by Walton (Bud) Simons
I didn’t have a passion to write as a child or young adult. I loved reading books. Other than maybe listening to music, reading was what I enjoyed most. Fiction, non-fiction, encyclopedias, comic books, you name it, I read it all. For whatever reason initially I didn’t give much thought to who put the words on the page. It was actually comic books that made me sensitive to who the creators were. I was much more interested in the comic book artist, as I desperately wanted to be able to draw. A skill that, unfortunately, I never possessed. I also loved music, but could never master any instrument. The frustrations of learning one’s limitations are always annoying to a kid. Once I understood who he was, my primary goal was to become Ray Harryhausen. Fortunately for the world, there already was a Ray Harryhausen. At no point did I imagine I’d ever become a writer.
When I was a student at The University of Texas, my roommate Bill Wallace was one of the writers at the newly-formed Turkey City Writers Conference. Bill hosted one of the early Turkey City get-togethers; although I didn’t participate in that I was invited to the after-party since I was living in the apartment where it was held. The party was one of the most enjoyable I’d attended at that point in my young life. I realized these writers were fabulously interesting and entertaining folk and getting to hang out with them would be a great time. So if I had to write a story to get invited to Turkey City, it would be worth it to spend time with all these cool people.
My first story was about a human-sized, sentient bottle of Elmer’s Glue. Spoiler alert: it commits suicide with a water pistol. The story got the reception it deserved, but I had a great time anyway and decided this Turkey City thing was something I wanted to participate with on a regular basis. So I kept going, making friends, and becoming a better writer.
Flash-forward several years. Most of the Turkey City writers are far more successful than I, all of it well-deserved, but I’d managed to have one short-story and two comic-books stories published. Lew Shiner got me a shot at Wild Cards, and George allowed me to earn my way in. Initially, I was worried that I might not be able to match the other contributors talent-wise, but after creating a few stories that met George’s expectations, those fears became less of an issue. I was still largely anonymous in comparison to the other Wild Cards writers. My convention presence was negligible, so very few people had actually seen me. At one point a rumor circulated that Walton Simons was a pseudonym for Walt Simonson (a reasonable guess,) and I was tickled to be confused with someone who was a great artist as well as a writer. I just kept plugging away on the latest Demise or Mr. Nobody story.
During that period I sometimes wondered why I didn’t feel compelled to write more. Early on I’d submitted scads of short stories to different markets with little success, but that didn’t really deter me. My fellow Turkey Citizens had trained my artistic ego to sustain a beating. It just came with the territory. I had a full-time job, but so did other writers whose output greatly exceeded mine. It occurred to me that I was an odd duck among the other writers I hung out with in Austin or collaborated with in Wild Cards. I didn’t want a writing career, per se. I didn’t care about winning awards, although I was always happy when my friends snagged one, and wasn’t interested in generating buzz about my work.
Now I’m a leisurely person, feel free to ask anyone who knows me. I have an unnatural gift for filling up free time with all manner of little things that I enjoy. One of those is writing, but it’s far from the only one. When I do write, Wild Cards is the perfect home for me. I love my characters and George makes sure any story I write is up to snuff. Plus, money is always nice, and it’s a kick to see my name in a book. Wild Cards doesn’t quite take up all of my writing time, to be sure. I’ve got a novel about three-quarters of the way done. Maybe I’ll finish it someday, along with several short stories that need polishing before I’m ready to try and find a home for them.
To be fair to myself, I don’t think everyone who writes has the same amount of work in them. Some writers are beyond prolific and there are others at the other end of the productivity spectrum, like me. I admire anyone who can make a living writing. It’s a tough gig and requires a tremendous amount of talent and discipline, with a bit of luck thrown in from time to time. That’s not me, though. I’m a happy footnote in the SF field. I keep a low profile on social media and don’t even have a website anymore. I had one for several years, but it died. Writing Wild Cards is still enjoyable and if there are even a few people out there hoping for another story from that Simons guy, I’m more than content.
Then again, maybe I’m just lazy.