Just Who Is This Don D'Ammassa Person?

I was born in 1946 in Providence, Rhode Island and have lived in that state most of my life.  My mother taught me to read when I was five, using her paperback westerns, and I started school reading adult fiction, to the consternation of my teachers. Most of my early reading consisted of westerns and murder mysteries, with a sprinkling of the classics and non-fiction.  I didn’t discover science fiction until my 14th birthday, when I picked up Judith Merrill’s collection, Out of Bounds, almost by accident. I was hooked.  We moved to Cumberland, Rhode Island, the following year and I found two or three other SF readers, which reinforced my addiction.  In those days, I read 2-3 books a day (they were shorter then), but there wasn’t enough SF to feed my habit so I continued to read widely outside the field.

My teenaged years were spent in Cumberland, Rhode Island.  Several of my teachers were appalled that I was “wasting” my time on SF and kept bringing me “better” stuff to read, Tolstoy, Faulkner, Dickens, etc.  In almost every case, I declined their offerings because I had already read them.  By the time I graduated, we had reached a kind of truce.  I went to Michigan State University as a math major, which lasted one term.  I then switched to English and, except for troubles learning Russian, I cruised through the rest of college with minor difficulties, graduating in 1968.  I met Sheila Glover there and we were married in 1968.

Alas, the Vietnam War was underway, my teaching job was eliminated two weeks before I was supposed to start, and I had a low lottery number.  Fort Dix and Fort Lee led me to Vietnam, where I served primarily as clerical staff and news release writer for a helicopter assault unit.  My final year in the army was at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where I mastered the military’s finicky filing system and managed to use that knowledge to get preferential treatment.  Our son David (who later changed his name to Algernon) was born there in 1971.

The school system wasn’t interested in Vietnam Vets in 1971, so I went to work for Sheridan Silversmiths (later Taunton Silversmiths), in the production planning department.  Eventually I became Vice President of Materials – Purchasing, Shipping, Warehousing, Production Planning – and which for some reason also meant that I was in charge of Data Processing, Customer Service, and other areas on and off.  After nearly twenty-five years there, the company went out of business, stiffing me for my severance pay and a chunk of my 401K.  I temped for a couple of years, then took a permanent position at Air Products and Chemicals, ran their local office and data processing, and then quasi-retired when they closed the Rhode Island division in 2002.  I have been writing full time since.

I started writing SF, technically, before I ever read any, because I was a comic book fan and I wrote prose stories featuring Superman, Batman, and the Fly.  I didn’t actually try writing professionally until college, when I submitted a few short stories.  One of these seemed cursed because I sold it to Gamma Magazine, which folded before it was published or I was paid, and then Bizarre Mystery Stories, which folded before it was published or I was paid, and then If, which sent it back with a note saying they were going to buy it but they’d decided to cease publication instead.  So I didn’t actually sell a short story until 1982, to a small press, and sold my first novel in 1988.

 I had been reviewing SF for fanzines all through college, was a member of Apa45 and a few others, and started editing Mythologies in the 1970s, which fanzine netted me four Hugo nominations, but no trophies.  About 1980 I started reviewing for Science Fiction Chronicle, then edited by Andy Porter, and continued as their sole book reviewer through 2006.  I had also by this point sold eight novels and two non-fiction books, and over one hundred short stories and a few dozen articles.  I currently do all of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror entries for the What Do I Read Next? series of reference books published by Gale.

In addition to reading voraciously (average close to 2 books per day), I am an avid fan of movies and selected television series, most of them vintage.  My DVD collection passed 5000 titles recently.  I also collect gargoyles. We currently live in a large farmhouse with a separate library building (61,000 plus books at the last inventory), and two cats.  We have hosted a local SF club, RISFA, for more than thirty years.