Andrew Offutt was a prolific author of pulpy science fiction and fantasy stories, along with porn, under a variety of names. Now his son Chris has written a memoir called My Father the Pornographer. And he’s been writing some fascinating essays about growing up with a dad who wrote cheap paperbacks.

According to the Science Fiction Encyclopedia, Andrew Offutt wrote 375 pseudonymous porn novels, many of which were science fiction sex. He wrote or co-wrote the Spaceways novel series, and also wrote a ton of sword-and-sorcery books. Under his own name, he wrote the near-future novel Evil Is Live Spelled Backwards. His 1972 novel, The Castle Keeps, “more ambitiously depicts—through an acid examination of Survivalist shibboleths—the violent disintegration of Western culture through overpopulation and pollution.”

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Chris Offutt talked to Esquire about finding out at age 11 or 12 that his dad wrote stacks of filthy books, along with some not-so-filthy adventure novels. Andy Offutt lived in rural Kentucky and sold insurance—and his life got a lot harder when the people in his town found out what he did in his spare time. But one great escape, both before and after the town knew Andy’s secret, was to go to science fiction conventions, where everybody knew about all of Andy’s books.

As Offutt writes in his book (quoted in Esquire):

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My parents cultivated a special con wardrobe. Dad dressed in dashikis or open-necked shirts with giant collars, zipper boots, wide leather belts, and flared pants. Mom wore short skirts and low-cut blouses that zipped up the front with no bra, high boots, and tight belts. John Cleve wore a long djellaba with nothing underneath, while mom wore a floor-length polyester gown. To complement Dad’s leather-and-denim leisure suit, Mom had a leather miniskirt. My parents were a compelling pair, and I was awestruck by the figures they cut.

Chris Offutt lost his virginity at a science fiction convention, with the daughter of another science-fiction writer. (And he knew all about sex from reading his dad’s books.)

You can also read the fascinating essay that Offutt wrote for the New York Times a year ago, in which he describes the tail end of his father’s porn/science fiction career:

In the 1980s, John Cleve’s career culminated with a 19-book series for Playboy Press, the magazine’s foray into book publishing. The “Spaceways” series allowed him to blend porn with old-time “space opera,” reminiscent of the 1930s pulps, his favorite kind of science fiction. Dad’s modern twist included aliens who possessed the genitalia of both genders. Galactic crafts welcomed the species as part of their crews, because they were unencumbered with the sexual repression of humans and could service men and women alike. The books were popular, in part, because of their campiness, repeating characters and entwined stories — narrative tropes that later became standard on television. The “Spaceways” series ended in 1985, coinciding with the widespread ownership of VCRs. Men no longer needed “left-handed books” for stimulation when they could watch videotapes in their own homes. The era of written pornography was over.

From his father’s workmanlike, assembly-floor approach to books, Offutt learned to treat writing like a job. This served Andy’s son well, when he went on to become a writer for HBO’s True Blood, where he wrote the first sex scene between Bill and Sookie.


Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All The Birds in the Sky, which is available now. Here’s what people have been saying about it. Follow her on Twitter, and email her.