Science Fiction Writer and Amateur
Jerry Oltion (pronounced OL-tee-un) has been a gardener, stone mason, carpenter, oilfield worker, forester, land surveyor, rock 'n' roll deejay, printer, proofreader, editor, publisher, computer consultant, movie extra, corporate secretary, and garbage truck driver. For the last 33 years he has also been a writer, with 15 novels and over 150 stories published so far. Click here for a bibliography list.
He continues to write short fiction and hopes to maintain the
lead despite several prolific newcomers hot on his heels. (Bear in mind
that some of the columnists have had many more appearances in the
magazine, but if we're talking fiction, Jerry has reached the top.)
Jerry and his wife, Kathy, live in Eugene, Oregon, with their cat, Stormy. They both write science fiction, and Kathy also works in a medical laboratory. Their hobbies include electric guitar, electric bass, gardening, and astronomy. Oh, man, have they gotten into astronomy. Click here to look at some of their telescopes and astrophotos.
Jerry spent most of 2005 designing and building a new type of
telescope called the Trackball. It was
featured in the August, 2006 issue of Sky & Telescope
magazine. Click the link above or click on the trackball in the photo to
learn how it works and how to make one for yourself.
Here's Jerry's latest trackball creation, a 12.5-inch
scope with an ultra-light secondary cage. The whole top end only weighs
2.5 pounds. The scope was featured in the May 2014 issue of Sky
& Telescope magazine. Click the photo or click here for more information on the design
of this scope.
has learned to make finders as well as telescopes. His favorite design
is the "Split-Pupil" finder shown here. Sky & Telescope magazine
featured this finder in their June 2013 issue. Click the photo or click here for a page describing this
finder and how to build one.
is telescope building season in Oregon, and the winter of 2010-2011 was
an especially long one, so Jerry made an especially cool telescope: a
double-scale copy of the Edmund Scientific Astroscan. The Astroscan is
one of the world's most popular telescopes, for good reason: it's
incredibly easy to use and it has good optics. Jerry's scaled-up version
expands on that in one important way besides simply increasing its size:
the Big Astroscan also tracks, using the trackball
concept mentioned above.
The Big Astroscan was featured in the September, 2011 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine. Click the photo or the link above to go to a page describing how Jerry built it.
Jerry also built a star-testing telescope that was featured in the April, 2009 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine. Click on the photo at left to go to a page describing that scope.
|Kathy and Jerry still drive a 1969 Volkswagen beetle that Kathy has owned since 1975 (longer than she's had Jerry). Alas, in September of 2006, someone ran into the back of it. The impact pushed it into the car in front of it, so all four fenders, trunk, and hood were damaged, along with the bumpers and even some of the engine parts. The insurance company totalled it, but Jerry & Kathy bought it back and rebuilt it. Kathy is once again driving it to work, and watching out for distracted drivers.|
|Sometimes it feels
like the Universe is out to get us. In May of 2012, while Jerry was on a
trip to Wyoming in our other Volkswagen (our 2001 New Beetle), someone
rear-ended it on the freeway just outside of Pasco, Washington. It
looked pretty bad, and the insurance company wanted to total it, but the
tow truck driver knew a guy who did body work, and the body guy gave us
an estimate that was lower than the insurance payment, so we had him
repair it. His plan was simple: he bought the back end of a car that had
been front-ended, cut the back off ours and welded the other one on.
Only problem was, it took him 8 months (not a typo), during which we
just about pulled our hair (and his) out. The excuses for the delay grew
more and more unbelieavable right up to the last moment. We started
calling it "Zeno's
repair-o-dox" because it seemed like we were always getting closer
but never quite getting there, but eventually after a comical weekend of
increasingly Zeno-like approaches the body guy finally coughed up the
car. And miracle of miracles: despite doing practically all the work at
the very last minute (and I mean painting it at 1:00 in the morning of
the day we picked it up!) the job was very well done. He even repaired
stuff that wasn't damaged in the accident, like a door ding that we got
about three weeks after we bought the car in 2001. So we're insanely
happy to have our car back, good as new. Maybe by next year we'll work
up the courage to actually drive it somewhere. (Just kidding.)
|In 2005 Jerry &
Kathy got a kitten they named Stormy because of the lightning bolt on
her forehead and because she seemed like a force of nature when she tore
around through the house. It's hard to believe she's already a
middle-aged cat, but she can still be as rambunctious as ever when she
|PARADISE PASSED is Jerry's favorite novel, the one he has spent the last two decades writing. He poured his heart and soul into it, blending bizarre aliens, wacky religion, good intentions, and bad luck into a coming of age story that will leave you thinking about it long after you're done reading. It's got Jerry's patented sense of humor, but this time that humor comes with an undercurrent of social tension that will keep you on the edge of your chair until the very last page. And if that's not enough enticement, it has a gorgeous cover by Hugo-winning artist Frank Wu. It's in trade paperback and can be purchased directly from the publisher, Wheatland Press.|
ANYWHERE BUT HERE is a sequel to THE GETAWAY SPECIAL, but it's really about the world we live in today. The dust jacket says it best: "In a world dominated by America's heavy hand, an independent scientist reveals the secret of fast, cheap interstellar travel, sparking an exodus like none in history. When anyone with a few hundred dollars and a little ingenuity can build his own spaceship, even American citizens can't wait to get out from under the United States' domineering thumb. Trent and Donna Stinson, of Rock Springs, Wyoming, seal up their pickup for vacuum and go looking for a better life among the stars, but they soon learn that you can't outrun your problems. America's belligerent foreign policy is expanding just as fast as the world's refugees, threatening to destroy humanity's last chance for peaceful coexistence. When their own government tries to kill them for exercising the freedoms that people once took for granted, Trent and Donna reluctantly admit that America must be stopped. But how can patriotic citizens fight their own country? And how can they succeed where the rest of the world has failed?"
ANYWHERE BUT HERE won the Endeavor Award for best novel written by a Northwest Author.
|THE GETAWAY SPECIAL is pure escapist fiction. It's about a card-carrying mad scientist (a member of the International Network of Scientists Against Nuclear Extermination, or INSANE for short) who invents a hyperdrive engine that will take people anywhere in the universe they want to go, with parts they can buy at Radio Shack. Anything that will hold air can become a spaceship, but people soon learn that space travel is not for the faint of heart. And if the aliens have their way, it might not be for anyone!|
|Jerry's latest collection of short stories, TWENTY QUESTIONS, contains 20 of his previously published stories, some from obscure magazines and anthologies that you probably didn't see the first time around. There's a general introduction by the author, as well as individual notes about each story. Plus there's an added bonus: a scholarly article that finally answers once and for all the question, "What's the difference between science fiction and fantasy?" The book is in trade paperback form and can be purchased directly from the publisher, Wheatland Press.|
|Jerry's novella, "Abandon in Place", won the Nebula Award for best novella of 1997. It's about the ghost of the Apollo space program, and the astronauts who learn how to harness it. The story is available in the Nebula Awards 1997 anthology, edited by Connie Willis. People kept asking what happened to the main characters after they got back to Earth, so Jerry wrote a novel about them and Tor published it under the same title: ABANDON IN PLACE. Jerry wanted to call it IF WISHES WERE ROCKETS, but he was overruled. The novel contains the novella in its opening section, so you don't need to track that down if you want to read the novel.|
One of Jerry's short stories, "In the Autumn of the Empire" is now available in the DIAMONDS IN THE SKY anthology, an online anthology of astronomy-themed science fiction stories. The anthology concept is very cool: it's a collection of stories that illustrate basic astronomical concepts in an entertaining way, so readers can learn something about astronomy while enjoying some fun stories in the process. "In the Autumn of the Empire" deals with the seasons, and with some of the misconceptions people have about them. The anthology is free, so go have a look. (Click on the link above, or the cover art to the left).
"In the Autumn of the Empire" is also reprinted in the October, 2009 Analog magazine.
of Jerry's novellas, "Judgment Passed," was published in the Wastelands anthology edited by John
Joseph Adams. "Judgment Passed" is an exploration of what it might be
like to be not just left behind after the biblical rapture, but left
alone. To an agnostic or an atheist, that could be a dream come true.
You can find the print version just about anywhere books are sold, and
an electronic version here.
|Jerry and Kathy have stories in "A Fantastic Holiday
Season," a collection of Christmas stories edited by Kevin J. Anderson.
The back story: For several years after we moved to Eugene,
Oregon, we would get together on Christmas Eve with our science fiction
writer friends and read stories to one another. Many of those stories
were published in various magazines afterward, and Jerry and Kathy
collected several of theirs in a chapbook called "Tales from the
Yuletide," but this is the first time a general collection from several
of the attendees has been published. There are 18 stories from 14
authors (Jerry and a couple of others have two stories). Kevin Anderson
did the compilation, and Myles Pinkney did a fabulous cover for it. The
anthology is available in all eBook formats and in trade paperback
print. Here's where you can get yours:
Another of Jerry's stories, "The Astronaut from Wyoming," co-written with Adam-Troy Castro and published in the July/August 1999 issue of Analog magazine, was nominated for both the Nebula and the Hugo award. In 2007 the story won the Seiun award for best translated work in Japanese. The story is available online at Fictionwise.com and in the collection WITH STARS IN THEIR EYES from Wildside Press.
Jerry's other novels include two books in the "Isaac Asimov's Robot City/Robots and Aliens" series (ALLIANCE and HUMANITY), and four Star Trek books, TWILIGHT'S END, MUDD IN YOUR EYE, WHERE SEA MEETS SKY, and a collaboration with Kathy called THE FLAMING ARROW.
Jerry also writes under the name "Ryan Hughes." The Hughes books include media tie-ins in the Dark Sun, Shadow Warrior, and Unreal universes. See the bibliography for titles.
Several of Jerry's books (including one of the Robot City books and all of the Star Trek books) can be purchased in electronic format from BooksonBoard.
A two-volume collection of Jerry's early short stories are available in signed, limited-edition hardcover. If you're interested, email Jerry for more information at the address below.
Thanks for visiting the Jerry Oltion Page. If you'd like to send email to Jerry Oltion, use the address at the right. (Sorry you can't copy and paste it; it's a graphic file to thwart spambots that search the internet for addresses to send junk mail to.)
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Front page updated 10/23/14
Cataract page added 10/23/2014
Trackball page added 3/24/2014
Finder page added 6/2/13
updated 9/18/10 (Improvements to the mount)
Star-testing telescope page added 2/25/09
Astrophotos updated 6/6/12
Bibliography updated 12/1/14