Roy Scarfo (1926-2014)

Roy Scarfo's "Spaceport," from the 1965 book "Beyond Tomorrow."

Roy Scarfo’s “Spaceport,” from the 1965 book “Beyond Tomorrow.”

Roy Scarfo, a pioneer in space art, died December 8 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 88. Many people who knew his art didn’t necessarily know his name because his work was used in commcerce and mass media.

Roy Scarfo

Roy Scarfo

Scarfo went to work for General Electric in 1957. He served as creative art director for GE’s Space Technology Center for 16 years.  His very first assignment was to illustrate every missile in the US Arsenal, of which there were about 30 or 40. The finished black-and-white artwork was 4 feet long and 2.5 feet high and was used throughout the missile and space industry. During his career he received General Electric’s Space Award, usually reserved for engineers and scientists.

While at GE he also was a science and space art consultant for The New York Times, Sun Company, NASA, DOD, Voice of America and the U.S. Senate. He collaborated with notable scientists and authors such as Wernher von Braun, Isaac Asimov, and Willy Ley.

Roy Scarfo with Wernher Von Braun.

Roy Scarfo with Wernher Von Braun.

His work appeared in over 40 books including, including the collection of his art titled Beyond Tomorrow. Scarfo’s TV credits included NBC’s The Sky Beyond with Frank McGee; CBS’ 20th Century and 21st Century with Walter Cronkite, and a special based on Alvin Toffler’s best seller Future Shock narrated by Orson Welles.

Examples of the whole spectrum of his work are posted to his blog The Future In Space.

[Via Andrew Porter and J.B. Post.]

Terri Luanna Mountainborne Robinson da Silva (1974-2014)

By David K. M. Klaus: Terri Luanna Mountainborne Robinson da Silva, daughter of Spider and the late Jeanne Robinson, is now in The Undiscovered Country, occurring Friday, December 5, at the age of 40 years, due to Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (which she described as “the most common form of breast cancer”). Waiting for their time to greet her again are her father Spider Robinson, her husband Heron da Silva, her daughter Marissa (“Miss M”), and a huge extended family of relatives and intimate friends, as well as many, many more distant friends around the world.

The announcement came from Laurie O’Neal (“Auntie L”) on Terri’s WordPress weblog about her life with cancer,, and on her Facebook page.

With the name Luanna Mountainborne, she was depicted as dancing on Luna in 1/6 gravity in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls by Robert A. Heinlein.

A crowdfunding request for her medical expenses is at

A crowdfunding request for her memorial is at

This information comes from openly accessible web pages and public announcements, no confidences are being violated.

The Death of Captain Z-Ro

Pioneering television actor Roy Steffensen, who starred in the 1950s children’s space opera Captain Z-Ro, died in 2012 but without any particular notice taken in the sf community.

Captain Z-Ro first went on the air in 1951 on San Francisco station KRON. His character was a scientist working in a remote laboratory to safeguard mankind.

The sets and costumes were modeled on the look of other popular series like Captain Video and Space Patrol, and comics such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. However, the stories sound like the forerunner of Sherman and Peabody. Captain Z-Ro owned a time machine, the ZX-99,that he used to monitor history. Whenever it looked like some important event was going wrong, like King John not signing the Magna Carta, he would send his teenaged assistant Jet back in time to intervene.

Time travel was represented by a special effect consisting of a simple dissolve shot of flashing lights and blinking oscilloscopes among innumerable levers and knobs.

The 15-minute show was a local success and after three years it was picked up for national syndication and expanded to a 30-minute format. Original episodes continued to be made until 1956, and the show remained on the air until 1960. Some of these episodes are available on YouTube.

According to the Wikipedia, each week the announcer would sign off:

Be sure to be standing by when we again transmit you to the remote location on planet Earth where Captain Z-Ro and his associates will conduct another experiment in time and space.

Roy Steffensen was born in 1914, and attended high school in Palo Alto. At the end of his life he passed away in Woodland Hills, CA survived by Kim, his wife of 75 years, their two daughters and 8 grandchildren.

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

Ken Weatherwax (1955-2014)

Ken Weatherwax, “Pugsley” in The Addams Family TV series, died of a heart attack on December 7. He was 59.

The Addams Family aired form 1964-1966. Weatherwax also voiced his character in the 1973 Addams Family animated series, which lasted one season. He played Pugley Sr. in Halloween with the New Addams Family, a 1977 TV movie.

Later he reportedly worked as a grip and set builder.

The Hollywood Reporter notes that his aunt was Ruby Keeler, who starred in the musical 42nd Street, and his uncle, Rudd Weatherwax, trained TV’s Lassie.

R.I.P. Spider-Man

Vale to Aaron Joseph Purmort, whose obituary in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune made a splash online last week for leavening mourning with humor.

Purmort, Aaron Joseph age 35, died peacefully at home on November 25 after complications from a radioactive spider bite that led to years of crime-fighting and a years long battle with a nefarious criminal named Cancer, who has plagued our society for far too long. Civilians will recognize him best as Spider-Man, and thank him for his many years of service protecting our city. His family knew him only as a kind and mild-mannered Art Director, a designer of websites and t-shirts, and concert posters who always had the right cardigan and the right thing to say (even if it was wildly inappropriate)….

As an adult, he graduated from the College of Visual Arts (which also died an untimely death recently) and worked in several agencies around Minneapolis, settling in as an Interactive Associate Creative Director at Colle + McVoy. Aaron was a comic book aficionado, a pop-culture encyclopedia and always the most fun person at any party.

Spider-Man is survived by his wife Nora and son Ralph.

[Thanks to Steven H Silver for the story.]

Edward Summer (1946-2014)

Jerry Weist, Sam Weller, Edward Summer and Ray Bradbury.

Jerry Weist, Sam Weller, Edward Summer and Ray Bradbury.

Edward Summer, who passed away November 13, may not have thought of himself as a fan but he had many friends in the SF and comics world and attended the occasional convention. He was best-known for starting the first comic book store in New York, Supersnipe, in 1971, through which he met, got to know and went into business with George Lucas for the accompanying comic book art gallery. He also was a good friend of Ray Bradbury. Summer was 68.

A writer, artist, and film historian, he founded the Buffalo International Film Festival.

His 1966 student film “Item 72-D, The Adventures of Spa and Fon” introduced the actor Hervé Villechaize.

Summer wrote for Marvel Comics from 1972 to 1989 and for DC Comics from 1980 to 1990. He contributed the plot for the first issue of Marvel’s Red Sonja . He later was an associate producer of the first Conan the Barbarian film, and authored the original treatment and screenplay.

Edward Summer, Frank Frazetta, George Lucas.

Edward Summer, Frank Frazetta, George Lucas.

He edited a collection of Disney cartoonist Carl Barks’ stories, Uncle $crooge McDuck: His Life and Times.

He founded the Digital Nitrate Prize “to encourage the development of methods to preserve historic movies by duplicating the highly defined look of nitrate motion picture film.”

Summer also was a founding member of New York Area Skeptics and belonged to the International Brotherhood of Magicians, Ring 12.

[Thanks to Moshe Feder for the story.]

P. D. James (1920-2014)

Mystery novelist P.D. James died November 27 at the age of 94. She was best known for her series of novels about policeman Adam Dalgliesh.

She also wrote a well-known dystopian novel, The Children of Men, set in England of 2021 where mass infertility threatens the future of the population. The novel was published in 1992 and adapted as a film in 2006. The film was directed by Alfonso Cuaron, who also made Gravity. It was nominated for the Hugo and the Oscar.

James was working as a health service administrator in the 1950s when she made a decision to start writing seriously — “I realized that there was never going to be a convenient time to start that first novel,” she told an interviewer in 1997. “If I didn’t make time, find the motivation, I would be a failed writer and that would be absolutely appalling for me.”

Stu Shiffman (1954-2014)

Stu Shiffman (middle) in 1981.

Stu Shiffman (middle) in 1981.

Stu Shiffman died November 26, almost two-and-a-half years after suffering a stroke; he was 60. The renowned fan artist, who generously shared his talents in fanzines, apas and convention publications, received the Best Fan Artist Hugo Award in 1990 and the Rotsler Award in 2010.

Stu was a native New Yorker but moved to Seattle about 20 years ago with his partner Andi Shechter.

Stu always was fascinated by the traditions and in-references of science fiction fandom and loved to incorporate them in unexpected settings that might involve anything from cartoons of talking animals to intricately rendered Egyptian tomb art and hieroglyphs.

When he got into fandom in the 1970s mimeographed fanzines were still quite common. Taral Wayne admired that Stu “was as much a master of pen and ink as he was of stylus and stencil.”

Stu also had a special interest in drawing literary characters like Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Burrough’s John Carter (interests which sometimes merged, as in his ERBzine contribution Adventure of the Martian Hegira: fragments from the Barsoomian Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes.)

In fact, one of his earliest contributions to a fanzine appeared in the sword-and-sorcery oriented Amra (October 1975) — “Goric & Other Limericks” co-authored with NY fan John Boardman.

Stu’s own publications, such as Raffles, co-edited with Larry Carmody, began appearing around 1977.

He became a leader in New York’s faannish fandom when he hosted Fanoclasts. He also chaired the Flushing in ’80 hoax Worldcon bid committee composed of Moshe Feder, Joe Siclari, Gary Farber, Hank Davis, Elliot Shorter, and Jon Singer.

Stu’s soaring popularity led to him being voted the 1981 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate. The following year he began his TAFF report, A Raffles Lad Abroad or The Road to Yorcon. (See Chapters 1 and 2 here.)

Stu ordinarily enjoyed his fannish accolades as much as anyone, but he did become frustrated that during the 1980s he established a record for the most fan Hugo nominations without winning. Everyone was gratified when he broke through at last in 1990.

All this productivity happened despite a medical condition Stu was coping with at the time. The symptoms became apparent when he was invited by fellow artists Schirmeister and Taral to join them hiking on Mt. Wilson in 1984 and he had difficulty keeping up. Taral explained in The Slan of Baker Street, “Stu will have to forgive me if I relate this imperfectly, but he had an abnormal connection between the blood vessels of his brain that allowed venous blood to mingle with arterial blood. The intermixing robbed his bloodstream of oxygen, and he tired easily.” Doctors corrected this by performing brain surgery in 1985 – an operation lasting 12 hours according to Ansible.

Stu’s interest in mysteries was strong enough to fuel three fandoms with art and articles. He was a Sherlockian (Sound of the Baskervilles, Hounds of the Internet) who contributed to publications like Baker Street Journal, and a Wodehouse enthusiast who sent material to such journals as Plum Lines and Wooster Sauce. And Stu was just as likely to write something about them for an sf fanzine. For example, a 1999 issue of Mainstream featured his “Adventures of the Danzig Mien,” the script of a Sherlockian parody: Stu had a great time festoon­ing a Conan Doyle-esque plot with ridiculous references and in-jokes.

He also produced some similarly-inspired short stories for an anthology series. In “The Milkman Cometh” (Tales of the Shadowmen 5: Vampires of Paris) Tevye meets Sherlock Holmes and confronts Boris Badenov. In “Grim Days” (Tales of the Shadowmen 7) Lord Peter Wimsey and Colonel Haki meet in Istanbul.

He drew a backup feature for Captain Confederacy, the black-and-white comic produced by Will Shetterly and Vince Stone (published by Steeldragon Press), involving two steampunkish characters named Saks & Violet.

So it is not surprising that Stu was attracted to alternate history and for many years was a member of the judging panel for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History.

His convention guest of honor stints included Hexacon (1980), Minicon XX, Wiscon XII, Corflu 6 (1989) and Lunacon 2000.

At Corflu 5 (1988) he was named a Past President of Fan Writers of America (fwa).

He had a recipe in the Tiptree fundraiser The Bakery Men Don’t See (1991) – “Grandma Ethel Katz’s Noodle Kugel.” Stu co-edited the 1986 issue of Science-Fiction Five-Yearly with the Nielsen Haydens and Lee Hoffman. He illustrated the 1991 edition of Beyond the Enchanted Duplicator…To the Enchanted Convention by Walt Willis and James White.

On June 14, 2012 Stu suffered a stroke. Two brain surgeries followed. For several months he went back and forth between ICU and acute care, depending on his breathing and heartbeat. Eventually he was reported to be on a gradual upswing and thereafter, though he periodically had serious setbacks, Stu enjoyed sustained improvement.

Andi Shecter visited constantly. Tom Whitmore maintained a CaringBridge online journal that let Stu’s friends keep abreast of important changes in his status.

Andi Shechter and Stu Shiffman on their wedding day, June 18, 2014,

Andi Shechter and Stu Shiffman on their wedding day, June 18, 2014,

In 2013 Andi and Stu, who had been together for 25 years, announced their engagement. On June 18, 2014 they married in a ceremony at University of Washington’s Burke Museum with nearly 100 in attendance.

By October, Stu had recovered to the point that he’d been able to use a powered wheelchair for the first time since his stroke. However, only a week later, he had a fall and required surgery from which he did not regain consciousness.

Then, this afternoon, he died after his heart stopped. Tom Whitmore explained: “Aides found him when they went to prepare him for a shower. He was given CPR and 911 was called. The EMTs were able to get a heartbeat and pulse back and he was being readied to go to Harborview Emergency Department when he heart stopped again. They were unable to get him back. They tried for about 40 minutes.”

I am so sad that Stu wasn’t able to make the recovery we all hoped he would have, and am very sorry for Andi’s loss.

Stu Shiffman and Mike Glyer in 2004. Photo by Rich Coad.

Stu Shiffman and Mike Glyer in 2004. Photo by Rich Coad.

Allan Kornblum Passes Away

Allan Kornblum, founding publisher of Coffee House Press, died November 23 at his St. Paul, MN home, of leukemia.

Andrew Porter recalls, “He was on the edges of the Minneapolis SF crowd.”

Kornblum’s death just about closes the book on a generation of small press pioneers. Porter explains —

I knew Kornblum, mostly from seeing him at the annual ABA (now BEA) conventions. He may have been active in Midwest small press, but there were many others, especially Len Fulton of Dustbooks, Noel Young of Santa Monica’s Capra Press (who, for instance, published Le Guin’s Wild Angels chapbook in 1975), and especially Harry Smith here in NYC. I worked with Harry — who lived a few blocks away, on Joralemon Street, and though I’d see him in Brooklyn Heights, more often saw him at the ABA conventions — and other people such as Jackie Eubanks, a library at Brooklyn College, on organizing and running various NY small press book fairs. Back then David Hartwell was doing small press, too (which is how I got to meet Margaret Atwood…).

Then there was COSMEP, originally the Committee of Small Press Editors and Publishers, the nationwide org for small press publishers run out of the SF Bay Area. Run into the ground in a few months by its last president. And the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines, CCLM, which decided, after I applied for a grant, that SF wasn’t literature…

Many gone, now, except for … me? How did that happen?

The Publishers Weekly obituary elaborates on Kornblum’s place in history:

Kornblum was one of the leaders of the small press movement that emerged out of the 1960s-era passions for social change. Kornblum, 65, founded Toothpaste Press in Iowa City in 1973 to publish poetry pamphlets and letterpress books. After moving to Minneapolis in 1984, Kornblum relaunched his press as a literary nonprofit and named it Coffee House Press. It was one of the original eight literary small presses distributed by Consortium Book Sales and Distribution. The press, which specializes in literary fiction and poetry, but also publishes nonfiction, became renowned for publishing writers of color under Kornblum’s leadership, particularly Asian-American authors.

Kornblum was known for his erudition, on display in a 2013 Soapbox column for PW that advocated Revolutionary War hero Henry Knox be named the patron saint of independent booksellers. Knox ran a bookstore before enlisting to fight, and rose to the rank of general. His most visible monument is Fort Knox. Kornblum appreciated the irony that a military base known as a gold bullion depository would be named for someone who once was a struggling bookseller.

[Via Paul Di Filippo and Andrew Porter.]

Walt Lee (1931-2014)

Cover Walt Lee Reference Guide To Fantastic Films“I’m very sad to report that my father, Walter W. Lee, Jr. — physicist, writer, historian, consultant, and friend to the science fiction and fantasy community — passed away on the evening of Sunday, November 23, 2014, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s,” writes Steve Lee.

Walt Lee was born in Eugene, Oregon on August 16, 1931.He is best known for compiling the Reference Guide to Fantastic Films. The three-volume work published between 1972 and 1974 was the first major compilation of film scholarship for science fiction, fantasy and horror films.

Bill Warren shared Steve Lee’s call to send birthday cards to his father with File 770 readers this past summer. Says Steve —

My mother, sister and I all thank you for your warm wishes and support during this difficult time. I would also like to thank all of those who took the time to send birthday cards to my father on this last August. He enjoyed and cherished them all.

He also invited me to publish his e-mail address – hwdslee (at) gmail (dot) com – for anyone who wishes to forward messages to the family.

Film critic Warren paid tribute to the Reference Guide to Fantastic Films and its author:

It was the first truly major work of film scholarship in the area of science fiction, fantasy and horror. It wasn’t easy to do; while being a father and holding down a job, he researched that exhaustive book.

This was long, long before the iMDB, long before most books on movie research. He spent hours upon hours in the files of the Motion Picture Academy, UCLA, USC, Forry Ackerman (a lifelong friend) and elsewhere. He corresponded with people all over the world — he was determined to make the book as inclusive as possible, and he did. It was the first citation in print (other than industry books and magazines) for hundreds upon hundreds of movies. He was one of the first researchers to routinely include many of the great Hollywood cartoon shorts.  Walt was there first, before anyone.