Being a Stargazer Has Benefits; Local Author Jack McDevitt Finally Won His Own Nebula

By Dickson, Terry | The Florida Times Union, May 28, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Being a Stargazer Has Benefits; Local Author Jack McDevitt Finally Won His Own Nebula


Dickson, Terry, The Florida Times Union


Byline: TERRY DICKSON

BRUNSWICK - Jack McDevitt was beginning to feel like a science fiction version of Susan Lucci.

Nominated year after year for Daytime Emmys, Lucci, the soap opera star, finally got one. And this month, after six times as a finalist, McDevitt got his Nebula, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's highest award.

When they called his name at the awards ceremony in New York, "I nearly fell out of my chair," he said.

"He paled," said his wife, Maureen.

Now the trophy, fashioned to show planets suspended in space, sits on a shelf in the McDevitts' living room, where fat and formerly homeless cats lounge.

It is not the only memento of his writings. Framed book covers hang on the wall of the office where they were written. His favorite is the French edition of Deepsix. A living room bookcase has Shakespeare on the top shelf and McDevitt on the rest, some in leather-bound volumes and many translated into other languages.

The entry hall is lined with illustrations of his stories that have been published in magazines, back when magazines did such things.

There are also mementos that have nothing to do with fiction, such as a framed black-and-white photo of Jack and Maureen McDevitt on their wedding day. "The best day of my life," he calls it.

And another of 17-year-old Jack McDevitt with his teammates on the South Philadelphia Quakers, a sandlot baseball team. He remains devoted to his hometown Phillies.

Growing up in South Philadelphia in the Depression, McDevitt developed another love, one for science fiction.

"My father took me to the theater. They were running the old Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers series," he said.

One night they came out of the theater and saw a full moon hanging brightly in what were normally murky and polluted skies.

"I asked him if he thought we'd ever get to the moon. He said it would never happen. He lived to see it," McDevitt said.

THE EARLY YEARS

McDevitt hasn't written all his life. He taught for years, including a senior honors English class at Mount Saint Charles Academy in Woonsocket, R.I., then spent 20 years with the U.S. Customs Service. He came to Brunswick to teach at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and stayed, raising his children in a spacious house north of Brunswick.

Cary Knapp, adult services librarian at Three Rivers Regional Library in Brunswick, said McDevitt is a reliable speaker for her programs. She said the author speaks from his compassionate and generous heart.

"As a speaker, he can't be beaten. He'll do anything, anytime," Knapp said.

There is one constant struggle with McDevitt - getting him to take his speaker's fee, she said.

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