Smiling Through The Tears

Reversing the lyrics of a theatrical standard, tragedy yesterday, but comedy tonight.

Leonard Nimoy’s death left many fans with a deep sense of loss. A few small jokes may help the healing process.

Taral Wayne added his own caption to a Star Trek still –

Final Captain's Log

Newsthump posted a bittersweet fake news story:

An arrest warrant has been issued for Star Trek actor William Shatner, who is reported to have stolen the space shuttle Enterprise…

Shatner and his crew – reported to comprise Nichelle Nichols, George Takei and Walter Koenig – are understood to believe that Leonard Nimoy will have been reborn on a new, Edenic alien world as suggested in a 1984 documentary.

When asked their course, shortly before passing out of radio range, Shatner is reported to have replied “Second star on the left, and straight on ’til morning.”


Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)

Leonard Nimoy (Spock) at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention 2011. Photo by Beth Madison.

Leonard Nimoy (Spock) at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention 2011. Photo by Beth Madison.

Leonard Nimoy passed away this morning at the age of 83 after being hospitalized earlier in the week for the long-term effects of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

He did a great deal of TV work before being cast as Star Trek’s iconic Mr. Spock. After the series was cancelled he went on to play Spock in eight Star Trek films, two of which he directed. Nimoy also voiced his character for the animated Star Trek series, and in a 2012 episode of The Big Bang Theory (“The Transporter Malfunction”). Director J. J. Abrams included cameo parts for him in the revived Star Trek film franchise.

Nimoy invented the famed “Vulcan nerve pinch” for the original series when he and the writers were trying to figure out how an unarmed Spock could overpower an adversary without resorting to violence.

Highlights of his other genre work include The Outer Limits – he appeared in episodes of both the Sixties original and the Nineties revival — and The Twilight Zone (“The Quality of Mercy,” 1961). He voiced “Mr. Moundshroud” in The Halloween Tree, based on the work of Ray Bradbury.

His first record album, Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space, resulted in a hit “Visit to a Sad Planet” (1967) which charted at #121 on Billboard.

His “Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” also forged a weird but immortal connection in the minds of fans between Star Trek and Tolkien.

Nimoy’s career was linked with William Shatner’s in more than just the obvious way – even before Star Trek, they appeared together in an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1964). Afterwards, of course, they were paired in the animated series (1973), an episode of the Shatner vehicle T.J. Hooker (1982), and one of Futurama (1999).

In demand as a narrator, he hosted two nonfiction TV shows, In Search of… (1976) and Ancient Mysteries (1993). He voiced a cartoon version of himself – Leonard Nimoy — in two episodes of The Simpsons.

Nimoy was born in Boston and once commented, “My folks came to the US as immigrants, aliens, and became citizens. I was born in Boston, a citizen, went to Hollywood and became an alien.”

He made this final tweet on February 22:

(He signed all his tweets LLAP for “Live long and prosper.”)

That Ship Has Sailed

Shiffman art displayed at the memorial on February 15. Photo by Randy Byers.

Shiffman art displayed at the memorial on February 15. Photo by Randy Byers.

By John Hertz: Another thing last weekend was a memorial for Stu Shiffman.

Shiffman was one of the best fanartists we’ve had. That’s saying a lot. He won the Rotsler Award in 2010 and a Hugo in 1990. He drew for Chunga, Izzard, Janus, Littlebrook, Mimosa, Rune, Science Fiction Five-Yearly.

In 1981 he was the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate, attending the British national convention; his nominators were Harry Bell, Mike Glicksohn, Mike Glyer, Jerry Kaufman, Peter Roberts, all names to conjure with.

He was a guest of honor at Corflu, Lunacon, Minicon, Wiscon.

He was a judge of the Sidewise Award.

He married Andi Shechter. They having been among those who made the Great Pilgrimage to Seattle, she conducted a memorial there. By virtue of Shechter & Shiffman’s bicoastality, Laurie Mann conducted a memorial at the same time during Boskone. That’s why I used the singular. Shiffman was singular.

His deft portrayals of our adventures, in which his historical interests and sometimes talking animals took part, placed us in hieroglyphic Egypt, Victorian England, the future imagined by E.R. Burroughs.

He died in 2014. I knew him, Horatio. May his memory be for a blessing.

Irish SF Fan Mick O’Connor
Passes Away

Michael O’Connor, known as Mick, passed away in a Dublin hospital on February 16. O’Connor was a member of the Dublin in 2019 Worldcon bid committee.

Comics scholar Padraig O’Mealoid and O’Connor started attending Irish Science Fiction Association meetings together in the 1990s.

James Bacon credits O’Connor for getting him involved in ISFA. They met when O’Connor was a curator of a comic shop where James was a customer, and they became friends.

Mick O’Connor was predeceased by his wife, Philomena, July 2014.

The announcement and funeral information is here.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Lesley Gore (1946-2015)

Pop singer Lesley Gore, who enjoyed a string of hits in the 1960s, died February 16 of cancer.

Her single “It’s My Party” went to Number 1 in the United States in 1963. Three other Gore singles landed in the top 10 over the next year.

She appeared often on television, usually on music and variety shows. She also had a guest shot as a villainess on the Sixties Batman series.

Gore played Catwoman’s sidekick Pussycat in the 1967 Batman episodes “That Darn Catwoman” and “Scat! Darn Catwoman.” She sang in one scene for a test audience composed of Marlowe, Spade and Templar, Catwoman’s posse.

Later in her career, Gore composed songs for the soundtrack of the 1980 film Fame. “Out Here on My Own,” co-written with her brother Michael, was nominated for the Academy Award, however, Michael’s theme song for Fame was the Academy Award winner.

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

Gary Owens (1934-2015)

Iconic announcer and voice actor Gary Owens died February 12 at home due to complications from type 1 diabetes, which he’d had since childhood.

Owens was best known as the hand-on-the-ear announcer on 1960s comedy show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.

He did over 30,000 commercials in his career. As Mark Evanier explained to readers of News From Me

He was so good at this that he became an archetype. In the v.o. industry, it is not uncommon to hear bookers say they’re looking for a “Gary Owens” type voice, especially in the last few years when poor health sometimes made it difficult to hire Gary Owens. I have even heard directors tell an actor to “give it a little Gary Owens.” That meant that while you should sound very announcer-like and macho and intense, there should also be a big smile and friendliness in your delivery. He did that better than anybody.

He was the voice of Roger Ramjet (1965) and the narrator of the Space Ghost (1966) cartoon series.

A highly-rated LA disc jockey, Owens enriched the local dialect by coining the phrase “Beautiful downtown Burbank,” used on Laugh-In and The Tonight Show. He popularized silly, invented words like “insegrevious”, “krenellemuffin”, and the previously non-existent colors “veister” and “krelb.”

Owens often appeared in front of the camera, too. Movie appearances included Midnight Cowboy, The Love Bug, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s Superman, and Return From Witch Mountain.

His miscellaneous genre TV work usually involved playing some kind of TV or radio announcer on shows such as The Munsters, Mr. Terrific, The Green Hornet, the Adam West Batman, several incarnations of Scooby-Doo, Yogi’s Space Race, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, Sesame Street, Ren & Stimpy,  Garfield & Friends, and Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.

Owens’ interest in the genre was both professional and personal. Several times he attended Larry Niven’s New Year’s Eve Party; Owens, Niven and Jerry Pournelle were acquainted through their volunteer work at Big Brothers.

Owens received a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star in 1980, situated between those of Walt Disney and Betty White.

Melanie Tem (1949-2015)

Melanie Tem. Photo by Debra Lee.

Melanie Tem. Photo by Debra Lee.

Fantasy and horror author Melanie Tem died February 9.

She won the British Fantasy Association’s Icarus Award in 1992 as best newcomer, and her first novel, Prodigal, was honored with a Bram Stoker Award.

Together with her husband, Steve Rasnic Tem, she wrote “The Man on the Ceiling,” winner of the World Fantasy, Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild awards in 2001. When the story was expanded to book-length in 2008 it was nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award.

Her novels include Prodigal (1991), Blood Moon (1992), Wilding (1992) Revenant (1994), Desmodus (1995) (a Tiptree Award nominee), The Tides (1996), Black River (1997), Slain in the Spirit (2002), The Deceiver (2003) and The Yellow Wood (2015).

She collaborated on Making Love (1993) and Witch-Light (1996) with Nancy Holder, Daughters (2001) with Steve Rasnic Tem, and What You Remember I Did (2011) with Janet Berliner.

[Via SF Site News.]

Richard Bonehill (1948-2015)

Actor Richard Bonehill, who played many characters in the Star Wars universe, died February 4 at the age of 67.

In The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), Bonehill played snowtroopers, TIE Fighter pilots, a Tauntaun handler and various aliens including Ree-Yees, a three-eyed alien seen in the background at Jabba’s Palace in the film Return of the Jedi, and Nien Nunb (in full body suit) the Sullustan smuggler who was Lando Calrissian’s co-pilot.

Bonehill told an interviewer in 2006 that at one time his favorite character to play was a Rebel soldier “because it was the most comfortable costume to wear.” But ultimately his favorite character to play was a stormtrooper, because it was an iconic symbol of the Empire.

Suzette Haden Elgin (1936-2015)

Elgin_S_LVersatile sf author, poet and linguist Suzette Haden Elgin died January 27. She’d been experiencing health troubles for a long time, and abandoned several newsletters and her blog a few years ago due to the effects of Fronto-Temporol Dementia which, as her husband, George, explained in 2012 — is “a condition that develops more rapidly than Alzheimer’s disease, and does not respond to any form of treatment or medication.”

Elgin began her career as a science fiction writer in the late Sixties. Having remarried after being widowed, Elgin found herself a mother of five and at the same time a graduate student in linguistics at UC San Diego. She began writing sf to pay her tuition.

Andrew Porter recalls, “I pulled her first short story, ‘For the Sake of Grace’, out of the slushpile when I was assistant editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Ed Ferman published it in 1969. It was subsequently widely reprinted and anthologized. She was one of the few authors I discovered who went on to a wide-ranging and productive career.”

Elgin completed her grad school work by writing two dissertations, one on English, the other on Navajo. She was later hired by San Diego State University, where she taught until she retired in 1980.

Elgin’s first novel, The Communipaths, published in 1970 as half of an Ace double, marked the beginning of her Coyote Jones series, followed by Furthest and Star-Anchored, Star-Avenged.

She then wrote the Ozark Trilogy, Twelve Fair Kingdoms, The Grand Jubilee and And Then There’ll Be Fireworks. Coyote Jones also appeared in another book set in that universe, Yonder Comes the Other End of Time.

In the mid-1980s she produced her best-known work, Native Tongue, The Judas Rose and Earthsong – sf novels where women create, word by word, a language of their own called Láadan to help free themselves from men’s domination. (A Láadan grammar and dictionary was published in 1988 by SF3 of Madison, Wisconsin.)

Elgin made another key contribution to the genre by founding the Science Fiction Poetry Association in 1978. For awhile she edited its newsletter, Star*Line. Her poem “Rocky Road to Hoe” won SFPA’s Rhysling Award in 1987. The organization also honored her by creating the Elgin Award in 2013.

Although Elgin admitted other poets disagreed, her essay “About Science Fiction Poetry” defined genre poetry in this way —

It seemed to me that the field of sf poetry badly needed rigor (the quality that makes hard sf hard), so that there’d be a way to stand up and argue for its literary value. People look at Picasso’s abstract paintings and object that their six-year-old child could do that — but Picasso could put a pencil on a sheet of paper and draw a magnificently realistic horse (or anything else you asked him for) as a single line, without ever lifting the pencil from the paper. That’s rigor. Because he could do that if he chose, he could also break all the rules if he chose; that’s fair. I wanted sf poetry first to prove that it could do the thing rigorously; after that, if it wanted to fly off into the never-nevers, it would at least be possible to point to the body of rigorous work and say, “When sf poets choose to, they can write like this; they’ve proved that, and now they have the right to break the rules.” So I assumed “poem” as defined, and proposed that an sf poem was one that had two parts: a science part, and a fiction — narrative — part. Like most grandiose projects, mine didn’t go far; the sf poets shouted me down in short order. But I still think it was, and is, worth a try.

Elgin’s other nonfiction enterprises were considerably more influential. Her Ozark Center for Language Studies was dedicated to reducing violence in the U.S. and getting information about linguistics out to the public. She wrote a remarkable book called The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense, whose goal was “To establish an environment in which verbal violence almost never occurs and which — on those rare occasions when it cannot be avoided — it is dealt with efficiently and effectively, with no loss of face on either side.” (I used it in my own work.) She taught four basic principles: “Know that you are under attack. Know what kind of attack you are facing. Know how to make your defense fit the attack. Know how to follow through.” She taught workshops based on the material, and wrote several follow-up books, one of which was a novel, Peacetalk 101.

She was a widely respected professional in multiple fields who will be truly missed.

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.