Mike Glicksohn, an iconic figure at conventions with his flowing beard and Australian bush hat, passed away on March 18 after suffering a stroke, reports Robert Sawyer. This came at the end of a years-long struggle with cancer. Mike was 64. He is survived by Susan Manchester, his wife of almost 18 years.
I was fortunate to know Mike from my earliest days in fandom, meeting first in fanzines, and soon after at conventions. Mike’s written personality struck me as the epitome of “cool” — ironic, outwardly unaffected by crisis, with a clever and cutting sense of humor — but in person he was much more than that, as I discovered when we met at the 1972 Worldcon. Mike was colorful, sure of himself, and smiled a lot. A man would recognize in Glicksohn’s witty demeanor a challenge and have to decide – was he laughing with me, or at me? Also, while he enjoyed socializing he was always winnowing the crowd in search of who was really worth his time. Mike especially cherished the company of fandom’s legends, like Ackerman, Bloch and Tucker (see, as he wrote in Mimosa 30.)
From where I was viewing things at the time as a relatively new fan, Mike was already a legend himself — yet he’d only been in fandom four years longer than me. Mike attended his first Worldcon in 1966, Tricon in Cleveland, after learning about it from an ad in Famous Monsters of Filmland. He also co-founded the Ontario Science Fiction Club (OSFiC) that year. He came to the next Worldcon with a contingent of Canadian fans, who wore Spock ears as they watched banquet from an overlooking balcony. (Spock ears were still cool in 1967.) These fans formed the core of the winning 1973 Worldcon bid.
Back home in Toronto Mike made his living as a high school mathematics teacher. He and Susan Wood had married in 1970 after meeting at Boskone the year before. Together they published the leading fannish fanzine, Energumen, for several years, turning out 15 impeccably mimeographed issues filled with brilliant art and contributions from the most sought-after fanwriters. Their zine won a Hugo at Torcon II in 1973. However, by that time their marriage had broken up although they remained on terms that allowed them to accept Aussiecon’s invitation to be joint Fan Guests of Honor at the 1975 Worldcon. The Hat Goes Home is Mike’s report of that trip.
In the coming years Mike won three Fanzine Activity Achievement Awards (FAAn) as Best LoC Writer. He was nominated for a Hugo as Best Fan Writer in 1977. He was even selected Past President fwa (Fanzine Writers of America) at the 2006 Corflu.
Mike reviewed fanzines for my genzine Prehensile in his notorious fanzine-killing column “The Zineophobic Eye.” I don’t say “fanzine-killing” because he indulged in KTF-style reviews. Rather, Mike took a perverse pride in the way every one of the host fanzines had expired soon after his column started running in it. The column had appeared in Richard Labonte’s Hugin & Munin (as “The Zinephobic”), Mike’s own Energumen, and Osfic Quarterly. That’s why Mike began his first installment for me with a warning: “Read this issue of Prehensile carefully friends. Savor it, enjoy it, admire it; it’s very likely one of the last issues you’ll be seeing…” And in that respect my fanzine did not disappoint: his first column appeared in Prehensile 11 and the zine ended its run four issues later.
If Mike had a fannish philosophy, I’d say it was something he’d inject into the dialogue when, now and then, things got a little heated: Unless you were having fun, there wasn’t any point in staying in fandom.
He was always ready to enjoy the good times and help create them. He’d play along with the joke – like when he let Elst Weinstein and I make him co-GoH of the 1978 Hogu Ranquet. He even refused to let us pay for his hamburger.
Mike liked the fun, but not necessarily the publicity that ensued. He once told me, “I’ve only had seven embarrassing moments in fandom — and Jay Kay Klein was there to photograph every damn one of them! One was at PghLange: I took off all my clothes and was sitting on the floor naked, talking to people, and Jay Kay was there to photograph it.”
Similarly, Mike, who was famously devoted to playing poker, once was part of a game held in an elevator car at a Canadian convention hotel. But when Lloyd Penney wrote this in a LoC Mike followed with his own letter saying the story was completely apocryphal, or at least he’d completely forgotten about it “because those brain cells were destroyed.”
There was also a serious side to Mike. He was sensitive to injustice within fandom. He helped fight our battles. A motion he made with Marty Cantor to change the Best Fanzine Hugo rules launched a discussion that spun off Locus and several other perennial award contenders into a new Best Semiprozine category in 1982. As Cantor remembers, “Mike and I felt that zines which either start as amateur zines and grow into something else (or start as something else) provided unfair competition to those who wish to remain amateurs (in the best and original sense of that word, doing it strictly and only for the love of doing it without any thought of making at least part of their living doing it) should be able to compete on a level playing field, competing only with like-minded fans.”
He was also instrumental in returning the Worldcon to Toronto for the first time in 30 years, co-chairing the Toronto bid for 2003. And because it was Mike Glicksohn who called to invite me as Torcon 3’s fan guest of honor, that meant the world to me.
It was just two years after that Worldcon, 2005, that Mike was first diagnosed with cancer. In 2006 surgeons removed his right ureter because a cancerous tumour had been found there. At the same time his right kidney was taken out. Cancer was detected again in 2008. Doctors removed his gall bladder. There were courses of chemotherapy prior to all the surgeries. For a six-month stretch in 2009 tests came back with no sign of cancer, but it showed up again in November and thereafter that Mike and his medical team were in a non-stop battle. Despite that, whenever Mike sent out an e-mail telling about his progress he always tried to sound at least one lighter note amid the heavy medical news, such as the time he wrote, “I think Nietzsche was wrong. What almost killed me left me weaker but I’m working on it!”
And in mid-2010 Mike was well enough “to attend a mini family reunion on Vancouver Island in the context of my brother’s wedding, so I’m not complaining.”
But in January 2011 Mike said his team had recommended a short session of additional chemo as the cancer had not been eliminated. That was the last time I heard from him.
Mike will be remembered with tremendous affection. And although forewarned this day was coming his friends still will find it hard to let him go.