Science Fiction Writer and Amateur
(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, magazine columnist, and garbage truck driver. For
the last 35 years he has also been a writer, with 15 novels and over 150
stories published so far. Click here for a bibliography
Jerry has recently become a regular columnist for Sky & Telescope magazine,
writing a column called "Astronomer's Workbench" featuring homemade
astronomy equipment of all types, from simple accessories to complete
telescopes. His column is a continuation of Gary Seronik's "Telescope
Workshop" now that Gary has moved on to edit SkyNews.
Jerry has begun putting his stories online in Kindle
format at Amazon.com. It's a slow process, but he's working on it. He's
starting from the beginning and working forward, so you can follow the
development of his style and his career as he gets them formatted and
posted. (He's still pretty happy with them all, even the very first
ones.) Check for new entries Here.
As of the November, 2011 issue, Jerry had 84 stories published in Analog magazine, making him the most prolific fiction contributor in the magazine's 80-year history. That put him ahead of Poul Anderson by ten, a figure that he finds both exhilarating and humbling at the same time, and ahead of Christopher Anvil/Harry Crosby by one. Since then he has published several more stories and an opinion piece in Analog.
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.
After years of testing the hardness of my pitch laps with a
thumbnail, I finally got serious and made a pitch hardness tester that
will give me some numbers I can compare to others. It's based on the
design in appendix J of Jean Texerau's classic How to Make a Telescope,
Second Edition. Click here for more
The December 2016 Astronomer's Workbench column in Sky & Telescope magazine is about this observing chair. Click here for more details on the chair's design.
In 2015 Jerry built a tracking mechanism he calls a "Flex Equatorial Platform." It's designed for the big binocular scope below, and for the big 20" dob. It lets these scopes track the sky so you don't have to push them along by hand. It's a variation on the Poncet Platform, using the minimalist design of a flex rocker to reduce its size and weight to the bare minimum. It only adds 4" to the height of the telescope, yet provides nearly an hour of tracking time without resetting. Sky & Telescope magazine ran an article about it in their April, 2016 issue. Read more about it here.
Jerry spent the winter of 2013-2014 building a huge binocular telescope. It's by far the most ambitious telescope-building project Jerry has done to date, and it's one of the neatest telescopes to use. The view through it is simply stunning. With both eyes involved, you see so much more than with a single scope. Sky & Telescope magazine ran an article about it in their January, 2015 issue. Check out more information about it here.
The editor of Sky & Telescope's "Telescope Workshop" column was so impressed by Jerry's focuser design for the above binocular scope that he ran a separate article on that in the February, 2015 issue. Check that out here.
Kathy went through quite a time with cataracts over the last few years. They severely affected her ability to enjoy amateur astronomy, and the surgery to replace the cloudy lenses caused complications that made some aspects of her vision even worse. The story has a happy ending, but we learned enough along the way that we decided to share her experience in the hope that it might ward off the same problems for other people. Click here or on the photo to the left to read our article about Cataracts and the Amateur Astronomer.
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.
Winter 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
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 unbelievable
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 soon 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
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
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
Another 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.
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.)
Front page updated 10/6/17
Tester page added 10/6/17
Chair page added 10/19/16
Flex EQ Platform
page added 2/24/16
page added 12/26/14
Binoscope page added 11/24/2014
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 11/3/17
Bibliography updated 9/18/17