Another sad update for fans of Armor by John Steakley

Posted: January 19, 2017 by ryanlecocq in Off-topic

My regular readers are probably not aware, but besides the normal content about gaming and technology, I also carry the torch for fans of an obscure sci-fi novel.  I wrote an article about Armor years ago and the response was overwhelming.  Steakley’s philosophical space character drama apparently has a huge following of cult fans (at least partially due to being on the recommended reading list of many of the nation’s military academies).  Steakley unfortunately passed away a few years ago, apparently having the rights to his novels and potential film adaptations buried with him.  Over the past 5 years I have made repeated efforts to contact anyone related to Steakley’s estate or publishing contracts.  The response has ranged from none to canned emails.  I recently made an attempt to contact DAW publishing, which was the subsidiary of Penguin that last published Armor in paperback.  Previously I had attempted to contact Penguin, the Sy Fy network and the law office where Steakley’s will was filed.  I got my most useful (though still useless) response yet.  An only half-canned response that at least uses proper nouns, while still informing me that Steakley had passed away, which I made very clear I was aware of in my initial message to them.  This is the response I received:

Dear Ryan LeCocq:

 

John Steakley unfortunately passed away in 2010. He had not completed a manuscript for a sequel, to DAW’s understanding, so we do not expect to be able to publish a sequel.

 

Film rights are with the author’s estate, and DAW unfortunately does not have any information on those negotiations. Obviously, we would be delighted by a movie adaptation as well.

 

Thank you very much for writing in, and thank you to you and to all the fans of Armor for reading.

 

All best,

 

The DAW Team

 

So there you have it, the most recent in a series of dead ends.  I am willing to keep trying, but I have run out of people to bother.  If we’re going to make any progress, it’s going to take some input from you the fans.  Someone out there must know something about the man who wrote this book.  I know he was a mysterious loner, but nobody goes through life without a trace.  Just find me a relative or a past lawyer or something and I will at least convince or bribe them to make some sort of statement to the fans.  If it is in any way possible to make more of the drafts for Armor 2 available or renew negotiations for a movie, I will gladly start the ball rolling.

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Comments
  1. Mark Stryker says:

    I want to say thanks for all your efforts.

    I hope there is a reader of yours out there that can provide some information to you. We may have to wait a few more years for the rights of this publication to become public so someone can pick it up.

    With what we are able to do with VR now and the way CGI has developed and will continue to develop those portions of the book with Felix in his suit will be absolutely mind blowing and heart rending.

  2. Jeff Parker says:

    A man named Dave Alpern ran his “official” fan site, though that disappeared shortly after Steakley’s death. He communicated with Steakley regularly, even organizing meet-ups and AMAs with some members of the site. Track him down, and you can find quite a few answers to your questions.

    • ryanlecocq says:

      Thanks for the tip Jeff! I did actually make an attempt to contact Mr. Alpern when I started all of this, but got no response at the time. The site was shuttered days after that though, so he may have had a lot of fan mail on his hands.
      I didn’t know he was the guy with the answers though, so I din’t keep at it. I focused on the legal angle trying to follow where any of the discussions went with his projects. I’ll make another attempt and hopefully I can get some closure for the fans!

  3. Dennis Castello says:

    Don’t give up!

    • ryanlecocq says:

      It’s more that I’ve run out of angles to pursue at this point. John Steakley apparently wanted his work to die with him and there comes a point where I have to respect that as a fan.

      That being said, if anyone can come up with a legitimate way to revive some of his projects, I would be happy to help!

      • Jeff Parker says:

        I do think that Mr. Alpern is the missing link here. He had a personal relationship with Steakley that he kept fairly private at the author’s wishes, but they kept in contact for a number of years as the fan site was running. Alpern even got the exclusive first look at the draft of Armor 2. I was a member there and remember Streakley discussing naming a character after Alpern.

        Another potential connection would be the guy that “Cherry Cat” from Vampire$ was named after. I can’t remember his full name, but he is the brother of famed sci-fi author CJ Cherryh and was a professional illustrator who I’m pretty sure did the cover art for Steakley’s novels. I know they were also close friends.

        There was an ex-wife and kids as well that Steakley would often mention during AMAs.

      • Mark Stryker says:

        Just wanted to say thank you for all your work and everyone’s input.

  4. Mark Comfort says:

    I was John’s partner in Hollywood when we first went there in May and then moved there in June of 1976. We been friends going back to the English Department of Westminster College in ’69 till ’71, when he transferred to SMU for their film department. I would like to see Armor adapted to the screen and Armor II written and published. Feel free to get in touch if you’d like.

    • ryanlecocq says:

      Mark, if you are on the level, boy have I been looking for you! I’ll PM you through wordpress and give you my personal email. I would very, very much like to talk to you. Especially if you can point me in the right direction of where the legal rights to accomplish this currently lie.

  5. ryanlecocq says:

    I’m still hoping for a response from you Mr. Comfort. I believe I managed to track down your email through wordpress and send you my info, but you don’t have any contact information attached to your wordpress profile otherwise. I can’t contact you any other way. Please get back to me with anything that can help me continue the search.

  6. David Lively says:

    Around 2000-2003 (I gauge time based on where I was living and what I was driving at the time), I ran across your interviews / reviews of Armor quite by accident. I bought the book based on that, and I loved it. “You are what you do when it counts” is something I tell myself and my children.

    I emailed John and got a response (wow!) inviting me up to McKinney (I’m in DFW) some time for a drink. I really, really wish I had taken him up on his offer.

    I think the world is, somehow, more dim due to his passing.

    Also, I’d figure out who, at the publisher, is in charge of mailing royalty checks. I bought the Kindle version a few days ago. That money goes somewhere. THAT guy/gal/etc. knows where it goes.

    Thanks for all of your posts / writings / etc. They introduced me to a great book which has, on at least two occasions, helped me to make the correct choice, when *it mattered.*

  7. David Lively says:

    My previous comment got nuked to due a slightly-incorrect email address:

    Since I’m a game / graphics coder and this is a gamer blog, let’s make an Armor game and see who sues us. Contact information will come up in discovery!

    • ryanlecocq says:

      Hey David! I think I approved all of your comments, been busy with holiday stuff. Anything you can find for a new lead, I am willing to pursue. I got a response from Mark Comfort above, who I’m pretty sure is on the level, because his name was mentioned on old versions of John’s site. I sent him an email, but not sure if it went through. WordPress doesn’t have a good PM system of any kind unless you add one yourself.

      I would love to see an Armor game, but not sure if I want to jump in a minefield to find the hidden base? It feels like i’m inching closer to finding the little old lady who gave Mr. Steakley his first job mowing lawns and now secretly holds his unpublished works. Or something like that.

      If we could just find whoever that person is and let them know how much people care, I feel like the floodgates would open. I am friends with the developers at Cradle Games in Canada. They are busy with their first release, Hellpoint, but sci fi is their thing. That might be a useful lead as well.

    • Mark Stryker says:

      I’d play it. Put together a proposal and lets do some crowd funding or whatever it’s called.

  8. ryanlecocq says:

    I know the idea of an Armor game sounds really cool, but I think we’re imagining the best case scenario. Armor isn’t good because it has space marines fighting aliens. It’s good because of the characters and the plot twists. A bad game about fighting aliens would be the worst thing we as fans could do with it.

    I’m not at all declaring myself the king of Armor fans or anything, just saying that my personal goal has always been honoring what John Steakley wanted done with it. Before we come up with any ideas of our own about what could and should be, I want to hear it from someone who knew him well what he would have wanted. If he never wanted it to be a game, then we are just going to draw fire from whoever does control the estate. I’ve said it many times, but if we never find out who owns the rights to Armor, maybe that’s what John Steakley wanted. Nobody makes something this hard by accident.

    • ryanlecocq says:

      I feel bad responding to myself, but I’m going to share a story I read about another obscure fan base and their struggles. So back in the day, there were 2 Sonic the Hedgehog TV shows and 2 comic books. All had somewhat similar stories and characters, but were produced by different companies commissioned by Sega, Sonic’s creators. All of them were eventually cancelled as the heyday of the 90s and games about running to the right went further into the past.

      So long story short, one of the TV shows was cancelled on a cliffhanger ending. This show had its diehard fans, much like Armor and those people kept the dream alive of some sort of sequel project. Much like Armor, the writer of that series got very involved with fans, disappeared for several months, then died suddenly.

      The final result after crowd-funding campaigns and decades of people who worked on it moving on or dying, was a comic that is still ongoing. While it did in fact continue the story finally, it’s pretty likely that it carries more of the fans wishes than what the original creators intended. As a result, only that fanbase that has stuck with this crusade actually reads it (and me, who just looks up internet Americana Obscura for fun). It’s unlicensed, totally unrelated to the Sonic the Hedgehog video games that Sega is still making and maybe 500 people in the whole world even care.

      If you read all of that, this is my nightmare for Armor. That if we don’t try to pull it from the man’s own notes and plans, we will turn it into some horrible unauthorized fan fiction. That is why I’m hesitant every time someone suggests we just get some fans together and go do something. Because to me, Armor feels like something unique and genuine, that can only be authentic through the lens John Steakley saw it.

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