Lee Hoffman Biography
animated Lil
   People head with beanie

picture of young Lee My mother was born in High Springs, Florida in 1899, my father in Frankford, Pennsylvania in 1898, and my brother in Savannah, Georgia in 1922. I was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1932, shortly before the end of the Hoover administration.

By 1938 my parents had decide to relocate. They liked Lake Worth, Florida, the very small town where my mother's folks were living at the time. Taking me along, my mother went to Lake Worth to try to set up in the tourist business. My Dad had a job in a radio factory in Chicago. Since this was during The Great Depression and he didn't want to take any chances, he stayed there to collect a regular salary while my mother got the business established. My brother, then in high school, stayed with him to finish the school term before he came south.

My mother rented a large rooming house on the federal highway and hung out her shingle, but her timing was bad. That winter there was record cold. The tourists went further south, or back to their fireplaces and furnaces in the north. The next winter she rented a smaller place, but the same thing happened. Even so, my father left his job and joined us.

Things looked so unpromising in Florida that they decided to go to Savannah1. That's where they'd met and married and built a small house. They still owned the house so they figured whatever happened, they'd have a roof over their heads. We arrived in the fall of 1940. My father landed a job as a radio repairman. Based on past experience, I figured we'd be moving again before long but we didn't. My parents settled in and stayed for the next twenty five years.

I'd done my first two years of grammar school in Florida. I got the rest of my formal education in Savannah. After I finished high school, I went to the local junior college. In grammar school, my ambition had been to become a cowgirl2. In high school I decided I wanted to follow in the family footsteps and become a radio technician. In college, I got involved in the local theater scene3, and wanted to do that for a living. By the time I graduated in 1951, I didn't know what I wanted to do.

My brother had gone into the Air Corps in WWII, had been stationed in England and had come home with a bride from London. He apprenticed to my father under the GI Bill. By the time I got out of college, they were partners planning to open their own radio & TV service business. I didn't yet realize it, but I was fated to work in the store for them until I left home.

My job was minding the counter, answering the phone and doing clerical work. Much of my time in the store was spent waiting for something to happen. With all that time to kill, I read a lot. When I got tired of that, I amused myself by writing my own books. Although I was an avid science-fiction fan, it was the western that came most naturally to me. I'd finish one and send it to be read by an out-of-town friend who liked westerns. Once I sent one to another friend who'd made some book sales. He thought it was salable and told me to send it to his agent. It bounced back without a word. I decided I was not ready to become a professional author. I was right. Years later, I looked back at those manuscripts and was glad so few people had ever seen them.

While still in college, I got into science-fiction fandom. I did some amateur (fanzine) publishing and went to several conventions. After I started working, I began spending my vacations on cattle ranches instead. Then in the fall of 1955 I decided to go to the World Science-Fiction Convention in Cleveland. That's where I met Larry Shaw, editor of the new science-fiction magazine, Infinity.

picture of Lee in 
   Greenwich Village Larry and I spent much of the convention together and began a rapid-fire exchange of letters afterward. In one of them, he proposed marriage. I accepted. He came to Savannah to meet my folks and in the spring of 1956, I went to New York 4, 5,6 to get married. In retrospect, I think we were a little hasty. In 1958. Larry and I split up, and I moved into an apartment of my own to discover the joys of single life.

I was into the growing folk music scene 7 that produced The Kingston Trio, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. In NYC, it centered In Washington Square. On Sunday afternoons, the area around the fountain was open to all who wanted to pick and sing in public. Since I couldn't make music myself, I published a folkmusic fanzine. It grew with the fad and achieved international distribution. It got too big to be fun so I sold it.

Folknik friends introduced me to sports car racing 8 as a safety inspector, spectator and, briefly, photographer. I did some writing then, but had no plans to try doing it professionally.

I got a job with MD Magazine. It was clerical work and it was boring. I went to Hoffman Motors (no relation), an importer of foreign cars. There I was working as a Claims Clerk, which meant I was handling complaints. That was no fun. Then I found a job with a large letterpress printing company9. I got into the Production Department, and that was fun. It paid well, too. I bought a motorcycle and rode it back and forth to work. But when the company lost the account I was working on, I was one of the people laid off. I tried a couple of other jobs with printers, but as a female with no formal training, I kept ending up doing clerical/secretarial work, and I just wasn't suited to that.

I had gotten involved in New York SF fandom by then, and was going to regular meetings of a group called Fanoclasts. Its leader, Ted White, was just breaking into writing SF novels professionally. He encouraged me to try my hand at it. I tried a Western. Another friend, Terry Carr, who was an editor at Ace books then, encouraged me to submit it. I did and it sold. So did another. I quit my job and decided I wouldn't look for another until I had to. That was in 1966. I never did get another honest job.

By 1971, New York was changing. Many of my friends had moved elsewhere, and I had a feeling it was time for me to do the same.

picture of older Lee My parents had retired to west coast Florida. My brother and his family were living in Tampa. The area seemed a natural. I figured the whole family could get together. I bought a house not far from my folks. But just then my brother and his family relocated to Atlanta. The family did get together but not nearly as often as I had hoped we would.

The market for Westerns began to fade away. Historical romances were the big sellers in the genre market. My agent wanted me to try my hand at one. I did and it was fun, so I started another. It wasn't so much fun. Neither was the next one. I was distracted and in no mood for writing. My parents were in decline. More and more, they needed my help.

After my father became wheelchair bound and my mother had a heart attack, they needed full-time care. I sold my house and moved into theirs with them. After they were both gone, I wrote a couple of rather long short stories for anthologies. I didn't enjoy doing them and didn't feel satisfied with them. So I retired completely. Now I mess around with various hobbies 10 and do as I choose to.

(Lee died on February 6, 2007. There have been many theories about what she is doing now.)

Read more about...

  1. first hurricane
  2. Lee's horses
  3. The Savannah Playhouse at Armstrong Junior College
  4. New York City
  5. South Street Seaport Museum
  6. Fulton Street heap
  7. folknik days
  8. sports cars and go karts
  9. Arrow Press
  10. miniatures

© 2022 Gary Ross Hoffman

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