Editor's Note - Steve wrote this piece for the OKon 1987 Program Guide. Unfortunately, Ray no longer attends conventions, nor is OKon held anymore. 1993 was the last one.
There may be, out there somewhere, a more regular fixture on OKon than R.A. Lafferty. It would be hard to imagine who, or what, it could be. Ray has been to all of the OKons, has been at more OKon functions and been generally available at OKons, than anyone. Period. You'll find him wandering the halls at the unGhodly hours of 7:00 am and at midnight. There never seems to be a time when you can't find him.
This OKon and Ray Lafferty are both special to me. Ten years. Christ, have we been doing this nonsense that long? I met Ray at the first OKon. Has it been that long? Impossible. I have known him ever since. No. "Know" is too strong a word. I'm not sure anyone outside his immediate family really knows Ray Lafferty. I have been associated with him since then, socialized on a regular basis with him. There is no one more likable, more approachable and yet harder to know than Ray. You talk to him, and talk to him is the correct phrasing. He listens and smiles and looks at you over his glasses in a way that makes you certain that he is thinking something highly mischievous. Eventually you reach the point where you know that he is simply sitting there looking at you, not really awake, and the conversation is bogging 'cause generally it takes two to converse. Ray finally speaks. Short. Direct. Frequently off on some unconsidered tangent. And the conversation is free to continue for another five minutes.
Most of my contact with Ray Lafferty is through the Oklahoma Science Fiction Writers. Why he is active is a mystery to all concerned. Perhaps it is to remind us of how mortal we are. Just when we think we have a handle on this craft and we're getting the hang of it, Ray will bring something to read to the group. Something that violates every rule of fiction; every precept of dialogue and plot. Something strange and wonderful and unassailable and perfect in every way. There are only two reactions available. Stunned silence and applause. I spent years trying to figure out how to critique a Ray Lafferty story; some suggestion that I might have that might make the story even the slightest amount better. On occasion I have succeeded in making 'adequate' suggestions. There have been cases where, no doubt to humor me, Ray has actually incorporated my suggestion. Usually, though, I am forced to sit back, sulk, debate giving up writing entirely because Ray Lafferty's first draft is better than my polished product. My characters are dull and lifeless compared to the bizarre menagerie that inhabit his world. My characters would never consider saying "Ugh. Ugh. Does it always feel this icky to be a man?"
It would be impossible to mention every story worth reading. Everyone knows Ray's works. His list of short stories can't be counted. The novels are slightly fewer. If you can find time to read only one of them then you absolutely must read Okla-Hannali. If you don't, we will throw you out of the state.
I recommend Ray Lafferty to you, particularly if you don't mind long walks at 6 in the morning during the convention, and if you don't mind carrying most of the conversation yourself.[OSFW Home Page] [Lafferty] [Authors]