Richard Clear (1943-2015)

Richard Clear shows off an original Brundage Weird Tales cover painting at PULPcon (year unknown). Photo by Robert Weinberg.

Richard Clear shows off an original Brundage Weird Tales cover painting at PULPcon (year unknown). Photo by Robert Weinberg.

Book dealer and former Pulpcon committee member Richard Clear passed away March 21. He was 71 and had been ill for a number of years.

He began collecting magazines and in 1973 opened the Dragon’s Lair comic book store in Dayton, Ohio.

He became a valuation expert, compiling the Old Magazines Collector’s Price Guide (1974) and serving as an advisor to the magazine portion of Time-Life Encyclopedia of Collectibles (1979).

In 1983 he moved to Tampa and opened Merlin’s Books.

The 1988 Pulpcon gave him the Lamont Award, for outstanding effort in keeping alive the memory and spirit of the pulp magazine era.

He later moved back to Ohio and continued his book business online. Having been involved with Pulpcon in its early years, around 2008 he resumed participating on the con committee, however, the event soon became moribund. His historic role was acknowledged in a death notice posted by Pulpfest.

The family’s memorial is here. Clear is survived by his longtime companion Nancy McAnespie, grown children Richard Clear, Barbara Curry, Lisa Lawson, and Michael Clear, and many grandchildren.

Tom Loback Passes Away

Art by Tom Loback.

Art by Tom Loback.

Tom Loback, a widely appreciated creator of artwork and figures for gaming and Tolkien fans, died March 5 at the age of 66.

An accomplished Elvish linguist, he incorporated characters from Tolkien’s languages into illustrations for such magazines as Beyond Bree (he produced its logo), Vinyar Tengwar, Mythlore, Parma Eldalamberon, and Little Gwaihir.

Loback also created the fantasy line of Dragontooth Miniatures, and later Thomas’ Tin Soldiers, a popular line of Civil War miniatures. He was a partner in the Aulic Council board game company and co-designer for Mohawk, a game of the French and Indian War.

For a time Loback also worked anonymously erecting sculptures along the Hudson River made with driftwood and other found objects. Eventually his identity was discovered and the New York Times profiled him in 2007.

Who was creating the sculptures had been something of a mystery, even though he was not doing it on the sly. His identity remained a secret, at least to the world beyond the edge of the river.

In July 2005, parks department cleanup crews removed the sculptures as if they were trash. Mr. Loback, 57, simply made more.

He is survived by his wife Susan.

Peggy Rae Sapienza (1944-2015)

Peggy Rae Sapienza at Capclave in 2007. Photo by Ellen Datlow.

Peggy Rae Sapienza at the 2007 Capclave. Photo by Ellen Datlow.

Peggy Rae Sapienza, one of fandom’s most admired conrunners and fan guest of honor at Chicon 7, the 2012 Worldcon, passed away March 22 from complications following heart valve replacement surgery. She was 70.

Her highest profile achievements were chairing the 1998 Worldcon, Bucconeer, and co-chairing the 2014 World Fantasy Con. She also served as Vice Chair and then Acting Chair of the 1993 Worldcon, ConFrancisco, helping stabilize the committee in the period after chair Terry Biffel died and before the appointment of Dave Clark as chair. In addition, she chaired two Smofcons (1992, 2004) and a Disclave (1991).

People liked to work for her — including some who thought they were done volunteering before she called. Peggy Rae’s unique leadership style combined playfulness, the appeal of being admitted to an inner circle, knowledgeability, and a frank demand for results.

She had an unlimited resume in many areas of convention organizing – press relations, program, registration, guest of honor book, and exhibits. She also felt it was her mission to pass on the skills and experiences she possessed. A number of the current generation of Worldcon organizers called her a mentor and today are mourning her loss in their own way. “I feel like a whole library just burnt down,” Glenn Glazer wrote on Facebook.

Peggy Rae was a second generation fan whose father, Jack McKnight, mother, Buddie McKnight Evans, and step-mother, Ann Newell McKnight, were involved in the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, while her step-father, Bill Evans, was active in the Washington Science Fiction Association. (Jack McKnight is specially remembered for making the first Hugo Awards in 1953.)

Growing up in Philadelphia fandom, in the late 1950s she served as Secretary and Vice President of PSFS and worked on and appeared in PSFS’ fan-made movie “Longer Than You Think.”

She began publishing Etwas in 1960. Ed Meskys recalls, “We traded fanzines at the time, her Etwas (German for something) for my Niekas (Lithuanian for nothing).”

Lou Tabakow, Peggy Rae Pavlat (Sapienza) and Bob Pavlat at NyCon III in 1967,

Lou Tabakow, Peggy Rae Pavlat (Sapienza) and Bob Pavlat at NyCon III in 1967,

Peggy Rae McKnight met Washington-area fanzine and convention fan Bob Pavlat at her first Worldcon, Pittcon, in 1960. They married in 1964 and had two children, Missy Koslosky and Eric Pavlat. In 1983, the couple received fandom’s Big Heart Award. That same year Bob passed away. In 1999, Peggy Rae married John T. Sapienza, Jr., a government attorney and longtime fan.

One of Peggy Rae’s enduring contributions to how Worldcons use facilties is the ConCourse, which she and Fred Isaacs invented for the 1989 Worldcon, Noreascon Three. The Sheraton had denied the use of its facilities to the con due to some problems, forcing the committee to create attractions in the Hynes Convention Center to compensate, or later, when they regained the Sheraton through litigation, to keep crowds in the Hynes for the sake of peace with the hotel. Their solution was the ConCourse which, with the Huckster Room and the convention program, gave members ample reason to hang out in the Hynes.

The ConCourse amalgamated fanhistory exhibits, convention information, the fanzine lounge, the daily newzine publishing area, convention bidding and Site Selection tables, and a Hynes-run snack bar in one place, and layed it out as an indoor park. Fans responded so positively the idea was used repeatedly by future Worldcons, and many of the exhibits Peggy Rae commissioned are still being presented.

This was also when the expression “I mowed Peggy Rae’s lawn” originated. Some of the planning for Noreascon 3 took place at her house, she explained during a 2012 interview. A friend arrived before a meeting while Peggy Rae was gardening and offered to help. In a kind of Tom Sawyeresque moment, others came by and joined in the gardening. Joe Mayhew was a witness, and years later warned people that if they voted for the Baltimore Worldcon bid they would end up having to mow Peggy Rae’s lawn….

The legend was celebrated by Chicon 7. Chris Garcia described how in a recent interview – and the way Peggy Rae used it to get some more work out of him…

At Chicon, there was a fake parcel of grass and a toy lawnmower with a sign marked ‘Mow Peggy Rae’s Lawn’ and the folks who pretended to mow got a Ribbon saying “I mowed Peggy Rae’s Lawn.” I did the mowing, but Peggy Rae refused me a ribbon until I did the [promised] Campbell [Award] exhibit…

For many years Peggy Rae was a key planner and motivator in the effort to preserve fanhistory. The Society for the Preservation of the History of Science Fiction Fandom, AKA the Timebinders, was formed at FanHistoriCon I in May 1994 in Hagerstown, Maryland, convened by Peggy Rae, Bruce Pelz, and Joe Siclari to gather fans of different fannish generations together to discuss the best ideas.

Bruce Pelz, Harry Warner, Jr. and Peggy Rae Pavlat (Sapienza) at FanHistoriCon in 1994. Photo by Rich Lynch.

Bruce Pelz, Harry Warner, Jr. and Peggy Rae Pavlat (Sapienza) at FanHistoriCon in 1994. Photo by Rich Lynch.

Peggy Rae worked 16 years as a contractor for the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. in UNIX systems support, retiring in 2000.

In her later years she was instrumental in supporting the 2007 Japanese Worldcon as their North American Agent. She chaired SFWA’s Nebula Awards Weekend in 2010, 2011 and 2012, earning a tribute from John Scalzi. She was part of the DC17 bid for the 2017 Worldcon.

Just this past fall, Peggy Rae helped me put together a couple of programs for Smofcon 32 and I find it especially hard to accept that someone so filled with ideas, imagination and energy can be taken away.

John Sapienza’s announcement said about her last day and burial arrangements: “[On Sunday] the hospital called us to come in, and Eric & Wendy Pavlat, Missy & Bryan Koslosky, and I were with her when she passed…. She will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with her first husband, Bob Pavlat. (*)”

Peggy Rae is survived by John, her two children, and eight grandchildren.

Update 03/24/2015: (*) Eric Pavlat in a comment below says that Peggy Rae will not be interred at Arlington, but will be buried this Saturday at Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Prince George’s County, MD. 

The Top 5 Leonard Nimoy Guest Spots

By Brandon Engel: The world is still mourning Leonard Nimoy. While he will be remembered by fans of the original “Star Trek” for his role as Mr. Spock, he was also a man who had established himself as a poet, photographer, and songwriter in his own right, and was also something of a “science communicator” along the lines of Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson. He will also be warmly remembered for his many guest appearances on various programs.

The Daily Show

Friends and family of Nimoy claim that the loved nothing more than a good laugh. Here, he parodies his In Search Of series, by using his deadpan narration skills to aid Jon Stewart in a mockumentary of the 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He even croons a little, for good measure.

The segment, entitled “Mitt Romney: A Human Being Who Built That,” parodies the usual flag-waving, heart-warming biopics shown at national political conventions – Democrat or Republican. The four minute film lampoons Romney’s life and the 2012 election itself.

The Big Bang Theory

It was inevitable that a show about geeks, The Big Bang Theory, would nab Nimoy for a memorable cameo appearance as Sheldon’s conscience. After-all, the award-winning comedy had previously nabbed many other former Star Trek cast members.

However, only Nimoy’s distinctive voice would appear as a Mr. Spock action figure talking to Sheldon. The show paid tribute to Nimoy shortly after his passing, by showing a static image of Nimoy along with this caption: “The impact you had on our show and our lives is everlasting.”

Columbo

Just one more question, ma’am – when was Leonard Nimoy on the beloved detective series Columbo, starring Peter Falk? He starred as the baddie in a two-hour episode called “A Stitch in Time.” He played a dapper surgeon who is so narcissistic, that he thinks he can get away with murder. He attempts to kill a rival surgeon by mending his heart post-surgery with dissolving sutures.

Nimoy wasn’t the only Star Trek actor to appear in Columbo. Both William Shatner and Walter Koenig also appeared, but unfortunately not in this episode. Anyway, the point is that Nimoy could actually play a human being. Thankfully, you can stream both episodes through Netflix.

The Simpsons

Nimoy appeared twice on the seemingly eternal animated series The Simpsons. Nimoy’s voice was synched up to a Simpsonesque animated caricature. His first appearance was the 1993 episode “Marge Vs the Monorail” (penned by a young Conan O’Brien) where Nimoy rambles aimlessly like a parody of Spock.

Nimoy’s second appearance was the 1997 episode “The Springfield Files” a spoof on The X Files. Nimoy book-ends the episode with a faux In Search Of narration. The episode also featured guest appearances from X Files stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

“Marge Vs. The Monorail,” incidentally, is regarded by many fans as among the all-time best episodes of the Simpsons (click here to see where IGN ranked it), and both episodes are still shown regularly on the FXX Network (click for DirecTV listings).

Saturday Night Live

Although SNL has had many forgettable sketches in recent years, arguably one of the best was an appearance to tie into the 2009 Star Trek film featuring extremely young mutations of Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise gang. During the news segment, stars Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock) try to allay the fears of older fans about Star Trek’s newest incarnation.

The pair clearly is clueless, until Nimoy appears behind them to steal the show – to the delight of the hard-core ST fans in the audience. It perhaps is the only time Nimoy says “d***heads” on tape. That makes this appearance priceless. SNL also paid tribute to Nimoy shortly after his passing.

Ib Melchior (1917-2015)

REPTILICUS_(3) COMPFilmmaker and writer Ib Melchior passed away March 13 at the age of 97. His short story “The Racer” was twice adapted for the screen – as Death Race 2000 (1975) and Death Race (2008).

He wrote and directed The Angry Red Planet (1959) and The Time Travelers (1964), and co-wrote Reptilicus (1961), Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962) and Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964).

For television, he wrote two episodes of Men Into Space, “Water Tank Rescue” (1959) and “Voice of Infinity (1960), as well as “The Premonition” episode of The Outer Limits (1965).

He also claimed to be the creator of the original idea upon which Irwin Allen based the TV series Lost In Space, an allegation documented in Ed Shifres’ Lost in Space: The True Story.

He was the son of opera singer and movie star Lauritz Melchior, about whom he wrote a biography, Lauritz Melchior: The Golden Years of Bayreuth.

In recent years he was a regular at the annual LA Vintage Paperback Show.

Golden Age Artist Irwin Hasen
Passes Away

Dondihasen41562Dondi co-creator and artist Irwin Hasen died March 13 at the age of 96. A comic strip about a war orphan, Dondi was co-written with Gus Edson and ran in more than 100 newspapers from 1955 to 1986. When it was filmed, Hasen had a cameo as a police sketch artist who drew the missing Dondi while the cops were searching for him.

Just before World War II he created the feature Citizen Smith, Son of the Unknown Soldier. While in the Army from 1942 to 1944 he managed the Fort Dix Post newspaper. Since he was stationed in New Jersey, sometimes he could get away to do comics work. In 1944 and 1945,Hasen drew a comic strip adaptation of The Goldbergs radio series for the New York Post.

Irwin Hasen

Irwin Hasen

He also had a long Golden Age career working on Green Lantern, and co-creating Wildcat and Wonder Woman covers. He met Alfred Bester a couple of times when Bester was writing Green Lantern stories.

When the Superman movie was announced in the 1970s he was one of many who campaigned for the Man of Steel’s creators to get pensions from DC, drawing Dondi with a tear in his eye for Siegel and Shuster. And Hasen’s quote was broadcast all over the country: “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a shame!”

His profile in the New York Times in 2011 ends with the reporter viewing the art on his apartment walls:

One illustration depicts a veritable harem of past girlfriends — all tall, buxom and naked. Drawn tiny in the corner is the laughing Mr. Hasen, bringing in a tray of martinis.

“I didn’t want much,” he said. “I just wanted to be loved by everyone.”

[Thanks to James H. Burns for the story.]

Sally A.Syrjala (1948-2010)

Sally A. Syrjala

Sally A. Syrjala

I learned today via Arthur D. Hlavaty that fanzine fan Sally A. Syrjala passed away in 2010 at the age of 61 after a lengthy illness. Some fans were aware (one signed her memorial page) but this may not be generally known.

Sally was especially active in the National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F), co-editing its publication Tightbeam in 1986-1987 and serving as President in 2008-2009. Her valuable service to the N3F was recognized early with the Kaymar Award in 1983, given for work for the benefit of the club and its members.

She subscribed to File 770 for years and wrote many letters of comment, from which I learned she also was an early Star Wars enthusiast – “Once upon a time I wrote paragraphs on Vader’s transformation and transcendence from the Garden of Eden’s death sentence bestowed from the eating of the Tree of Knowledge” – and kept up an interest in zines that discussed The Empire Strikes Back although she was not pleased with the end of the original trilogy — “the coldness in Return of the Jedi made my interest in SW wane” — and she asserted having no interesting in seeing The Phantom Menace when the second trilogy came out.

Sally belonged to LASFAPA and many other apas over the years.

Her public obituary notes that she was high school valedictorian. She held degrees in accounting, and during her career worked at the Christ Church in Harwich Port, Independence House, Health Education Associates, and Art Waves.

Sally was a member of The First Lutheran Church in West Barnstable. Her many volunteer activities included: Treasurer of Green Cape, Chair of the Friends of Cape Cod Museum of Art, and Secretary of West Barnstable Historical Society. She also was a past trustee of the Massachusetts Archeological Society.

She was predeceased by her husband Edward and sister Helen. She is survived by two other siblings, Victor and Nancy, and their families.

Update 03/13/2015: Corrected memorial tribute link.

And Bring Him Safe to Shore

By John Hertz (reprinted from Vanamonde 1134): From Aeschylus twenty-five centuries ago, from Shakespeare four, we have only the scripts. We are told of and may infer about but cannot see their actors. We can with an actor who has left a video record, on film, television.

Making, maintaining, viewing such records calls for higher technology, so subjects not currently popular may be easier neglected and harder retrieved than with books; but a picture can be worth a thousand words. Popularity may be largely a gift to actors who happen to catch the wind; but some are good flyers and soar.

Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015), like Rod Serling (1924-1975), Rusty Hevelin, and me an Antioch man, made sergeant in the Army, took various parts on TV 1957-1966 – The Untouchables, Perry Mason, The Outer Limits, Gunsmoke – and may have had no thought of greatness when he began in Star Trek. Nor did its network, which cancelled it.

He was two years the Great Paris, a stage magician recruited to the Impossible Missions Force on Mission Impossible (TV 1966-1973) who so knew languages and disguise he took the place of a kabuki artist invited to a Japanese estate – an actor playing an actor playing an actor (“Butterfly”, Season 5, Episode 7). He was Malvolio in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night on stage (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1975), improvising five minutes with the audience about his letter.

But the Space saga flourished, and he was again Mr. Spock the half-Vulcan in eight Star Trek films through 2013, directing two, earning such fame he entitled a memoir I Am Not Spock (1975) and a second I Am Spock (1995). For an actor, and for science fiction, this was a feat.

In 2010 he visited Vulcan, Alberta (pop. 1,800), and helped get its permission to be named the Star Trek Capital of Canada. At his death his rabbi, who knew him as a person, called him generous, humane, courageous. May his memory be for a blessing.

               

“Heaven help him!” quoth Lars Porsena, / “And bring him safe to shore; / For such a gallant feat of arms / Was never seen before.” – Macaulay, Horatius LXIII (1842)

Pratchett Remembered By Jo Walton

Many people are writing interesting reminiscences about the late Terry Pratchett.

I highly recommend Jo Walton’s comments about what she learned from him at their first meeting (published at Tor.com):

It was one of my first great fannish conversations, and one of my first experiences of how writers and fans interact. It was literally exemplary, and I’m sure Terry never knew how much it meant to me, then and now.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015)

Terry Pratchett in 2011.

Terry Pratchett in 2011.

Terry Pratchett passed away March 12 at home surrounded by his family reports his publisher. He was the author of 70 books, among them 40 in the Discworld series of comic fantasies that began with The Colour of Magic in 1983.

Pratchett’s first sale was a short story, “The Hades Business,” published when he was 15. Early in his career he worked as a journalist and as a press officer for nuclear power generating utility.

Once he turned to fiction full time he enjoyed phenomenal popularity. Pratchett was the top-selling and highest earning UK author in 1996. In 2008, he was top author on The Bookseller’s first-ever “evergreen” list of 12 titles that had never fallen out of the top 5,000 since Nielsen BookScan began collecting data, three of which were his early Discworld novels The Colour of Magic, Mort and The Light Fantastic. (He was also near the top of the list of writers whose books were thieved from UK bookshops, with The Colour of Magic placing third on the list of Ten Most Stolen Books in 2009.)

Pratchett co-authored The Science of Discworld with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, a Hugo nominee in 2000.

He participated in ”Science Fiction’s 50th Anniversary Family Reunion” at Noreascon Three (1989):

Terry Pratchett recalled that at newsstands in Britain the good magazines were on the top shelf and sf was on the bottom shelf, from which he argued the shortness of old British sf fans was a matter of natural selection. More seriously, Pratchett said he learned from sf that mathematics was actually interesting, which no one else was telling him. “Good old sf – whenever I’ve needed you, you’ve always been there.”

He was a guest of honor at Noreascon 4, the 2004 Worldcon.

In December 2007, Pratchett announced that he was suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. He immediately became an active spokesman about Alzheimer’s and its impact on individuals and society. In 2008 the Daily Mail published “Terry Pratchett: ‘I’m Slipping Away A Bit At A Time…And All I Can Do Is Watch It Happen’”, the author’s extraordinary essay on his Alzheimer’s affliction:

I spoke to a fellow sufferer recently (or as I prefer to say, ‘a person who is thoroughly annoyed with the fact they have dementia’) who talked in the tones of a university lecturer and in every respect was quite capable of taking part in an animated conversation.

Nevertheless, he could not see the teacup in front of him. His eyes knew that the cup was there; his brain was not passing along the information. This disease slips you away a little bit at a time and lets you watch it happen.

He also investigated “assisted suicide” (although he disliked that term), wrote a public lecture, Shaking Hands With Death, in 2010 and in 2011 presented a BBC television documentary on the subject titled Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die. However, The Telegraph reports that his death was natural.

Pratchett was knighted by the Queen for his services to literature in a 2009 ceremony, Elizabeth dubbing the kneeling author on each shoulder with her sword.

Although he did not win a Hugo or Nebula, he received many other accolades: a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement (2010), the Andre Norton Award (for YA sf/f, presented by SFWA in parallel with the Nebulas) for I Shall Wear Midnight (2011), the British Science Fiction Association Award for his novel Pyramids (1989), the Mythopoeic Award for Children’s Literature for A Hat Full of Sky (2005), and the Prometheus Award for his novel Night Watch (2003). An asteroid (127005 Pratchett) is named after him.

Gaiman Pratchett Good OmensLast April Sir Terry Pratchett was the Author of the Day for the Opening Day of the 2014 London Book Fair. In December he and his friend and collaborator Neil Gaiman made cameo appearances in BBC Radio 4’s production of Good Omens.

After learning of his friend’s death, Neil Gaiman published an emotional tribute.

Admitting he knew Sir Terry’s death had been coming, he said, “it made it no easier”.

I woke up and my email was all condolences from friends, and requests for statements from journalists, and I knew it had happened. I’d been warned.

Thirty years and a month ago, a beginning author met a young journalist in a Chinese Restaurant, and the two men became friends, and they wrote a book, and they managed to stay friends despite everything. Last night, the author died.

There was nobody like him. I was fortunate to have written a book with him, when we were younger, which taught me so much.

I’ll miss you, Terry.

I’m not up to writing anything yet. Maybe one day.

The public acknowledgement of Pratchett’s passing included these three tweets on his Twitter account:

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Update 03/12/2015: Corrected an award citation to British Science Fiction Association Award.