Remembering “The Ragman’s Son”

By Steve Vertlieb: Legendary Hollywood screen star Kirk Douglas has died. His Ace In The Hole was his Lust For Life, and live he did for 103 years. Born Issur Danielovitch on December 9th, 1916, Douglas was born to poverty as “The Ragman’s Son,” vowing to overcome his humble beginnings, and escape the challenge and limitations of an ordinary life. He was the very last of the male superstars of what has come to be known as The Golden Age of Hollywood.

Douglas was an extraordinary actor, possessed with a burning intensity to achieve and overcome his humble Jewish beginnings. He was, at times, perceived as angry in his all-consuming quest to achieve respect and admiration by his peers. It was his inner rage, however, that inspired performance after performance of mounting intensity and commitment to his chosen craft.

As Rick Martin in Young Man With A Horn, based loosely upon the life of jazz trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke, Douglas portrayed a lonely, isolated musician whose only friend was his horn, and whose only joy was the music born of his soul. His self-destructive ways and behavior, often in conflict with his musical genius, nearly destroyed him but, in the end, gave birth to a Phoenix rising from the ashes of emotional despair, to play amongst the stars.

In Billy Wilder’s Ace In The Hole (alternately known as The Big Carnival) Douglas played an embittered newspaper reporter, using the tragedy of a small town man trapped in a mine to cynically ride to the top once more in a big city paper. In Vincent Minnelli’s The Bad And The Beautiful, as film producer Jonathan Shields, Douglas uses any device he can to achieve respect and success within the film industry, inspiring both hatred and admiration along that troubled journey.

It was with Vincent Minnelli’s Lust For Life, however, that Douglas revealed his inner torment most effectively, as Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh. His anguish as the lonely artist, fighting emotional demons, as well as his personal struggle to achieve recognition and respect, is at times difficult to watch, but remains among the greatest performances of postwar cinema. Lushly conceived by both Minnelli and Douglas, Lust For Life is blessed with a torrid, rapturous score by Oscar winning composer Miklos Rozsa which musically illustrates the actor’s intense, impassioned performance.

As an activist for social change and democracy, Douglas fought for civil rights and, with director Otto Preminger who offered screen credit to the writer on Exodus, ended Joseph McCarthy’s notorious blacklist in America by giving Dalton Trumbo full screen credit for writing the screenplay for Spartacus.

I was fortunate to have an opportunity to meet Kirk Douglas and spend ten minutes with him in 1974 on the set of The Gene London Show in Philadelphia during his cross-country tour promoting Scalawag, and was impressed by his culture and civility. I asked him about his impressions of working with director Michael Curtiz on Young Man With A Horn, and he appeared intrigued by their remembered collaboration. When his publicist urged him to end our conversation and leave the station for their next interview, Douglas raised his hand and said “Wait a minute. I’m talking to this gentleman.” He had become a mensch.

I shall always love Kirk Douglas for, along with Spencer Tracy and James Mason, he will ever remain among my life long favorite actors. He overcame his humble beginnings and, as with many of the characters that he chose to play, achieved the respect and admiration that he fought so valiantly to achieve. Actor, producer, writer, social activist, and philanthropist, Kirk Douglas shared his lust for life and living with all of us and, in so doing, elevated the popular culture to artistic heights never before imagined, and made our world an infinitely better place in which to live.

Remembering Gene London

Steve Vertlieb and Gene London in 1981.
  • Gene London: June 9, 1931 – January 19, 2020

By Steve Vertlieb: Gene London was one of the most beloved children’s television hosts in Philadelphia broadcast history. Gene hosted “Cartoon Corners,” and “The Gene London Show” on WCAU TV, the owned and operated CBS affiliate for decades here in the City of Brotherly Love. Born Eugene Norman Yulish on June 9, 1931, this sweet, gentle soul became an integral part of Philadelphia broadcast history, and a pioneer of children’s television, enriching young, impressionable lives and minds with his soft, endearing manner and tender persona. He was, perhaps, as cherished a television personality locally as Mister Rogers was nationally. Gene, however, was ours. He belonged to Philadelphia, and we adored him. Generations of children grew up in the light of his subtle wisdom and infinite compassion.

Early in 1981, Gene produced and hosted a four-week series at the prestigious Philadelphia Art Museum on The Parkway, exploring filmdom’s rich cultural history. Titled “Hollywood Screen Fantasies,” the series entertained a live audience on four successive Sunday mornings, and presented such Hollywood luminaries as Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz), and acclaimed puppeteer Bill Baird who operated Julie Andrews’ marionettes in The Sound of Music. One of Gene guests during that cherished series was myself. Gene invited me to appear with him in front of a live audience to discuss the making and production of the original King Kong. We appeared on stage together for an hour discussing the ins and outs of the classic 1933 fantasy classic, and the experience remains one of the happiest memories of my seventy-four years.

Gene and I remained in touch, ever friends, for nearly forty years. He would periodically invite me to join him for some new live appearance or project. I last saw Gene at The Philadelphia Flower Show several years ago when he graced the halls of the large convention center with his gracious affection and remembrances. Children of all ages stood in line for hours to say hello to the little boy who had helped to shape their hearts … for Gene was, in truth, a little boy himself. He could relate to his many thousands of children because he was, in his heart, a gentle innocent, a loving, inspired child. Gene never entirely grew up and it is for this reason that we were so blessed by his goodness.

Rest Well, Sweet Prince. You shall remain forever vital, alive, and beloved by all those whose lives you so wonderfully touched and enriched.

[The family obituary is here.]

Christopher Tolkien (1924-2020)

Christopher Tolkien, son of J.R.R. Tolkien and the last of the Inklings, died January 15 at the age of 95 the New York Times reports.

For nearly 50 years after his father passed away in 1973, Christopher continued to edit and publish his father’s unfinished manuscripts, giving J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary output the benefit of two lifetimes’ work. Christopher assembled from pieces the epic Middle-Earth predecessor to Lord of the Rings, melding them into The Silmarillion (1977). In all, he edited or oversaw the publication of two dozen editions of his father’s works, many of which became international best sellers.

Along the way he produced 12 volumes of The History of Middle-earth, a compilation of drafts, fragments, rewrites, marginal notes and other writings that showed the evolution of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium.

Christopher is also credited with creating the acclaimed 1954 map of Middle-earth.

During World War II, when Christopher was serving with the Royal Air Force in South Africa, his father mailed him parts of The Lord of the Rings for comment and editing.

After the war he studied English at Trinity College, Oxford, taking his BA in 1949 and his B.Litt a few years later. He became a lecturer in Old and Middle English as well as Old Icelandic at the University of Oxford. 

In 1945, he became the youngest member of the Inklings, a circle of Oxford writers and scholars started in the Thirties by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and others, who met weekly in Lewis’s college rooms. Christopher was told in a letter from his father that the Inklings proposed to consider him “a permanent member, with right of entry and what not quite independent of my presence or otherwise.”

Dr. Diana Glyer, author of two books about the Inklings, including The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community, mourned his passing:

I must refer now to all the Inklings in past tense; the last of them has died. I met Christopher Tolkien, talked with him, corresponded from time to time. I have devoted my life to studying the Inklings. Today, they have slipped from solid, real, and tangible into the past, beyond reach. I no longer have the privilege of studying what is, only what was. Everything has changed.

J.R.R. Tolkien biographer John Garth ended his Facebook announcement of Christopher’s death with this fitting quote from the end of Lord of the Rings:

“Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

Christopher is survived by his second wife, Baillie, his sister Priscilla, and three children, Simon, Adam and Rachel.

Steve Stiles (1943-2020)

Jim Young with Steve Stiles and his wife Elaine at the 1993 Worldcon in San Francisco. Photos by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

Steve Stiles, one of fandom’s all-time great artists, died during the night on January 12, only a few days after he shared on Facebook that he had cancer and a short time to live. It’s a double shock to his wide circle of friends who were still adjusting to the first piece of news.

His awards history barely begins to scratch the surface of how much he meant to fandom over the past fifty-plus years, substantial as it is. He earned the first of his 17 Best Fan Artist Hugo nominations in 1967, winning the award in 2016. He’s won 15 FAAn Awards, presented by fanzine fans at Corflu, since the award was revived in 2001. And Steve was the first winner of the Rotsler Award (1998), a career honor for fan artists.

It was only appropriate that Steve created the iconic cover for Harry Warner’s fanhistory of the Fifties, A Wealth of Fable, for if no fanzine was complete without a Warner letter of comment, no faned felt completely faannish without a Stiles cover or cartoons.

All the while, Steve worked as a professional artist, in virtually every medium, from comic strips to modern abstracts. He attended the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan partly because so many EC Comics artists had gone there.

His first published comic work appeared in New York’s underground comics pages, The Gothic Blimp Works, in 1968. Scott Edelman, another comics pro, says Steve may be best-known for the post-apocalyptic dinosaur-filled future of Xenozoic Tales, which he drew for eight years, but he also drew for titles such as Death Rattle, Bizarre Sex, and Anarchy Comics from underground publishers like Kitchen Sink and Last Gasp. Steve also did kid-friendly work, such as The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Royal Roy.

During the same period, he worked as a penciller for Marvel’s British publications for five years, then later did pencils and inks for Hamilton Comics, Malibu, Topps, and Star.

Steve with Don Fitch and Paul Williams at the 1969 Worldcon in St. Louis. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

In 1980 his collaboration with Dick Lupoff, “The Adventures of Professor Thintwhistle and His Incredible Aether Flyer,” was serialized in Heavy Metal magazine and later reprinted as a graphic novel by Fantagraphics (1991).

Steve Stiles in 1979. Photo by Jeff Schalles.

Around 1999, Steve joined Ted White working on Collectingchannel.com, a dot com sales site. He worked with Ted on the site’s “MicroChannel” devoted to Comics.

In what might have become the crowning achievement of his pro career, had the project gone through, Steve was picked as the artist for a 1990s revival of the Li’l Abner comic strip. He told readers of Potrzebie, Bhob Stewart’s website:

I wasn’t the only one contacted, but I don’t know who the others were. I was given a script for a four-panel sequence involving Joe Btfsplk. There was a ‘bake off’ that was judged by five or six cartoonists, one of whom was Scott Shaw. After I was selected, I was supplied with a big stack of b/w Xeroxes of Li’l Abner for reference… , As for the demise of the project, all this I got secondhand [from the writer], so I don’t know how true it is. Supposedly, with ten days before the contract was due to be signed, Capp’s daughter, Julie, got wind of the project (I don’t know where she was during all this) and talked her mother and uncle into withdrawing permission for the revival.

I was 13 when I first decided to become a cartoonist. My father came to an undeniable conclusion: I had lost my mind. He stuck to that idea with barnacle-like tenacity, ignoring whatever project I was working on, regardless of subject matter. The only response I would invariably get was. ‘If you have to do this kind of stuff, why don’t you do something like Li’l Abner?’ So you can imagine my feelings when, in 1990, I was offered the chance to draw a proposed revival of Li’l Abner.

Steve’s first cartoon for a fanzine appeared in Cry of the Nameless, edited by F.M. and Elinor Busby. A fanzine interlineation he coined (“Death is nature’s way of telling you when to stop”) became a national catchphrase after it was reprinted in Pageant in 1962

Steve’s artistic style was described by Taral (in File 770 #155):

Steve comes from the heart of the EC comic book tradition, with bold lines, striking use of black space, and a sense of drama that could have been lifted straight from German Expressionist film.  He also had a surreal sense of humour I could only envy…. 

One cannot say enough about the menacing likeness of David Langford on the Wrath of Fanglord anthology, or a rain of Atomic Age robots on the cover of Mimosa.  More than ink on paper, Steve’s work is evidence of a sharp satiric mind, and a keen appreciation of popular culture.

Steve showed in 2008 that his range as an artist was even greater than we knew. He had been commissioned (thanks to the efforts of Michael Dobson and his contacts in the Lutheran Church) to design the Samaritan Medal for Peace and Humanitarian Achievement, intended to further the cause of peace, for the Samaritan community in Israel. It was finally cast. and Shimon Peres, then Israel’s President, accepted it at a ceremony in February of that year.

The Medal is made of pure silver, two inches in diameter, with a scene from the parable of the Good Samaritan on the front, and the sacred Mount Gerizim on the reverse.

Steve’s roots in fandom go back to New York’s Fanoclasts of the 1960s. With their support he won the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund in 1968 and attended Eastercon in the UK. Steve worked sporadically on his trip report, writing snippets for various fanzines over the decades, until it was declared finished and a collected edition, Harrison Country, issued in 2007.

Steve Stiles in the mid-1960s at Ted White’s Brooklyn apartment. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

He was Fifties cool. Fifties cool included never minding whatever wounds life dealt you. He had a varied and interesting career that was the font of a lot of stories which he told very well – and Steve’s nonchalance about what happened when he was supposed to be the artist for the revival of L’il Abner, or in the last decade when he started an annual parody campaign for the Hugo, leaves you to figure out for yourself how deeply he felt about them.

File 770 ran its first Steve Stiles cover in 2015, which made me very happy, granting one of my long-time wishes.

And while it shouldn’t have taken this for him to finally break through, in 2016 Steve was the only Best Fan Artist Hugo finalist who was not on the Rabid Puppies slate, making it easy for voters to say hell yeah!

But the next year, 2017, it was Steve’s health that made news instead of art or awards, with the discovery of a cancerous tumor on his right lung. The tumor was successfully removed by surgery.

Unfortunately, cancer returned this year and finally claimed Steve.

However, he has left a vast legacy of art and anecdotes, a great deal of which has been made available online.

Bill Burns of eFanzines hosts SteveStiles.com, originally created around 2005. On the splash page Steve Stiles in caricature poses beside a buxom friend promising a site “loaded with sophistication (as you can see from the broad in the foreground).” He delivers in six colorful segments – Comics Articles, Computer Art, Fanzine Art, Fanzine Articles, Professional Art and Links. (It’s astonishing how much material is there.)

Steve also curated a Tumblr called “Okay, Actually It’s A Blog: A Site For Sore Eyes” which has more recent art and articles.

Accounts of Steve’s life and work are in the Wikipedia and at Lambiek.net.

A final Stiles project is also on the way. Michael Dobson announced he’ll be collaborating with Steve’s wife, Elaine, to finish an anthology of Steve’s Hyper Comics work.

Mike Resnick (1942-2020)

Mike Resnick at Chicon 7 in 2012. Photo by Joel Zakem.

Mike Resnick, who at his zenith was one of the most popular figures in the science fiction fan and pro community, died January 9. He was nominated for the Hugo Award 37 times, winning 5, and 11 Nebula nominations, with 1 win. He was a Guest of Honor at Chicon 7 in 2012.

His daughter, Laura Resnick, announced his passing in an update to the GoFundMe created for his medical expenses.

He was diagnosed in November with a very aggressive form of lymphoma. Treatment initially went well, and we were very hopeful. But his health and strength began to decline sharply in mid-December, and a few days ago, the doctors told us they had made a decision to discontinue treatment, there was no hope, and they recommended hospice care.

Pop chose not to tell anyone how ill he was, because he was so convinced he’d get better and soon be his old self again. He mostly slept during his final days, but when awake he was in good spirits. He passed away quietly in his sleep, without pain or further suffering.

His connection to his friends, his readers, and his colleagues enriched his life, and he never stopped being delighted to meet people who read his work, who were interested in writing, who loved books and stories, and who shared his sense of wonder. He remained enthusiastic about his craft and devoted to his writing to the end of his life, and was always thrilled to be part of the science fiction community, as both a fan and a pro. He taught me a lot about being a writer and a professional.

My dad met my mom nearly 60 years ago and has been devoted to her ever since. She said to me this morning that no one could have had a better husband. My mom will miss him more than anyone, but we know he will be missed by many people.

He will be cremated, as per his wishes, in a private family service. We will plan a memorial/remembrance gathering for him later this year, at a location where we hope many of his friends can be present–maybe a convention.

Meanwhile, his long illness leaves his widow, my mom, with many large medical bills, while grieving his loss, and without him being here to generate any more income. In his memory, if you would like to help her, his medical GoFundMe is still running.

On my dad’s behalf, thank you for all the good times, good laughs, and good memories he enjoyed in what was a happy and fulfilling life.

Donate to the GoFundMe here.

Photos of Mike Resnick taken throughout his career by Andrew Porter. (c) Andrew Porter.

Lester H. Cole, Past Worldcon
Co-Chair, Has Died

Les Cole at home in his library.

By John L. Coker III: Lester Hines Cole (1926–2019), the long-time beloved husband of Esther Cole, was a Bay Area SF fan who co-chaired SFCon, the 1954 Worldcon held in San Francisco that had John W. Campbell, Jr. as its guest of honor.  SFCon activities included a chamber opera based on a Ray Bradbury short story (narrated by Anthony Boucher), and the restoration of the tradition of a masquerade ball.  Les was married to Esther Cole, who joined him in many of his fannish activities.

Cole, who died in late September, was a member of the Elves, Gnomes and Little Men’s Science Fiction and Chowder Society (at one time serving as its president).  The Society was founded in 1948; meetings and other club activities were always centered in and around Berkeley, CA.  In the early days, the club published thepopular fanzine Rhodomagnetic Digest.

Cole published the fanzine Orgasm (aka The Big O) in 1951, along with his wife and Clarence Jacobs.  Les had about fifty genre short stories, articles, and letters published, most of which appeared in Amazing, Astounding, F&SF, Venture, and Startling.  He also wrote several genre novels, including an alternate history in 2012, Spithead, in which the two World Wars never happened.  He sometimes used the pen names of Roy Carroll, Les Collins, T. M. Mathieu, T. H. Mathieu, and Colin Sturgis.  The last was used when Les collaborated with Melvin Sturgis.

An associate member of First Fandom, Les was inducted — along with his wife — into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 2017.  A photo of Les (with wife Es) appeared in A Wealth of Fable (SCIFI Press, 1992) written by SF fan Harry Warner, Jr.

He was a historian; a scholarly gentleman with many interests and great capacities who was a life-long student and a mentor; a true animal lover; someone who had one foot firmly planted in the past with the other striding boldly into the future.

Les is survived by his wife and their two sons, Dana and Lance.

(Prepared by Jon D. Swartz)

Es and Les Cole. Photo by Tove Marling

Remembering Les Cole

By Es Cole: Les was a treasure trove of SF experiences and interactions with the great fans and writers during the glory years.  He chaired the Elves, Gnomes and Little Men’s SF and Chowder Society and helped produce the 1954 Worldcon.  He also captured his bride of 70 years by reading to her The Black Flame (by Stanley Weinbaum), who wore a gown of Alexandrites, rare gemstones that cost more than 15,?000 dollars a carat.

I accepted Les’ marriage proposal on condition the engagement ring be an Alexandrite.  Les, that sneaky, funny, intellectual, got me the ring, but the Alexandrite was an artificial stone. 

My SF relationship with Les started when we first met.  I had been assigned to run the switchboard of the men’s dorm, and Les walked into that area, wearing a new hat.  He was a wiseass sophomore, age 18; I was a sophisticated, 20-year-old freshman.  This was at Cal, Berkeley.  Les spent about two hours hanging about, and I learned from him about “dry labbing.”  First thing Les taught me was how to cheat in my chem class.  Thus, I began my college career.  And it worked.  Plus I got a boyfriend.  And the rest is history — a history of almost 80 years. 

We made our first convention appearance in New Orleans, where Bob Bloch started a rumor that Es and Les were 15-year-old twin brothers, and we’ve been gender confused ever since.

No. 1 son, Dana, attended the Worldcon in Chicago at age 4 1/2 months.  Both sons – Dana and Lance – attended the Worldcon in San Francisco in 1954.

Les and Es Cole, Gary Nelson, Tom Quinn and a few other people produced SFCon 1954.  We started out with almost bare pockets.   First, we turned the 2-day event into a 3-day weekend; we upped the registration from $1 to $2.  Fans screamed at the outrageous increase.  Our most important accomplishment, which is still followed today: we voted to have world conventions produced in a different city each year, moving westward.  Prior to that, conventions had primarily been on the eastern side of the U.S.  We restored the masquerade ball.  Bob Bloch was a judge.  Willy Ley’s wife, a professional ballet dancer, wore a black, filmy, flowing gown with glowing stars.  She was “deep space”.

We arranged for a wonderful museum in San Francisco to display some original sf art, including Chesley Bonestell originals.  Additional entertainment included a chamber opera based on a Bradbury short story narrated by Anthony Boucher.

When Les was president of the Little Men, he, and several other people, hatched an idea to involve the United Nations to claim to have authority over ownership of the Moon.

The idea for the Moon Claim, originated, with the owner of the bookstore where The Little Men held their meetings.

The people who executed the Moon Claim were pros or near pros.  Les wrote about the geology of the area of the moon; a graduate student in astronomy was able to outline the area of the moon being claimed; Les’ father was studying law, so he was able to write a proper claim.  They picked a date to local papers, describing the attempt to claim a portion of the Moon, by filing such a claim with the Legal Department of the United Nations.  And yes, it worked.  Press releases went out, written with a slant that would appeal to each Bay Area newspaper.  The response was far greater than we expected.  The local Berkeley paper tore up their original front page for that day and ran the Moon Claim story.  Les received a phone call in his place of work from a reporter from England, calling from New York. The reporter was interested in the ramifications of such a claim. 

Les, as president of the Little Men had the responsibility of fielding the phone calls, hoping for a legal way to determine the ownership of part of the moon.

Les authored about 50 SF short stories, published in F&SF, Amazing, Startling; an article in Astounding; and 6 novels.  His letters to sf magazines were published regularly from when he was about 13.  After we married in 1947 he added my name – thus was born Les and Es, or Es and Les.

Books by Les Cole: The Sea Kings, Lion at Sea, The Sea People (a prehistoric arch-aeological adventure trilogy, also available in Greek); Baker’s Dozenth (a spy novel set against the American Civil War); Spithead (an alternative universe spy/adventure novel where WWI and WWII never happened because the British Navy sailed out of Spithead, England and intervened).

Judith Merrill played a big part.  Long distance by mail and phone she helped Les hone his writing skills, gave advice about character development, dialog.  Les passed on this help to other aspiring writers, an important obligation.

Les was never boring.  I don’t think he could be boring; he knew too much, his sense of humor never stopped.  His use of language was always interesting, thoughtful, and unique.  And he could write; short stories, science fiction, historical novels.

He was younger than I, and insisted that I had to marry a younger man because women live longer than men.  He was right about so many things.  Smart and funny, and knew so much.  He was never boring. 

He is still in our house.  In every corner: his books, his photographs, his little notes tucked into books.  We made each other laugh.   He taught me stuff and I may have taught him a few things, too.

Sending love,

Es and the doggies

D. C. Fontana (1939-2019)

D.C. Fontana in 2016.

Famed Star Trek writer D.C. Fontana has died at the age of 80. The American Film Institute announced today the news of Fontana’s passing. 

She gained fame for her work on the original Star Trek series and the 1970s animated series, which she also associate produced. In later years she wrote Trek-themed games and comics.

According to IMDB, she was advised by Gene Roddenberry to use her initials (D.C.) on her initial scripts for the original Star Trek series because at the time, networks were often biased against female writers. That may have been sound advice, although in her first several TV writing credits for The Tall Man series in 1960 she was identified by her full name, as “Dorothy C. Fontana.”

On Star Trek, she received credits in 11 episodes — her Wikipedia bio has a discussion of her specific contributions to various episodes, and how in some cases credit was apportioned by the Writers Guild of America. A few of her works on Star Trek were credited to the pseudonym Michael Richards.

Fontana and Gene Roddenberry shared writing credit on “Encounter at Farpoint,” the premiere episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

She later contributed to several Star Trek spin-off series and quite a few other genre TV shows, among them The Fantastic Journey, Logan’s Run, The Six Million Dollar Man, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Automan, and Babylon 5.

Throughout her career she also wrote episodes of non-sff shows like Ben Casey, Bonanza, The Streets of San Francisco, Kung Fu, The Waltons, and Dallas, In 1969 she was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award for an episode of Then Came Bronson entitled “Two Percent of Nothing”.

Dorothy Catherine Fontana was born in Sussex, New Jersey in 1939. She was most recently employed as a senior lecturer at the American Film Institute.

Fontana is survived by her husband, Oscar-winning visual effects cinematographer, Dennis Skotak. Both of them have generously shared their experience on many convention panels in Los Angeles over the years.

[Thanks to James Davis Nicoll for the story.]

Gahan Wilson (1930-2019)

Gahan Wilson

Cartoonist Gahan Wilson, known for his macabre humor, died November 21 at the age of 89. Paul Winters, Wilson’s stepson who had recently organized a GoFundMe for the artist, made the announcement:

The world has lost a legend. One of the very best cartoonists to ever pick up a pen and paper has passed on. He went peacefully – surrounded by those who loved him.

Gahan Wilson leaves behind a large body of work that is finely drawn, elegant, and provocative.

He was preceded in death by his wife, author Nancy Winters Wilson, and his parents, Allen and Marion Wilson…

To the world at large he was famous for his cartoons in major magazines like Playboy, The New Yorker, and National Lampoon.

Within the sff genre Wilson contributed cartoons to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, for which he also wrote fiction, and movie and book reviews. His first published story, “Beware of the Dog.” appeared in F&SF in 1964. In the Eighties he was a movie reviewer for The Twilight Zone Magazine, and in the Nineties a book critic for Realms of Fantasy.

He wrote and illustrated a story for Harlan Ellison’s anthology Again, Dangerous Visions (1972). The “title” is a black blob, and the story is about an ominous black blob that appears on the page, growing at an alarming rate.

World Fantasy Award

Wilson designed the original World Fantasy Award trophy, a bust of H.P. Lovecraft, which was presented from 1975-2015, when the design was retired. The World Fantasy Convention presented him a copy as a Special Award in 1981.

He was recognized for lifetime achievement by the Bram Stoker Awards (1992) and World Fantasy Awards (2004), and was named a Living Legend by the International Horror Guild Awards (2005).

He received an Inkpot Award from San Diego Comic-Con in 1989. He also received the National Cartoonists Society’s Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

Wilson is the subject of a feature-length documentary film, Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird, directed by Steven-Charles Jaffe.

Earlier this year his stepson Paul Winters announced that the cartoonist was suffering from advanced dementia, and started a GoFundMe for Gahan Wilson to pay for memory care. More than a thousand people donated $52,175 in the first 14 days, and eventually over $80,000 of donations were received.

Michael Hanson (1940-2019)

Michael Hanson

Radio personality, jazz drummer and the creator of Mindwebs, Michael Hanson, died of cancer on September 9 at the at the age pf 78. The family obituary is here.

He was the voice of the Mindwebs series out of WHA radio in Wisconsin, which offered weekly readings of sff stories by well-known writers. Between 1976 and the mid-1990s they presented 169 half-hour shows with 188 short stories by 135 different authors, ranging from Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin and Isaac Asimov to Thomas Disch, Joanna Russ, and R.A. Lafferty. Hanson’s readings were enhanced by music, periodic sound cues, and the occasional character voice.

Just a few years ago Milwaukee station WMSE resumed airing the old episodes, at which time Hanson also recorded a few new episodes, for example, reading a story by Neil Gaiman from 2017.

Rick Hurdle of Plot Spot has created a Mindwebs show guide with information (so far) about 171 episodes, with verified cast information, interviews, pictures and more.

Hanson was a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They posted a eulogy from FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, a pianist, that focused on their mutual interest in music –

I played with the Michael Hanson Jazz Group a number of times… His style on the drums was breezy and fun, leaving plenty of room for the soloists to express themselves. During breaks, we often talked about music, but Michael especially wanted to talk to me about politics and religion. He really cared about the world.

Hanson is survived by his wife Rosie and sons Rolfe and Stephan.

Michael Hanson

Paul Turner

By John Hertz:  Paul Turner has died (1936-2019).  

He left our stage near the end of last month.  His son called me.  I reported to the October 24th meeting of Paul’s club and mine, the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society.  I still have few data.

Paul had been living alone in the Kern County desert, near Johannesburg (pop. 172).  I had visited him there.  He and his son and I drove to the 76th World Science Fiction Convention (San Jose, 2018).  The widow of a friend found his remains.

Paul was given the Evans-Freehafer Award for service to the LASFS in 1964.  He was Fan Guest of Honor at Loscon XX in 1993 (our local convention; Loscon XLVI will be 29 Nov – 1 Dec 2019).

He invented the LASFS Building Fund.  Jerry Pournelle told him “You’re out of your mind.”  Paul said “Sure I am.”  He nurtured the Fund for quite a while until, leaf by niggle, it had grown to what would in today’s money be a low five-figure sum.  This not quite infinitely improbable result sparked Bruce Pelz, whom Paul had earlier defeated for head of the Club, at the time called Director, later President.  In the following while, we all, including Bruce, discovered Bruce’s ability to get money out of stones.  Or maybe we were turnips.  The LASFS got a clubhouse, outgrew it and got another, outgrew it and got a third, outgrew it and is now hunting a fourth.

Paul couldn’t attend the LASFS’ 75th anniversary celebration (founded 1934!) but gave me some remarks to read for him, which I did, and you can see here.

You can also see some of him occasioned later by the LASFS’ 4,000th meeting.  Look here.

He was a good friend to, among many others, Bill Rotsler.  Here’s a photo I’ve long liked that Len Moffatt took of Bill and Paul at Westercon XIX.  

Bill Rotsler and Paul Turner at Westercon XIX in 1966. Photo by Len Moffatt.

Bill may be displaying better judgment by carrying his blaster in a holster than Paul is by drinking Miller beer.  I hasten to add I for another while worked happily with a man named Miller who kept on a shelf in his office a neon sign saying “It’s Miller time”.  These things have a subjective element.

Paul was an electrical engineer and worked on the Space Shuttle.  I’m only a lawyer.  We didn’t talk of science too much – although lawyers are engineers, and to some extent scientists.  We did talk of shoes – and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages – and kings; usually by phone after he’d moved to the desert; sometimes at length.  I don’t remember getting to why the sea is boiling hot.  I think it’s the influence of the Sun, myself.

A woman he knew said, when I called her after his death, that he could show an indomitable spirit.  She didn’t mean the time the three of us went to hear Yuja Wang play piano at Disney Concert Hall.  We all thought Yuja Wang was swell, and in fact indomitable.  It was more like the time Paul went climbing alone in the Sierras, and somehow got two counties’ rescue forces looking for him and giving up saying he couldn’t be found, after which he emerged, hungry and thirsty from lack of food and water, but safe.  He was a couple of years short of eighty then.

He shared, with a friend we had in common, a love of hot, I mean spicy, food.  Once when Paul and I met for breakfast at a Vietnamese restaurant, each ordering a bowl of pho, noodle soup (Vietnamese uses diacritical marks, which I leave out), Paul tasted his broth, threw in his slices of hot peppers and mine, put in some black sauce, added enough orange sauce that his bowl was glistening radioactive orange, and called over the waiter to ask “Don’t you have any hot food in this restaurant?”

One of his unexecuted ideas was Project 44.  He considered building a compass dial outdoors with each of its 44 points – I never did ask why not 32 or 128 – named for a man or woman who had contributed outstanding guidance to humanity.  Think about it.  Whom would you put in?  Whom leave out?  Why her and not her?  What a topic.

I thought of entitling this note “If you say so, King Solomon” (to whom is attributed the book Ecclesiastes, with “To every thing there is a season”), but I didn’t.

Requiescat in pace.

Paul Turner at Worldcon 76 in 2018. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.