Francis Marion Busby (March 11, 1921 - February 17, 2005) was a science fiction writer and figure in science fiction fandom. In 1960 he was a co-winner of the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine.
He began writing short fiction in 1957, but did not start writing novels until the 1970s, a good deal of his novel work being space-opera.
Francis Marion “Buz” Busby was born in Indianapolis, United States, the son of Francis Marion Busby and Clara Nye Busby. The family settled in Colfax, Washington (US) in 1931 where Busby attended high school. He subsequently attended Washington State College until he joined the National Guard. He was subsequently discharged and returned to college. He did not remain long, however, and enlisted in the US Army on July 23, 1943 at Spokane (WA).
Busby served out the war in the Alaska Communication System, assigned to the island of Amchitka. At the end of World War II he left the army and returned to college to graduate as an engineer. He subsequently returned to the Alaska Communication System to work in a civilian role based in Seattle, Washington.
In 1954 Busby married Elinor Doub and subsequently had at least one child, a daughter. Together with his wife and others he published a fanzine entitled Cry of the Nameless which won a Hugo award in 1960. From 1974 to 1976 Busby was Vice President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Busby continued to work for the Alaska Communication System until 1971, when the organization was sold to private industry and renamed RCA Alascom and he took early retirement from the company.
Robert A. Heinlein in part dedicated his 1985 novel The Cat Who Walks Through Walls to Busby, and in part dedicated his 1982 novel Friday to Elinor.
At the age of fifty he became a freelance science-fiction author. He wrote nineteen published novels and numerous short stories between 1973 and 1996.
He ceased writing fiction at some time after 1996, claiming in an email: “ No, I haven't been writing fiction for some time. Many if not most of us “midlist” writers have been frozen out like a third party on an Eskimo honeymoon. The IRS started it by getting the Thor Power Tools decision stretched to cover an inventory tax on books in publishers' warehouses (so they don't keep 'em in print no more), and the bookchains wrapped it up by setting one book's GROSS order on that writer's previous book's NET sales. 4-5 books under those rules, and you're road kill; a publisher can't be expected to buy a book the chains won't pay out on.”
How real the influence of the Thor Power Tools decision was on Busby's writing career is unsure, considering a great many of his novels were written and published after it. What is certain is that he believed this was the case.
In November 2004 Busby was diagnosed with severe intestinal problems. He went into the Swedish Medical Center/Ballard Campus for surgery and suffered complications. He underwent further surgery before being moved to Health and Rehabilitation of Seattle, where he died on Thursday afternoon, February 17, 2005.
Themes, styles and influences
In the Rissa Kerguelen and Bran Tregare series of Hulzein family novels, Busby's theme was one of human brutality on an institutional scale and how it inevitably shapes the very people who will eventually fight against it. Additional themes touched upon included the worst extremes of corporate power, the oppression of minorities (particularly homosexuals), human rights under totalitarian regimes and the dehumanization of those who serve totalitarian states.
Although Busby's setting was a fairly hard science fiction one, with initially no faster than light travel and minimal contact with aliens, the series clearly qualifies as space opera by the treatment of the characters involved - especially after the end of first trilogy, where both FTL and intelligent aliens were introduced.
Busby himself was a longtime science fiction fan and may have been influenced by many writers and artists, though it is difficult to identify any one clear influence in his writing. The Hulzein series of novels is essentially the story of an evil empire defied by a small number of heroic but all too human characters.