Obituary: Stephen Robinett

Author Stephen Robinett (b.1941), who also wrote under the pseudonym Tak Hallus died on February 16, 2004 from complications from Hodgkins Disease, which he contracted while a law student. Robinett began publishing in 1969 with the story “Minitalent” and using his Hallus pseudonym, which he claimed meant “Pseudonym” in Farsi. By the mid-1970s, he was using his own name. He published two novels, Stargate and The Man Responsible in the mid-1970s, and continued to publish short fiction until the early 1980s.

16 Comments

  1. Eduardo J. Carletti — August 1, 2009 @ 8:30 am

    ¿The year is 2004 or 2009?

  2. James Davis Nicoll — August 1, 2009 @ 9:20 am

    He also had a career as a mystery writer, with at least two linked novels: Final Option and Unfinished Business.

    Also, in addition to his single collection, Projections I believe he had a third novel, Mindwipe!, published under the pen name Steve Hahn.

  3. Greyseeker — August 2, 2009 @ 10:44 pm

    2004?

  4. Steven H Silver — August 3, 2009 @ 6:36 am

    Yes. 2004. Robinett had dropped out of the SF community after he stopped publishing in 1983 and his death went unnoticed until a friend of his mentioned it to someone with ties to the community.

  5. Black Gate » Blog Archive » Brass Tak: Stargate by Stephen Robinett — August 5, 2009 @ 5:22 pm

    [...] I’m not sure if the review sounds like a rave or a knife-job, at this point–which is perfect, because what the book deserves is something of both. The book, as unpretentious genre fiction, has remarkable virtues and just as remarkable defects. If I’d been reviewing the book in 1974 I might have said that it was a work of great promise. I’d’ve been wrong. Robinett wrote a few more sf stories, one more sf novel (apparently a mashup of two long stories) and drifted out of the field. He published a couple of mysteries and then fell silent. (He died in 2004, from complications of Hodgkins Disease, a bit of cheer which is only now spreading in genre circles.) [...]

  6. Carl Glover — February 2, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

    “Stargate,” which I read as an “Analog” serial in 1974, was one of my most enjoyable sf reading experiences from that period. I remember it as inventive, humorous, breezily written and well-characterized. I also enjoyed his short stories for the same reasons. I was disappointed when he stopped writing, but I understand he had a law practice which absorbed increasing amounts of his time. As a writer, he had a light touch rare in the genre, but with serious undertones which lent some substance to his work. I am very sorry to hear of his death.

  7. Kathryn Bjorklun — March 2, 2010 @ 10:55 pm

    As his wife, I can confirm that Steve died February 16, 2004. A takhallus is a pen name in the Urdu poetic tradition. His last fiction publications were two mysteries, “Final Option” and “Unfinished Business”. Though his first love was always SF, his writing focus had earlier changed to business journalism. My hope is that he and Tak are soaring through the cosmos seeing all the things he imagined for the rest of us. He is dearly loved and missed by all who knew him. (Times nine.)

  8. Glen Warner — March 15, 2010 @ 5:14 am

    Ms. Bjorklun –

    My (alas, belated) condolences on your loss.

    I also read the serialized Stargate (and the two(?) stories before it) in Analog. I liked the way he handled dialog, which was way better than the methods they were teaching me in high school at the time.

    I also liked the article he wrote for the SFWA Newsletter with the unlikely title of “Defamation, Hitler, and Artemus Jones” …! Sure wish I could find a copy of that somewhere; it explained the whole concept of defamation and libel perfectly.

    He will be missed by this on-again, off-again tech writer.

    –gdw

  9. Dave Drake — July 31, 2010 @ 2:36 pm

    Dear People,
    I looked forward to Tak Hallus stories and very much liked Stargate/The Man Responsible.
    I asked Jim Baen (who had published many of the stories at Galaxy and the novel at Ace, what had happened to him. Jim was surprised that I was a Robinett (as he became) fan. He said Robinett had wanted more money for the next book than he was worth at that stage of his career, and that he’d gone away in a huff when Jim said so. (I do not vouch for the underlying facts. I vouch for what Jim told me in the late ’90s. I’m a lawyer too.)
    I wish that I’d made more of an effort to contact him while I could. I’ve learned that if I have something good to say about a person, I should do so. I very much liked Robinett’s work.
    Dave Drake

  10. Kathryn Bjorklun — September 15, 2010 @ 6:12 pm

    Thank you to those who have expressed their condolences and especially their admiration of Steve’s work. He would have appreciated your kind words, and so do I.

    Mr. Warner–I was unaware of Steve’s article on defamation in the SFWA Newsletter. I still occassionally come across pieces (published and not) that I didn’t know Steve wrote. If I come across that one, I will let you know on this forum.

    Thank you again.

  11. Bill in TN — October 31, 2010 @ 3:05 am

    Ms. Bjorklun, I am re-reading “Stargate” for perhaps the tenth or eleventh time (first time was late 70s); I did not even know that Mr. Robinett had passed away, my condolences.

    I spent a little time back in the pre-internet days looking for more novels by SR and, not being able to find anything at all, gave up. But every few years I’ll re-read this one … it has given me hours of pleasure and is one of my all-time favorite books. So when I do a little searching I find this site …

    I’ve written some short stories and a couple aborted/half-finished novels, never published anything, but have read voraciously since I was very young. Let me tell you this: if I could ever write novels, of any genre/type, I couldn’t do better (in my opinion) than to have SR’s first-person voice (of Collins’ character) at my disposal. It’s a wonderful thing; many authors can make you care about a character, but to make you laugh along with him and deeply understand him that way … wow. Maybe there were things he could learn about the craft, but that’s beside the point. I just love that novel, it puts a smile on my face pretty much constantly while reading it. What more could we ask for? :-)

    The humor and “light touch” others have mentioned seem to be in short supply; his writing has always reminded me of a mix of Roger Zelazny and Pat McManus; pretty steep praise, eh? Perhaps had the stars aligned enough for him to write several more books he’d be far better known. I like to think he would.

    Again, my condolences; I’ll thank you, since I can’t thank your late husband, for writing “Stargate” …

    May Stephen rest in peace.

    Sincerely,

    Bill in TN

  12. Bill in TN — October 31, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

    Wow, I wrote that above post rather quickly … this comment of mine:

    “The humor and “light touch” others have mentioned seem to be in short supply;”

    Is begging to be misunderstood. I should have included a few more words … as in:

    “The humor and “light touch” others have mentioned [in Robinett's work] seem to be in short supply [among other writers ... would that those writers could handle this with Robinett's deft touch];”

    Or something. Anyway, didn’t want to post something vague and easily-misunderstood — as I said I laugh/smile often when reading “Stargate”, something I don’t see just a lot of, particularly in the speculative fiction genres.

  13. Mike Keeran — January 2, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

    In addition to the pseudonym Tak Hallus I believe Stephen Robinett also used the pseudonym S.Kye Boult, and wrote the Baron Amarson series of novelettes.

  14. Steven H Silver — January 2, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

    Actually, I believe S. Kye Boult was a pseudonym for William E. Cochrane, not Stephen Robinett.

  15. Daniel Keys Moran — January 10, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

    Back in olden days, before the internet, I always wondered if Robinett was a pseudonym for Gregory Mcdonald. Same lively style, same breakneck plotting speed, same remarkable ability to drive a plot through dialog. Except that Robinett’s characters were consistently more real, and more interesting, than Mcdonald’s. Mcdonald when he passed was given credit for perfecting the dialog driven novel by some people, and I didn’t dispute it — until running across this post I still thought that Robinett might have been Mcdonald, in pseudonym. But Robinett was a better writer than Mcdonald, I can now say, knowing that they’re different people in fact.

    For years I’ve told people I learned to write dialog from Gregory Mcdonald. I should have been adding Robinett in there as well, and in the future I will. He was a hell of a writer.

  16. Kathryn Bjorklun — March 17, 2011 @ 10:31 pm

    Thank you all so much for your additional comments. High praise indeed. Steve would have appreciated every one, but to me, they mean all the world because I miss him and his writing more than anyone can say. To know that others remember him and share in my admiration of his writing brings tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.

    Bill, I also read “Stargate” every other year or so. (You’d think I’d have it memorized by now.) You really hit the nail on the head about Collins’ voice. I don’t think I truly realized, until I read your post, just how wonderful it is.

    Oh, how I too wish the stars had aligned so Steve could have written many, many more books. In the end, time, money, life and death interfered. A loss for all of us.

    Daniel–thank you for recognizing Steve’s ability to drive plot through dialog. This was one of Steve’s passions. I cannot tell you how many books and movies he dismissed on these grounds. Over and over he would tell me that if the narrator or characters were merely describing the action, it was a sign of “lazy writing” and “not very interesting.”

    To Steve, each of his characters was a living, breathing person. (In fact, often, when he first spoke of a person to me, I would wonder whether it was a real person or someone he’d invented and whom I would soon find filling the pages of Steve’s stories.)

    Steve’s books and stories are pure Steve. If you had know him well, you would hear him speaking in those pages. The turn of a phrase, the wink and the nod, the deep love of life and sense of humor along with that bit of sly cynicsm he kept just barely below the surface. The way his eyes lit up at the wonders of the world and the universe. His sense of justice. All Steve through and through.

    Thank you once again. Oh how I miss him. And how grateful I am to have known and loved him.

    Kathy

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