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

Remembering Ron 

Editor’s note: I’m reprinting this tribute to famed British sf fan Ron Bennett to mark the tenth anniversary of his passing.

By Rich Lynch: I remember that I read the news of his death in the November 2006 issue of the newszine Ansible:

Ron Bennett (1933-2006), long-time UK fan who was the 1958 TAFF delegate and edited the classic sf newsletter Skyrack (1959-1971), died on 5 November soon after being diagnosed with leukemia. He was 73.

The life and death of one of the most important and notable British science fiction fans, reduced down to just a few lines of text.  That I hadn’t even known he was ill made it all the more disheartening to read.  I feel very fortunate that I became friends with Ron Bennett, and regretful that it happened only in the last decade-and-a-half of his life.  It started with correspondence, back in 1991, when I was editing the manuscript that became Harry Warner’s fanhistory of the 1950s, A Wealth of Fable (SCIFI Press, 1992).  Ron appears in several places in the book, and I had contacted him to clarify something that in the end turned out to be nothing more than a typographical error.  But that got him on the mailing list for Mimosa, the fanzine that I co-edited (with my wife Nicki) that specialized in the preservation of the history of science fiction fandom, which eventually led to our first face-to-face meeting in Glasgow at ‘Intersection’, the 1995 Worldcon.

By then I had learned a lot more about Ron’s activities in that 1950s Golden Age.  He had published two focal-point fanzines – the newszine Skyrack and also a more general interest fanzine, PLOY, which lived up to the name by beginning its run with issue #2 to make readers believe they had missed the first one (there was even a letters column with comments from a few friends in the know, who heaped praise on the fictional first issue).  He was also described as a key player in the unraveling of one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated in science fiction fandom – the celebrated Joan W. Carr, who was ultra-active in British fandom for about four years during the mid-1950s but didn’t actually exist.

Ron Bennett playing Brag at Repetercon in 1964. Photo by Dave Barber.

Ron Bennett playing Brag at Repetercon in 1964. Photo by Dave Barber.

Ron himself was also ultra-active in British fandom during the 1950s and into the 1960s, and his fanac diminished only after temporarily relocating to Singapore in 1967 for employment as a teacher of the children of British army personnel stationed there.  By the time I finally met Ron, in the Dealers Room at Intersection, I had become familiar enough with his personal fanhistory that when we were chatting about the circumstances surrounding his move to Singapore, he was so impressed by the breadth of my knowledge that he asked me in jest if I also knew the airline and flight number he had booked!

It was two years later that Ron started contributing what became a series of nine entertaining and illuminating articles for Mimosa, the first being an account of his time in Singapore and how (in that era of the Cold War) he once had to ward off the overtures from a Russian spy.  Following that, Ron wrote short, amusing, anecdotal histories of PLOY and Skyrack, and also a thoughtful and warm remembrance of another of British fandom’s most prominent members, Vin¢ Clarke.  But it was Ron’s article about the four Kettering Eastercons of the mid-1950s that provided more information about the “Joan Carr” hoax and in doing so contradicted the general belief that he had been the person who had outed the hoax – it was true that he had been inadvertently tipped off by another fan who was in on the ruse, but that had been the entire extent of his involvement.

Ron Bennett and Nicki Lynch in 2002.

Ron Bennett and Nicki Lynch in 2002.

Ron’s last article for Mimosa, which appeared in the final issue of the run, described the first Worldcon that he ever attended, the fabulous 1957 Loncon.  This was the first time a Worldcon had been held in Europe, and with its compact size (which allowed everybody to meet everybody else) and unprecedented international nature, arguably it was the most important science fiction convention that has ever been staged.  Ron attended several other Worldcons, including the very next one in California where he was the Trans Atlantic Fan Fund delegate, but the only other time where we crossed paths at a Worldcon was in 2002 at San Jose.  It was totally unexpected and happened on the very last day of the convention.  He was in the States to visit his son, who was editing a Silicon Valley-based computer trade journal of some kind, and just showed up unannounced.  The only reason Nicki and I found him at all was because of a chance remark I overheard from someone who’d sold him a book in the Dealers Room.

That was the last time I ever saw him.  I had thought we’d meet again at the 2005 Worldcon in Glasgow, and had even requested a program item from the convention committee where I could interview him to see what other bits of knowledge we could glean about the 1950s and 1960s.  But for whatever reason, Ron didn’t attend and with a travel schedule that had been “carved in stone” I really couldn’t go and seek him out.  But if I’d known he only had a bit more than a year left, I would have tried a lot harder.

With all of his years of fan activity and involvement in the storied events of decades past, I’d always thought that Ron Bennett would have been an ideal candidate for a Worldcon Guest of Honor.  I do believe it would eventually have happened, but time ran out on him.  All of what’s left are the memories and recollections from people who had been fortunate enough to have known him.  These have been some of mine.

Three Dave Kyle Moments

By John Hertz: Many of us have lots of them.  Here are three of mine.

In April 2017 will be Lunacon LIX, the New York convention hosted by local club the Lunarians.  For years I was such a regular attender that some folks thought I lived in New York.  I’ve moderated Lunacon panels, I’ve taught Regency dancing, I’ve judged the Masquerade, I’ve been Fan Guest of Honor, I’ve listened to people sing “Demons in your bed will eat you up.  Do not call your mother; who do you think let the demons in?”

One year as I went looking for a seat in the Masquerade audience I found Dave Kyle ushering.  I was impressed by this modern Cincinnatus.  The original, in the days of the Roman Republic two and a half millennia ago, was plowing his farm when a group of Senators rushed to see him.  The army was trapped and in great danger.  Cincinnatus had been named Dictator, a rare position bringing supreme power.  He called up more men, defeated the enemy, and went back to his plow.  Cincinnati, Ohio, was named for him.  Dave had chaired the World Science Fiction Convention and here he was plowing away like anybody else.

His Worldcon was the 14th, New York, the Biltmore Hotel.  In those days we had a Banquet and gave the Hugo Awards there.  Dave was at the head table.  He later recounted, in Mimosa — for which he wrote two dozen articles —

As was customary, those who didn’t pay to eat could come into the room to hear the speeches at the proper time….  One of the gofers [please don’t write “gophers”, throwing away the joke of having to gofer this and gofer that – JH] told me the Fire Marshal was complaining that the stairs to the balcony were blocked by those non-eaters sitting there, waiting to take positions for the after-dinner ceremonies. “What do we do?” “Tell them,” I said, “that they can’t sit there.”

This became the catch-phrase “Dave Kyle says you can’t sit here”, a kind of Banquet’s Ghost he was never allowed to live down.  But he laughed too.

That night at Lunacon, Dave told me “Actually you can sit wherever you like.”

Here is Dave at NyCon II, sitting with bow tie and dark glasses; Larry Shaw at podium, John Campbell and Robert Silverberg to Kyle's left. Porter says, "Not my photo; I was 10 years old."

Here is Dave at NyCon II, sitting with bow tie and dark glasses; Larry Shaw at podium, John Campbell and Robert Silverberg to Kyle’s left. Porter says, “Not my photo; I was 10 years old.”

– o O o –

A while before Torcon III, the 61st Worldcon, Dave phoned asking if I was going to attend.  Yes, I said; I had written up Mike Glyer, the Fan Guest of Honour (note spelling), for the Program Book, and was to build an exhibit about him in the Exhibit Hall.  Dave asked, are you going to wear that propeller beanie?  Yes, I said, I always do at cons.  Dave asked if I’d help him with a presentation on Hugo Night.

He was going to bring the propeller beanie that had been placed on the head of Bob Bloch at Torcon II.  Bloch had been Pro Guest of Honour there and at Torcon I.  Meanwhile he had inconsiderately died so Torcon III could only make him Ghost of Honour.

Dave was going to be the Propeller Beanie of the Past and wanted me to be the Propeller Beanie of the Future.  I tried to say I felt unworthy but he was having none of that.  Then I thought of something else.  I always wear white tie on Hugo Night, I said.  The propeller beanie doesn’t really go with that costume.  It would be like running with the ball while playing soccer.  Well, he said, see if you can find a way.  Okay, Dave; for you, anything.

I thought maybe the propeller beanie would fit under my top hat, so I could by raising the hat do what some costumers call a “reveal”.  That didn’t work.  Finally I found I could get the beanie into my inside breast pocket.

At the con we managed to rehearse.  I was to stand back while Dave gave introductory remarks.  Then I should step forward, don the beanie, and retire again while Dave had a few more things to say.  Simple enough.

Came the event.  Dave took the lectern.  He spoke.  I joined him.  I took off the top hat, drew out the beanie, and put it on.  The crowd went wild.  A photo of this was put in Locus.  I guess a man in formal clothes and a propeller beanie was a One of Us moment.  Anyhow I smiled, bowed, and stepped back so Dave could go on.

John Hertz receives Big Heart Award at Torcon 3.

John Hertz receives Big Heart Award at Torcon 3.

He began speaking about the Big Heart, highest service award in the SF community.  He went on to describe the year’s recipient.  Slowly the light dawned.  He was talking about me.

The whole story, telephone, Past, Future, rehearsal, and all, had been a ruse to make sure I should be there.

Dave gave me a plaque and a rosette.

I had been snookered.

– o O o –

The North America Science Fiction Convention is held when the Worldcon is overseas.  In 2005 the Worldcon was at Glasgow and the NASFiC was at Seattle.  Monday morning in the hotel lobby after the NASFiC Dave said “Let’s go to the Science Fiction Museum.”

The Museum had just opened in 2004.  It had been designed by Tim Kirk, whom its founder Paul Allen had hired because he liked Kirk Designs’ proposal, not knowing he got a man who had won five Hugos as Best Fanartist before turning pro.  Kirk’s task was no small challenge, not least because so much of SF was, as Hamlet said “words, words, words”; if the Museum were dominated by visual-media SF that would be a serious under-representation.  Kirk had done wonderfully.

Who could be a better partner in wonder for an expedition there than Dave Kyle?

We went up to the Kyles’ hotel room.  Ruth fed us breakfast.  She was as always solicitous and helpful, but would the two boys ever be seen again?  Also I had a plane to catch.  We decided the safest plan was to get a taxi and pay the driver to come back at a set time.  In the Museum we then took turns pulling each other away from things.

The ground floor had the SF Hall of Fame, relocated from the University of Kansas.  Just added, along with Philip K. Dick, were Chesley Bonestell, Ray Harryhausen, and Steven Spielberg, the first SF artists other than writers to be inducted.

Also on the ground floor was a timeline, with Hugo Gernsback, Carol Hughes and Buster Crabbe as Dale Arden and Flash Gordon conquering the Universe, The Pocket Book of SF our first paperback collection of short stories, John Campbell, Orson Welles broadcasting The War of the Worlds, Heinlein with Rocket Ship Galileo Paul Allen’s first SF book, and Nineteen Eighty-four, just to mention a few points from 1925-1955.

Downstairs, three galleries with themes Brave New Worlds, Fantastic Voyages, and Them!  In Voyages was a Space Dock, with orbiting ships visitors could select for miniature documentaries.  Them! held an Interplanetary Lounge, variously imagined aliens, robots metal or mortal, and a Cargo Bay art gallery including Kelly Freas and Richard Powers.

I mustn’t leave out Harlan Ellison’s typewriter or the books Dave had published.

One “ship” floating past was a city, New York, New York (“What city has two names twice?”), from James Blish’s Cities in Flight; the crew that Kirk assembled, many of whom were veterans of Industrial Light & Magic, used Blish’s text, the best book covers they could find, and extrapolated views of Manhattan.  The first of these four novels came to be known as They Shall Have Stars; it was originally Year 2018! in which we now almost are, and Dave did not quite live to see.

Dave Kyle Remembered in Photos

Andrew Porter shared these photos of Dave Kyle taken at various Worldcons over the decades. All but the first were taken by Porter himself.

Here is Dave at NyCon II, sitting with bow tie and dark glasses; Larry Shaw at podium, John Campbell and Robert Silverberg to Kyle's left. Porter says, "Not my photo; I was 10 years old."

Here is Dave chairing NyCon II: seated with bow tie and dark glasses; Larry Shaw at podium, John Campbell and Robert Silverberg to Kyle’s left. Porter says, “Not my photo; I was 10 years old.”

Sidney Coleman, Dave Kyle and James White at the 1987 Worldcon. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Sidney Coleman, Dave Kyle and James White at the 1987 Worldcon. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Walter A. Willis, left, James White, center, and Dave Kyle in 1987. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Walter A. Willis, left, James White, center, and Dave Kyle in 1987. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Lloyd Eshbach, left, Dave Kyle, center, and Erle Korshak at the 1988 New Orleans Worldcon. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Lloyd Eshbach, left, Dave Kyle, center, and Erle Korshak at the 1988 New Orleans Worldcon. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Dave Kyle avd Chuck Harris at the 1995 Glasgow Worldcon. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Dave Kyle and Chuck Harris at the 1995 Glasgow Worldcon. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Rich Lynch and Dave Kyle at ConFrancisco in 1993. Photo and copyright © Andrew Porter

Rich Lynch and Dave Kyle at ConFrancisco in 1993. Photo and copyright © Andrew Porter

Andrew Porter wrote about Dave Kyle’s passing:

Yesterday, I saw Dave at Bill and Mary Burns’s End-of-Summer party in Hempstead, Long Island, NY, where he was very frail, but his mind remained sharp and clear. I’m happy to say that many of his fan friends, some of whom he’s known for many decades, were there to greet him and have long talks with him.

Dave was one of science fiction fandom’s very few remaining links (with perhaps only Robert A. Madle and Erle M. Korshak) to pre-World War II fandom, and to the very first World SF Convention. His passing diminishes the field, and pulls the curtain a little tighter between those living today, and the world and fandom as it was.

Buckminster Fuller, Hope, and Glory

by John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1198) Sir Harold Walter Kroto (1939-2016), with Robert F. Curl, Jr., Richard E. Smalley, and students James Heath and Sean O’Brian as well as Yuan Liu, discovered the Carbon-60 molecule in 1985. In 1772 Lavoisier showed diamonds were carbon, in 1779 Scheele showed graphite was mostly carbon, so this was big news (of course that’s a pun on the size of this molecule).

Proving to be a truncated iscosahedron as studied in the energetic-synergetic geometry of R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), C-60 was named buckminsterfullerene; its shape is like one of Fuller’s geodesic domes. Wolfgang Krätschmer and Donald Huffman, with students Kostas Fostiropoulos and Lowell Lamb, extracted it with the carbon arc technique in 1990. Other fullerenes were found. Nanotubes, a few nanometers wide and up to several millimeters long, have high tensile strength, ductility, electrical and heat conductivity, low chemical activity – could they be used in paper batteries, or even a Space elevator?

Curl, Kroto, and Smalley were given the 1996 Nobel Prize for their discovery of fullerenes; Kroto, an Englishman, was knighted. Two years later C-60, by then long nicknamed the buckyball, was the Official Molecule of the 56th World Science Fiction Convention, another fine gesture under con chair Peggy Rae Pavlat (later Peggy Rae Sapienza; she could only have gotten more wisdom by marrying it). Implications of this amazing astounding stellar (C-60 has been seen in stars) thrilling wondrous moment of science still unfold.

Harry Kroto died on April 30th in East Sussex, England. The New York Times (6 May 16 p. A20) called him “A scientist who so loved art that he named his discovery after an architect”, one way to describe Fuller, who had two dozen patents, whose Dymaxion car and map as well as his Dymaxion house (dynamic + maximum + tension, coined by advertisingmen when a prototype of the house was on display at Marshall Field’s in Chicago) are still barely explored, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and who after all wrote “The architectural profession – civil, naval, aeronautical, and astronautical – has always been the place where the most competent thinking is conducted regarding livingry, as opposed to weaponry” (Critical Path p. xxv, 1981).

Meanwhile ET-94, built as an external tank for the Space Shuttle though never flying into Space, the last remaining flight-ready fuel tank in existence, 150 feet (47 m) long and weighing 66,000 pounds (30 000 kg), docked at Marina del Rey on May 21st after going 4,000 nautical miles (7 400 km) from New Orleans where it was completed in 2001, and was trucked across town past children in Space helmets made of paper to California Science Center where it will stand with Endeavour. The Los Angeles Times (22 May 16 p. B17) quoted a spectator “Look what we can do when we put our minds to it.”

Peggy Ranson (1948-2016)

Peggy Ranson. Photo by Vincent Mariano.

Peggy Ranson. Photo by Vincent Mariano.

Peggy Ranson, a very popular fanartist in the 1990s, passed away March 16 from cancer. The family’s obituary is here.

She grew up in Memphis, and attended Memphis State University. While living in New Orleans she worked as a commercial artist for D.H. Holmes and the Times Picayune.

Ranson was employed as an ad illustrator when she volunteered to help with the 1988 New Orleans Worldcon. Guy H. Lillian III remembers, “She co-edited the Nolacon II program book with me, did scads of inimitable and exquisite fan art, and graced every moment we spent with her.” Lillian writes that this piece was her first fan art.

23ranson

She was an L. Ron Hubbard Illustrator of the Future contest finalist in 1990, and attended the awards ceremonies (see photo).

Illustrator of the Future 1990. Peggy Ranson is fourth from right. (Kelly Freas is fourth from left.)

Illustrator of the Future 1990. Peggy Ranson is fourth from right. (Kelly Freas is fourth from left.)

Ranson was a Best Fan Artist Hugo nominee every year from 1991-1998, winning in 1993. Lillian liked to say she was only the second fan from Louisiana (adopted) to win a Hugo (the first was Camille Cazedessus, publisher of ERB-dom.)

Peggy Ranson with HugoShe did countless pieces of art for conventions, bids, and fanzines, and for charitable publications like the Charlie Card Fund’s 1991 Fantasy Art Calendar. Her work won Best in Show at the 1991 Worldcon art show (Chicon V).

There’s a small gallery of her black-and-white art at Fanac.org.

Ranson cover for Challenger

Ranson was a guest of honor at DeepSouthCon 34 in 1996, and Armadillocon 20 in 1998, and other small cons across the South.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005 she fled to Memphis. Afterwards she wrote a long account of her escape and what it was like to return to the heavily damaged city in Challenger 23.

maureen_origAlthough she did some cover art for professional publications, she does not seem to have pursued that as a vocation, for many of her assignments were for books by writers or small press publisers she knew well. This includes her covers for The NESFA Index to Short Science Fiction for 1989 (1992), Maureen Birnbaum, Barbarian Swordperson: The Complete Stories (1993) a paperback of George Alec Effinger stories from Swan Press, Girls for the Slime God (1997) a collection of stories edited by Mike Resnick, and Birthright: The Book of Man (1997) by Mike Resnick. She also did interiors for magazines, including Algis Budrys’ Tomorrow Speculative Fiction.

Ranson is survived by a sister and two brothers (one of them her twin), and several nieces and nephews.

Program Participants Sought for FanHistoriCon 13

By Warren Buff:  RavenCon, April 29-May 1, 2016, in Williamsburg, Virginia, is hosting a FanHistoriCon.

FanHistoriCon is a convention (or a sometimes, a stream within a convention) dedicated to documenting and preserving the history of fandom. From 1994 to 2002, a dozen were held, along with additional programming at Aussiecon 3 and the Millennium Philcon. Since we keep making fanhistory, the need for a FanHistoriCon persists, and we’re hoping that holding one at RavenCon will help revive the concept.

We’d like to solicit ideas and recruit folks for the program. So far, we’ve got a few ideas kicking around:

  • a local fanhistory item on the Carolinas and Virginia
  • a session on next steps for documenting the 60s (Rich Lynch’s outline is fantastic on this so far)
  • a session on how to approach documenting the 70s, which seems both daunting and important because of the incredible expansion of fandom in that era
  • a session on the difficulties of documenting feuds and schisms (this has gotten significantly more important since we started kicking it around)
  • perhaps a session on the end of the APA era (only a bare handful remain out of what were once a major force in fandom, and documenting that transition seems important)
  • a session on oral history, and training folks in using widely available technology to take it (with follow-ups later of folks actually breaking off to take some oral history with those present, maybe after breakfast the next day)
  • sessions on identifying at-risk materials for preservation
  • sessions on identifying fans to interview/record for posterity

It’s a start, but we need more ideas, and we want to sign up folks to participate in these discussions. Memberships to RavenCon can be obtained at http://www.ravencon.com/registration/, and those with suggestions or interest in participation should contact Warren Buff at warrenmbuff@gmail.com.

Bruce Pelz, Harry Warner, Jr. and Peggy Rae Pavlat (Sapienza) at FanHistoriCon in 1994. Photo by Rich Lynch.

Bruce Pelz, Harry Warner, Jr. and Peggy Rae Pavlat (Sapienza) at FanHistoriCon in 1994. Photo by Rich Lynch.

Costumers’ Life Achievement Award to Kathy Sanders

By John Hertz: Among our astounding developments – our amazing, stellar, thrilling, wonderful developments – is the Masquerade at science fiction conventions.  Once a dress-up party as the name suggests, pioneered by Forry Ackerman and no less than Jack Speer, by the 1960s it had come to its present form, an on-stage competition with lights, sound, judges, outdrawing anything except Hugo Night at the Worldcon.  Marvels appear.  Jokes.  It’s been called a cross between kabuki and Little Theater.

Fans and pros have been involved, and of course some people are both.  Larry Niven wrote the script for “One Night at the Draco Tavern” with himself as a helpless man who never quite understood what was going on, and included it in a 2006 collection.  Mike Resnick has been very fine as costumer and as a Master of Ceremonies.  Karen Anderson at Nolacon II the 46th Worldcon was given a costuming Life Achievement Award.  That was the predecessor of the current (since 1990) award given by the International Costumers Guild at Costume-Con.

With the widening appeal of SF, our general-interest Worldcon and its local and regional kin like Westercon, Boskone, Archon, spawned special-interest conventions.  Filksinging, our home-made music, got filkers’ cons.  Gamers’ cons.  Fanziners’ cons. Costume-Con XXIII (15-18 May, Charleston, South Carolina) gave the 2015 Life Achievement Award to Kathy Sanders.

First as Kathy Bushman, then as Kathy Sanders, she was for decades a compelling vibrant force in Masquerades, including Worldcon Masquerades, working alone, in groups — sometimes large groups.  She understood beauty, drama, strangeness, and time.

She co-chaired Costume-Con IV and XIV.  I judged for her when she was Masquerade Director at L.A.con III the 54th Worldcon.

The Masquerade is ephemeral.  Video records are difficult.  Some photographers have learned to make good stills of Masquerade entries.  Run-time footage showing the actual events of the stage, particularly alas for the great decades of the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties, even into the Nineties — not great because they’re past, just great — is scanty and often rough.  The ICG Archive much to its credit did manage a Sanders posting for YouTube. It’s worth your while.

So is the list of Life Achievement winners.  You can get it elsewhere, but I give it to you here — in chronological order.  These names are worth recognizing, men and women who have enriched us, in this artform we seem to have invented.


Marjii Ellers
Marty Gear
Bjo & John Trimble
Peggy Kennedy
Janet Wilson Anderson
Karen Dick
Byron Connell
Jacqueline Ward
Gary Anderson
Carl Mami


Sandy & Pierre Pettinger
Animal X
Adrian Butterfield & Victoria Ridenour
Pat Kennedy
Ricky Dick
Cat Devereaux
Barb Schofield
Kevin Roche
Betsy Marks Delaney


Dana & Bruce McDermott
Nora & Bruce Mai
Jill Eastlake
Penny Lipman
Tina Connell
Dawn McKechnie
Ann Catelli
Kathy Bushman Sanders


Peggy Rae Sapienza (1944-2015)

Peggy Rae Sapienza at Capclave in 2007. Photo by Ellen Datlow.

Peggy Rae Sapienza at the 2007 Capclave. Photo by Ellen Datlow.

Peggy Rae Sapienza, one of fandom’s most admired conrunners and fan guest of honor at Chicon 7, the 2012 Worldcon, passed away March 22 from complications following heart valve replacement surgery. She was 70.

Her highest profile achievements were chairing the 1998 Worldcon, Bucconeer, and co-chairing the 2014 World Fantasy Con. She also served as Vice Chair and then Acting Chair of the 1993 Worldcon, ConFrancisco, helping stabilize the committee in the period after chair Terry Biffel died and before the appointment of Dave Clark as chair. In addition, she chaired two Smofcons (1992, 2004) and a Disclave (1991).

People liked to work for her — including some who thought they were done volunteering before she called. Peggy Rae’s unique leadership style combined playfulness, the appeal of being admitted to an inner circle, knowledgeability, and a frank demand for results.

She had an unlimited resume in many areas of convention organizing – press relations, program, registration, guest of honor book, and exhibits. She also felt it was her mission to pass on the skills and experiences she possessed. A number of the current generation of Worldcon organizers called her a mentor and today are mourning her loss in their own way. “I feel like a whole library just burnt down,” Glenn Glazer wrote on Facebook.

Peggy Rae was a second generation fan whose father, Jack McKnight, mother, Buddie McKnight Evans, and step-mother, Ann Newell McKnight, were involved in the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, while her step-father, Bill Evans, was active in the Washington Science Fiction Association. (Jack McKnight is specially remembered for making the first Hugo Awards in 1953.)

Growing up in Philadelphia fandom, in the late 1950s she served as Secretary and Vice President of PSFS and worked on and appeared in PSFS’ fan-made movie “Longer Than You Think.”

She began publishing Etwas in 1960. Ed Meskys recalls, “We traded fanzines at the time, her Etwas (German for something) for my Niekas (Lithuanian for nothing).”

Lou Tabakow, Peggy Rae Pavlat (Sapienza) and Bob Pavlat at NyCon III in 1967,

Lou Tabakow, Peggy Rae Pavlat (Sapienza) and Bob Pavlat at NyCon III in 1967,

Peggy Rae McKnight met Washington-area fanzine and convention fan Bob Pavlat at her first Worldcon, Pittcon, in 1960. They married in 1964 and had two children, Missy Koslosky and Eric Pavlat. In 1983, the couple received fandom’s Big Heart Award. That same year Bob passed away. In 1999, Peggy Rae married John T. Sapienza, Jr., a government attorney and longtime fan.

One of Peggy Rae’s enduring contributions to how Worldcons use facilties is the ConCourse, which she and Fred Isaacs invented for the 1989 Worldcon, Noreascon Three. The Sheraton had denied the use of its facilities to the con due to some problems, forcing the committee to create attractions in the Hynes Convention Center to compensate, or later, when they regained the Sheraton through litigation, to keep crowds in the Hynes for the sake of peace with the hotel. Their solution was the ConCourse which, with the Huckster Room and the convention program, gave members ample reason to hang out in the Hynes.

The ConCourse amalgamated fanhistory exhibits, convention information, the fanzine lounge, the daily newzine publishing area, convention bidding and Site Selection tables, and a Hynes-run snack bar in one place, and layed it out as an indoor park. Fans responded so positively the idea was used repeatedly by future Worldcons, and many of the exhibits Peggy Rae commissioned are still being presented.

This was also when the expression “I mowed Peggy Rae’s lawn” originated. Some of the planning for Noreascon 3 took place at her house, she explained during a 2012 interview. A friend arrived before a meeting while Peggy Rae was gardening and offered to help. In a kind of Tom Sawyeresque moment, others came by and joined in the gardening. Joe Mayhew was a witness, and years later warned people that if they voted for the Baltimore Worldcon bid they would end up having to mow Peggy Rae’s lawn….

The legend was celebrated by Chicon 7. Chris Garcia described how in a recent interview – and the way Peggy Rae used it to get some more work out of him…

At Chicon, there was a fake parcel of grass and a toy lawnmower with a sign marked ‘Mow Peggy Rae’s Lawn’ and the folks who pretended to mow got a Ribbon saying “I mowed Peggy Rae’s Lawn.” I did the mowing, but Peggy Rae refused me a ribbon until I did the [promised] Campbell [Award] exhibit…

For many years Peggy Rae was a key planner and motivator in the effort to preserve fanhistory. The Society for the Preservation of the History of Science Fiction Fandom, AKA the Timebinders, was formed at FanHistoriCon I in May 1994 in Hagerstown, Maryland, convened by Peggy Rae, Bruce Pelz, and Joe Siclari to gather fans of different fannish generations together to discuss the best ideas.

Bruce Pelz, Harry Warner, Jr. and Peggy Rae Pavlat (Sapienza) at FanHistoriCon in 1994. Photo by Rich Lynch.

Bruce Pelz, Harry Warner, Jr. and Peggy Rae Pavlat (Sapienza) at FanHistoriCon in 1994. Photo by Rich Lynch.

Peggy Rae worked 16 years as a contractor for the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. in UNIX systems support, retiring in 2000.

In her later years she was instrumental in supporting the 2007 Japanese Worldcon as their North American Agent. She chaired SFWA’s Nebula Awards Weekend in 2010, 2011 and 2012, earning a tribute from John Scalzi. She was part of the DC17 bid for the 2017 Worldcon.

Just this past fall, Peggy Rae helped me put together a couple of programs for Smofcon 32 and I find it especially hard to accept that someone so filled with ideas, imagination and energy can be taken away.

John Sapienza’s announcement said about her last day and burial arrangements: “[On Sunday] the hospital called us to come in, and Eric & Wendy Pavlat, Missy & Bryan Koslosky, and I were with her when she passed…. She will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with her first husband, Bob Pavlat. (*)”

Peggy Rae is survived by John, her two children, and eight grandchildren.

Update 03/24/2015: (*) Eric Pavlat in a comment below says that Peggy Rae will not be interred at Arlington, but will be buried this Saturday at Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Prince George’s County, MD.