Dallas Mayr (1946-2018)

Dallas Mayr

Dallas Mayr, who wrote under the name Jack Ketchum, died January 24 announced Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton:

HWA is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Dallas Mayr. Under the name Jack Ketchum, Dallas produced some of the most riveting and intense works of modern horror, including the novels The Girl Next Door, Red, and The Lost; he was both a multiple winner of the Bram Stoker Award and our 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Dallas was a wonderful teacher and an inspiration to many, and he will be deeply missed by all.

Ketchum also received the World Horror Convention Grand Master Award (2011) for outstanding contribution to the horror genre.

The Washington Post’s obituary recalls he was once labeled by Stephen King as likely the scariest writer in America:

“Jack Ketchum’s first novel … set off a furor in my supposed field, that of horror, that was unequaled until the advent of Clive Barker,” King said in 2003 upon accepting an honorary National Book Award. “It is not too much to say that these two gentlemen remade the face of American popular fiction.”

When Ketchum was a teenager he was mentored by Robert Bloch, author of Psycho, who was “paying forward” the support he’d received from his own mentor, H.P. Lovecraft.

His first novel, Off Season (1980), prompted the Village Voice to publicly scold its publisher in print for publishing violent pornography.

His novel The Girl Next Door is considered a horror classic. Five of his books have been filmed: The Girl Next Door, The Lost, Red, Offspring  and The Woman. Ketchum and Lucy McKee won the Best Screenplay Award for The Woman at the Sitges Film Festival in Spain.

Escaping from Omelas

By Hampus Eckerman: There are many stories that we read that we will always remember. Often because we read them at the right time, during our own golden age of Science Fiction and Fantasy. For some stories it is the love of the world, we do not want to leave it. For others, it is how we identify with the characters. And for some it is how they make us think.

But what of those stories that we do not remember fondly, but still will not leave us? That will always be there? Always. I am not talking of those that we think of once in a while when nostalgia hits us, but the ones that presses on you, is there in some way in every waking moment.

For me, that story is The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by late (how it hurts to write this) Ursula K. LeGuin.

* * *

We are told fantasy is escapist stories, stories we read to escape the harsh reality around us. But what about the stories you can’t escape? That keep on following you through life, whispering harsh words into your ears, makes you think about your life choices without those sweet illusions we hope to hide our own actions behind.

When I booked my airplane tickets for this years vacation, I was thinking what I did to that poor child in Omelas. I saw my country’s new immigration laws and these men talk about their necessity. The speakers were mature, intelligent, passionate adults. But somewhere in a cellar, there lies a suffering child and we have all agreed not to speak about it. Should we have thrown away all goodness and grace of Omelas to save the child? Was it even necessary to throw away all prosperity and beauty and delight?

Omelas keeps on intruding on my mind when I see beggars on the streets, when I read about how my home country has the highest increasing inequality in Europe, when my politicians try – and fail – to hide the number of people dying in cancer because this year is an election year.

Ursula, you have left us now and with that a dream crushed to at least once have seen you in reality. You have meant so much to me since I was a kid. You have not only given me wonderful worlds to dream about, characters to care about. You have made me think. I’m not sure if it is something I should thank or curse you for, but grateful I am nevertheless. I hope you are somewhere better, at last leaving that joyful city and its suffering child behind.

And I’m still stuck in Omelas.

Ursula K. Le Guin (1929–2018)

Ursula K. Le Guin holding her tribble at the Tiptree Symposium in 2015. Photo by Jeffrey Smith.

Ursula K. Le Guin died January 22 at the age of 88 reports the New York Times:

[The] immensely popular author who brought literary depth and a tough-minded feminist sensibility to science fiction and fantasy with books like “The Left Hand of Darkness” and the Earthsea series, died on Monday at her home in Portland, Ore. She was 88.

Her son, Theo Downes-Le Guin, confirmed the death. He did not specify a cause but said she had been in poor health for several months.

File 770 hopes to run a full tribute later. Meanwhile, here are some of the initial responses from people in the field, some giving favorite Le Guin quotes.

[Thanks to ULTRAGOTHA, JJ, Lis Carey and Cassy B for the story.]

Peter Wyngarde (1927-2018)

Wyngarde starred as Timanov in Doctor Who: Planet of Fire

British actor Peter Wyngarde died January 15, aged 90. Genre work included The Innocents (1961), Night of the Eagle (1962), and Flash Gordon (1980). He was announced as a guest at last October’s Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester, but pulled out as he’d found a recent appearance at the MCM in London too exhausting.

The BBC calls him the cult TV star who inspired Austin Powers:

…In 1959, he starred in ITV’s South – which some have claimed was the first gay drama on British television.

Set during the US Civil War, it featured Wyngarde as a Polish army lieutenant Jan Wicziewsky, who must decide who he loves: Miss Regina, a plantation owner’s niece; or a tall, rugged officer called Eric MacClure.

Broadcast live at a time when homosexuality had not been decriminalised in the UK, the drama received scathing reviews in the press….

Unbeknownst to the general public, Wyngarde was himself gay and, after a brief marriage to actress Dorinda Stevens in the 1950s, and had a long-term relationship with the actor Alan Bates.

“I think you have to give Wyngarde a massive pat on the back in terms of the bravery in taking this role,” said BFI curator Simon McCallum when South was rediscovered five years ago.

The furore over the programme did not affect the actor’s career, and he guest-starred in a number of 1960s television shows including The Saint, The Prisoner and The Avengers before debuting Jason King in the spy drama Department S.

The character proved so popular that Wyngarde got a spin-off series, which made him a household name in the US and Australia.

King remained his best-known character, a globe-trotting playboy with an astonishing array of outfits. And it wasn’t just his sartorial extravagance that inspired Mike Myers to create Austin Powers: King even uttered the phrase “groovy, baby” in one episode.

“I decided Jason King was going to be an extension of me,” he once said. “I was inclined to be a bit of a dandy – I used to go to the tailor with my designs.”

[Thanks to Steve Green and Chip Hitchcock for the story.]

David Fisher (1929-2018)

David Fisher

By Steve Green: David Fisher, a British writer who scripted four Doctor Who serials, died January 10, aged 88.

He wrote “The Stones of Blood” and “The Androids of Tara”, both 1978; “The Creature from the Pit”, 1979; “The Leisure Hive”, 1980, and produced the original storyline for 1979’s “The City of Death” (rewritten by Douglas Adams under the pseudonym “David Agnew”).

Other genre work included one episode of Hammer House of Horror (“Guardian of the Abyss”, 1980) and two of Fox Mystery Theater (“The Corvini Inheritance” and “The Late Nancy Irving”, both 1984).

Heather North (1945-2017)

North was the second actress to lend her voice to Daphne (second from right); Stefanianna Christopherson was the first.

Heather North, the voice of Scooby-Doo’s Daphne, died November 30 at the age of 71.

She first did the voice of Daphne for the 1970 season of Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, then The New Scooby Doo Movies (1972-1973), Dynomutt Dog Wonder (1976), The Scooby Doo/Dynomutt Hour (1976-1978), Scooby Doo Goes Hollywood (1979), Scooby Doo and Scrappy Doo (1979-1980), and six more iterations of Scooby Doo cartoons in the 1980s. And she voiced Daphne again in three Scooby movies/videos made in 2002-2003.

Prior to joining the Scooby gang, North had a busy conventional acting career , appearing on such TV shows as Mr. Novak, Gidget, The Fugitive, The Monkees, My Three Sons and Adam-12; the soap opera Days of Our Lives; in two films, Git! (1965) and I Love My Wife (1970); and on Broadway in the short-lived 1967 comedy The Girl in the Freudian Slip.

North also starred as Kurt Russell’s love interest in Disney’s The Barefoot Executive (1971), about a chimpanzee who can predict which TV shows will be a success on the air.

And she appeared an episode of Richard Matheson’s TV series Circle of Fear, “Elegy for a Vampire.”

Her husband, producer/director H. Wesley Kenney predeceased her in 2015. She is survived by a son and two stepchildren; another stepdaughter died just a week ago.

Heather North in The Barefoot Executive.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock for the story.]

Suzanna Leigh (1945-2017)

By Steve Green: Suzanna Leigh, British actress, died December 12, aged 72. God-daughter of Vivien Leigh, from whom she gained her stage surname. Genre appearances included Tom Thumb (1963), It Happened Like This (one episode, 1963), The Deadly Bees (1966), The Lost Continent (1968), Journey to the Unknown (one episode, 1968), Lust for a Vampire (1971), Beware My Brethren (1972), Son of Dracula (1974).

One for All

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1276)

“Turn!” he sang, with words
Of a king, and of his own,
“Do it now,” he meant,
“All things change,” so go change them,
“You can,” and from him, “you should.”

Randy Byers (1960-2017) was 57 when he died on November 20, 2017.

I knew he’d been in hospice care and why.  Luckily I’d been able to get addresses for his parents and a sister.  I sent a note hoping to expound the love he’d won among us.  Geri Sullivan told me the sister had read some of my message to him who though barely conscious seemed to understand.

Luckily he’d had some recognition.  The 12th and as it proved final issue of Science Fiction Five-Yearly, Lee Hoffman’s fanzine published on time for sixty years, was co-edited by him and Sullivan (2007); it won the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine.  Chunga by Byers, Andy Hooper, and carl juarez won four Fan Activity Achievement Awards (Best Fanzine 2003, 2005-2006, 2013) and was twice a Hugo finalist (Best Fanzine 2005-2006); Byers himself won three more FAAns (Best Fanwriter and Number One Fan Face [highest sum of points in all categories], 2003; Best Single Fanzine Issue, Alternative Pants, 2012).

Chunga 1 (2002) explained its title was a Frank Zappa allusion (Chunga’s Revenge, Bizarre Records 1970), which Byers predicted (p. 1) would dominate Chunga 23, as indeed it did, with superb covers by Ulrika O’Brien and multi-page graphics by Brad Foster, Teddy Harvia, Marc Schirmeister, España Sheriff, Stu Shiffman, Dan Steffan, Steve Stiles, D. West (2015).

By 2002 Byers had been with us a couple of decades.  In his part of the Chunga 1 edi­torial page he said he’d not helped with cons, raised money for fan funds, laughed at awful puns.  Like Hilaire Belloc breaking vows on The Path to Rome (1902) Byers falsified those statements along the road.

He was elected Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate, 2003; chaired Corflu XXVI (fanziners’ convention; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, readily dispensable and long indispensable; “Corflu Zed” for the Commonwealth-English name of the 26th letter in the alphabet United States and Commonwealth folk have in common), 2009; ran WOOF (Worldcon Order of Faneditors, an amateur publishing ass’n with collation at Worldcons), 69th World Science Fiction Convention, 2011; ran the Fanzine Lounge at the 73rd Worldcon, 2015.  For TAFF he beat inter alios Orange Mike who’d been nominated by inter alios Hooper, Byers afterward serving as North America Administrator until succeeded in 2005 by Suzle.  Puns – well, he solicited and published an article by me in Corflu XXVI’s Progress Report 1.

I had four poems in SF5Y he and Sullivan splendidly got Jae Leslie Adams to calligraph; one was on the back cover with a trillion trillion suns; to another he’d given fine editorial help.  I’ve fairly often been in Chunga.

Among other adventures Byers interviewed me for Tardum Flumen 7 (Westercon LXVI newsletter; West Coast S-F Conference, 4-7 Jul 13).  He seemed to find me a hopeful man.

From time to time he called me ambassadorial.  I told him I was taking it as a compliment.

Near the end he revisited Yap where he’d lived four years, and attended Corflu XXXIV.  As Mike Glyer said, “A small mercy is that many people who cared for or loved Randy had a final opportunity to share those feelings with him.”  R.I.P.


My title alludes to the fine Dave Hicks cover for Chunga 18, about which, when I saw it, I asked Byers “How do you contrive to draw left-handed from a scabbard at your left?” Pete Seeger’s “Turn!  Turn!  Turn!” (1959) quotes Ecclesiastes (attr. King Solomon; 3:1-8).

Rance Howard (1928-2017)

Rance Howard in Ed Wood (1994).

By Steve Green: Rance Howard, US actor and screenwriter, died November 25, aged 89. Father of actor Clint and actor/director Ron.

Appearances of genre interest include Night Gallery (one episode, 1971), Battlestar Galactica (one episode, 1978), Mork & Mindy (one episode, 1981), Innerspace (1987), Superboy (one episode, 1989), Quantum Leap (one episode, 1991), Universal Soldier (1992), Ed and His Dead Mother (1993), Ed Wood (1994), Tales from the Crypt (one episode, 1994), Bigfoot: The Unforgettable Encounter (1994), Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995), Independence Day, Mars Attacks! (both 1996), Babylon 5 (three episodes, 1996-97), Baywatch Nights (one episode, 1997 — from the ‘supernatural’ second season), The SenderSmall Soldiers, Psycho (all 1998), Angel (one episode, 2001), Ghost Whisperer (one episode, 2005), Sasquatch MountainHarrison Bergeron (both 2006), The X-Files (one episode, 2016), 40 Nights (2016). Co-wrote the screenplay for The Time Crystal (1981).