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.

21 thoughts on “Milt Stevens (1942-2017)

  1. Oh no. 🙁 I’ve appreciated many of his comments and his presence here.

    I think it is fair to say and proper to admit that we didn’t always see eye to eye, but I liked him, and I will miss what he brought to Filerspace.

  2. I kind of wondered when I first met Milt because he looked so respectable, but eventually I learned he was a fan at heart and a fine one. He had some great stories about his friendships and experiences with Japanese fans. I will miss him.

  3. I remember one of his cop stories was the guy with a BAC of .25 or so, who was still able to walk and talk, more or less.

  4. He was the first person through the door at my first BayCon Fanzine lounge. Almost all my stories of fan history came through Milt and I chatting in the Lounges, sometimes drawing other folks in to the conversation, like Job deCles, and even Ted White at my CorFlu. I told him how much mileage those stories had gotten My over the years once and his response – “Wow, I should probably check to make sure they’re true.”
    Chris

  5. I happened to meet Milt when we got onto the same elevator at Sasquan and I recognized his name from File 770. I didn’t always agree with his posts here, but I appreciated the perspective of a long-time fan and the many contributions he made to the development of the fandom of which I am now a part. I’m very sorry I wasn’t able to hear more of his stories.

  6. It’s no exaggeration to say that my wife and I enjoyed Milt’s company so much that seeing him once or twice a week (at the regular LASFS meeting on Thursday night, and at whatever gaming event might follow on Friday night) had been a highlight of our life for years. Milt was a font of faanish knowledge, and he served up his observations with a wit that was about as dry as an Arizona summer. I always looked forward to his reviews of books and movies and TV shows at the meetings, and during the times when I have been club president, I would always look right at Milt whenever the time came for reviews — and he never failed to entertain. Milt’s wit and lack of pretension masked a boisterous view of fandom and the outer reaches of the so-called real world. I shall always value, and treasure, the memory of his friendship.

  7. I’m very glad I got to know Milt a little at Corflu in April, because he was always one of those American BNFs we Brits rarely get to meet unless long-distance travel is involved. We had a few conversations where he helpfully filled in gaps in my knowledge about LASFS. He was a very welcoming guy and I enjoyed his company, so it feels like a conversation just started has now been cut off. Rest In Peace, Milt.

  8. Milt was, of course married to me between 1076 and 1984. He was the same in private as in public. Genuine through and through. I remember once, after a whole week or two of rainy rainy Los Angeles weather, everyone was heartily sick of the rain. Finally, on a rare sunny day, Milt and I were passing a LA Times paper kiosk, and Milt noted the headline:
    A BREAK IN THE WEATHER!
    Milt gazed at the newspaper and muttered darkly “Well, damn! Just when they got it fixed!”

    Another time, he had been invited to some faannish banquet or other as Fan GoH. I was excited to go as well, and asked him “What do you suppose they’ll serve?” Milt raised an eyebrow and commented drily “The usual… wadded up chicken.”. He could distill an entire scenario down into a few well chosen words, delivered in that flat, yet expressive monotone.

    I’ll never forget him, and still proudly bear his surname. – Sylvia “Contessa” Stevens

    `

  9. I got to chat with Milt quite a bit at the recent Chicago Corflu (#33) and have liked him for many years, even though I’ve lived in Toronto for 35 years. He was a great guy, and yes, a font of fannish knowledge.

    – Hope Leibowitz

  10. Milt was, of course married to me between 1076 and 1984.

    Nine hundred and eight years is a good run for any marriage.

  11. I got to know Milt as a fellow member of FAPA. It was always nice to see him show up here, even if he saw eye to eye so little with a lot of filers.

    I was looking up an interaction we had on File 770 and found Milt’s memorable response to a trolling puppy back in 2015: “You produce opinions the way a corpse produces maggots. No matter how many are squashed, there will always be more.”

    My condolences to Mike and the rest of his family and friends.

  12. He will be remembered as one of L.A.’s most notable fans of all time. I think it’s certain he would eventually have been a Worldcon Guest of Honor but time ran out on him. A privilege to have known him.

  13. I liked him tremendously, first as a witty and insightful fan writer, and later, in person, both over a period of about 40 years. He was a trufan of the highest order, an ornament to LASFS, and pillar of fandom at large. He will be impossible to replace, and sorely missed.

  14. I was active with him and a whole bunch of other people in Apa-L, by mail, in those heady days of yesteryear when airmail to LA was 5¢ an ounce and my contributions ran 50¢ a week in postage. Still have a bunch of the disty’s with their bound-in Baskin-Robbins and IHOP menus, etc.

    In recent decades, I always saw Milt at worldcons, where he remained remarkably unchanged. I will miss him greatly.

    The fabric of our fandom, with its multiple people making the strands of our universe, continues to grow ever thinner, *sigh*.

  15. I always enjoyed Milt’s letters of comment to zines I read or published – as you say in your appreciation, he had a dry and wicked sense of humor.

  16. He was a dear old friend, and as Matt says, a wit as dry as an Arizona summer. I felt he was the LASFSian closest to my sensibility in things fan and pro.
    Shall miss him terribly…

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