Thomas Berger (1924-2014)

Thomas Berger, best known for his mordant frontier novel Little Big Man, died July 13 at the age of 89.

Over the course of Berger’s career he wrote in many genres and formats including horror, Killing Time (1967); science fiction, Adventures of the Artificial Woman (2004); utopian fiction, Regiment of Women (1973); the Camelot myth, Arthur Rex: A Legendary Novel (1978); popular fantasy, Being Invisible (1987); and alternate history, Changing the Past (1989).

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

David Legeno Dies Near Death Valley

British actor David Legeno, who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in three Harry Potter movies, has died. His body was discovered on July 6 by two hikers in a remote California desert location west of Zabriskie Point and was removed by a helicopter

David Legeno as Fenrir Greyback.

David Legeno as Fenrir Greyback.

The Inyo County Sheriff’s Department issued a press release:

The remains have been identified as David Legeno, a 50-year-old United Kingdom man. It appears that Legeno died of heat related issues, but the Inyo County Coroner will determine the final cause of death. There are no signs of foul play.

Legeno, 50, appeared in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2, also Snatch, Batman Begins, and Snow White and the Huntsman. He had just finished production for The Last Knights with Morgan Freeman and Clive Owen.

Lewis Scholar Christopher Mitchell Passes Away

Christopher Mitchell

Christopher Mitchell

Christopher Mitchell, a premier C. S. Lewis scholar, former director the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College and, for the past year, a professor in Biola University’s Torrey Honors Institute, passed away unexpectedly on July 10. He was 63.

“A careful and imaginative scholar, Chris was a person of deep faith, authentic humility, generous spirit, and resonant compassion. He will be missed,” said Biola provost and senior vice president David Nystrom.

Mitchell received his master’s from Wheaton College, and doctorate from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, where he concentrate on historical theology.

From 1994 to 2013 he was director of the Marion E. Wade Center of Wheaton College, a major research collection of materials by and about seven British authors: Owen Barfield, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. In addition, Mitchell served as Consulting Editor for Seven: An Anglo-American Literary Review. He also held the Marion E. Wade Chair of Christian Thought at Wheaton College from 2006 to 2013.

Mitchell explained his reasons for moving to Biola in a 2013 interview with Scriptorium, the Torrey Honors Institute’s blog.

For the past eighteen years I have had the honor of directing the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College. I can honestly say that I have loved it. But at the same time it has not been at the center of my passion. Let me explain. The teaching, researching, and mentoring aspects of the position all play to my training, personal strengths, and passions. However, the administrative side of the job plays neither to my strengths or passions, and it is this aspect that has increased over the years. As a result, for the past couple of years I have begun to wonder whether it is time for me to pass the Directorship on to someone who is better suited to carry on the Wade’s important ministry. This in turn has caused me to consider where I might use the remaining years of my career most effectively. It is a question of the stewardship of my life experiences, my training, and my pastoral/teaching experience. For some time I have thought that if at some point I were to leave the Wade Center and return to a fulltime teaching position the Torrey program would be the kind of place I believe I could flourish and could invest in with passion.

Many are mourning the shortness of this next phase of his career.

He also will be missed by the many fans who got to work with him on the 1998 Mythcon held at Wheaton.

Mitchell is survived by his wife Julie, four children and four grandchildren.

Don Matheson (1929-2014)

Actor Don Matheson, best known for playing one of the humans stranded in the Land of the Giants, died June 29 at the age of 84.


Don Matheson in Land of the Giants

Set in the future – 1983 (!) – Irwin Allen’s Sixties TV series Land of the Giants often involved rescuing one of the human crew who’d been captured by the giants. The series was one of the most expensive ever made, reportedly costing $250,000 per episode.

Matheson’s genre credits include appearances in two other Irwin Allen productions, Lost in Space (two episodes) and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (one epsiode).

He also worked on General Hospital and primetime soaps Falcon Crest and Dynasty.

Stephen Gaskin, Founder of the Farm

The Farm, once home to famed fanzine letterhack Robert Lichtman, was started by Stephen Gaskin.

Gaskin died on July 1. The New York Times’ report of his death begins:

Stephen Gaskin, a Marine combat veteran and hippie guru who in 1971 led around 300 followers in a caravan of psychedelically painted school buses from San Francisco to Tennessee to start the Farm, a commune that has outlived most of its countercultural counterparts while spreading good works from Guatemala to the South Bronx, died on Tuesday at his home on the commune, in Summertown, Tenn. He was 79.

I was struck by the fannish peroration that ended Gaskin’s appeal for the Green Party’s presidential nomination in 2000 (which he lost by a wide margin to Ralph Nader):

I want it to be understood that we are a bunch of tree-huggers and mystics and peaceniks. My main occupations are Hippy Priest, Spiritual Revolutionary, Cannabis Advocate, shade tree mechanic, cultural engineer, tractor driver and community starter. I also love science fiction.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]

Frederick Ordway III (1927-2014)


Ordway with NASA officials touring MGM Borehamwood during pre-production of 2001: A Space Odyssey. (L-R), Fred Ordway, astronaut Deke Slayton, author Arthur C. Clarke, NASA assistant, director Stanley Kubrick, and George C. Mueller, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight (essentially, boss of Project Apollo).

Frederick I. Ordway III, a NASA scientist who was a special assistant to the first director of the Department of Energy and worked as technical adviser on 2001: A Space Odyssey, died July 1. He was 87.

His obituary in the Huntsville Times outlined his professional accomplishments:

Ordway developed his in depth knowledge of rockets and space travel with a career that started in the 1950s working with guided missiles. From 1960-64 he was Chief of Space Information Systems at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. He would later hold various positions, including special assistant to the first director for the Department of Energy. He taught at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, which would award him an honoring doctorate degree. He also authored other books including “Visions of Spaceflight: Images from the Ordway Collection,” “The Rocket Team: From the V-2 to the Saturn Moon Rocket,” and (with Wernher von Braun) “History of Rocketry and Space Travel.”

“Maybe he was a good historian of spaceflight because he lived through so much of its history,” suggests Bill “Beamjockey” Higgins.

Ordway joined the American Rocket Society in 1939, which later became the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, so this was the 75th year of his membership. He was a major collector of books on rocketry, astronomy, spaceflight, and science fiction. (Bill has a roundup of links to videos featuring Ordway plus other material on his LiveJournal.)

Fans are most likely to recognize Ordway’s name for his service as technical adviser on the classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey.  He wrangled a huge amount of information to help extrapolate technology thirty-five years into the future, then helped MGM’s army of filmmakers turn his ideas into designs for sets, props, and costumes.

Space Odyssey’s enduring popularity amazed Ordway… and though he had other significant professional accomplishments, he spent most of his free time the past 20 years giving talks about the film to fans.

In fact, Ordway recently participated in a discussion of the movie at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, on June 12, where he spoke about his life-long friendship with Sir Arthur Clarke. The video can be viewed here:

[Thanks to Bill Higgins for the story.]

Memoir About Frank Robinson, Pulp Collector

Walker Martin has written an excellent reminiscence of Frank Robinson, friendly pulp collector at Mystery File.

Great collectors compile great collections not just by buying them but also by helping other collectors. I’ve run into this a hundred times with old-time collectors over the years. Here are some examples where Frank attempted to help me with my collection:

1. During our correspondence, Frank asked me for my want list. At the time I was collecting just about every major pulp title except for the love, sport, and aviation/war magazines. Therefore it was several pages long and handwritten. He found several of my wants and we traded back and forth. A couple months later, I received in the mail a neatly typed manuscript. It was my handwritten want list that Frank had typed and without errors. It must have taken him hours to do it.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the link.]

William C. Martin (1924-2014)

William C. Martin

William C. Martin

By John L. Coker III: First Fandom member William C. Martin passed away on June 22, 2014.

William Culbertson Martin, Ph.D., born 1924, was a World War II veteran, respected sociology professor, book collector, active member of the Democratic Party and a passionate advocate of civil and human rights. He not only led an extraordinary life but also touched and inspired many people across generations. Bill Martin was fondly known as “Atlanta’s own Forry Ackerman” due to his fantastic collection of science fiction, fantasy, and horror books and space toys.

Dr. Martin was a living time capsule of information about the history of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.  He was a member of First Fandom and the Science Fiction Research Association. Bill first became a member of a fan club around 1934. His pulp magazine collection went back to the first issue of Amazing Stories, and his book collection contained most important SF books published 1890-1960, as well as most major books published since.

An original Buck Rogers Solar Scout in the 1930s “Golden Age” of SF, he was excited to be the special guest at the Spook Show’s presentation of the 1939 classic Buck Rogers in the 25th Century serial during the Plaza Theatre’s 70th anniversary celebration and received a standing ovation after sharing his memories.

He taught Honor Seminars in SF at Georgia State University and penned numerous professional papers on the development of science fiction as the Literature of the 20th Century.

[Summarized from the 2007 Dragon*Con Program Book, and the Martin Family.]