Thumbs Up for Mr. Sardonicus

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1270)  Marching to a different drummer can be particularly awkward on the road with a stream of dissenters all keeping step.  Milt Stevens didn’t bother to complain (1942-2017).

He was honored, selected, and unrecognized.  He co-chaired L.A.con II (42nd World Science Fiction Convention, 1984), the largest ever and one of the best – not the same thing.  He chaired Westercon XXXIII (West Coast Science Fantasy Conference, 1980) and was Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon LXI.  He chaired Loscon I (our local con, 1975) and was Fan GoH at Loscon IX.  He ran the Fanzine Lounge at Westercon LV and L.A.con IV (64th Worldcon).  He ran programming at Corflu XXXIV (fanziners’ con, 2017; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable).

He was one of the finest fanwriters in the world, in his own zine The Passing Parade and elsewhere.  We never put him on the Hugo ballot.

His sense of humor was often called dry.  I might call it sandy.  It could polish you.

For a while he used the handle “Mr. Sardonicus” (and his zine for SAPS, the Spectator Amateur Press Ass’n, was Sardonicus).  The title character in William Castle’s 1961 movie Mr. Sardonicus got his face frozen in a horrifying grin.  Glow-in-the-dark cards with Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down had been distributed to the audience.  Near the end the director appeared on-screen asking for votes in a Punishment Poll.  No instance is known in which the thumbs-up ending was shown.  Some say it was never filmed.

Properly the sardonic aims at self-relief when one can do nothing else against adversity.  His blade was better pointed than that.  Presumably the name appealed to his fannish self-deprecation.  In leaving the unobservant to suppose his remarks were moved by pessimism perhaps he was sardonic.

Like many people who can write, he could read.  “We need men round us who can think and who can talk” (G. de Maupassant, “The Horla”, 1887); he was there too.

This lit up his letters of comment.  Comments are the blood of an apa, and more generally letters of comment are the blood of a fanzine.  Best are those whose authors show they have in fact read (and not, say, merely jerked a knee at) what they are commenting on.  He was there too.

I’ll tell one book story.  At cons I’ve been leading Classics of S-F talks; often I pick the classics; at Loscon XLI in 2014 one was The Stars My Destination (A. Bester, 1957).  Regency dancing (see e.g. Mimosa 29) was scheduled on Friday at 4 p.m., Stars at 2:30, so I had to conduct it in costume; couldn’t get my neckcloth right – “Beau” Brummell (1778-1840), with all the time in the world and a valet, would cheerfully discard a dozen – and arrived late.  Milt Stevens had cheerfully started discussion.  As I walked in he was just pointing out Bester’s careful structure: starting in the dark, climaxing in the cathedral, ending in the light (Van 1125).

He was generous to his club – L.A. S-F Society, oldest in the world – with effort, money, as might be needed and he had at hand.  At the first LASFS clubhouse, he did so much cleaning up he called himself the Lord High Janitor.  He’d been attending since 1960.  He was President in 1970.  He was given the Evans-Freehafer, LASFS’ service award, in 1971.  He served long on the Board of Directors, sometimes in its chair.  At the third clubhouse, parking restrictions were problematic.  He arranged to meet with police and transit authorities, brought the club’s lawyer, who was also a fan, and found a solution.

Other generosities have emerged, regarding fans, fanzines, conventions.  Among other service, he was on the Board of the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (yes, that spells SCIFI; pronounced “skiffy”; sponsor of three Worldcons, a NASFiC, three Westercons, the Rotsler Award, and an edition of Harry Warner’s history of 1950s fandom A Wealth of Fable).

If you looked for him at a con you might find him in the bar, wearing a sports jacket, drinking Bud Light.  If you gave much weight to such things, or his mild manner, you might write him off as respectable.  He was – but in fact by our standards.  Ave atque vale.

Robert Guillaume (1927–2017)

By Steve Green: Robert Guillaume, US actor and director, died October 24, aged 89. Best-known for the sitcom Soap (50 episodes, 1977-80) and its spin-off Benson (159 episodes, 1979-86), his genre appearances include The Kid with the Broken Halo (1982), John Grin’s Christmas (1986), Fish Police (six episodes, 1992), The Meteor Man (1993), The Addams Family (one episode, 1993), Captain Planet and the Planeteers (one episode, 1994), Cosmic Slop (1994), Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child (36 episodes, 1995-2000), Crystal Cave, Alchemy (both 1996), Touched by an Angel (one episode, 1997), Merry Christmas George Bailey (1997), The Outer Limits (one episode, 1998), 13th Child (2002), Century City (one episode, 2004), as well as a number of fantasy-themed video games.

Steven M. Frischer (1955-2014)

[An appreciation for someone whose passing went unnoted by the fan press at the time,]

By David K.M. Klaus: Steven M. Frischer, just Steve Frischer to his friends (1955-2014), St. Louis, Mo.  Heart attack.  Attended his first convention, St. Louiscon, in 1969.  He once said he could be remembered as the 13-year-old in a red baseball cap who bothered Harlan Ellison by following him around the convention and continually asking Star Trek questions.  He hitchhiked to L.A.Con in Los Angeles in 1972, then from there hitchhiked north to Guerneville, California to meet Robert Anton Wilson, who was very down on his luck in that part of his life.  Steve bought groceries for Wilson’s family contributing to their survival in a small part until Illuminatus! finally sold, launching Wilson’s career as a novelist.  Hitchhiked to TorCon in Toronto in 1973, said the Royal York was the nicest, friendliest hotel he’d ever seen.  When people with no rooms slept on the chairs in the hotel lobby, they were gently awakened around ten a.m. and offered tea at no cost, courtesy of the hotel.  Actually rode in a friend’s car to and from MidAmeriCon in Kansas City in 1976, no hitchhiking needed.  Member of the Ozark Science Fiction Association (OSFA), the Graphic Fantasy and Science Fiction Society of St. Louis (GRAFAN), the St. Louis Science Fiction Society.  Regular attendee at Archon, St. Louis’ local convention for many, many years as well as one day mini-cons hosted by GRAFAN in the mid-’70s.  Active member of the Church of All Worlds.

Open, friendly, found and welcomed new members for each of the groups he was in.  Son of two Buchenwald survivors, what they survived darkened his life.  He eventually married and had a daughter, Gidget Frischer, to whom he was devoted and close both before and after he and her mother Jodie divorced.  Steve was intelligent, both school- and self- educated, learned enough kenpo karate to stop a mugging attack by three men on him, then ran before they could recover from the shock of the short, skinny Jewish guy kicking one of them to the ground.  Enormously well-read in all forms of sf, loved reading Heinlein over and over, as well as del Rey, de Camp, Blish, Tolkien, Dickson, Anderson, Niven, and so many beyond counting.  Original Star Trek too, of course.

Gidget had to break down the door to his apartment, too late to save him, but he now has a grandchild even though they will never meet.  His ashes were scattered at the base of trees planted in his honor in the same cemetery where his parents were laid to rest.

Umberto Lenzi (1931-2017)

Umberto Lenzi in 2008.

By Steve Green: Umberto Lenzi (1931-2017): Italian film director, screenwriter and novelist, died  October 19, aged 84. Genre work includes Messalina Vs the Son of Hercules (1964), Spasmo (1974), Eaten Alive!, Nightmare City (both 1980), Cannibal Ferox (1981), Ironmaster (1983), Ghosthouse (1988), The House of Witchcraft, House of Lost Souls, The Hell’s Gate, Nightmare Beach (all 1989), Black Demons (1991).

Roy Dotrice (1923-2017)

Roy Dotrice played Hallyne the Pyromancer in Game Of Thrones

By Steve Green: Roy Dotrice, British actor, died October 16, aged 94. In his best-known genre role he played Jacob “Father” Wells in Beauty and the Beast (55 episodes, 1987-90).

Other genre appearances include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1959), Late Night Horror (one episode, 1968), Omnibus (one episode, 1969), Tales of Unease (on episode, 1970), Toomorrow (1970), Tales from the Crypt (1972), Space:1999 (two episodes, 1975; these were re-edited for release in 1976 as Alien Attack), Saturn 3 (1980), Stephen King’s Golden Tales (1985), The Wizard (three episodes, 1986), Eliminators (1986), Tales from the Darkside (one episode, 1987), Faerie Tale Theatre (two episodes, 1987), Nightmare Classics (one episode, 1989), Children of the Dark (1994), Earth 2 (two episodes, 1995), Babylon 5 (one episode, 1995), Batman: the Animated Series (one episode, 1995), Strange Luck (two episodes, 1995-96), Tales from the Crypt (one episode, 1996), Spider-Man (four episodes, 1997), Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (three episodes, 1998), Sliders (two episodes, 1999-2000), Touched by an Angel (one episode, 2001), Alien Hunter (2003), Angel (one episode, 2003), Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), Game of Thrones (as Hallyne, two episodes, 2012).

He won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play (A Moon for the Misbegotten) in 2000.

Dr. Yoji Kondo (1933-2017)

Dr. Yoji Kondo and Ursula Kondo at the Baltimore Science Fiction Society’s 50th anniversary party.

Scientist and sf author Dr. Yoji Kondo died October 9 reported his daughter on Facebook.

He wrote SF under the name Eric Kotani, coauthoring five novels with John Maddox Roberts, Act of God (1985), The Island Worlds (1987), Between the Stars (1988), Delta Pavonis (1990), and Legacy of Prometheus (2000), another novel, Supernova, with Roger MacBride Allen, and a solo novel, Death of a Neutron Star (1999).

In his primary career,  Kondo headed the astrophysics laboratory at the Johnson Space Center during the Apollo and Skylab Missions. He served as director of the International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite observatory at Goddard Space Flight Center and was a coinvestigator of the Kepler Mission to detect Earth-sized planets within the habitable zone of their primary stars. He was a winner of the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement.

During his tenure at NASA he held concurrent appointments as professor at several U.S. universities, as well as the Institute of Space & Astronautical Research in Japan, and the University of La Plata in Argentina.

Kondo edited or co-edited numerous scientific books, including X- ray Binaries, The Local Interstellar Medium, Exploring the Universe with the IUE Satellite, Evolutionary Processes in Interacting Binary Stars, Observatories in Earth Orbit and Beyond, The Realm of Interacting Binary Stars, and Space Access and Utilization Beyond 2000.

Kondo figured in one of my favorite anecdotes from the 2001 Worldcon, which shows he was an acknowledged heavy-hitters in hard sf. Program organizers Laurie and Jim Mann had so many people respond positively to their participant questionnaire that although hundreds could be used, nearly 200 could not. Some came to the Green Room in hope of last-minute openings. They were shown a list of about 20 vacancies that needed to be filled, and several were added that way. One vacancy never seemed to get filled. Many would see the title of one panel, “Worldbuilding 101,” and be ready to volunteer, since most sf writers, not unreasonably, feel that’s something they know about. Then they’d read the names of the other panelists – Greg Benford, Hal Clement and Yoji Kondo – and speechlessly go away.

Kondo was a long-time friend of Robert and Virginia Heinlein. He edited the posthumous Heinlein collection Requiem: New Collected Works by Robert A. Heinlein and Tributes to the Grand Master (1992), and was on The Heinlein Society’s first Board of Directors.

Since 1998 he had served as a judge in the Writers of the Future Contest.

His wife, Ursula, and his daughter, Beatrice (now on The Heinlein Society board), survive him.

[Thanks to Keith Kato for the story.]

Dian Crayne (1942-2017)

Dian Crayne

Author Dian Crayne, 75, was discovered dead in her Northern California home on October 4 by police making a welfare check at the request of friends after she failed to show up for their book club meeting.

Writing under her maiden name, Dian Girard, she had numerous short stories published in Galaxy, Amazing, and anthologies edited  by Jerry Pournelle and John F. Carr. The Internet SF Database shows her first published story, “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry” appeared in 1974. (There are some author pages that cite a much earlier date, possibly having confused this work with Katherine MacLean’s similarly-titled short story.)

After leaving her career as a technical writing manager for Xerox, Crayne began publishing mystery and sf novels under the pseudonym J.D. Crayne. These included The Cosmic Wheel, the Mark Stoddard mysteries, and the Captain Spycer space operas, which she called her “Silverlock for science fiction,” referencing the well-known literary pastiche by John Myers Myers.

She married Bruce Pelz in 1964. They had one daughter, Cecy. Dian was pregnant when she attended the LASFS 1965 Halloween Party, notorious because while it was in progress an assailant outside fired three shots through the window. No one was struck by the bullets, but Dian was cut by flying debris. As she recalled for File 770:

Yes, I remember that incident VERY well. Bill Rotsler and I were sitting in a window seat, talking, and the bullet went between us. I had wood splinters in my cheek, Bill remarked later that he thought momentarily that for some reason one of my earrings had exploded. (He used to say later on that we had been “under fire together.”) Of course, everyone in the room hit the deck, and I remember calling out to Bruce [Pelz], “Don’t get excited, but I think I’ve been hit.” Only splinters, though.

[At the time] I was pregnant with Cecy and she was born in March of 1966.

As for the location, it was wherever Don Simpson and his house mates were living at the time. Don dug the bullet out of the woodwork and I talked him into giving it to me. Alas, I lost it during one of our moves.

The surmise was that the shooter was one of a small group of people who had tried party-crashing earlier in the evening and been ejected. The police came and took statements, but no one was ever picked up for it.

Bruce and Dian divorced on amicable terms at the end of the decade – and in fact threw a divorce party, with Jack Harness officiating, in 1970 that helped inspire Larry Niven’s “What Can You Say about Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?”

Dian and Chuck Crayne wed on March 5, 1972 and were married for 36 years, ending with Chuck’s death in 2009.

She was one of the many women to whom Robert A. Heinlein dedicated Friday (1982).

I met her in person a few times, including at a FAPA collating party she and Chuck hosted in the Seventies. However, it was only the past few years on Facebook that I really had a chance to enjoy her legendry intelligence, wit, and empathy. It was a privilege, and I will miss her.

[Thanks to Lee Gold for the story.]

Milt Stevens (1942-2017)

Milt Stevens and Craig Miller in 1981. Photo by Dik Daniels.

Past Worldcon chair and fanzine fan Milton F. Stevens died October 2 of a heart attack, after entering the hospital with pneumonia and other medical problems.

Milt attended his first Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society meeting in 1960 at the age of 17. “I’d been reading science fiction for years before that, so the slide into real fanac was easy,” he wrote. He discovered the club through fan-news columns in the prozines.

Milt Stevens in the 1960s

During the Vietnam War he served in the Navy. Milt always attributed his baldness to shiptime service in the smoking-hot climate of the South China Sea.

By 1970 Milt was President of LASFS — he signed my membership card when I joined. He was somebody to look up to who also became a good friend.

Milt won the Evans-Freehafer Award for service to the club in 1971. He was on the LASFS, Inc. Board of Directors for a couple of decades, and was Chair for around five years. After the original LASFS clubhouse was bought in 1973 Milt dubbed himself the “Lord High Janitor,” having taken on the thankless task of cleaning the place.

An exception at the usually inward-focused LASFS, Milt was among the club’s few nationally-active fanzine publishers and fanpoliticians. He put out an acclaimed perzine called The Passing Parade. He coedited and bankrolled later issues of my fanzine Prehensile. For many years he was a member of the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA).

1965 APA-L photocover — Milt Stevens is in the lower right corner.

Milt was a gifted humorist, dry and cynical, as though he was equipped with a set of glasses where one lens showed him what should ideally be happening in a set of circumstances, while the other showed him what was really happening, and he could juxtapose these two visions in a provocatively funny way. Milt would subtly include himself among the targets of his joking criticism on some level, however, people who didn’t know him rarely recognized that, and he struggled with the fact that such humility no longer defused people’s wrath in the internet age.

For awhile in the 1970s, Milt, Craig Miller, Elst Weinstein and I got in the habit of meeting for dinner at Mike’s Pizza in Van Nuys. Ed Cox or Ed Finkelstein joined us a couple of times – so that the rubric for these get-togethers became (1) always invite somebody named Ed, and (2) always order “pizza ala cruddo” (as we called pizza with everything). Being a comparative newcomer to the club, I looked forward to hearing Milt reveal all the inside LASFS lore – the Chart, Coventry, The Game of Fandom, and why never to mention spaghetti to a certain member.

He also gave us some early insights into conrunning and bidding for conventions. He was Chair of LA 2000, the original Loscon (1975), and later the 1980 Westercon. And he co-chaired L.A.con II (1984) with Craig, which still holds the attendance record.

Milt worked for LAPD for 32 years, mainly as a civilian crime analyst, a career that gave him a fund of cop stories — all punctuated with violence — like the one about a legendary detective who had (cumulatively) fired his gun five times and killed six people. “How was that?”, listeners always asked. The sixth was in a fight after taking away the guy’s knife. His job also unexpectedly put him in the position of attending a training session where the speaker analyzed the “Satanic symbolism” of such things as – the artwork on the cover of the 1984 Worldcon Souvenir Book.

The most indelible memory I have about Milt’s character is something that happened when the first LASFS clubhouse was on Ventura Blvd., near a T-intersection with Tujunga Ave. One evening a driver took the turn onto Ventura too fast and flipped his car. It skidded on the roof and came to a stop just a few yards down from the clubhouse, engine still turning, and smelling of leaking gasoline. I was with the people who collected at a safe distance, replaying in our imaginations TV show stunts of exploding auto wrecks. Milt, on the other hand, ran to the driver’s side and got him out. That’s what a man’s supposed to do.

Appreciation for his fannish contributions came when Milt was made GoH of Loscon 9 (1982) and Westercon 61 (2008).

I personally had Milt to thank for getting me to start working out at a gym, as he did. For a few years in the Eighties I lost weight and looked as good as I ever would.

He remained active in LASFS all his life. I got to share a table with Milt, Marc Schirmeister and Joe Zeff at the LASFS 75th Anniversary dinner in 2009.

And we were together on a panel at the 4,000th meeting of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society in 2014, representing various decades in club history — June Moffatt spoke for the 40s; Bill Ellern, the 50s; Milt Stevens, the 60s; myself, the 70s; Karl Lembke, the 80s; Cathy Beckstead, the 90s; Peter Santell, the 2000s; Mimi Miller, the 2010s.

Dan Goodman, Kara Dalkey, Tom Digby, and Milt Stevens at LASFS in 1976.

Earlier this year he programmed the 2017 Corflu, the convention for fanzine fans, when it met in Los Angeles. (See Milt’s conreport here.) The chair, Marty Cantor, announced today, “I will say it here, he personally paid off the con’s $1200+ budget deficit, and he did so happily as he felt that Corflu was a fannish good and he wanted this series of cons to continue.” Other fans wrote on Facebook about how much they appreciated the conversations they had with him about fanhistory. Milt was passing the torch, and those younger fans learned from him the stories behind fandom’s traditions and legends.

Anne Jeffreys Dies

By Chip Hitchcock: Anne Jeffreys (January 26, 1923 – September 27, 2017), age 94; played Marion Kerby in Topper (1953-1955 TV version), and soap opera character Amanda Barrington (General Hospital, Port Charles), who (says the New York Times) came under the spell of a vampire. Count me among the 10,000; I never knew soap operas other than Dark Shadows had vampires….

Her Wikipedia entry highlights some of her other genre credits:

She was nominated for a Golden Globe for her work in The Delphi Bureau (1972)….

In 1979, she guest starred as Siress Blassie in the Battlestar Galactica episode “The Man with Nine Lives” as a love interest of Chameleon, a part played by Fred Astaire. She was the last person to dance with him onscreen. She also guest starred as Prime Minister Dyne in the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode “Planet of the Amazon Women” as the leader of the titular planet.

Hugh Hefner (1926-2017)

Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner died at home September 27 of natural causes. He was 91. While the magazine’s primary appeal was nude pictures of women and sex-oriented features, Playboy was also known for its cultural and political articles, and for fiction.

If you carefully look through the wrong end of the telescope, you can focus on Hefner’s and Playboy’s impressive record of publishing science fiction.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction explains that as a young man Hefner was an avid reader of Weird Tales. Once he started Playboy, the editors responsible for selecting its fiction likewise had a taste for sf/f – particularly Ray Russell, Robie MacAuley, and Alice K Turner.

Playboy serialized Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in 1954, and over the years published short stories by Charles Beaumont, Robert Sheckley, Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, Dan Simmons, Lucius Shepard, Terry Bisson, Robert Silverberg, Howard Waldrop, Joe Haldeman, J.G.Ballard, Frederik Pohl, and many others.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Nine Lives” (1969) was the first story by a woman published in Playboy, according to the Internet Science Fiction Database — although it appeared under the name U. K. Le Guin.

In 1998, Turner edited an anthology of science fiction published in the magazine, The Playboy Book of Science Fiction.

The Washington Post’s obituary documents Hefner’s reputation as a defender of First Amendment civil rights, and reproductive rights, and someone who believed gay rights were part of the sexual revolution he advocated, as shown early on by Playboy’s 1955 publication of Charles Beaumont’s “The Crooked Man” —

“The Crooked Man” depicted a dystopian future where homosexuality was the norm, heterosexuality was outlawed and angry anti-straight mobs marched through the street chanting “make our city clean again!” Even the relatively progressive Esquire magazine had rejected the piece because it was too controversial.

But Beaumont found a fan in a young Hugh Hefner, who agreed to run it in his Playboy magazine, then less than two years old.

Outraged letters poured in to Playboy. Even readers of the pioneering nude publication found Beaumont’s tale of straight people dressing in drag and sneaking into dark barrooms to find partners too offensive for their tastes.

Hefner responded to the backlash in a defiant note. “If it was wrong to persecute heterosexuals in a homosexual society,” he wrote, “then the reverse was wrong, too.”

Hefner was friends with Ray Bradbury. On Ray’s 90th birthday, Hefner hosted a party for him at the Writers Guild. Buzz Aldrin was there, too. John King Tarpinian helped get Bradbury back and forth. John took these photos, and wrote a little about the party in another post.

Ray Bradbury and Hugh Hefner

Ray Bradbury and Buzz Aldrin in 2010.

Tarpinian says, “Because of Ray, I did get to say I bought the magazine for the articles.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge and Greg Hullender for the story.]