George Scithers (1929-2010)

One of the very few fans who did it all, George Scithers, died of a heart attack on April 19 at the age of 80.

He was a small press publisher, fiction writer, prozine editor, Worldcon chair, and Hugo-winning fanzine editor.

His plaid jacket was almost as well-known as Ben Yalow’s bow tie. Scithers was Fan Guest of Honor at the 1979 NASFiC (NorthAmericon) and the 2001 Worldcon (Millennium Philcon)

It was as an editor Scithers engraved his mark on the science fiction and fantasy fields.

Scithers was the founding editor of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (1977), for which he won the Hugo twice, in 1979 and 1981. After he departed Asimov’s (1982), Scithers edited Amazing until 1986 and thereafter was active in the revival of Weird Tales.

It’s in every prozine editor’s interest to cultivate new talent, but while Scithers was at Asimov’s that was his profound mission and made him highly visible at conventions and in workshops.

He published a fanzine, Amra, devoted to sword-and-sorcery fiction (indeed, the term first appeared in its pages.) It won the Best Fanzine Hugo in 1964. Although Robert A. Heinlein never wrote anything for the zine, he dedicated Glory Road to “George H Scithers and the regular patrons of the Terminus, Owlswick, and Ft Mudge Electric Street Railway” (the latter being a press name for Scithers’ fanac) because the book was inspired by Scithers’ postcard asking the question, `What happens after the Hero wins the hand of the princess and half the kingdom.’”

Scithers chaired Discon, the 1963 Worldcon, attracting 600 fans to Washington D.C. Afterward he wrote The Con-Committee Chairman’s Guide: The Story of Discon I (1965), reflecting the kinder and gentler days of single-track programming. When I was working on the Nolacon II program in 1988 Bruce Pelz showed me Scithers’ remarks: “For the Discon, we set up most of the convention program in July, which seemed early enough to us…” I had a long, hysterical giggle.

Before embarking on a career in sf, Scithers was a West Point graduate who retired as a lieutenent colonel, a Signal Corps officer who had seen service in the Korean War. He was still in the service when I first met him.

Scithers founded specialty publisher Owlswick Press in 1973. Its eclectic titles included To Serve Man, the cannibal cookbook.

He also edited numerous anthologies, the latest being Cat Tales: Fantastic Feline Fiction (2008) and very recently Cat Tales 2, according to John Betancourt.

In 1992, Scithers and Darrell Schweitzer won a World Fantasy Award for their work on Weird Tales. At the 2002 World Fantasy Convention in Minneapolis, both Scithers and Forrest J Ackerman won World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Awards.

John Betancourt reports that cards may be sent to Scithers’ longtime partner, Larry Fiege, at 218 Blandford St., Rockville, MD 20850-2629.

9 thoughts on “George Scithers (1929-2010)

  1. Very interesting that novels were specifically granted multiple years of eligibility.

  2. “Before embarking on a career in sf, Scithers was a West Point graduate who retired as a lieutenent colonel, a Signal Corps officer who had seen service in the Korean War. He was still in the service when I first met him.”

    […]

    “John Betancourt reports that cards may be sent to Scithers’ longtime partner, Larry Fiege, at 218 Blandford St., Rockville, MD 20850-2629.”

    I know what inference I draw from those two paragraphs, and how wrong it proves a certain federal law.

    All sympathies to Mr. Fiege in his time of loss.

  3. I read slushpile for Asimovs and Amazing, and lived across the street from George for a number of years. I learned so much from him! We’ve lost a wonderful person and mentor. George’s greatest gift was his ability to bring the very best out of each person and writer. I made a mistake when I was bookkeeping for Owlswick Press that could have been very costly for him. I fully expected to be fired and more, but George in a somewhat thunderous voice, but still gentlemanly, laid out what I needed to do to correct the error, and off we marched to the govt office involved, to deal with it. On the trolley lugging on a suitcase cart a year’s worth of records to prove our point, I should add.

    Rest In Peace

    Meg Phillips and family

  4. George was indeed the Fan Guest of Honor at the 1979 NASFiC in Louisville. As editor of the program book, I asked Isaac Asimov to write a bio for it. Asimov wrote back and said, since Scithers was now a professional editor, Asimov wasn’t sure if Scithers still wanted to be honored as a fan and asked him what to do. George told him he was “being more Catholic than the Pope” and would always he a fan!

  5. No need to giggle over George’s con-running guide. Much of it still looks like good advice for running a 600-person convention today. A tribute to his organization and perspicacity.

  6. “He published a fanzine, Amra, devoted to sword-and-sorcery fiction (indeed, the term first appeared in its pages.) It won the Best Fanzine Hugo in 1964.”

    After the first huge controversy over special interest campaigning for a Best Fanzine Hugo. This really is an important piece of fanhistory that shouldn’t be politely unmentioned.

  7. @Gary: I can’t say I’m familiar with that bit of history about Amra, though I have heard a few fans characterize ERBdom’s later win in those terms.

    Since the possibility of fans being shocked by campaigns for fan Hugos is at an all-time low I’m surprised you even bothered to bring this up.

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