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David F. Bischoff: 1951-2018

Dave

If there was any one person who was responsible for my having a career as a writer it was Dave Bischoff, who passed away on March 19 in Eugene, Oregon. I met Dave through the University of Maryland Science Fiction Society and, later, meetings of WSFA, the Washington Science Fiction Association. We both wanted to write science fiction and we fell into an easy collaboration, writing stories based on one another’s ideas, all of which we eventually sold. It was Dave who contacted the editor who would go on to publish our first novel, a collaboration with the awkward title The Seeker. (I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the title we gave it. I believe the original was Seeker from the Stars, but it might already have been claimed.) Ego problems, mostly mine, got in the way of our collaboration but not of our friendship, which continued until his death.

Dave went on to become a prolific science fiction author, probably best known for the Nightworld series and the novelization of the movie War Games. After a few solo novels, I switched to nonfiction writing for young adults, which was a much more dependable market, though later Dave put me in touch with New York editor Bill McCay, who had been recently put in charge of the Hardy Boys series. I ended up writing eleven books for Bill and his successors.

In the late 80s Dave moved from Maryland, where we both lived, to Los Angeles to sell a script for Star Trek: The Next Generation, co-written by our mutual friend Dennis Bailey. It was the first spec script the series had bought that required almost no revision, allowing it to be put into production immediately to fill a gap in the show’s schedule, and it appeared in Season Three as “Tin Man.”

(Long-time Trek fan Dennis deserves serious credit for the script’s production readiness, because he knew the series as well as anybody who hadn’t actually been involved with it on a professional basis.)

Dave and Dennis wrote the first drafts of a second TNG script based on a treatment from another screenwriter and then, after a season as a writer on a low-budget syndicated series called Quest for the Dragon Star, Dave’s TV career faded away. He moved to Eugene, at one time a mecca for science fiction writers, and continued writing books.

The science fiction book market collapsed in the early 2000s. More specifically, the midlist — books that earned a small but dependable income for publishers — collapsed, and that was where Dave was positioned. He self-published for a while, then began selling manuscript coaching services to other writers.

I hadn’t seen Dave in person since the mid 90s, when he looked as good as I’ve ever seen him look, stylishly dressed and surprisingly trim. From then on we stayed in touch by phone and email. He helped me through some bad times, now long over, and for that I remain grateful.

Late in his career Dave was cajoled by a writer named Saul Garnell into reviving some of his old series and self-publishing them. My girlfriend Amy Gilbert, a graphic designer, helped them package the Amazon editions with lovely covers and professional typographic design, though most of the titles were eventually resold to small presses for re-release. You can still find them on Amazon under Dave’s name (as “David,” not “Dave”). You can also find Dave’s final novel, The Noose Club: A Novel of the O.C.L.T., from 2016.

Dave was my second oldest friend, one of only two people from my college days that I still stayed regularly in touch with. I found out about his death yesterday, when Saul contacted me about a brief obituary he found in a Eugene newspaper for a David Bischoff, age 66. By last night it was confirmed: Dave was gone. Details may or may not be forthcoming. (NOTE: Dave’s ex-wife Martha has subsequently announced Dave’s death on Facebook, saying only that it happened “suddenly,” though I assume of natural causes.)

There has been a gratifying outpouring of messages on Facebook from people who knew him, had collaborated with him or simply loved his books. Dave won’t be forgotten any time soon. If I learned any lesson from Dave it was a paradoxical one: You can do anything you want to if you put your mind to it…right up until you can’t.

These days I write mostly for websites, a transition Dave didn’t make. He dropped largely out of sight in the science fiction community and seemed to associate mostly with local friends in Eugene. I knew from his emails that he was having trouble with his health, but he was under medical care and none of the problems seemed life threatening. Until, apparently, they were.

Goodbye, Dave, and may you be remembered as someone who had more friends than you were probably able to count. However you died, I hope you went gently.

 

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