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McCaffery, Larry (1946-) | Special Collections & University Archives

Name: McCaffery, Larry (1946-)

Historical Note:

Dr. Lawrence F. McCaffery, better known as Larry McCaffery, was born in Dallas, Texas on May 13, 1946. He received his BA from Notre Dame in 1968, and his doctorate from the University of Illinois in 1975. His dissertation focused on Robert Coover.

In 1976, McCaffery began his more than 30-year career as professor of English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University. During this time he taught classes on Postmodern Literature, Contemporary American Literature, Bruce Springsteen, Japanese Postmodernism, Punk Aesthetics and much more. He also helped to found the English Department’s Living Writers Series, which invites important writers to speak on campus. McCaffery was awarded two Fulbrights and served as a visiting professor at the University of Nice in 1984, and at the Beijing Foreign Studies University in China between 1988 and 1989, where he witnessed the student protests, including the tragic events at Tiananmen Square. He participated in several other visiting professorships at the University of California, San Diego, Deep Springs College, and Seikei University in Japan.

In addition to teaching, McCaffery built a reputation as an important postmodern and contemporary American literary critic known for identifying influential and innovative writers. In 1982, he published Metafictional Muse: the Work of Robert Coover, Donald Barthelme and William H. Gass. A year later, he and Tom LeClair co-authored Anything Can Happen: Interviews with Contemporary American Novelists. This work identified important postmodern writers and served as McCaffery’s first foray into the literary interview. His unique interview process consisted of recording the initial interview, then loosely transcribing the conversation into a textual draft. This ‘transcript’ was then heavily edited by both himself and the interviewee. The result was a collaborative text based on the original conversation. McCaffery’s informal style and close relationships with many of the interviewees generated personal and important insights into each interviewee’s works and influences. In 1986, McCaffery published a second collection of literary interviews with his wife, Sinda Gregory titled Alive and Writing: Interviews with American Authors of the 1980s. He continued identifying and interviewing important writers, completing a third interview collection--Across the Wounded Galaxies: Interviews with Contemporary American Science Fiction Authors--in 1990. Five years later, he published Some Other Frequency: Interviews with Innovative American Authors. Many of his interviews were also published in prominent literary journals, including the Paris Review. Several were nominated for the Pushcart Prize, which honors small press publications.

During the 1990s, McCaffery compiled several fiction anthologies. He is perhaps best known for his seminal cyberpunk anthology Storming the Reality Studio (1991), which featured fiction and criticism that situated cyberpunk in the postmodern paradigm. McCaffery’s focus on science fiction helped elevate it as a legitimate literary genre worthy of serious scholarship. In the words of Brooks Landon, McCaffery was “science fiction’s Friend in the High Castle.” His other two fiction anthologies, Avant-Pop: Fiction for a Daydream Nation (1993) and After Yesterday’s Crash: the Avant-Pop Anthology (1997), focused on radical and innovative writers working influenced by postmodernism, the avant-garde, and popular culture and media.

McCaffery also published several scholarly casebooks, including Expelled from Eden: A William T. Vollmann Reader (2004) and Federman from A to X-X-X-X a Recyclopedic Narrative (1998). Both works required extensive research and ongoing conversations with both writers.

Throughout his career, McCaffery served as editor for numerous literary publications. In 1983, he became co-editor alongside Harold Jaffe of Fiction International, a literary magazine dedicated to innovative and experimental fiction, which had just relocated from New York to San Diego State University. He also served as editor for American Book Review, and as executive editor for Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction. McCaffery guest edited several special issues including Postmodern literature issue, Review of Contemporary Fiction’s Young Authors issue, and the Mississippi Review’s seminal Cyberpunk issue. In addition, McCaffery was an editor for Black Ice Books, which published controversial and provocative literature, including Samuel Delany’s Hogg.

McCaffery retired from SDSU in 2010. He and his wife Sinda live in Borrego Springs.

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