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, or American Cancer Society, 2678 South Rd # 103, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601,

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.]

Frank Dietz Passes Away

Frank Dietz. Photo by and copyright © Andrew I. Porter.

Frank Dietz. Photo by and copyright © Andrew I. Porter.

By Andrew Porter: The death of Franklyn M. Dietz, Jr., — Frank to his many friends — was announced on Facebook on October 22. Dietz, who lived at the end of his life in Marietta, Georgia, participated in many of the major activities of mid-20th century SF fandom. With David A. Kyle and his then wife Belle, in late 1956 he founded the Lunarians, aka the New York Science Fiction Society, which in turn launched Lunacon, a convention that continues to this day. For years, Lunarians met in his Bronx apartment at 1750 Walton Avenue, moving with him and his second wife, Ann — Belle had died — to Oradell, NJ, as the neighborhood around them decayed.

He was chairman of the first 14 Lunacons, and was Fan Guest of Honor at the 2007 Lunacon. His activities as “Station Luna,” an effort to record the proceedings of many World SF Conventions, continued for many years. He recorded events at the 1951 Worldcon in New Orleans. It was there that a loud party in his room was moved to a larger venue: the now legendary Room 770, and the name of a Hugo-winning newszine. He was one of the organizers of the Guild of Science Fiction Recordists, and of the International Science Fiction Correspondence Club in 1949, which promoted correspondence among fans in different countries. Frank recorded events on tape at many other conventions, continuing at least until the 1967 Worldcon in New York City.

He possessed an original tattoo of a mouse on his upper arm, done especially for him by Hannes Bok.

He recorded events at the 1957 Worldcon in London, and while there was inducted into the Order of St. Fantony, which featured, according to Rob Hansen’s website, “an elaborate ceremony staged by the Cheltenham Circle, in full medieval costumes, with real swords, armor, etc. Those who received this signal honor were Walt Willis, Bob Silverberg, Terry Jeeves, Bobbie Wild, Eric Bentcliffe, Ken Slater, Bob Madle, Franklin Dietz and Ellis Mills. We were given the test of the true fan, under threat of the executioner’s axe — a real one — if we failed. It was to drink a glass of water from the well of St Fantony. It looked like water, smelled like water … but it turned out to be 140 proof white Polish liquor.”

Photos of Frank and Belle, and many other legendary figures in SF, at Loncon, are here.

1957 Worldcon in London: (Seated at left) Belle Dietz. (Standing) Frank Dietz, John Wyndham, Sam Moskowitz (in background), Ted Carnell, Arthur C. Clarke, Bob Silverberg, Barbara Silverberg.

1957 Worldcon in London: (Seated at left) Belle Dietz. (Standing) Frank Dietz, John Wyndham, Sam Moskowitz (in background), Ted Carnell, Arthur C. Clarke, Bob Silverberg, Barbara Silverberg.

He was involved in a notorious legal battle, with suits and countersuits, over the incorporation of the World SF Society, Inc., which had its genesis in the 1956 Worldcon, and ended at the 1958 Worldcon with a whimper and the bang of Anna Sinclair Moffat’s gavel at that worldcon’s Business Meeting.

Among the fanzines he published or co-published, with Belle and later with his second wife, Ann, was Science, Fantasy and Science Fiction, starting in April 1948, Ground Zero, from March 1958 to February 1960 and Luna Monthly. He and Ann also published books as Luna Publications, including Speaking of Science Fiction, a collection of interviews by Paul Walker. They also did typesetting for other publications, including for my own Algol (later Starship), Science Fiction Chronicle, and various of my Algol Press titles, including The Book of Ellison.

In an editorial in the December 1990 issue of Science Fiction Chronicle, I wrote, “Don Wollheim … took me seriously… I must have been 13, maybe 14 at the time; I’d been reading SF for about 4-5 years. ‘What you need is fandom,’ is more or less what Don told me, and more to the point, he told me how I could contact this miraculous community. He gave me the name and phone number of … Frank Dietz, who headed the New York SF Society, the Lunarians… I … fit right in with the Lunarians. My first fannish contact, I dimly remember now, was the Lunarians Christmas party in December, 1960.”

I wrote, then, “Thirty years ago this month.” Now, it’s fifty-three years ago. And I’m finally saying farewell to Frank Dietz.

Update 10/24/2013: Corrected year of NOLAcon I to 1951 per comment.