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.]

4 thoughts on “Dr. Yoji Kondo (1933-2017)

  1. He was also a 7th degree black belt in aikido and a 6th degree black belt in judo. He was a key figure in the development of the American branch of aikido that I studied. He served as a translator between Kenji Tomiki and Karl Geiswhen Kenji encouraged Karl to teach aikido in America.

    Yoji will be missed by many.

  2. Thanks Ian for the correction. I couldn’t understand the message from Kit, can you give me the information for your Blog?

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