Alice K. Turner Passes Away

George R. R. Martin, Lewis Shiner and Alice K. Turner at the 1982 Worldcon. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

George R. R. Martin, Lewis Shiner and Alice K. Turner at the 1982 Worldcon. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

By Andrew Porter: I returned from nearly a week away from the computer to find the shocking and horrifying news of Alice Turner’s death. I was stunned by this totally unexpected news — I’d last spoken to Alice earlier — and so, instead of acting immediately, have waited a week after Alice’s death to write about her.

The hardest part of the process of creating each issue of my Science Fiction Chronicle, was doing obituaries for my friends. And here I am, writing about Alice, whom I’d known for more than 40 years. Her many accomplishments over the decades have dimmed in the brilliance of her time as fiction editor at Playboy Magazine in its heyday, when she was able to wield the power of the purse, offering science fiction and fantasy writers a market which paid around a dollar a word, vastly eclipsing all other genre markets. Within the confines of Playboy’s restrictions, she was an absolutely brilliant editor, as the Washington Post obituary describes.

Before her years at Playboy, she was an editor at New York Magazine and at Ballantine Books and then Paperback Editor and later Staff Writer at Publishers Weekly, where I first encountered her while seeking permission to reprint an Arthur C. Clarke interview she’d done. She also contributed material about Cordwainer Smith to my 1975 chapbook Exploring Cordwainer Smith.

I attended parties at her apartment in the West Village, which while on the first floor of a high-rise building also sported a large and airy deck. The decor was dominated by enormous paintings from her childhood in China, while her accent retained a faint Southern drawl which she used to devastating effect. She lived near Gilda’s House, the cancer-support house named for comedienne Gilda Radner, where I was a visitor when we both suffered from — and beat! — cancer.

Below are some of my Alice Turner photos, taken over the decades. They show Alice at her physical peak. She chose to advance in the world using her talent, not her beauty, but in fact she could be breathtakingly lovely, as I was startled to discover in 1966, when she attended a SFWA Banquet on the arm of her old friend Baird Searles, wearing a dress which displayed her cleavage to stunning effect.

I’ll let Michael Dirda, who reviews so brilliantly for the WP, have the last word here. He wrote in an on-line forum —

“Alice K. Turner, the longtime fiction editor for Playboy,  died [January 17th]. She was, I know, a friend to many. I saw her briefly [earlier in January] when I was in New York for the Baker Street Irregulars annual festivities — I usually stay at her apartment when I’m in New York — but she spent most of the time I was there in the hospital with pneumonia. Just before I left, she came home, but a few days later complained again of shortness of breath, and was sent back to the hospital. I’d known her for 35 years, ever since I first encountered her at the American Booksellers Association convention, where she was wearing leather pants and looking incredibly sexy. I soon discovered that Alice had read everything, helped hone the fiction of a lot of young writers, and gave many others their first big paychecks. She herself wrote one splendid book, The History of Hell. I’ll miss her and I’m sure many others will too. She was 75.” — Michael Dirda

Photos copyright © Andrew I. Porter.

Joe Franklin, R.I.P.

Joe Franklin and Noel Neill in 2009. Photo courtesy of Bill Dillane.

Joe Franklin and Noel Neill in 2009. Photo courtesy of Bill Dillane.

By James H. Burns: By now, the passing of legendary TV and radio show host, at the age of 88, will have made all the papers. (The New York Times obit is here.)

For over forty years, Joe hosted a television talk show in New York, including becoming a bit of a national series, when WOR-TV became a cable “super station” in the late 1970s. Franklin’s television program came to an end in 1993, but his Saturday overnight radio show on WOR lasted another eleven years, and until recently, he was still contributing show business reports to Bloomberg Radio.

But what should also be noted here is how many science fiction and fantasy writers, and comic book talent, made their talk show debuts on Joe’s program. Because of the simple breadth of the series (there were episodes that could easily feature twenty guests in one hour!), Joe featured a plethora of the noted, and unusual.

And just about any nostalgia and other conventions of the era were welcome to plug themselves on his show.

Long time science fiction fan, and noted historian (and television executive) Chris Steinbrunner had a long involvement with Joe and his program.

In my own personal history, I find it intriguing that on the morning I woke up in the hospital, after being hit by a car in early 1975, one of my new “roommates” found one of my youth’s heroes, Buster Crabbe (Flash Gordon, of course), guesting that day, on Franklin’s show.

(A generation of Tri-Staters also got their first glimpses of silent movies, on the original version of the talk show, Joe Franklin’s Memory Lane.)

I guested on the show a bunch of times, and now find it incredibly foolish — in my callow teens! — that I somehow turned down an invitation to co-host the show roughly every few weeks, to be — as Joe liked to call such folk — his “anchorman” for the hour.

But remarkably, we wound up running into each other again on the Broadway scene around 2003, and I discovered one of Joe’s great “secrets”:

Off the air, if he trusted you, Joe was incredibly funny — I mean Carson level funny. For whatever reason, Joe decided to present himself a bit as a “square,” a straight-shooter on TV.

But in “real life,” he was hip, and could be, when the moment was appropriate, just a tiny bit saucy.

More importantly, in all the decades, I’ve never heard a truly bad story about Joe.

And for those gathered here, or at least the bibliophiles:

It’s intriguing to note that Joe was “one of us.” To his last days, Franklin was a collector of show business, and other ephemera. It was not uncommon to see Joe at one of New York’s paper shows, and other festivals, not necessarily as a guest, but as a customer.

(I think, in fact, the last time we actually saw each other, was at the Broadway Flea Market — a fascinating annual street fair, held towards the end of September, in which Manhattan’s 44th Street is entirely closed off between Broadway and 8th Avenue — and we were chatting at a book stall. (And I believe Joe was quite amused, as I was also chatting up an actress!)

I was astonished to realize just a handful of years ago, that Joe could still become excited about meeting an actor. We were talking on the phone about an upcoming “autograph show,” and Joe said, “Jimmy, you’re sure Noel Neill’s going to be there?”

Somehow, Franklin had never met the most famous Lois Lane, and he was thrilled — or so it very much seemed! — at the prospect.

It is amazing the tens of thousands — hundreds of thousands? — of people Joe helped, with appearances on his shows, and elsewise.

And where Joe was especially fortunate:

I believe he always knew how much so many people loved him.

Eric P. Scott Passes Away

Bay Area fan Eric P. Scott was found dead in his apartment on January 16 by friends who had grown concerned they had not heard from him for awhile.

The San Francisco Medical Examiner’s office said he died peacefully in his sleep (he was in bed) reports Lynn Gold. However, he had been battling a heart condition for some time.

Scott was a highly-regarded convention party-thrower, as Chaz Boston Baden emphasized in a moving tribute to Eric posted here.

Eric P. Scott (“EPS”) was my friend for twenty years. He (along with Lynn Gold) taught me everything he knew about hosting room parties at science fiction conventions. One of the things he was passionate about was raising the bar for room parties, for example at Loscon (the Thanksgiving weekend convention in L.A.)….

Scott also was active in the Bay Area Science Fiction Association.

Djinn Faine Recalled

Djinn Faine, an editor of LASFS’ fanzine Shangri L’Affairs in the 1950s, passed away in 2007, however, this was only recently brought to the club’s notice.

Faine, who was briefly married to sf writer Gordon R. Dickson, remarried and became Virginia Faine Russell.

She was the author of one published sf story, ”Daughter of Eve” which appeared in a 1962 issue of F&SF.

Faine appears on this page from the LASFS Album published in 1966 by Al Lewis for the 1500th meeting of the Los Angles Science Fiction Society. Photo via

Faine appears on this page from the LASFS Album published in 1966 by Al Lewis for the 1500th meeting of the Los Angles Science Fiction Society. Photo via

Robert Kinoshita (1914-2014)

Tobor_the_Great_posterRobert Kinoshita, who designed three of the most famous robots in science fiction, died December 9 at the age of 100.

He was the principal designer for the robot in Tobor the Great (1954); Robby the Robot from the films Forbidden Planet (1956) and The Invisible Boy (1957); and the “B9 Environmental Control” robot from the 1960s TV series Lost in Space (privately nicknamed “Blinky.”)

Robby and Blinky even appeared together in two episodes of Lost in Space, “War of the Robots” and “Condemned of Space.”

(Robby  also appeared in a 1958 episode of The Gale Storm Show and a 1962 episode of The Twilight Zone.)

Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet

Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet

Kinoshita gave an interview to the B9 Robot Builders Club about his creation for Lost in Space, which he said was initially conceived without an operator because “at any moment it could stop or trip wherever and inside there is all kinds of stuff that he could get hurt on. There was a yellow cord running up the back of the Robot that held 2,000 volts.” However, they decided having someone inside would help give the robot personality (Bob May got the job) – manipulating the plexiglass head, turning the body, moving the arms, etc.

Jonathan Harris and Robot from Lost in Space.

Jonathan Harris and Robot from Lost in Space.

Kinoshita made other artistic contributions to these productions, designing the lab of Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) in Forbidden Planet and the final version of the Jupiter 2 spaceship for Lost in Space.

He was a free-lancer on Gene Roddenberry’s pilot Planet Earth . His non-sf credits include TV shows Highway Patrol (1955–1959), Bat Masterson (1960–1961), Hawaii Five-O (1970–1971), and Kojak (1973–1974).

[Thanks to Mark R. Kelly and John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Brian Clemens (1931-2015)

Brian Clemens

Brian Clemens

English screenwriter and TV producer Brian Clemens, who wrote the pilots for The Avengers and Danger Man (aka Secret Agent), died January 10.

He was deeply associated with the success of The Avengers (1961-1969) as its script editor, associate producer and main scriptwriter. His company also created a revival, The New Avengers (1976-1977).

Such a prolific writer that some of his scripts were credited to a pseudonym, Clemens worked on many TV series with genre connections — The Invisible Man (1958-1959), Adam Adamant Lives! (1966-1967), Thriller (1973-1976), Darkroom (1981-1982), Bugs (1995-1999) and Highlander: The Series.

He also wrote feature films – Hammer’s Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) and Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (1974), also The Tell-Tale Heart (1960), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974), The Watcher in the Woods (1980), and Highlander II: The Quickening (1991).

Clemens was related to Mark Twain/Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a fact commemorated in the names of his two sons, Samuel Joshua Twain Clemens and George Langhorne Clemens.

[Thanks to James H. Burns for the head’s up.]

Anita Ekberg Passes Away

Actress Anita Ekberg (1931-2015) died January 11. Her occasional genre roles included playing a Venusian guard in Abbott and Costello Go To Mars (1953), Zenobia, Queen of Palmira in Sheba and the Gladiator (1959), a dual role as ingénue and witch in Fangs of the Living Dead (1969), and Queen Na-Eela in the TV movie Gold of the Amazon Women (1979).

Rod Taylor (1930-2015)

rod-taylor-time-machine COMPRod Taylor, who starred in The Time Machine (1960) and The Birds (1963), died January 7 at the age of 84. Two weeks ago he was hospitalized after a fall, and though he was able to return home he soon thereafter suffered a fatal heart attack.

Taylor’s other fantasy roles included voicing Pongo in Disney’s animated movie 101 Dalmatians, and appearing in Kaw, a 2007 update of The Birds for the Sci Fi Channel.

Alan Levine, “Original Dealer,” 79 Years Old, R.I.P.

Alan Levine

Alan Levine

By James H. Burns: I just received  the sad news thay my old pal Al Levine has passed.

Many of you knew him, a fixture at North East conventions  for DECADES…

Alan was one of the originals, his ads for comics going back to some of the earliest issues of the Comics Buyers Guide.

He also sold pulps, and perhaps  most famously, movie material and memorabilia. (Al wound up helping to sell the E. Nelson Bridwell collection, and many other assortments, over the years!)

There was his store in New Jersey, for AGES

And he was someone I, and so many others, could trust.

And he was FUNNY!

And raised a lovely family, including, a beautiful granddaughter. (Amazing to me now, she’s in her twenties… I can remember cradling her on my shoulder at a Gallagher’s paper show!)

More info to follow, but I wanted to get word out, for anyone who might wish to attend tomorrow’s memorial service, at the Jewish Memorial Chapel, 841 Allwood Road, Clifton, NJ 07012, at 12:00 p.m., Noon. Click here for directions.

Much love, to his wife Sham, and all the children, and all his friends.

Update 01/09/2015: Al Levine was born 5/7/1935 and died 1/5/2015.

Then There Was One:
Robert Conroy (1938-2014)

Robert Conroy

Robert Conroy

Alternate history novelist Robert Conroy died of cancer December 30 at the age of 76.

His books were frequent Sidewise Award nominees — 1942 won the award in 2009, and he wrote seven other finalists.

Conroy told an interviewer late last year that he began writing after retiring from a mid-management position at the corporate headquarters of Volkswagen of America. And he shared this opinon —

I think there are only two major writers of alternate history, Harry Turtledove and me. We have never met, by the way.

Another pair of Conroy novels are due out in 2015, Germanica, and 1882: Custer in Chains:

George Armstrong Custer did not have to die at the Little Big Horn.  Victory, in the form of two Gatling Guns that he left behind, was always in his grasp.  In “1882 – Custer in Chains,” he not only survives but wins a great victory that propels him into the White House.  Unfortunately, he then becomes bored and, urged on by his ambitious wife Libbie, gets us into a war with Spain with Cuba as the focus.

[Via SF Site News.]