John King Tarpinian says, “Of 4E’s passing 5 years ago today one should go to House of Pies and have his usual: fried chicken, spaghetti and a chocolate shake. Two friends went and did that at lunch.”
Al Plastino passed away November 25 at the age of 91, one of the last of the classic comics artists. He worked on Superman in the 1950s, and with writer Otto Binder co-created DC Comics characters Supergirl and Brainiac, and the teenage team the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Plastino’s death coincidentally came a week after Newsday reported his discovery that artwork he’d done for a Kennedy-themed Superman story and believed had been donated to the Kennedy Library decades ago had actually been given or sold to a collector, had already passed through several hands and was being offered for auction this month.
“I cried, I actually cried,” said Plastino, now 91 and living in Shirley, who was one of the most prolific artists drawing Superman from 1948 to 1968.
He learned the truth at a recent comic book convention, when representatives of a Dallas-based auction house told him his artwork was actually in private hands and scheduled to be auctioned later this month, with an estimated value of more than $50,000.
The owner who consigned the work to the auction house, who hasn’t been named, had bought it for $5,000 in a 1993 Sotheby’s auction. It was on a catalog page with comic art listed as coming from the collection of rock and roll star Graham Nash.
The auction house, Heritage Auctions, now says it won’t auction the work until questions about ownership are resolved.
A lawyer who had been representing Plastino pro bono was told by the Kennedy Library the artwork was never in its possession.
[Thanks to James H. Burns for the story.]
Joel Lane died suddenly at the age of 50 on November 25, possibly as a result of diabetes.
He won a British Fantasy Award for his short story “My Stone Desire” (2008). His novella The Witnesses Are Gone was a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award (2008). He also authored two mainstream novels From Blue To Black and The Blue Mask. And in 1993 he won the Eric Gregory Award for poetry.
His editorial work was also highly regarded. He won a British Fantasy Award, best anthology/collection The Earth Wire and Other Stories (1994) and a World Fantasy Award, collection, for Where Furnaces Burn. Other collections shortlisted for awards included British Fantasy and International Horror Guild Award nominee The Lost District and Other Stories (2006), British Fantasy Award finalist The Terrible Changes (2009), British Fantasy Award finalist for anthology Never Again (2011, with Allyson Bird),
Lane lived in south Birmingham, UK where he worked in health publishing.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]
Forrest J Ackerman would have been 97 on November 24 had he stuck around. Not to gainsay those who claim they’re still hearing from him, you understand…
Publisher, author and scholar Michael Burgess, who used the professional name Robert Reginald, died November 20.
He founded the Borgo Press in the 1970s, initially publishing 35 chapbooks about sf authors in The Milford Series: Popular Writers of Today – the first of them Robert A. Heinlein: Stranger in his Own Land (1976) by George Edgar Slusser (now curator of the Eaton Collection). The imprint also issued 10 full-length novels by Piers Anthony, D G Compton, and others.
Reginald also was an important sf bibliographer credited for “persistent exactness and enormous energy” by John Clute and Peter Nicholls in the Science Fiction Encyclopedia. He won the Science Fiction Research Association’s Pilgrim Award in 1993.
His major non-fiction works include Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature: A Checklist, 1700-1974, with Contemporary Science Fiction Authors II (1979), Cumulative Paperback Index, 1939-1959: A Comprehensive Bibliographic Guide to 14,000 Mass-Market Paperback Books of 33 Publishers under 69 Imprints (1973) and A Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy in the Library of Congress Classification Scheme (1984).
[Via Locus Online, SF Site News and the SF Encyclopedia.]
Indiana fan Mike Jelenski passed away November 22 reports SF Site News.
He was active with Capricon, the annual Chicago-area convention, and worked on the Chicon 7 worldcon committee as a union liaison.
Jelenski is survived by his wife, Mary, and their daughter.
C. S. Lewis’ memorial stone in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey was dedicated today, November 22, on the fiftieth anniversary of his death.
Over one hundred poets, novelists, dramatists, actors and musicians are buried or commemorated in the Abbey. Geoffrey Chaucer was the first poet buried there, in 1400. Other honorees include Shakespeare, Wordsworth, the Brontë sisters, and Jane Austen.
About 1,000 guests from around the world attended the service to unveil the stone. Eddie Olliffe gave this account on his blog.
As the memorial was dedicated, there was a reading from The Last Battle: ‘Now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no-one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. The draw for many in this audience was the past Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and an authority on the Narnia books who gave a short but erudite address. He wisely left Narnia well alone, concentrating instead on Lewis’s science fiction trilogy. Lord Williams of Oystermouth homed in on how Lewis deplored the misuse of language; how he saw it is used to hide from ourselves and to hide from reality. Our questions fall away; we have nothing to say because we have too much to say. Rowan noted Lewis’s aversion to the King James Bible which he saw as getting in the way of our understanding. Instead Lewis preferred Moffatt and J B Philips to ‘hear’ the freshness of the words.
Douglas Gresham, the son of Lewis’s wife Joy, also spoke at the service, which was the culmination of a conference at the abbey about the impact of the author’s work.
Australian SF fan and bibliographer Graham Stone died November 16 at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick, a suburb of Sydney, Australia, after a long decline, and a stroke some months earlier.
His bibliographical works included several indexes to Australian sf and sf magazines. Over the past quarter century he also published around a dozen books, including A History of Australian Science Fiction Fandom, 1935-1963 by Vol Molesworth.
More titles and information in his Fancyclopedia entry.
[Via Andrew Porter and Fictionmags.]
Doris Lessing passed away at home November 17. She was 94. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, she was also a past Worldcon guest of honor, at Brighton in 1987.
Lessing authored more than 50 novels. Beginning with Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971), she began to write what she called “inner-space fiction.” Then, in the novel series Canopus in Argos: Archives (vol. 1–5, 1979–1984) Lessing wrote about the post-atomic war development of the human species.
“Lessing’s central sf achievement, the Canopus in Argos: Archives sequence places the crises of human self-striving – and the crises facing the planet of our birth – into a metaphysically conceived interstellar frame,” John Clute wrote in the Science Fiction Encyclopedia. “Everywhere the drive – sometimes thwarted – is towards literal union with universal principles (or God). The series exudes, at times, a piety not normally associated with sf; but at others the perspectives it opens are illuminating. In Lessing’s hands, the instruments of sf become parables: lessons in finding paths that may lead us out of the sour muddle of unenlightened worlds.”
When Lessing was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature, the citation called her “that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny.”
Not that she was impressed. She told the reporters who brought her the news, “Oh Christ, I couldn’t care less.” (Which may have been the very same thing Chesley Bonestell said about a Special Hugo Award he was given in 1974, before relegating it to his bathroom to sit on the lid of the toilet tank.)
Nor did that mean the literary world had finally relaxed its prejudices against the SF genre. Critic Harold Bloom belittled her selection for the Nobel Prize to a wire service reporter: “Although Ms. Lessing at the beginning of her writing career had a few admirable qualities, I find her work for the past 15 years quite unreadable … fourth-rate science fiction.”
In 1999 the Queen appointed Lessing a Companion of Honour, an exclusive order for those who have done “conspicuous national service.” She’d previously turned down the offer of becoming a Dame of the British Empire “because there is no British Empire.” Being a Companion of Honour, she explained, means “you’re not called anything – and it’s not demanding. I like that.” Being a Dame was “a bit pantomime.”
The text of her Conspiracy GoH speech is available in Worldcon Guest of Honor Speeches, edited by Resnick and Siclari. She also wrote a sidebar for the 1987 Worldcon souvenir book about how watching a TV documentary about nudism led her to think about the original creation of clothing, culture – and science fiction stories. It closed with an example of one of these ur-stories.
The storyteller said, “People, listen. One night the bravest young man of the tribe summoned Heru the owl and said, ‘Take me up on your back and fly with me to that floating ghost up there, just above the trees – quick, before it crosses the sky and goes down over the mountains. I want to ask it some questions. I want to say “Who are your people who grow slowly fat and then grow slowly thin? Where do you live? Why do you send one of you every night over our valley to watch us? We want to know who you are, what you are…’
“Very well, says Heru, I’ll take you but what will you give me in exchange?
“I’ll tell you a story as I sit on your back and we fly together, will that do?
“That will do, says Heru, and the brave young man climbs on his back and….”
Paul Mantee of Robinson Crusoe on Mars fame died November 7. He was 82 years old.
He appeared on many television shows, including Mission: Impossible, The Streets of San Francisco, The A-Team and LA Law.
Mantee also authored two novels, In Search of the Perfect Ravioli (Ballantine Books, 1991) and Bruno of Hollywood (Ballantine Books, 1994).