Alice K. Turner Passes Away

George R. R. Martin, Lewis Shiner and Alice K. Turner at the 1982 Worldcon. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

George R. R. Martin, Lewis Shiner and Alice K. Turner at the 1982 Worldcon. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

By Andrew Porter: I returned from nearly a week away from the computer to find the shocking and horrifying news of Alice Turner’s death. I was stunned by this totally unexpected news — I’d last spoken to Alice earlier — and so, instead of acting immediately, have waited a week after Alice’s death to write about her.

The hardest part of the process of creating each issue of my Science Fiction Chronicle, was doing obituaries for my friends. And here I am, writing about Alice, whom I’d known for more than 40 years. Her many accomplishments over the decades have dimmed in the brilliance of her time as fiction editor at Playboy Magazine in its heyday, when she was able to wield the power of the purse, offering science fiction and fantasy writers a market which paid around a dollar a word, vastly eclipsing all other genre markets. Within the confines of Playboy’s restrictions, she was an absolutely brilliant editor, as the Washington Post obituary describes.

Before her years at Playboy, she was an editor at New York Magazine and at Ballantine Books and then Paperback Editor and later Staff Writer at Publishers Weekly, where I first encountered her while seeking permission to reprint an Arthur C. Clarke interview she’d done. She also contributed material about Cordwainer Smith to my 1975 chapbook Exploring Cordwainer Smith.

I attended parties at her apartment in the West Village, which while on the first floor of a high-rise building also sported a large and airy deck. The decor was dominated by enormous paintings from her childhood in China, while her accent retained a faint Southern drawl which she used to devastating effect. She lived near Gilda’s House, the cancer-support house named for comedienne Gilda Radner, where I was a visitor when we both suffered from — and beat! — cancer.

Below are some of my Alice Turner photos, taken over the decades. They show Alice at her physical peak. She chose to advance in the world using her talent, not her beauty, but in fact she could be breathtakingly lovely, as I was startled to discover in 1966, when she attended a SFWA Banquet on the arm of her old friend Baird Searles, wearing a dress which displayed her cleavage to stunning effect.

I’ll let Michael Dirda, who reviews so brilliantly for the WP, have the last word here. He wrote in an on-line forum —

“Alice K. Turner, the longtime fiction editor for Playboy,  died [January 17th]. She was, I know, a friend to many. I saw her briefly [earlier in January] when I was in New York for the Baker Street Irregulars annual festivities — I usually stay at her apartment when I’m in New York — but she spent most of the time I was there in the hospital with pneumonia. Just before I left, she came home, but a few days later complained again of shortness of breath, and was sent back to the hospital. I’d known her for 35 years, ever since I first encountered her at the American Booksellers Association convention, where she was wearing leather pants and looking incredibly sexy. I soon discovered that Alice had read everything, helped hone the fiction of a lot of young writers, and gave many others their first big paychecks. She herself wrote one splendid book, The History of Hell. I’ll miss her and I’m sure many others will too. She was 75.” — Michael Dirda

Photos copyright © Andrew I. Porter.

Allan Kornblum Passes Away

Allan Kornblum, founding publisher of Coffee House Press, died November 23 at his St. Paul, MN home, of leukemia.

Andrew Porter recalls, “He was on the edges of the Minneapolis SF crowd.”

Kornblum’s death just about closes the book on a generation of small press pioneers. Porter explains —

I knew Kornblum, mostly from seeing him at the annual ABA (now BEA) conventions. He may have been active in Midwest small press, but there were many others, especially Len Fulton of Dustbooks, Noel Young of Santa Monica’s Capra Press (who, for instance, published Le Guin’s Wild Angels chapbook in 1975), and especially Harry Smith here in NYC. I worked with Harry — who lived a few blocks away, on Joralemon Street, and though I’d see him in Brooklyn Heights, more often saw him at the ABA conventions — and other people such as Jackie Eubanks, a library at Brooklyn College, on organizing and running various NY small press book fairs. Back then David Hartwell was doing small press, too (which is how I got to meet Margaret Atwood…).

Then there was COSMEP, originally the Committee of Small Press Editors and Publishers, the nationwide org for small press publishers run out of the SF Bay Area. Run into the ground in a few months by its last president. And the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines, CCLM, which decided, after I applied for a grant, that SF wasn’t literature…

Many gone, now, except for … me? How did that happen?

The Publishers Weekly obituary elaborates on Kornblum’s place in history:

Kornblum was one of the leaders of the small press movement that emerged out of the 1960s-era passions for social change. Kornblum, 65, founded Toothpaste Press in Iowa City in 1973 to publish poetry pamphlets and letterpress books. After moving to Minneapolis in 1984, Kornblum relaunched his press as a literary nonprofit and named it Coffee House Press. It was one of the original eight literary small presses distributed by Consortium Book Sales and Distribution. The press, which specializes in literary fiction and poetry, but also publishes nonfiction, became renowned for publishing writers of color under Kornblum’s leadership, particularly Asian-American authors.

Kornblum was known for his erudition, on display in a 2013 Soapbox column for PW that advocated Revolutionary War hero Henry Knox be named the patron saint of independent booksellers. Knox ran a bookstore before enlisting to fight, and rose to the rank of general. His most visible monument is Fort Knox. Kornblum appreciated the irony that a military base known as a gold bullion depository would be named for someone who once was a struggling bookseller.

[Via Paul Di Filippo and Andrew Porter.]

A Couple of Technologies Ago

Last week’s New York Times obit Carl Schlesinger, 88, Dies; Helped Usher Our Hot Type told about the passing of a former Times typesetter who helped make an award-winning film about the night in 1978 when the paper was produced with hot-metal type for the last time. Reading it prompted Andrew Porter to muse about the rapid technological advances he experienced in his own career:

When I started in publishing, everything was done in hot type. Eventually, the switch was made to cold type. How ironic that when I was working at Cahners Publishing in the late 1960s, we used a cold-type company that workers told me had “strange paintings” on the walls. They were working in the former office of Galaxy Magazine, whose owner had become a printing broker. Everything I learned about printing — quoins, Linotype, Monotype, sheet-fed printing presses, color separations, press impositions, so much more — gradually became obsolete. When I started, it took a tractor-trailer to hold the type and printing plates used in a magazine issue. By the end of the 20th century, an armful of negatives would do the job. And now, even negatives are obsolete.

Leigh Chapman Passes Away

By Andrew Porter: Leigh Chapman, 75, 1960s actress-turned-screenwriter, died November 4 at her West Hollywood home, after an 8-month battle with cancer. Chapman was familiar to TV viewers as Sarah, Napoleon Solo’s efficient secretary in several 1965 episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. But she found her calling as a scriptwriter … in TV with My Favorite Martian. She penned six scripts for The Wild Wild West, one of which earned Agnes Moorehead her only acting Emmy.

Tuckerization Inflation

Tuckerization — using a person’s real name in a science fiction story as an in-joke – is derived from Wilson Tucker, the author who made the practice famous among fans.

While he originally did it without charge – indeed, usually without the advance knowledge of the victim — in recent years quite a few sf/fantasy authors have been raising money for charities by auctioning off the privilege of being Tuckerized in a story.

And Andrew Porter says the cost of getting Tuckerized is going through the roof. “I paid about $100 to get my name into Robert Sawyer’s novel Mindscan  in a fan fund auction in 2002 or so; someone paid $800, I think, for the right in a Neil Gaiman auction at the 2009 Montreal Worldcon; and  now, $20,000 gets you into a George R.R. Martin book.” Two people have donated that amount to give their names to characters who will be killed horribly in Winds of Winter.

Time Magazine thought that so newsworthy it tracked down and interviewed one of the donors. David Goldblatt, who works for Facebook, says he has chosen to appear in the book as a Valryian, a race known for its purple eyes and platinum white hair.

The second winning bidder, a woman, has elected to remain anonymous. Or at least as anonymous as you can be once you’re a character in what undoubtedly will be a #1 bestseller.

Baen Authors at Book Expo America

Eric Flint (left) and Charles E. Gannon (right), authors of the new novel in the best-selling "1632" alternate world series. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

Eric Flint (left) and Charles E. Gannon (right), authors of the new novel in the best-selling “1632” alternate world series. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

Andrew Porter used time travel to attend Book Expo America —

I got in using a Borders lanyard and a 1980 ABA Convention badge, apparently slipping past unobservant security people, and got a lot of comments from ex-Borders people!

Once in, Porter took photos of the writers and editors at the Baen party.

Above is his photograph of Eric Flint and Charles E. Gannon. See more on Baen’s Facebook page.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Roseanne Di Fate (1945-2014)

Ro and Vincent Di Fate at Lunacon in New York City in the 1970s. Photo by and  copyright © Andrew Porter.

Ro and Vincent Di Fate at Lunacon in New York City in the 1970s. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

Roseanne Di Fate died March 30 at the age of 68. She is survived by her husband, sf artist Vincent Di Fate, and her two sons, Christopher and Victor.

Roseanne and Vincent married in 1968. Roseanne, who held a degree in Childhood Education from Lehman College, taught in the Mount Vernon (NY) School District until her first child was born. When her sons were grown, she became head teacher for Community Nursery School of Poughkeepsie United Methodist Church. She finished her career teaching at Wimpfheimer Nursery School at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie retiring due to illness in 2010.

The family suggests memorial donations in Roseanne’s name may be made to the American Heart Association, 301 Manchester Rd, Poughkeepsie, NY 12603, www.heart.org or American Cancer Society, 2678 South Rd # 103, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601, www.cancer.org.

Alan Rodgers Photos

By Andrew Porter: The photos of Alan Rodgers I’ve seen attached to his obituaries bear little relation to the author I knew in NYC in the 1980s. So, here’s my photo of Alan, upon winning his Bram Stoker Award for 1987’s “The Boy Who Came Back from the Dead”, plus another, from 1990.

Alan Rodgers in 1987. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

Alan Rodgers in 1987. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

Alan Rodgers in 1990.Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

Alan Rodgers in 1990.Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

Porter: It Was 50 Years Ago Today

By Andrew Porter: In 1963, I was a 17-year-old student at Milford Preparatory School, in Milford, Conn. I was in my second year, due to graduate in May, 1964. Milford was a small school, all male then, now long shut down. I was, even then, known for my love for science fiction. My nickname there was “spaceman”; those who didn’t know me thought it was an insult, but I was happy with the moniker. Among other things, they let me keep my growing SF collection, as long as I kept my grades up, and, even better, I was allowed to use the school’s electric Ditto machine to run off the first several issues of Algol..

We had Friday afternoon after lunch off from classes, and I’d gone into Milford’s small center, to the variety store that had been supplying me with new SF paperbacks. Afterwards, I went to the local Goodwill store on the way back to the campus. That store had received a big batch of mint condition pulp magazines – Planet Stories, Startling, Thrilling Wonder, etc. — from the late 40s through the end of their days in the early 1950s. I’d been buying them up, as many as I could carry, each time I went in. (And I still have them, a little dustier, today.)

There, with customers and employees clustered around it, was a big old b&w TV set, and …

When I got back to school, the dorm master, teacher Francis Gemme, was running around the dorm in his underwear, holding an antique whaling harpoon he owned, shouting about a conspiracy. The students in the dorm, and likely much of the school, thought he was acting like a madman. (In later years, Gemme did introductions to academic paperback editions of such books as The War of the Worlds, Leaves of GrassOur Town and The Bridge of San Luis Rey, etc. He and his wife were on the DC-10 headed to the 1979 American Booksellers Association Convention in Los Angeles which crashed just after takeoff from Chicago’s O’Hare, killing everyone on board.)

That evening, at dinner, they announced that the school would close early for Thanksgiving Recess, sending everyone home the next day. From my parents’ reaction on finding me unexpectedly returned from school, apparently they failed to tell anyone about this.

Lost in the press of events: C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley also died on November 22nd, 1963…

Photos of 1981 NYC Party for James White

Peter de Jong recently found a set of 27 photos taken at a 1981 party for LunaCon GoH James White, the Irish sf writer, and has posted them here.

The party, organized by Moshe Feder, was held at de Jong’s apartment in midtown Manhattan. Feder says he does not know who took the pictures.

James White wears his famous Saint Fantony blazer in photo #1.

Fans identified in the photographs are: Norma Auer Adams, Larry Carmody, Ross Chamberlain, Alina Chu, Eli Cohen, Genny Dazzo, Peter de Jong, Moshe Feder, Chip Hitchcock, Lenny Kaye, Hope Leibowitz, Craig Miller, Andrew Porter, Stu Shiffman, James White, Jonathan White, Peggy White, and Ben Yalow.

(There is also an unnamed fan in photo #4 I recognize. She occasionally looks at this blog and I will happily add her name to this article if she grants permission.)

[Thanks to Moshe Feder and Andrew Porter for the story.]