The (mostly) Serious Biography of Christopher Stasheff

Christopher Stasheff Christopher Stasheff was born in January 1944.  He spent his spent his early childhood years in Mount Vernon, New York, but spent the rest of his formative years in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  He was the youngest of four children.  That's all you really need to know.  It explains everything.  Seriously.

Christopher Stasheff's career in the creation of imaginative stories and atrocious puns began in his eighth year.  He came in from playing some vigorous game unsuited to a rather plump eight-year-old (he has since joined Athletics Anonymous) and uttered his first bilingual pun: "Je suis fatty-gue!"

Driven by a need to constantly upstage his older siblings, and the fact that his father was an amazing actor, writer, and punster, young Christopher was soon attracted to the stage.  The puppet stage, specifically. 

He continued to produce both puns and fantasy when, with two co-conspirators, he formed a puppet troupe, the Unicorn Puppeteers, who he insists did not blow their own single horn.  Rather, with a portable folding stage, the troupe performed at birthday parties and elementary school assemblies.  Social psychologists have tried in vain to estimate the harm done to the six-to-ten year-olds who were exposed to these early Stasheffian fantasies. 

Unfortunately, he soon discovered that simply looking like Jim Henson was not enough to make it in the cutthroat world of puppetry and ventriloquism (despite the fact that half of his competitors were dummies).  So he turned his attention to his second passion—TV.

Young Chris fell in love with television at an early age (but honestly, who doesn't?).  At the University of Michigan in 1961, Stasheff rapidly became involved in the very active radio-TV program, moving up the ladder in the (poorly) paid Student Staff from Production Assistant to Script Supervisor.  In his graduate year, 1965-66, besides acquiring an M.A., Stasheff served as Manager of the entire Student Staff.

With overall control of the student programs broadcast over the University FM station, he was now in a position to wreak further havoc among his helpless viewers and listeners.  This was particularly true of a series called Down Storybook Lane.  True, it won several national awards, but the sensitive, helpless young members of his captive audience are reported to have recovered only after intensive psycho-therapy.  Some are still said to mutter puns in their sleep.

With a freshly lettered M.A. diploma in hand, Stasheff secured a position in the Instructional TV in-school program broadcast by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.  Unfortunately, he succumbed to the temptations of the Nebraska Theater Department, first helping out by assuming minor roles, then major supporting roles, and by 1968 had yielded completely to the lure of the footlights.  He left his broadcasting position and had begun work on a Ph.D. in Theater. 

It was while nearing the end of his Doctoral studies that Stasheff read about a competition for hitherto unpublished writers of science fiction and fantasy, which he decided to enter.  Unfortunately, he was unable to complete the manuscript by the announced deadline.  In a fit of creative obstinacy, however, he finished The Warlock in Spite of Himself in spite of the missed deadline and submitted the novel without a qualm (or an agent) to Ace Publishers (shameless plug!).  The rest, of course, is history.  Fess the robotic horse and his trusty sidekick Rod Gallowglass galloped into science fiction legend.

Despite his success, young Christopher still felt somewhat unfulfilled.  He yearned for a three-dimensional family to call his own, instead of the two-dimensional one that he had created on paper.  With this in mind, he met and married a beautiful theatrical costumer names Mary Miller (now Stasheff) who gave him four beautiful children (named Isobel, Edward, Genevieve, and Eleanore), several cats (too many to name), and over a thousand costumes (I'm not even going to try) to raise.

Oh, yes, what use did he ever make of that Ph.D. in Theater?  Well, he did use it to become an Assistant Professor at Montclair State College in New Jersey, teaching impressionable young minds about radio and television broadcasting.  Shortly after being hired, his students organized a petition to limit their professor to one pun per day.  This was quickly followed by running tally of how far into the next semester Dr. Stasheff had already gone. 

After fifteen years of teaching, Chris realized that his royalty checks were about double the amount of his academic "Modest Honorarium" (read "Princely Pittance").  So he left the chalk and blackboard for the word processor, and moved his family to Champaign, Illinois in the Midwest.  He became a full time author, spending his days writing books and taking care of cats, costumes, and the occasional child.  At least he would no longer contaminate innocent college students, only not-so-innocent readers.

Eventually his three beautiful daughters and rather dashing son went to college, inspiring their father to do the same.  An eternal glutton for punishment, Chris went back to the classroom, teaching broadcasting to the college students of Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico.  He quickly became a favorite professor among the Chinese exchange students there, for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with his life-long fascination in Chinese history and culture.

Proud new grandparents to a loud baby boy! Christopher became a proud grandfather in 2007 when his daughter Isobel gave him a grandson, Asher Tiernan Johnston.  A month later, his daugher Genevieve gave him a granddaughter too, Grace Cecelia Graaf, to complete the set.

Meanwhile, his son Edward gave him nothing but more gray hair, and his daughter Eleanore gave him a cantaloupe (for reasons known only to her).

Almost ten years later he now has five grandchildren (two granddaughters and three grandsons), a full gray beard, and an impressive collection of melon-related produce.

Chris finally retired in 2009, and moved back to Champaign, Illinois with a tearful goodbye, a case of carbon monoxide poisoning, and Parkinson's syndrome.  He is currently spending his Golden Years with his wife, their cats, and her costumes, filling the days with drinking coffee, reading, drinking coffee, watching TV, drinking coffee, napping (somehow), drinking more coffee and, of course, writing.

Although his Parkinsonís Disease can affect both his memory and mobility at times, he is determined to keep writing.  Talking with fans, speaking on panels, and simply being around people who share his interests and hobbies has proven to be the best medicine for him, and he will continue to go to conventions as long as his doctor allows him to travel.  He has said many times that when he walks into the bustling lobby of a SFF convention, he feels like he has come home.

To date, Christopher Stasheff has published 44 novels (including translations into Czech, German, Italian, Russian, and Japanese), 29 short stories, edited 7 anthologies, and written and directed several plays.