucconeer, the Baltimore Worldcon. We spent a few minutes chatting, and then went on our separate ways.

And sadly, that was it. I never saw him again, and I probably wouldn't have thought about him again had I not just heard about his death this past weekend. And I'm sorry he's gone, because I would like to thank him for the comment he made when he went to the stage for his Campbell plaque in 1996. He held it in his hands, looked at it as if he still couldn't believe he was receiving this award, and said, "I'm glad it's not for the Best Young Writer."

Feintuch was 52 years old when he won the New Writer award, twice as old as I was at the time. Which meant that he was 50 years old when his first novel came out. He spent his life trying over and over to get published, dreaming of becoming a science fiction writer.

And although it took him half a century, he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

A message of hope for us all.


I'm sorry that the reading community has lost this gracious and gifted writer, and I appreciate you telling the story of how you met him. I touched base with him once or twice on Delphi.

I also deeply appreciate the link to the intro for Feintuch's book club edition, and will be passing it on to several folks I know who need more than a little encouragement when they contemplate being in their forties and not yet published.
I often wondered if this is the David Feintuch who was a couple of years ahead of me at Earlham College (Richmond, Indiana), though I think he finished somewhere else. Do you happen to know?
I honestly have no idea. He seems to have been a rather private person.
I just found an obituary for him which says that he went to Earlham College. So it's probably the same person.

The obituary can be found by scrolling down at http://www.lsj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/classifieds?category=obits

There's also a photograph of him.
Thanks. Not easy being Jewish at a small Quaker college in Indiana back in the days. Though maybe not as bad as being a Catholic, which was my case.
I only met him once, and I was pretty much a newbie at the time. A few short stories sold, but I still didn't know what I was doing.

I'm pissed at myself now that I never got in touch afterwards to say thanks, or to wave one of the goblin books and say, "I bet you can't go more than three pages without finding proof that I was listening to your advice on dialogue."
Now you've got me curious -- what was his advice about dialogue?
Mostly, he pointed out that my characters were way too polite when they talked to one another. People interrupt each other, they argue and try to make their own point and cut one another off....

It was one of those specific pieces of advice that kind of exploded into a more generalized rule of creating tension to move things along and maintain reader interest and so on.
I met David in 1995 when we sat in on a New Writers panel at Dragon*Con. He was a very gracious panelist (although it was interesting . . . I was a new comic writer and he was a newly published author, so we were both approaching the panel from different directions).

I never got to meet him again after that convention, but I do remember enjoying visiting with him.

Sigh . . .
so sad to hear the news, He was the first sf author I liked that I ever wrote a "fan" letter to and at that, I only screwed up my courage because I was aquainted with a younger relative of his on IRC (I forget whether he was nephew or son).

btw -I found my way here from your post on sff.net.
Thank you for the tribute, this is a great loss.



I remember reading the Hope series...my Dad purchased them and loaned them to me. (I'm always amused to go home to visit and find Dad is reading the same science fiction as I am without us consulting.) I didn't like them as much as Dad did, but we talked about the books for hours. That's always the sign of a good book.


tragedy of David Feintuch (1944-2006)

At the very nice Winnipeg Worldcon, I spent quite a few hours with him in intense conversation on the law (I've worked as a paralegal specializing in Appellate Court and Supreme Court procedures, and have written briefs and writs in that context), on Judaism and antisemitism, on military fiction and historical novels and Sir Walter C. Scott.

I found him to be a very smart and very kind man. There are people who were snarky about him on, frex, Making Light, because of how hard he marketed his books at cons. Well, I agree that he was actually a shy man, and had to force himself to flog those books. I rather enjoyed reading them, and don't see anything wrong with self-marketing, but then I also attract snarky comments by being aggressively self-promoting and egotistical. Hey, I was actually the victim of assault and battery at the recent Glasgow Worldcon by someone who sometimes posts on Making Light manipulated by a plagiarist who attacked my pride in authorship on Making Light.

But this is not about me or the Nielsen-Haydens, whom I greatly respect. It's about a gentle and creative man, who had a lot to offer the world. He worked very hard to share what he loved, and I have, after the tears, thought long and hard about him and what he endured.

May his coffin be floated gently out the airlock, with all appropriate ceremony.

Re: tragedy of David Feintuch (1944-2006)

Hi, could you identify yourself?

Re: tragedy of David Feintuch (1944-2006)

Even if it does, anonymous replies are a violation of my blog's policy, as I state on my User Info Page:

"Anonymous posters are required to identify themselves in the body of their post. Whether or not I choose to leave up an anonymous post is up to my discretion. Posts from people not on the "Friends" list are screened until I have a chance to unscreen them."

And given how this reply accused someone only semi-anonymously of assault and battery, I'm going to remove it unless the person steps up. (Even in that case I might remove it, because such accusations might be considered violations of other parts of my blog policy.)



Very sad. David will be missed. His books helped to change my life.
God Bless David.

Re: David

Hi, could you identify yourself?
A very sweet tribute, Michael, especially the last few paragraphs. I needed to see that today.
I thought it was appropriate; I'm glad others feel so as well.
I tried contacting him to maybe see if he'd do an interview for www.coolscifi.com but I think it was at the time he got ill. It was a shame that I never had the chance to talk to him really as I saw some things in his publication life that mirrored my own path. I wanted to tell him how much his Seafort saga influenced my aims to finally go the path of writer.

It's always awful when someone dies before they have had the chance to totally cement their life on the shelves to the fullest of their ability. So few people I know have heard of him or read his books. I think I've read and reread the Seafort saga about 4 times now, not even skim reading for once.

His writing development as he progressed through the novels sometimes hit seeming lows but space operas are always welcome over such a large span.
I only just found out that he passed away. Through an interesting series of events we had been invited to have dinner with him while he was in Texas for science fiction convention he was going to be attending in San Antonio several years ago. He cancelled the trip for health reasons, however, and we were all crestfallen.

I'm devastated to find out he died. I've been waiting for the third book in the Rodrigo of Caledon series to come out and just now did a search on David Feintuch hoping to find out about it. That's how I found out he had died.

Does anyone know how he died? When he cancelled his San Antonio trip I believe he told us (by email) that he had heart problems. We never spoke to him after that. This is just so sad.

just found out

I am in tears! I did not even know that he died, and almost a year ago! I have been waiting for his third book in the Rodrigo trilogy and thought I would go on-line and look at his Web page to see if he got it done or not yet. And I can not believe it! I will miss him badly. And also the third book. Does anyone know if he even got it finished or not, or if it will be out? He is such a loss... again I am so sad that he is gone.

December 2016

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