Dian Crayne (1942-2017)

Dian Crayne

Author Dian Crayne, 75, was discovered dead in her Northern California home on October 4 by police making a welfare check at the request of friends after she failed to show up for their book club meeting.

Writing under her maiden name, Dian Girard, she had numerous short stories published in Galaxy, Amazing, and anthologies edited  by Jerry Pournelle and John F. Carr. The Internet SF Database shows her first published story, “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry” appeared in 1974. (There are some author pages that cite a much earlier date, possibly having confused this work with Katherine MacLean’s similarly-titled short story.)

After leaving her career as a technical writing manager for Xerox, Crayne began publishing mystery and sf novels under the pseudonym J.D. Crayne. These included The Cosmic Wheel, the Mark Stoddard mysteries, and the Captain Spycer space operas, which she called her “Silverlock for science fiction,” referencing the well-known literary pastiche by John Myers Myers.

She married Bruce Pelz in 1964. They had one daughter, Cecy. Dian was pregnant when she attended the LASFS 1965 Halloween Party, notorious because while it was in progress an assailant outside fired three shots through the window. No one was struck by the bullets, but Dian was cut by flying debris. As she recalled for File 770:

Yes, I remember that incident VERY well. Bill Rotsler and I were sitting in a window seat, talking, and the bullet went between us. I had wood splinters in my cheek, Bill remarked later that he thought momentarily that for some reason one of my earrings had exploded. (He used to say later on that we had been “under fire together.”) Of course, everyone in the room hit the deck, and I remember calling out to Bruce [Pelz], “Don’t get excited, but I think I’ve been hit.” Only splinters, though.

[At the time] I was pregnant with Cecy and she was born in March of 1966.

As for the location, it was wherever Don Simpson and his house mates were living at the time. Don dug the bullet out of the woodwork and I talked him into giving it to me. Alas, I lost it during one of our moves.

The surmise was that the shooter was one of a small group of people who had tried party-crashing earlier in the evening and been ejected. The police came and took statements, but no one was ever picked up for it.

Bruce and Dian divorced on amicable terms at the end of the decade – and in fact threw a divorce party, with Jack Harness officiating, in 1970 that helped inspire Larry Niven’s “What Can You Say about Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?”

Dian and Chuck Crayne wed on March 5, 1972 and were married for 36 years, ending with Chuck’s death in 2009.

She was one of the many women to whom Robert A. Heinlein dedicated Friday (1982).

I met her in person a few times, including at a FAPA collating party she and Chuck hosted in the Seventies. However, it was only the past few years on Facebook that I really had a chance to enjoy her legendry intelligence, wit, and empathy. It was a privilege, and I will miss her.

[Thanks to Lee Gold for the story.]

Buy Fred Pohl’s Worldcon GoH Acceptance Letter

A little slice of history up for auction at eBay is Fred Pohl’s letter accepting the LA bidders’ invitation to be 1972 Worldcon guest of honor if they won. (As they did. L.A.Con was the first Worldcon I ever attended.)

Writing to co-chairs Chuck Crayne and Bruce Pelz in 1969, Pohl also made a request: please shorten the speeches!

There is one thing, though. It’s not a condition, because I don’t want to try to tell you how to run the con, but it’s a heartfelt request. Having sat through, at recent cons, funny remarks by a toastmaster, protracted patter with the awarding of the Hugos, four or five brief (at least, they were supposed to be brief) announcements and other awards, a fan GOH speech and a pro GOH speech, I ask that you do something about making it shorter. Human flesh can stand just so much!

Don’t think Pohl was merely echoing the common complaint about the length of Hugos we hear nowadays, where people stroke out if the ceremonies last over a hundred minutes.

Pohl was writing less than a year after BayCon, the 1968 Worldcon, where fans had endured dinner and speeches in 95-degree heat, in an unventilated ballroom without air conditioning, for five hours and fifteen minutes before the first Hugo was even presented.

Mike Resnick recalled that night in a piece for File 770 #100:

[At 8:00 p.m.] Phil Farmer got up to give his speech…. [When] he paused for a drink of water more than 2 hours into it, we all gave him a standing ovation in hope it would convince him he was through. It didn’t. He finished after 10:30. Time for the Hugos, right? Wrong. Randy Garrett gets up, takes the microphone away from Toastmaster Bob Silverberg, and sings about 50 verses of ‘Three Brave Hearts and Three Bold Lions.’ Finally, approaching 11:15, Silverberg gets up to hand out the Hugos.

Pohl wanted to avoid any repetition of a nightmare that was still fresh in everyone’s mind.

How long did the 1972 banquet and speeches run? I don’t remember, I only know it was hours shorter than at BayCon.

L.A.Con banquet. Milt Stevens, Fred Patten, Carol Pohl, Frederik Pohl, Dian Crayne.  From the collection of Len & June Moffatt.

L.A.Con banquet. Milt Stevens, Fred Patten, Carol Pohl, Frederik Pohl, Dian Crayne. From the collection of Len & June Moffatt.

Top 10 Posts for February 2009

The row about Ackerman’s 1953 Hugo made two related posts early favorites to head this month’s list. Then Jerry Pournelle encouraged Chaos Manor readers to view John King Tarpinian’s photos of Niven and Pournelle signing Escape From Hell. That blew the doors off this site, far exceeding the previous record for hits received by a post here.

When Chuck Crayne passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, I wrote a notice that traced the significant role he played in the history of sf conrunning. Chaos Manor linked to that as well – Jerry spent many pleasant hours playing LASFS Poker with Chuck in years gone by. The Crayne obituary was also named the SFWA News site of the week, for which I thank Keith Stokes.

And I appreciated John Scalzi mentioning me on Whatever, with a link to File 770. In the course of explaining that he hadn’t nominated himself for the Best Fan Writer Hugo, John generously listed a dozen or so people he thought were doing good fanwriting right now.

So when I say these were the most-viewed posts in February 2009 according to Google Analytics, “most” barely begins to convey what’s been going on here.

1. Fans Converge on Glendale Bookstore for an Escape From Hell
2. Chuck Crayne Dies Suddenly
3. Ackerman’s Hugo
4. All Over But the Shouting
5. It’s Reno in 2011
6. Toss Those Awards in the Trash?
7. 2009 Pulp Fan Conventions
8. 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read: SF
9. Snapshots 16
10. Bradbury Out to Launch

Why Johnny Can’t Count Worldcon Bids

Craig Miller perceptively noticed that I posted the wrong stat for defeated LA Worldcon bids in my article about Reno and Seattle in 2011. Somehow I had LA hosting a measly two Worldcons instead of a robust four during the past 50 years.

Upon reflection, there were LA bids that went to a final vote for 1964, 1968, 1972, 1975, 1978, 1981, 1984, 1990, 1996 and 2006. LA hosted Worldcons in 1972, 1984, 1996 and 2006. The right number is six losses out of ten.

I was trying to highlight the lost bids and wanted to reach back to Mordor in ’64 without being required to count the successful bid for the “South Gate in ’58” Worldcon. This being 2009, I could get away with using the nice round number of 50 years. What I could not get away with was counting less than four LA Worldcons.

To the outside world it seemed like one darned LA bid after another. Fans said as much. I remember Milt Stevens in the Seventies blandly answering this complaint saying, “Well, we always field a team.”

The Bay Area beat LA in 1964 and again in 1968 – the second time despite LA bidders simultaneously running a fan fund to bring Takumi Shibano to the Worldcon. Only the fan fund succeeded, consequently Shibano-san attended the BayCon.

By winning the rights to L.A.Con in 1972 Chuck Crayne and Bruce Pelz changed the town’s luck. However, that was the last of their teamwork. There followed the bizarre spectacle of Chuck Crayne running an LA bid against Australia for 1975, while Bruce Pelz chaired an LA bid solely for the 1975 NASFiC. My earliest hornbook in practical fanpolitics was witnessing Crayne capitalize on his lost Worldcon bid to defeat Pelz’ bid for the NASFiC. (And after I carried all those cases of beer to Bruce’s party!)

Bruce and company lost their next Worldcon bid for 1978 to Phoenix with some unintended help from young LA fans (myself included) who successfully bid for the 1978 Westercon.

The Crayne and Pelz rivalry surfaced one last time in the 1981 race, in a manner of speaking. Chuck led a Worldcon bid for LA. Lois Newman, a LASFSian who had moved to Colorado, initiated a Denver bid which enjoyed the distant support of active LASFS members including Bruce. Lois was no longer involved by the time the site selection vote took place and Denver fandom secured the win over Crayne’s bid.

LA fans absorbed a lot of lessons from the school of hard knocks and successfully campaigned for the right to hold L.A.con II in 1984. Yet a lesson or two must have been immediately forgotten: some napkins appeared at L.A.con II’s dead dog party printed with an apparent announcement of an immediate new bid for 1990 (under the rules, LA’s earliest opportunity to host another Worldcon). That bid lurched along to its inevitable defeat three years later. Sometimes LA can be accused of displaying a Kzin-like eagerness to start the battle long before we’re ready to win.

And it being us, within two years we had removed the two-by-four planted between our mulish eyes and started running for another LA Worldcon – though showing some slight wisdom by aiming for 1996 despite 1993 being the next Western Zone year. (It would be contested by San Francisco, Phoenix and Hawaii, eliminating the winner and exhausting the losers). So in due course there was an L.A.con III in 1996, and with patience, an L.A.con IV in 2006.

Thus the scoreboard reads four wins and six losses over a 50 year span.

Chuck Crayne Dies Suddenly

Chuck Crayne, a pivotal figure in the history of science fiction conrunning, passed away on February 16, his 71st birthday. Dian Crayne told the Trufen list that Chuck’s CAT scan on Friday revealed his persistent back pain to be a symptom of spinal cancer. He was admitted to the hospital, then unfortunately died of cardiac problems while being transferred to intensive care.

Chuck was most active in fandom during the Sixties and Seventies. A LASFS member, he edited many issues of its newzine De Profundis.

When a Bay Area bid won the rights to host the 1968 Worldcon and promptly merged it with the Westercon they’d already been voted, vacating the July 4th weekend, Chuck Crayne came up with the idea for a substitute LA-area event to fill the date – F-UNCon – and a group to run it, Future Unbounded, which included himself and Bruce Pelz, Dian and others. As Rich Lynch explains, the site, the Statler Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, had a level of luxury that fans were not used to in convention hotels, and Crayne wrote in the program book that “The F-UNcon is an attempt to show that — when properly planned — the larger a convention, the better the convention.” The group also rebounded and officially won the right to a Westercon for 1969.

Crayne and Pelz anticipated and encouraged the explosive growth of conventions that marked the Seventies. They helped found (along with others) the Bouchercon for mystery fans in 1970. They bid for and co-chaired the 1972 Worldcon. L.A.con I was the largest to that time, though that record was quickly eclipsed as a growing fandom propelled both of the next two Worldcons, TorCon II and DisCon II to greater attendance and new records of their own.

Crayne played a leading role in LA Worldcon bids for 1975 and 1981. Although both lost, he leveraged the 1975 bid into a successful run for the rights to host the very first North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC).

While Chuck and I interacted only a few times over the years, his LoC on the first issue of File 770 in 1978 made some important comments that grounded me, and showed me what standard people had a right to expect from a newzine (and which I wasn’t meeting quite yet!) I’ll always remember him for that advice.