Karen Anderson (1932-2018)

Karen Anderson in 1965.

Karen Anderson, author and a master of all the fannish arts, died March 17. Her daughter, Astrid Bear, announced her passing on Facebook.

My mother, Karen Anderson [widow of Poul Anderson], died last night. It was a peaceful and unexpected passing — she died in her bed and was found by the Sunday visiting nurse…. Memorial gathering plans to be announced later, but in the meantime, raise a glass to the memory of a fine woman. If you are moved to make a donation, please consider the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund or the UCLA Medical School.

Born Karen Kruse in Kentucky in 1932, she married sf writer Poul Anderson in 1953. They moved to the Bay Area, where their daughter Astrid (now married to Greg Bear) was born in 1954. Poul died in 2001.

Karen and Poul collaborated on a number of stories over the years, and on the King of Ys series published in the 1980s. And she wrote poetry, including the first published science fiction haiku (in F&SF, July 1962).

Even more notably, Karen made many historic contributions to fannish culture.

She was the first person to intentionally use the term filk music in print. ZineWiki explains

In the 1950s, Karen Anderson spotted a typo in a fanzine while reading an essay by Lee Jacobs on folk music, where he had mistyped “folk” as “filk”. In her words, “Who ever heard of a filk? Since the essay appeared in an amateur publication circulated among science fiction fans, though, there was only one thing to do. Rather than waste a phrase like “filk song”, something must be created to which the name could be applied.” There had been songs written by science fiction fans since the 1940s, but Anderson’s new name for them caught on, and she is credited with naming “filk songs”.

Karen Kruse Anderson also was the first faned to publish a filksong, as Lee Gold documented:

Traveling yet further back in time, to the 26th SAPS distribution, Winter, 1953, on page #22 of Die Zeitschrift für Vollstandigen Unsinn #774 by Karen Kruse Anderson is…the first-known song published as a filk song [123k scan] – written (see the note in The Zed #780) by Poul Anderson.

And Karen, a rare beauty, shined as a costumer. She personified a familiar sf image in this array of “Warrior Women” photographed by George Young at the 1955 Worldcon. (She’s on the right.)

Warrior Women. 1955 Worldcon. Karen is on the right. Photo by George Young.

Later, she brought daughter Astrid into her presentations, as shown here in Ben Jason’s photo from the 1964 Worldcon.

Five years later at St. Louiscon, mother and daughter etched their names in masquerade history as “The Bat and the Bitten.”

Astrid and Karen Anderson as “The Bat and The Bitten,” 1969 Worldcon. Photo by Mike Resnick, used by permission.

Fanac.org relates the dramatic moment:

“The Bat and the Bitten” Astrid Anderson & Karen Anderson delivered a truly chilling performance as a vampire sires a new acolyte. Astrid is the victim in a white mini dress who transforms as the vampire envelops her in her huge black wings and secretly squirted Astrid with a homemade mixture of gelatin, red ink & yellow food coloring so that after the bite, Astrid opened her 14 foot white wings to reveal the blood that ran from her neck and down her dress to a horrified audience. It is still considered one of the best performances to this day and it was awarded both the Grand Prize & Judges’ Choice.

In 1988, costume fandom presented an award for lifetime achievement to Karen Anderson at the Worldcon, Nolacon II (New Orleans). This was the first such award, ever. It is a forerunner of the ICG Lifetime Achievement Award.

Karen had an avid interest in daily life throughout history and in different cultures, especially cooking as shaped by culture, available tools, and local or imported ingredients.

Her interest found a perfect outlet in the Society for Creative Anachronism, started in 1966, of which she, Poul, and Astrid were founding members. She remained active in the SCA for many years, once serving as “herald of the known world.” As late as 2010 she still officered a local organization as Baroness of the Angels.

Karen and Poul joined the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society in 1967. She had earlier made her mark in LASFS history by appearing in the fannish film The Musquite Kid Rides Again (1960), based on a story from Lee Jacobs’ fanzine The Ballard Chronicles,  She moved back to the LA area after Poul died in 2001, and regularly attended club meetings for several years. She won the club’s Forry Award in 2010 for lifetime achievement in sf.

Karen was also a Sherlock Holmes fan, who co-founded a Holmes society with a couple of friends in 1959. The affinity continued all her life. She was made a member of the Baker Street Irregulars in 2000, receiving her investiture as Conan Doyle character Emilia Lucca.

Karen was an extraordinarily bright and talented person who made towering contributions to fandom and the sf field.

Lars-Olov Strandberg (1929-2018)

Lars-Olov Strandberg. Photo by Magnus Westerlund.

By Karl-Johan Norén: Lars-Olov Strandberg passed away early morning on March 3, never having recovered from a stroke he suffered in January. He was a Guest of Honour at Interaction, the 2005 Worldcon in Glasgow.

Lars-Olov was born July 26, 1929. He was active from the start of Swedish science fiction fandom, present at the first Swedish science fiction con, Luncon in 1956, and on hand with his camera at nearly every Swedish sf con since. He did not make a big mark in this very early fandom, but he was present, and his strong organisational skills were instrumental in making the Scandinavian Society for Science Fiction (SFSF) a success after its founding in 1960. Many of its early meetings were held in his apartment at Folkskolegatan 22.

Lars-Olov held a secure, well-paying job at a major Swedish insurance company, and served as treasurer, secretary, or chairman at nearly every con held in Stockholm, often paying the economic deficit of the cons out of his own pocket. He also used this to make frequent travels to international cons. He visited most Eastercons for nearly forty years, and was a regular at Worldcons as well.

When Swedish fandom started to expand in the 1970s, Lars-Olov was there was well. He was one of the founding members of Forodrim, the Stockholm Tolkien society, where he took the alias of Théoden. He organised the first lasting Swedish fan foundation, the Alvar Appeltofft Memorial Foundation. He was a member of nearly every science fiction club in Sweden. Perhaps most importantly, he was part of the board of SFSF when they acquired the book club of the Swedish publisher Askild & Kärnekull, instantly making the society’s membership several times larger. The publishing activity and postal order store was the foundation of the Stockholm Science Fiction bookstore, nowadays with presence in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö, and one of the largest science fiction bookstores in the world. It is unlikely that the Science Fiction bookstore could have grown beyond its humble beginnings without Lars-Olov.

I first met Lars-Olov sometime early 1999, when I first went to meet Swedish organised fandom. I think he served as the secretary of the book auction, and he was friendly and unassuming. He was never forward, and I never heard him raise his voice. He was so retiring that one could be excused to think he was not there. But he kept careful notes at every meeting, no matter how small, and he was always there, making Swedish fandom better by being friendly to everyone. A Swedish con or an SFSF meeting without Lars-Olov was something impossible.

The Golden Age of Science Fiction is Twelve: 1983-4, in genre, for me and the field

By Paul Weimer:

“The Golden Age of science fiction is twelve” – Peter Graham, 1957 (and requoted many times since)

Pete Graham at the 1965 Worldcon in London.

With the anniversary of File 770, I thought I would revisit that quote from Peter Graham, that the Golden Age of science fiction is the age of 12, by looking back at what the field was doing, and what I was reading at the age of 12. I turned 12 in October 1983, having already been a reader and consumer of science fiction for a number of years, thanks to an older brother already immersed in the genre.

1983 from a book perspective for me was about year 4 of getting really into SF. Getting handed copies of I, Robot and The Martian Chronicles had led to a still-ongoing era of raiding my brother’s SF books for stuff to read. Given that he’s 7 years older, this meant that my formative early SF reading was always a bit out of sync with what was going on at the time. It took me a while to start reading “currently” in the genre, rather than backfilling. So out of the hundreds and hundreds of books publishes when I was 12, I had read very few of them.

But what was in books published in 1983 and 1984, you ask?  Let’s look at the Hugo and Nebula nominees for an idea of what was out there:

1984 Hugo Nominees (for books in 1983)

  • Startide Rising by David Brin
  • Tea with the Black Dragon by R. A. MacAvoy
  • Millennium by John Varley
  • Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
  • The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov

I had read Robots of Dawn that year, since Asimov had been a formative author for me. I read none of thee at the time, although in a few years I would discover Brin, MacAvoy, Varley and McCaffrey. (I was about a year away from discovering Pern at this point).

File 770 (Best Fanzine) and Mike Glyer (Best Fan Writer) would both get Hugo nominations and wins in 1984.

How about the Nebulas that year?

  • Startide Rising by David Brin
  • Against Infinity by Gregory Benford, published by Timescape
  • Tea with the Black Dragon by R. A. MacAvoy
  • The Void Captain’s Tale by Norman Spinrad
  • Lyonesse by Jack Vance
  • The Citadel of the Autarch by Gene Wolfe

I had not yet quite discovered Benford, so his novel was still in my future at the time. Too, for Norman Spinrad. I had an intense Spinrad phase toward the end of the 80’s, but I was not there yet. I had already read a chunk of Jack Vance, but Lyonesse was still in my future. Gene Wolfe, too, was more than a decade in my future. I don’t think I’d really have grokked Book of the New Sun at age 12 anyway.

Let’s move onto the year 1984.  Again, a lot of my genre reading was idiosyncratically behind some years, as I was for the most part still working through my brother’s back collection. And yes, I did read 1984 in the year 1984, so there’s that.

1985 Hugo Nominees (for books in 1984)

  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • Emergence by David R. Palmer
  • The Peace War by Vernor Vinge
  • Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A. Heinlein
  • The Integral Trees by Larry Niven

Out of this set, I had read none of them that year, although in a couple of years I would read Heinlein, Niven and Gibson, and when it came back in print years later, the Vinge. I have not ever read the Palmer.

In the 1985 Hugo nominees for Novelette, the winner for Best Novelette was Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild”, with that oh so memorable Asimov’s SF magazine cover. As I detailed in my essay in the collection Letters To Butler, this story had a profound impact on me and my subsequent Science Fiction reading. I had just started dipping a bit into current short fiction by 1984, mainly by reading issues of Asimov’s.

File 770 won for best Fanzine again in 1985. Mr. Glyer himself was nominated again for Best Fan Writer but did not win.

The Nebula award lineup that year for novels:

  • The Man Who Melted by Jack Dann
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A. Heinlein
  • The Integral Trees by Larry Niven
  • The Wild Shore by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Frontera by Lewis Shiner

I have never read the Shiner or the Dann, and as far Kim Stanley Robinson, I didn’t discover him, really until the Mars books, whereupon I went back and read books like The Wild Shore and enjoyed them highly.

Oh, and the aforementioned Octavia Butler Novelette “Bloodchild” won the Nebula, too.

As far as movies, 1983 and 1984 marked the first years I actually got to see movies in a movie theater. My family was not big on movie watching, so it took my older brother again to take me and my younger brother to the movies for the first time. The second ever movie I saw in a movie theater, in the summer of 1983, was Return of the Jedi. I had not seen the previous Star Wars films, and only had the vaguest idea of what was in them, even though I did have many toys from a young age. Finally, in 1983, I was able to see Star Wars as it was meant to be, on a wide screen in a theater, being immersed into SF in a visual way that really only some television properties and television-broadcast movies had provided for me.  I did watch the Ewok Adventure: Caravan of Courage that fall, and was rather disappointed in it.

But back to movies and my season of going to movies for the first time. As it so happens, the first movie I saw in a movie theater was also genre, as it so happens — Metalstorm 3d: The Destruction of Jared Syn. I recently rewatched it to try and see how it matched up to my hazy memories of a desert planet that looked out of a Doctor Who rock quarry…it does not hold up to the memories I am afraid.

Other movies I saw in 1983 and then 1984 in genre included Superman III (a huge disappointment), The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, which was enormous fun, the original Ghostbusters and The Last Starfighter. I remember seeing Star Trek III: The Search for Spock after months and years of seeing articles which had spoiled the as-yet-unseen-to-me Star Trek II, and the debate on “How are we going to get Spock back, because they have to”. So when I saw Star Trek III, I already knew that Spock was dead and wondered just how he was going to be resurrected. I highly enjoyed Night of the Comet, although even at the time I realized that the denouement really is a downer despite its outwardly upbeat ending. All that infrastructure is doomed to fail!

I did not manage to see Dune at the time, although I remember Starlog magazine articles on it, because it disappeared from local theaters too soon. I also missed at the time Krull, 2010, Brainstorm, The Philadelphia Experiment, The Terminator, Wargames, The Right Stuff, Nausicaa, 1984, Ice Pirates, Repo Man, Videodrome, and  Firestarter.  I would see all of these in future years with the rise of VHS cassettes, however.

In terms of Television, 1983-4 was a pretty formative year, too. I watched the original V, avidly. It took a rewatch for me to really glom onto the anti-fascist theme. I was hopeful for Manimal, but the show died relatively quickly. 1983 also marked the end of Voyagers!, which married ideas of alternate history, history and time travel in a tasty genre package. 1983 and 1984 also were part of the early portion of another beloved show at the time for me, Knight Rider. The anthology show Tales from the Darkside also came out in Fall 1983. Although not really terribly to my taste (I felt really uncomfortable parallels to Brainy Smurf and how he was a butt monkey of the show), The Smurfs were also big at this time.

And of course, there is Doctor Who. People in the UK were watching Peter Davison in Season 20 (which included the 20th Anniversary special, The Five Doctors) Season 21 (which would be Davison’s final season), and Colin Baker’s first serial, The Twin Dilemma, I lived here in America, which meant watching old episodes of Doctor Who on PBS. This was still mostly 4th Doctor (Tom Baker) episodes at this point. It would not be until the later 80’s that I would get to see the Davison episodes and beyond.

On a roleplaying game front, 1983-4 marked for Dungeons and Dragons the start of the seminal Dragonlance modules, which would eventually be turned into novels by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis. At this point, I was playing Dungeons and Dragons, but mostly homebrewed adventures. In a couple of years, I would move from being a player to being a GM, a role that I’ve usually taken more of ever since for many roleplaying games. Other roleplaying games at that type that emerged included Skyrealms of Journe (which is science fantasy cracking goodness), Twilight 2000, Toon, and the Ringworld RPG.

The 1983-1984 season of my 12th birthday, overall, was indeed, for me, a golden age, both at the time, and thereafter.

FANAC Fan History Project Update 4

From the press release by Joe Siclari

“Keeping You Abreast of the Past”

November 20, 2017

Here are some highlights of the last 6 months:

Fan History Spotlight: Nearly everyone has heard of the Cosmic Circle and Claude Degler’s notorious fannish exploits in the ‘40s. If you haven’t, check the article at Fancyclopedia.org. However, few people have ever read the original “writings” by him, or the reports that fans wrote about him. This last summer, we added a section with over 40 of his original pubs and the investigations by T. Bruce Yerke and Jack Speer. (See http://fanac.org/fanzines/Cosmic_Circle_Pubs/)

Access: We’re trying some new ways to keep you aware of what we have online. Providing a bit more quick information has been a priority. On our Fanzine Index pages, you can now find the number of issues that we have online for that title. The last column will tell whether it is New, Complete or Updated. Another item is our Newszine Directory started last year. It’s a chronological list of all the Newszines (2,338) we have so far on FANAC.org. If you want to know the S-F and fan news of any given period, you can navigate directly to that month. The first ones are from way back in 1938 and the last in 2011. Finally, at the end of this FANAC Update, we provide direct online links to everything mentioned.

FANAC Fan History Project website: We keep adding more Newszines as we acquire them. In the last month, thanks to Richard Lynch, we’ve added a run of Chat, the Tennessee newsletter edited by Nicki & Dick Lynch in the early 1990s. We have been continually uploading issues of Mike Glyer’s File 770. Mark Olson has scanned dozens of them.

Since our last Update, we have added about 250 other pubs with “news from the past”. These issues come from 19 different titles. We are doing a lot to fill-in the runs of different zines. Unfortunately there are some issues I just can’t find or don’t have. Here’s where I need your help. If you can provide missing issues (zines, scans, even photocopies), please let me know. In particular, right now, I’m looking for:

Jack Speer’s Stefnews #58 (1946)
Merv Binns’ Australian SF News #1, 2 (1978), 47 & 48 (c1989)
Taurasi’s Fantasy Times #3 (1941)

Laney: We’ve added multitudes of material. Francis Towner Laney’s notorious memoir, Ah! Sweet Idiocy!, is the most requested item and it’s now online, plus lots of material about FTL in FanHistorica.

FAPA: So is Dick Eney’s A Sense of FAPA, a huge sensational historical anthology of fannish writings (nearly 400 pages), with contributors such as James Blish, Redd Boggs, Charles Burbee, Joe Kennedy, F. Towner Laney, John Michel, P. Schuyler Miller, Milt Rothman, Bill Rotsler, Jack Speer, Harry Warner, Jr., Donald A. Wollheim, C. S. Youd (John Christopher) and many others from the Fantasy Amateur Press Association.

LASFS:  The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society has given us permission to put their primary publications Shangri-LA and both runs of Shangri-L’Affaires online. So far, we have added 20 issues from the 40s and 50s, with many more to come.

Mirage: We’ve also been given permission to put Jack Chalker’s Hugo nominated fanzine, Mirage online. Mirage was one of the best sercon zines of its time.

FANAC Fan History YouTube Channel: We have over 50 videos/audios online at YouTube! In the last week or so, we put up a Harry Harrison talk (1971 Eastercon) on “Stonehenge and Sex”. It includes a roaringly funny discourse on the introduction of sex into science fiction stories in the 60s, with anecdotes about well-loved authors and editors including Brian Aldiss, Mack Reynolds, Ted Carnell and George O. Smith.  He also talks about the filming of an editorial lunch with John Campbell, and just how much of the iconic fiction of the classic Astounding Magazine was intimately shaped by John.

We keep adding great recordings and subscribers get first notice. We’re over 180 subscribers and nearly 18,000 views, with 3 pieces having over 1000 views. It’s heartening that even for the less viewed videos, many get an intense response from their audience. As always, if you have audio or video material that we might use, please let us know.

FANCYCLOPEDIA 3: This is our encyclopedia (yours and ours), so we hope you are using it (and adding to it!). Going to a convention this year? Read about the “first conventions”. Want to know more about famous fans, infamous fans (see Degler above), convention facts, clubs in your area, or fanspeak (the jargon of our people)? It’s all there. But is your local club or convention listed? If not, contribute an article (or the beginnings of an article). It’s easy. Just follow the instructions on Fancyclopedia.org.

Outreach for Fan History: FANAC has a Fan History Project Table at conventions whenever we can. In February, we will be at Boskone 55 in Boston and we will be at Worldcon 76 in San Jose.

FANAC was at Balticon earlier this year. The Fan Lounge Discussions we helped organize were well attended and great fun. You can listen to the Steven Brust/Geri Sullivan discussion on the raucous history of Minneapolis fandom on our YouTube channel (link below). Most recently, we were at Philcon this month. In addition to showcasing our history project websites, we have been showing selected fannish artifacts, including fanzines, original art, convention publications, and video and audio recordings from as far back as the 1940s.

When you next see our table, come say hello and help us preserve and promote our fan history. Take a sticker for your badge and/or your contributor ribbon. Bookmark http://fanac.org and click on What’s New every week to find our most recent additions.

As we keep saying, this is a community effort and we can only say “Thanks” to those of you who have helped us make our Fan History websites successful over the years. We’re continually adding to our contributors list. We have 248 of you listed so far and adding more as we update our older files. If you DO want to let people know you are a contributor, ask for our “I Help Save Fan History” ribbon. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/fanacproject/

We’ve added more: Photos, fanzines, and convention publications, video and audio recordings, and Fancyclopedia entries.  We provide information for fans, academic researchers, fan writers, and film documentaries. We’ve made some changes to the website to make it easier to use, with more to come.

Those who don’t know fan history may not be condemned to repeat it, but those that do know that Carl Brandon is not dead! Thanks for your interest our mutual fan history.

Regards…Joe Siclari

Wesley Crusher: Naming Calls

ST:TNG had just started its second season when Rick Foss and I organized the 1988 Loscon program. Every fan I knew watched the show and had opinions about the assorted minor controversies involving its creator Gene Roddenberry and how the characters were scripted. We expected a panel about Wesley Crusher, the precocious teenaged boy who all too often saved the Enterprise, to be a good draw, and we had excellent writers to use on it.

We also had the prospect of springing a celebrity guest on the panelists – just not the one who actually showed up. Here’s what happened. (From File 770 #78, recently uploaded to Fanac.org)

o0o

The Star Trek-oriented “Solving the Wesley Problem” filled every seat and had fans lining the walls They got a bonus when the actor who plays Wesley unexpectedly dropped in.

The panel began with D.C. Fontana, Joe Straczynski (then known as story editor for the new The Twilight Zone), Sonni Cooper (a Trek novelist), Mel Gilden and Jane Mailander (local writers) and a hoped-for surprise guest – but not the one we got.

As the program began, Bjo Trimble was stationed at the front of the Pasadena Hilton, and John Trimble at the back door, waiting for the arrival of Patrick Stewart, whom a contact at Paramount had supposedly sent our way seeking some word-of-mouth publicity for his Charles Dickens reading scheduled in December.

While I was shuttling between John and Bjo for news of Patrick Stewart, Wil Wheaton, who plays Wesley, materialized in the “Solving the Wesley Problem” audience and virtually took over the panel. As I learned from him the next day, he simply came to Loscon because he likes sf conventions. But Guy Vardaman, his stand-in, looked in the pocket program and told him, “Hey, there’s an ‘I Hate Wesley’ panel; I think you should check it out.”

Wheaton’s gesture to explain the panelists’ changing tone when he arrived was one of extracting foot from mouth. (Actually, the panelists had criticized the series, rather than Wheaton’s acting.) They didn’t know he hadn’t been there for most of it.

Patrick Stewart never did show up, but I like to think of the alternate world where he walked in on the panel after Wil Wheaton had already joined it. What pandemonium!

Before Wheaton’s unexpected appearance, our biggest “star” was going to be Paul Marco, joining the “Plan 9 From Outer Space 30th Anniversary” panel. He played Kelton the cop, and ever since the film came out he’s been working very hard to turn himself into a cult figure, despite the movie’s reputation as the worst film ever made.

Source Materials About the 1989 Hugo Controversy

Noreascon 3 was one of the best Worldcons ever, and the reasons for saying so are in my convention report (reprinted here in five parts a few years ago, opening with Worldcon Wayback Machine: Noreascon Three (1989) Day One). However, the convention still lay months in the future when a controversy brewed up about the committee’s very public and divisive handling of an instance of Hugo bloc voting and a couple of dozen suspicious nominating ballots, all benefitting a specific author couple.

This topic has come up in comments here within the past two days and I thought I would point out there is a great deal of source material available to anyone who really wants to know what happened.

The tip of the iceberg is visible in The Long List of Hugo Awards for 1989 which shows that The Guardsman by P. J. Beese and Todd Cameron Hamilton [Pageant, 1988] was withdrawn as a Best Novel nominee, Todd Cameron Hamilton withdrew as a Best Professional Artist nominee, while authors P. J. Beese and Todd Cameron Hamilton finished sixth for the Campbell Award. No notes explain the withdrawals.

That there were problems became general knowledge for the first time with the release of Noreascon 3’s Hugo nominee announcement in April 1989, containing the committee’s original statement about the status of Hamilton and Beese’s nominations. I’ve been unable to find a copy of the announcement online, so all I can offer on that score is the news account of it in File 770 #79, below.

What the committee initially assumed and how that influenced their interaction with the authors and their public communications was covered again, along with much new material, in Noreascon 3’s second, voluminous press release in June. The text is online here —

We may not be privy to the Noreascon 3 committee’s internal discussions, but in the second press release they amply explained and justified from their perspective the decisions that they made.

While they were frank about the information they did consider and how they made their decisions, in File 770 I criticized them for deliberately choosing to avoid gathering other useful information that would have influenced those decisions and spared Hamiton and Beese an unjustified public shaming. Copies of the relevant issues have been scanned and put online at Fanac.org is the past year or so, making that writeup easy to find as well.

Now, at least the way it’s working on my computer, the text is small enough to make it hard to read. If you’ll click on the image, it will bring up what at first looks like the same image. Hover your cursor — which now appears as a magnifying glass — over it and click and the page will open to full-size.

The scans from those issues follow the jump. I’ve also included links to the copies at Fanac.org in case the presentation there works better for you.

And in comments I will add one last bit of cryptic information.

Continue reading

Lifetime Positive

First meeting at the original LASFS clubhouse (1973). Jack Harness stands at left, Harlan Ellison in the doorway. Elst Weinstein is seated. Photo by Stan Burns.

[First published in 2002.]

By Mike Glyer: Early in Ian Fleming’s novel Moonraker James Bond is driving at night and spots an ominous neon sign flashing the message HELL IS HERE over and over. He rounds a hillock and once the sign is in full view sees it’s only an advertisement that SUMMER SHELL IS HERE. But I’m sure the Friday night card players would have loved adorning the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society clubhouse with the neon sign James Bond thought he saw in the days when we were obsessed by a game called “Hell’s Bridge.”

Two regulars at the game were Jack Harness and Bruce Pelz, legendary fans who both passed away within the last year, Jack on July 13, 2001 and Bruce on May 9, 2002. Mourning the loss of two of the best-known fans of their generation is appropriate, yet so is joyfully remembering their great humor and colorful personalities. I spent many hours together with them in LASFS activities, often at the card tables. The best moments sounded like this:

FRANK GASPERIK: I bid five.
MIKE FRANK: A man with a long suit.
JACK HARNESS: With a trap in the back.
BRUCE PELZ: I know what kind of opening to give you.
JACK HARNESS: But…but…but…
BRUCE PELZ: You assed for it.
MIKE GLYER: (scribbling furiously) Pun slower!

Hell’s Bridge, never actually called by anything but its first name, preoccupied about a dozen players every Friday evening. The game bears a faint resemblance to bridge in that there is a trick-taking and a trump suit (determined by a cut of the cards.) But every player makes a contract for the number of tricks he expects to take, and the total tricks bid may not equal the number of tricks available (it can be under or over.) Since the onus of that rule generally falls on the last person to bid, the dealer, people constantly refer to the “DDA” – dealer’s disadvantage.

Hell is a comparatively inexpensive game to lose: a bad night would set me back the equivalent of a burger and Coke. Yet playing Hell still inflicted all the intensity and madness of more prestigious games like poker. (At least, I never envisioned Bret Maverick saying, “My daddy always told me ‘Never gamble, stick to Hell’s Bridge.’”)

The legendary LASFS poker games went away in the mid-70s when the hosts of the old Thursday night gatherings gave up in exhaustion and the games weren’t allowed to move into the new clubhouse. Members believed even penny-ante gambling would surely lead to a police raid, whereas poker without betting is even duller than a bar without booze. On the other hand members did allow Hell to be played there because it was tracked with a scoresheet, not played with chips or cash, and not hostage to the potential nightmare of the club’s five-and-dime riverboat gamblers wallowing in their loose change when the LAPD kicked the door and charged in with the vice squad.

As Hell grew in popularity those of us who had an early start in the game profited greatly from the neos who came along and received an expensive education. But time was not on our side. In the good old days, Jack Harness finished cleaning out one table full of players (while the LASFS Board of Directors met in the front room), threw open the door, hollered, “Fresh fish!” and they came running to fill up the next game. All too soon, all the new players became competitive. It got very rugged for all but the best. Even Bruce Pelz and Jack Harness had runs of ill luck that were mercilessly exploited. That produced some mythic bursts of temper. Long has the story been told of the night Pelz, hosting a game at his apartment and doing badly, ripped the leg off his card table and chased the players into the night. Doubt it if you like. I can only testify that I never saw him rip a leg off a card table…

Other legends of the game included Marty Massoglia. He gained fame as “Captain Suicide” during a phase when he started jumping to conclusions about whether he would make his bid on a hand, and when it looked bad to him, he abandoned all pretense of making his bid in order to prevent others from making theirs. Conversely, Mike Shupp’s brief career at the Hell table earned him the nickname of “Robin Hood,” because he would junk his chances to make his own hand in order to sabotage a player he felt had bid too ambitiously.

JACK HARNESS: I don’t want to sit on the right hand of Captain Suicide.
BRUCE PELZ: Then sit on his other hand and we’ll both be out of trouble.

Those of us who frequented LASFS card games in the early 70’s saw that Bruce tracked his wins and losses in a pocket diary. While his memory was famous — thus his nickname, the Elephant – he was also a prolific list-maker and recordkeeper. With the advent of personal computers Bruce was soon keeping track of everyone’s wins and losses. Once accounts were settled for the night, Bruce would take the scoresheets home and enter the data. He assigned everyone a “handle” — real names were not used on the printouts. Years passed and we still expected the place to be raided by the vice squad at any moment.

The players with the cumulative best records were dubbed “The Hell-5 Society.” The top five scorers of the year got first crack at playing in the game held at the Nivens’ New Year’s Eve Party.

Players who were cumulatively in the black were referred to as “lifetime positive.” I think I was about $20 to the good when I stopped playing regularly after 15 years, so what was that, an average winning of slightly more than a buck a year? But as more newcomers came along and joined the minus column, a mystique grew up around anyone who had managed not to give all his money to Pelz and the other sharks.

If (in the parlance of comic collectors) Hell’s Bridge represented the Silver Age of LASFS cardplaying, its Golden Age had been the weekly poker sessions at the Nivens’ house in Brentwood. There was an endless parade of great fannish names through the game (I would like to have played poker against Dick Geis). Those poker games were, in fact, the reason I joined LASFS. Joe Minne lived upstairs in our dorm at USC and said he often went to club meetings and then went over to Larry Niven’s house to play poker.

The first time Joe took a couple of us with him, he turned his ancient Ford T-Bird off Sunset onto a dark side street whose mist-shrouded lamps must have inspired “Of A Foggy Night.” When we got into the house Larry Niven said hello and asked Minne, “Can you vouch for these two?” Insuring the integrity of the poker game was probably the least reason Niven asked for assurance: what mattered was the art collection. His home was like a year-round Worldcon art show, walls covered with huge framed Tim Kirk drawings and Wendy Pini original pastel paintings. The burglar alarm system would be no protection against light-fingered fans pretending to be poker players.

I kept going back and the welcome became warmer. After all, I had the one utterly endearing trait of losing quietly, though I could only afford to lose about $3 and then I was done for the evening. Once I accidentally left with a poker chip in my pocket and endured the embarrassment of calling Larry to confess because I needed to be able to get my dollar back next week. Joe Minne, on the other hand, answered each setback by opening his checkbook and saying, “Ahhhh!” I played at the cheap table, hosted by Fuzzy Pink Niven, and there was also a “blood” table where Larry presided over sharks like Jerry Pournelle, whose skill kept him from ever having to fill out the worn personal check he tossed in when he drew his poker chips to start the night.

A certain machismo compelled a few to play at the “blood” game who weren’t equal to it and they made losing their rent a routine, prompting Larry to conclude that “Some people win by winning, and some people win by losing.” There was a high level of pseudo-psychiatric analysis: if you screwed up at poker, your whole lifestyle was bound to be called into question. And for someone losing $200 within a few weeks, this was not unreasonable.

The Nivens set a generous sideboard for these games, which some visitors managed to abuse by melting cheese all over the toaster oven or helping themselves uninvited to the good brandy. The Nivens resorted to posting a dittoed “Rules of the House” which I regret not having kept. At last they moved out of Brentwood and the club relocated to the San Fernando Valley. The era of poker games breaking up at dawn came to an end – and descended into Hell.

Brian Aldiss (1925-2017)

Brian Aldiss

Brian Aldiss, who marked the start of his career with a nomination for the Best New Writer Hugo (1959), gained a place in the SF Hall of Fame (2004), and received honors from the Queen (2005), died in his sleep August 19, the day after his 92nd birthday.

Everything in life was a source of material for Aldiss. He served in the British army in WWII in Burma, experience that later backgrounded his “Horatio Stubbs” series of non-sf novels. After demobilization in 1947, he was hired as a bookshop assistant in Oxford, and wrote humorous fictional sketches about his work for The Bookseller, a trade magazine. That material, rounded into a novel, became his first book, The Brightfount Diaries (1955).

By then Aldiss had also started to write sf. The SF Encyclopedia lists his first published sf story as “Criminal Record” in Science Fantasy (July 1954), and other stories appeared in 1954-1955.

But it wasn’t until 1956 that he had his first encounter with fandom. Why did it take so long? He told Rob Hansen (THEN) in a letter:

In the war I received a badly mimeographed flier for a fan group. I must have written for it. It carried a photo of the group. My father seized it at the breakfast table, shouted ‘They’re all perverts!’ and flung the brochure on the fire. So I had no acquaintance with fandom until they got in touch with me in 1956, after I had won the Observer prize for a short story set in the year 2500 AD. My contact then was Helen Winnick, who worked in London in Hanging Sword Passage. We went down to the White Horse, where I met Sam Youd and John Brunner….

The 1957 Worldcon in London was his first convention. The prolific and popular author rapidly became an important figure in sf. He served as President of the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) from 1960-1964, an office that was an honorary figurehead, and ceremonial in purpose. He gained international acclaim when the five novelettes of his “Hothouse” series collectively won the 1962 Best Short Fiction Hugo.

His “Hothouse” series would be novelized as The Long Afternoon of Earth (1962), and together with his first sf novel, Non-Stop (1958), and Greybeard (1964), ranks among his best sf.

Also highly regarded is the Helliconia trilogy: Helliconia Spring (1982), Summer (1983) and Winter (1985). Helliconia Spring won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Spring and Winter also received Nebula nominations. All three books won the British SF Association’s Best Novel award.

Aldiss wrote a great deal of important nonfiction about sf, too, such as the memorable Billion Year Spree (1973), which, when revised as the Trillion Year Spree (1986) in collaboration with David Wingrove, won the Best Nonfiction Book Hugo.

He received many career awards. He was named a SFWA Grand Master (2000), was a Living Inductee to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame (2004), recognized with the Science Fiction Research Association’s Pilgrim Award (1978), and with the Prix Utopia (1999) for life achievement from the French Utopiales International Festival. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Literary Society in 1989.

In 2005 he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. He joked with Ansible’s editor:

I was greatly chuffed by the award “for services to Literature” — a euphemism in this case for SF…. But when chatting to Her Majesty, I was disappointed to find she had only got as far as John Wyndham and the triffids. “What do you like about it?” I asked. She replied, “Oh, it’s such a cosy catastrophe.” I blushed.

While many prolific authors with long careers have been frustrated to see their work go out of print, Aldiss was rescued from that fate by former HarperCollins imprint, The Friday Project, which published more than 50 of Aldiss’ backlist works in 2013.

Aldiss was twice guest of honor at British Worldcons (Loncon II, 1965; Seacon, 1979) and toastmaster at a third (Conspiracy, 1987). He reciprocated fandom’s affection for his writing and himself, as Jonathan Cowie (Concatenation) explains:

SF and SF fandom ranked highly in Brian’s life: he liked to say that fandom was the unusual kingdom in which the serfs threw feasts for the kings rather than the other way around.  However family came first which came as a surprise to the 2001 Eurocon organisers that originally had us both down as guests (mine was lowly fan GoH) but I e-mailed him to enquire whether we might travel together: safety in numbers and all that when travelling overseas. But Brian had to decline as his family was throwing him a special get-together at that time.  Rest assured, though family came first, SF fandom as a priority came not long after. At a US gathering he showed an invitation he had from Buckingham Palace for a reception wit the Queen but  that clashed with the US convention: the SF convention easily took priority, no contest.

And at the Loncon 3 (2014) closing ceremonies, which fell on his birthday, August 18, he was serenaded with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” by the entire audience. For many who journeyed to the con it was also a kind of farewell.

Brian Aldiss being serenaded with “Happy Birthday” at LonCon 3 in 2014.

Aldiss’ first marriage was to Olive Fortescue (1948-1965, ending in divorce), and his second was to Margaret Manson, who predeceased him in 1997. He is survived by his partner, Alison Soskice, and four children: Clive and Wendy from his first marriage, and Timothy and Charlotte from his second.

This appreciation has focused more on Aldiss’ connection with fandom. Here are links to several insightful appreciations about his writing and literary impact.

[Thanks to Stuart Gale, Michael J. Walsh, Michael Brian Bentley, Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Steve Davidson, and John King Tarpinian for the story.]

In Memoriam – Waldemar Kumming, 31 July 1924 – 5 April 2017

By Wolf von Witting: It feels surreal writing “I only knew him for forty years,” but in fact Waldemar began publishing Munich Round Up [MRU] before I was born. He was among the pioneers of German fandom. MRU, the fanzine of the Munich SFCD-group, was launched as a newsletter in November 1958, but rose to prominence when the dynamic duo of engineers Waldemar Kumming and Walter “Fux” Reinecke took charge of its publication. By the time we first met in 1977, I was 17 and Waldemar 53 and the dynamic duo had already come out with MRU #143. Its appearances grew sparse after the death of Walter Reinicke in 1981.

On June 2, 1962 Waldemar became the second chair of the SFCD, which had experienced a turbulent infancy under Walter Ernsting. With Waldemar at the helm for six years, the SFCD had a somewhat peaceful period.

It hardly seems fair that our history books don’t teach us more about the good men who walked among us. Waldemar was such a good man. Humble. Generous. He was a good listener. Not much of an attention hog. Science fiction fandom was his hobby and he was literally a fan who had an impact on thousands, in Gerfany and abroad. He was not one who sorted his fannish activity among the follies of youth and then got away from it all for a couple of years, only to return to fandom by the time retirement approached. Waldemar was an active fan before I was born and he kept at it, into the new millennium.

In 40 years I saw him disgruntled only once. It was in Berlin, at BärCon 1985, as we had come to a restaurant over-challenged with the arrival of a dozen sf-fans. Most of us had to wait for our food an hour and a half. Waldemar was served half an hour later. One rarely heard him participating in the fierce verbal battles of the SFCD other than when he suddenly yelled; “Stop!” And everyone fell silent. Waldemar turned the tape in the recorder and signaled the heated combatants to resume their ruckus.

Denis Scheck, left, interviews Marion Zimmer Bradley, center, at STUCON 1980, while Waldemar Kumming captures it all on his tape recorder, right.

He was bestowed with the Kurd Lasswitz Award for Munich Round Up in 1993 and received the Big Heart Award at the WorldCon in Glasgow 2005.

Near the end of his life, he was unable to visit sf-conventions. It should not have been a surprise to hear that Waldemar is no more. Yet the news hit me like a punch in the face as Thomas Recktenwald casually mentioned in an email: “Btw Waldemar Kumming died two weeks ago.” We have been bracing for the impact of his departure for a couple of years. Yet, I can’t rid myself of the feeling, that a grand chapter of our fan-history now definitely has vanished into the mist.

P.S. Thanks to Michael Haitel, for reminding me of the classic Stop-episode. Recommended reading (page 20) “Waldemar Kumming – Behold the Fan”: http://efanzines.com/CounterClock#15/CoClock-15.pdf

Ed Bryant (1945-2017)

Ed Bryant. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Science Fiction author Ed Bryant, who died in his sleep after a long illness, was found February 10 reports Locus Online.

Bryant discovered science fiction at the golden age of 12 when he purchased the August 1957 issue of Amazing Stories. A decade later, he made his way to the very first Clarion Workshop in 1968, where he sold a story to Harlan Ellison’s Again, Dangerous Visions that became his first professional publication.

John Clute’s entry about Bryant in the Science Fiction Encyclopedia captures one of the reasons for the author’s meteoric ascent in Seventies sf.

His conversational, apparently casual style sometimes conceals the tight construction and density of his best work, like “Shark” (in Orbit 12, anth 1973, ed Damon Knight), a complexly told love story whose darker implications are brought to focus in the girl’s decision to have her brain transplanted into a shark’s body, ostensibly as part of a research project; in the story, symbol and surface reality mesh impeccably. The setting for many of the stories in this collection is a California transmuted by sf devices and milieux into an image, sometimes scarifying, sometimes joyful, of the culmination of the American Dream…

Registering an exception to the overall regard for Bryant’s work was Thomas M. Disch, who named him as part of “The Labor Day Group” (1981), a set of young writers whose work stroked fannish sensibilities, and as a result often won Hugo and Nebula awards. This provoked a response from another Disch target, George R.R. Martin, “Literature, Bowling, and the Labor Day Group”, which gave Bryant a deceptively lighthearted defense.

The Colorado resident was a 7-time nominee for SFWA’s Nebula Award, winning twice – “Stone” (1979) and  “giANTS” (1980) – as well as a 3-time nominee for the Hugo, World Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards. The International Horror Guild Awards named Bryant a Living Legend in 1997.

Bryant has been a prolific short fiction writer whose career has been regularly punctuated by new collections of stories — Among the Dead and Other Events Leading up to the Apocalypse (1973), Cinnabar (1976), Wyoming Sun (1980), Particle Theory (1981), Neon Twilight (1990), Darker Passions (1991), The Baku: Tales of the Nuclear Age (2001), Trilobyte (2014), and Predators and Other Stories (2014).

He regularly contributed to George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards series, appearing in five different volumes.

His other professional gigs included writing an annual media coverage essay in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthology, which he did for over 20 years. He also edited an anthology of original stories and some poems, 2076: The American Tricentennial (1977).

Bryant’s fame did not rest entirely on his writing. He was in great demand as a convention toastmaster, gaining the pinnacle of notoriety by conducting the Denvention Two (1981) Hugo Awards ceremony on roller skates.

[Thanks to  Andrew Porter for the story.]