Remembering Wes Shank

Wes Shank died August 13 at the age of 72.

By Steve Vertlieb:  We were lifelong friends, survivors, and part of a proud, if vanishing brotherhood of adoring movie fans. Dick Klemensen (crusading editor and publisher of Little Shoppe of Horrors Magazine) is pictured on the far left. I’m next to Dick. Next to me is the “Citizen Kane” of monster magazine publishing, Gary Svehla (founder and publisher of Midnight Marquee Press, and creator of the beloved “Fanex” film conventions in Baltimore, MD). On the far right is Walter (Wes) Shank.

Dick Klemensen, Steve Vertlieb, Gary Svehla, and Wes Shank.

I met Wes fifty-three years ago at Forry Ackerman’s very first “Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine” convention in New York City in September, 1965. Wes was a renowned film, and film memorabilia collector, as well as the owner and “curator” of “The Blob.”

When I lost my job in television many decades ago, Wes offered me a job working with him at his film lab in Rosemont, Pa. He saved me when I most needed a helping hand.

Wes and I shared a history…a history of both laughter and tears. We didn’t always see eye to eye but, in the final analysis, he was my friend. He was a gentle soul, and loving husband of Judy Shank, and father to David Shank. I just received the terrible news that Wes passed away yesterday. I am in shock and denial. I cannot fathom the shocking reality of his passing. Wes made his mark in the world of fandom, and was a legendary, beloved figure to all who knew him.

Wes was a gentle soul, and avid film memorabilia collector, known largely for being the owner and keeper of “The Blob.” Pennsylvania’s Blob Fest was always enlivened by Wes’s appearance in the company of his famed gelatinous friend. He was also responsible for locating the infamous censored scenes from the original King Kong, which were then loving restored by Janus Films, and incorporated back into all modern prints of the film. Wes was simply a good guy, and a loving family man. My heart goes out to his wife, Judy, and his son, David. May God Bless his gentle soul.

I cannot imagine a world without Wes Shank. May you rest in peace, old friend. I shall always love you.

Steve Vertlieb, left. Wes Shank, right.

June Moffatt Remembered at LASFS

By John Hertz:  June’s local club was, and mine is, the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. She died on May 31st. She was my longest-time friend in fandom.

LASFS (to me and many, pronounced “lahss fahss”; to June’s late husband Len rhyming with sass mass) was founded in 1934.  Our memorial for her was June 28th.  We meet every Thursday; it was our 4,220th.  No one could take Our Gracious Host’s place, but I told him that if he couldn’t attend I’d take notes.

On the way I found classical-music radio Station KUSC broadcasting Chopin’s Waltz No. 9 (Op. 59 No. 1, 1835) “L’adieu” played by Garrick Ohlsson.

We’ve been renting the Null Space Labs in North Hollywood.  We outgrew our third clubhouse, sold it, and are looking for a fourth.  Our meetings start at 8 p.m.  This time we thought we ought to serve snacks, so we did that starting at 6.

We’d had another blow that day: Harlan Ellison. He would have a separate memorial.

Club business didn’t take long.  Usually a lot is monkey business.  We left that out and went on to what the unusually large attendance had come for.

June’s oldest son Bob Konigsberg had been able to visit her from his home in Los Gatos three hundred fifty miles away.  I’d sometimes found him at Moffatt House, serenading her.  Tonight he told us she loved railroad songs, like “The Wabash Cannonball”.

A gadget in Bob’s hand, coupled with one Matthew Tepper had, let us hear from June’s daughter Caty, still on the road.  It’s called Bluetooth, I muttered to Lee Gold, because you put it in your ear.  You know it’s named for Harald Gormsson, she muttered back, quite rightly shushing me as I started to explain that the Greek dance Hasapikos (Turkish kasap, a butcher) is so called because sailors do it.

Caty told us she’d seen how much LASFS meant to her mom.  As it happened no one broke into “Mutual Admiration Society” but we could have.  June and Len were like that too.  Caty thanked us all and said she heard us thanking her.

Barbara Gratz Harmon had married Jim Harmon about the time June married Len.  They had double-dated.  Len and Jim both died in 2010.  Tonight Barbara talked about June.

Barbara lives in Burbank; the Moffatts lived in Downey.  With Len and Jim gone, June spent Thursday nights after LASFS meetings at Barbara’s, and drove home the next day.  Barbara is a cellist in several orchestras.  When she had to practice late at night, June took out hearing aids and slept jes’ fine. When Barbara was on jury duty for five months, June had a key to the house.  Barbara’s dog Leslie loved her.

June became unable to drive.  She passed the written exam but couldn’t see well enough.  Carol Sperling, among other things founder of the Blustering Gales, a local Sherlock Holmes club – detective fiction was another Moffatt interest – told us about taking June around.

George McUrso did some of that too.  Eventually he had, as regular Thursday night passengers, June, Barbara, Charlie Jackson, and Rowan Dao (who was also the youngest Blustering Gale).

In 1991 George (then using the surname Mulligan) had been given the Evans-Freehafer Award for service to the LASFS; he was one of June and Len’s nominators when they were given the Evans-Freehafer in 1994.

Like Carol Sperling, he had other adventures driving June.  They went to an Edgar Rice Burroughs fans’ Dum-Dum, and the Orange County Museum of Art.  He learned what a great film Oklahoma! was.  Once at Clubhouse III he was looking for The Mouse That Roared. After a while June thought it was time to go home.  Just then our librarian Gavin Claypool emerged calling that he had it, and The Mouse on the Moon too.  June said “Can we get out of here before he finds any more mice?”

Matthew Tepper said June had agented his Lzine when he lived in Minneapolis and San Francisco.  She asked him to find music for Len’s LASFS memorial.  Tonight he began to play it from a gadget he had – “No, that’s Mussorgsky” – then we heard “I Go Pogo”. The Moffatts were Pogo fans.

Barry Gold had found LASFS in 1964.  June’s equanimity and aplomb, he said, had won her the name Mother Jaguar. June and Len made him feel he’d known them for ages.  Near the end while visiting her he’d sung “Bouncing Potatoes” and told Bob Konigsberg how Poul Anderson was driven to write it.

Charlie Jackson said he’d just finished re-reading The Wind in the Willows when she died.  Comments in her APA-L zine were headed “Onion-Sauce” (ch. 1).  With Len and June, he said, as we agreed, seldom was heard a discouraging word.

Ed Green said there was no bigger heart than Len and June’s.  They sponsored people, including him.  A bright light had gone out.

I said – there was more, but I’ll stop here –  Judaism taught that, whatever else after death there may be, the dead live in their good deeds.  And we should take the torch.

                             

Some of this is also in Vanamonde 1308.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #32

Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty images

Remembering: Harlan & I

By Chris M. Barkley

“Awareness and Kindness are the only sacred things.”
– Harlan Ellison

On May 14, 2018, Tom Wolfe died.

Most of you reading this know him as the author of The Right Stuff, a nonfiction chronicles of test pilots like Chuck Yeager and those who came after him to become the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts. Astute fans also know he was on the vanguard of “new journalism” of the 1960’s (The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test) and wrote several novels of note (The Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full).

There were eulogies, obituaries and tributes galore. There is no doubt in my mind that Tom Wolfe’s literary legacy is well assured.

On May 22, 2018, Philip Roth died.

Mr. Roth had an extraordinary literary life; a winner of the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle awards twice each, the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Awards three times. His 2004 novel, The Plot Against America, was given the Sidewise Award for Alternate History In Time in which American hero and Nazi collaborator Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin Roosevelt to become the President in 1940, with dire results. The waves of accolades and praise for Roth and his works came, all well deserved.

And then, on June 28, Harlan Ellison died.  And to me, seems as though the entire world just suddenly STOPPED in its tracks to pay tribute to this man, this splendid wordsmith.

It had been a very busy day. I woke up at 3 a.m. to take over the counter meds for the slight rotator cuff tear in my right shoulder (and NO, I will not be back in time for the playoffs, thank you very much for asking!).  At 7:20, I was up and listening to NPR’s Morning Edition (which my partner Juli and I have humorously nicknamed “Damage Report”), preparing the morning coffee, chai and a cat food feast for four hungry faces.

I was watching that day’s first World Cup match (Senegal vs Columbia) when I received an urgent call from my neighbor, Lillian. If you were to google a casting call image of a little old lady, ninety-five year old Lillian’s face would likely appear; frail, five foot one, probably ninety pounds soaking wet with the sweetest smile and a New York accent to die for. She adamantly insists on living by herself and manages to do so under the watchful eyes of Juli and I and her numerous in-laws and grandchildren.

“Oh, I hate to bother you,” she said, “but could you come over and have a look at the blinds upstairs? I think they might be broken.”

Well, of course I could. Because that’s what good neighbors do. And besides, I am a former Boy Scout of America and I have been mostly home since I stopped working at the bookstore over a year ago. So while Columbia was busy fending off Senegal, I was measuring her blinds to be replaced because the plastic inner mechanism had finally become so brittle and dry, it gave up the ghost. She fretted about replacing all three sets of shades in the room (because she wanted them to match) but I assured her that when she and her granddaughter returned from Home Depot later in the day, I could easily handle them.

After watching Columbia defeat Senegal 1-nil, it was time to pick up my two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, Lily, from pre-school. As many of you have seen from photographs posted here, she is a lively, smart-for-her years imp of a little girl. When I picked her up and bundled her into the car, she demanded her toys that are usually littered about the back seat, a pair of plastic dinosaurs (a stegosaurus and velociraptor), a tiny albino Bengal tiger and a small waterless coloring board. And once we’re underway, as she is regularly wont to do, she deftly removes her socks and shoes and settles back in her car sear for some serious singing, playing and some occasional comments about my driving abilities.

Thirty minutes later, Lily was protesting being put down for her nap, even though this has been a part of her daily routine for the past year and a half. But she’s more tired than she realizes and is soon fast asleep. And in the meantime, I asked the household’s Alexa to dial up NPR’s Here and Now for the latest news. Now it’s my turn to fret; the border crisis, the upcoming tariffs on foreign trade and the continuing analysis of the Supreme Court decisions and the speculation on who will replace Justice Anthony Kennedy dominate that day’s show.

Lily’s mom Beth came home an hour and a half later. I headed back to the house and had settled into watch the evening match in Kaliningrad between England and Belgium when I get the call from Lillian about her blinds. I went next door immediately. “I don’t want to keep too long,” she said, so she insisted I only replace the broken blind and the rest could wait until tomorrow. It took less than ten minutes and  she pronounced the work, “beautiful”.

I had just sat down on my mushroom-shaped chair to check my email when I saw it.

Right above an announcement about breaking news event about a mass shooting at a newspaper in Annapolis, there was an email from Variety with the headline: “Harlan Ellison, Sci-Fi Writer Who Contributed to ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Babylon 5,’ Dies at 84.”

My heart shuddered.

The world fell away.

I took my glasses off and openly wept.

It had finally happened and for several minutes I tried to take it in and comprehend what I had just read.

He was gone.

I had contemplated calling Harlan on his birthday in May but demurred, first because I truly did not know the state of his health and did not want to bother him unduly. I discarded the idea completely when I heard that his good friend, fellow author and editor, Gardner Dozois, had died earlier in the day. There was no way Harlan nor could his lovely wife Susan entertain the idea of a call from me. It felt like a terrible idea. So, I let it go I have no regrets.

I noodled around online looking for more information but after a while, I became fatigued with grief. I went to lie down on the bed and did so until my sweetheart and partner Juli came home from work. She had heard the news, too.  She had never met him but she knew only knew of him by his reputation and stories that she had read about him over the years. Her opinion of Harlan was quite neutral but she also knew how deeply I felt about him. “What do you want to do?,” she asked in a soft, knowing voice.

It was Thursday, which was trivia night at one of our favorite brew houses, The Casual Pint. I asked myself, what would Harlan and Susan do? They would probably say that life was the living and that moping around wasn’t going to do the dead or you any good.

So I chose to get off my ass. “Let’s go,” I said.

On the way down the highway, we received a text from Juli’s son-in-law, Tim; he wanted to go out that evening with our granddaughter Lily but couldn’t because Beth accidentally took his car keys with her to work. Since we both knew he loved craft beers, we called him, changed course and picked them up.

We arrived at The Casual Pint just in time; our team leader, a retired insurance adjuster named Ed, had already submitted our usual team name, “Mr. Peabody’s Way Back Machine.” Tater tots, cider, beer and brats were ordered and the game was on.

There are six rounds of general knowledge questions, with each question separated by a soundtrack of cheesy rock and pop songs that lasted around three to four minutes. Cheating with smart phones was not allowed.

We were playing against an overwhelmingly millennial crowd. Between Juli, Tim, Ed and I, we kicked their little tushes back to grade school with 93 total points, thirty more than our nearest opponent, “Mr. Peabody’s Way Forward Machine.” Our prizes were $25 in gift cards shared among us, a brand new FC Cincinnati t-shirt for me and two tickets to the Saturday game with the Ottawa Fury, which we gave away to a couple who just moved to Cincinnati from Washington state just days earlier.

That felt good. And I felt alive, well and connected to the world once more.

My first encounter with Harlan Ellison’s work began in the summer of 1971. That was when my geeky new friend, Michaele, came home from college. I was heavily in to comics and loaned her some essential issues from my DC and Marvel collection. She, in turn, gave me a hardcover book club edition of the World’s Best Science Fiction 1970, edited by Terry Carr and Donald Wollheim. It was (and still is) filled with fine stories by Richard Wilson (“A Man Spekith”) Fritz Lieber (“Ship of Shadows”), Ursula K. Le Guin (“Nine Lives”), Robert Silverberg (“After the Myths Went Home”), Norman Spinrad (“The Big Flash”), James Tiptree, Jr. (“Your Haploid Heart”), Suzette Haden Elgin (“For the Sake of Grace”) and Larry Niven (“Death by Ecstasy”), among others.

But as I perused the table of contents, my eye was drawn to a singularly titled story, “A Boy and His Dog” by one Harlan Ellison, a writer I had never heard of before. Out of all the titled stories, for some unknown reason, I chose the story with the simplest, least ornate title.

Curious, I began to read. And damn, I was richly rewarded.

There may be some of you reading this have never had the pleasure of reading Harlan’s Nebula Award winning novella. I have no intention of recapping the plot of this well-known story. From its deceptively benign beginnings to its jaw dropping ending, I will only state that I was not the same person who began reading that story. And I must say, before I read “A Boy and His Dog”, my fourteen-year-old brain could not contemplate the possibility of sex being written in a prose style that could be interesting, arousing or heart-rending in ANY way.

Soon thereafter, I discovered that this remarkable writer had written some very memorable stories; “’Repent, Harlequin,’ Said the Tick-Tock Man”, “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”,  “Delusion For a Dragon Slayer” , “Paingod” and “The Beast That Shouted Love at The Heart of the World.”

If I were to compare Harlan to a baseball pitcher, I couldn’t do it, it would have to be at least a minimum of THREE; the fastball of the Cleveland Indians’ Bob Feller (of whom I have no doubt Harlan followed as a kid), the self-assured goofiness of journeyman knuckleballer Jim Bouton and the determination, cunning, intelligence, sheer skill and intimidation factor of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Bob Gibson, who would throw at your eye teeth if you tried to dig in at the plate.

The day after Harlan Ellison died, I saw a Facebook post in which the writer (whom I am protecting from the wrath of the internet by not naming), praised him as a writer but then turned around and stated that due to his manic behavior and explosive personality, his collective works were probably the product of a “idiot savant”.

What?

Oh, HELL NO!

These were the works of a restless and assertive man, always striving to be better, do better and most importantly, DEMAND better of himself, his friends and acquaintances and the world at large. And if this worldview did not coincide with your interests, you were going to have problems with Harlan Ellison. And he had problems with a lot of people.

Harlan and I were born at the opposite ends of Ohio; him in Cleveland in 1934 and me in Cincinnati twenty-two years later. And although each city has a long, adversarial history of sniping at each other, I never got a negative vibe from him about that. In fact, Harlan spent many a summer in the 1950’s attending Midwestcon, a relaxacon (a non-programmed convention) based in the Cincinnati area.

This convention, coincidently, is also where, in the summer of 1976, I discovered fandom (a full account, 13,000 plus word account of which was previous published in File 770 in 1997) but Harlan had long since stopped attending.

I found out that Harlan drew from his boyhood memories and experiences from glancing at a map of Ohio the other day. He grew up in the small town of Painsville (oh, the irony), which is approximately thirty miles northeast of Cleveland.

Now (unfolding the map), starting from Painsville, follow Ohio State Route 2 southeast twenty-six miles to the southwest, where it merges with I-90, past Euclid…Do you see it?

Bratenahl. That happens to be the last name of Harlan’s reporter protagonist in his richly vivid screenplay adaption of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot. A coincidence, you say?  Not a chance!

And there, to the south, running right through US 422, is Solon. I’m pretty sure he used that town’s name somewhere in his corpus of works. Are there more little gems out there waiting to be discovered by literary detectives and scholars decades from now? Most assuredly, I think.

Reading Harlan Ellison was one thing. Encountering Harlan Ellison in person was like stepping through a portal into an alternate, whirlwind dimension…

One of the people I met and befriended at that first Midwestcon was now Professor Emeritus Joseph Patrouch of the University of Dayton. He was also instrumental in bringing Harlan to town in November of 1977 for an event on campus. Not only did Joe send me an invitation, I also got to tag along to have dinner with him beforehand at a nearby restaurant.

Much of that evening has become a hazy blur over the years but I do remember him being very friendly and gracious to me when I was formally introduced to him (I saw him previously in May at Kwintus Kublius, a sf convention in Nashville) and the dinner was punctuated with stories and laughter.

The event itself was electrifying; a reading from a story he had just completed, punctuated by some searing commentary about America, the evils of contemporary television, some rather pointed statements about abysmal state of students and youth culture he was encountering during the lecture tour and the somewhat tenuous state of the world  at that moment.

Harlan spoke loudly, forcibly and most importantly, with an enormous amount of vigor and passion. Anyone who has ever witnessed his lectures, signings or public performances knows EXACTLY WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.  To anyone who was receptive, his speeches, observations and pronouncements left you in turns, angry, sad, amused, shocked and overwhelmed. And informed, always informed. (Well, at least to his point of view; merely agreeing with him was, in my estimation, lazy thinking.” Don’t believe me”, he would always say, “find out for yourself and forge your own, informed opinions.”) .

Harlan’s enthusiasm was infectious. If anyone in that audience that night had an inkling of becoming a writer, they were certainly given a powerful impetus to do so that evening. At least, I hope they did. I know that is was true for me.

In his 1980 non-fiction tome on horror Danse Macabre, Stephen King invited Harlan to describe his work in his own words. He said, “My work is foursquare for chaos. I spend my life personally, and my work professionally, keeping the soup boiling. Gadfly is what they call you when you are no longer dangerous; I much prefer troublemaker, malcontent, desperado. I see myself as a combination of Zorro and Jiminy Cricket. My stories go out from here and raise hell. From time to time some denigrator or critic with umbrage will say of my work, ‘He only wrote that to shock.’ I smile and nod. Precisely.”

Over the years, I have tried to emulate his code of ethics; if you see something wrong, speak up, help if you can help, do not suffer fools gladly, never settle for the mediocre in yourself or anything you do, don’t be a slave to what’s fashionable, do vote in elections and, if you accept help, pay it forward to the next person.

To be sure, Harlan didn’t always follow his own sage advice; I have read and heard about his infamous temper, which sometimes got the better of him with his dealings with fans, television and film executives, fellow authors, editors, publishers and just plain folks. I have never truly felt his wrath mostly because I closely listened and learned. Over the first few years that I knew him, I learned that there were certain odious subjects and red zones that I was never going to broach with him; his previous marriages, Richard Nixon, Star Wars (the films or the missile defense “scheme”), Gene Roddenberry and The Last Dangerous Visions.

By now you have either heard of, read or re-lived some of the more infamous true incidents; the dead gopher, the slugging of tv producer Adrian Samish, the testy encounter with Frank Sinatra, being dismissed from the Walt Disney studio after less than a day on the lot, the Starlost debacle, the I, Robot debacle, what the pseudonym “Cordwainer Bird” really means when he uses it, the bricks that were mailed to a publisher (intentionally sent with postage due, mind you), the physical assault on author Charles Platt at the 1985 Nebula Awards banquet, forcing James Cameron to admit that some of the story material in the making of the Terminator films were actually Harlan’s and the successful settlement of a lawsuit against AOL for infringement and the illegal distribution of his works online by its users.

And then there was the 2006 incident with Connie Willis at the Worldcon, which I’ll delve into that a little further along.

Over the past forty-one years, I had the privilege of experiencing a parade of encounters with Harlan Ellison.

In early May of 1977, I was sitting in the audience of Harlan’s Guest of Honor speech at the aforementioned sf convention in Nashville. He read his soon to be published (and future Hugo Award winning short story), “Jeffty Is Five” and soon after, was regaling us with stories about running away with the circus in his youth and the entertainment of that era, that included the last vestiges of the vaudeville era and minstrel shows. Several in the audience called out for him to sing a song and he was about to do so when his eyes swept to room and came resting directly on me, the only African-American person in the room. He stopped, raised his hand and said, “No. Sorry folks, I can’t do that. We have a gentleman in the audience who might object.” And everyone then expectantly turned to me.   I, in turn, said, “Hey, well, you know…”

Silence.

And Harlan smiled and put an end any thought of doing a THAT kind of song and that was the end of it. And I was grateful, then and now, that he had taken the time to notice me and took time to take my feelings into account.

The very next year Harlan was the GoH of the Iguanacon, the 36th Worldcon that was held in Phoenix, Arizona. This was my second Worldcon and the journey by air was the furthest I had ever been from my home by myself. I remember that stepping from the Hyatt Regency entrance onto the street was like entering a blast furnace. The convention center was several hundred yards away across an open plaza and there were several times that I was sure quite sure the gym shoes would melt from the walk on the pavement.

Parked just outside the hotel there was a huge mobile home Harlan had rented for the occasion. He was ensconced there as a protest against the Arizona state legislature for not passing the Equal Rights Amendment (which, as of July 2018, the Republican majority in both houses were still actively blocking).

At one point during the proceedings, wandered into the hotel lobby where Harlan was sitting in a transparent tent, writing a story for everyone to see.  As I sat down to watch this spectacle, unfold, I found myself sitting next to and becoming acquainted with one of Harlan’s close friends, author Norman Spinrad. It was an unforgettable experience.

In 1994 I was in the midst of my first go round working at my dream job as an employee of Joseph Beth Booksellers, one of the best independent retail book outlets in the country. When Harlan’s illustrated version of his 1978 screenplay for Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot was published later that year, I immediately chose it as my staff pick. To further promote the book, I called Harlan and set a time for him to call the store for a phone conference book club. Twenty-five people showed up as Harlan patiently explained his lifelong friendship with Asimov, the genesis of the project and detailed why the script would probably never be put into production.

(Note: The abominable 2004 version starring Will Smith, directed by Alex Proyas and mostly written by Akiva Goldsman over the vigorous objections of the original screenwriter, Jeff Vintar, had NOTHING to do with Asimov’s book. The late film critic Roger Ebert wrote, ”The plot is simple minded and disappointing, and the chase and action scenes are pretty much routine for movies in the sci fi CGI genre.” Ebert was also an ardent sf fan, had read I, Robot  and it’s more than likely he knew about Harlan superior screenplay. I tried watching it once on cable and turned it off after ten minutes. One day, I would like to ask Smith, who took an executive producer’s credit, whether or not he read or knew about Harlan’s script with the same name…)

A few days after the event, I got a call from Harlan thanking me again for the opportunity to talk some intelligent fans of his work. He also wanted to ask a favor; could he order a book on dinosaurs that had just been published? Not only did I order it, I gave him a 20% discount and free shipping to boot. Because that’s what friends do for each other.

Friends also help friends get nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.  In 2004, I did just that.

I have held a longstanding grudge against the Swedish Academy’s Literature Committee, for not only snubbing American writers like the late Philip Roth and the very much alive Joyce Carol Oates, but brilliant fantasy and sf writers like Jack Vance, Guy Gavriel Kay, Margaret Atwood, Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin and…Harlan Ellison.

I was going to send each of the fifteen sitting member of the Literature Committee a copy of the thirty-five year retrospective of The Essential Ellison to get their attention but it proved to be very cost prohibitive and also out of bounds, rules wise.

The rules as it turned out, were very simple:

Qualified Nominators

The right to submit proposals for the award of a Nobel Prize in Literature shall, by statute, be enjoyed by:

1. Members of the Swedish Academy and of other academies, institutions and societies which are similar to it in construction and purpose;
2. Professors of literature and of linguistics at universities and university colleges;
3. Previous Nobel Laureates in Literature;
4. Presidents of those societies of authors that are representative of the literary production in their respective countries.

Harlan was not out of the loop; I called him very early in the process and when I told him what I was up to, there was an incredulous cry of “WHHAAAAAAT!” on the other end of the phone. But once he calmed down, he was very much on board to make it happen.

Somewhere in my National Archive-sized rental storage unit, I have a copy of a letter from a professor (whose name, alas, I cannot remember at this moment) who taught at Northern Kentucky University and was a huge fan of Harlan’s. I found him by querying around local writer’s groups and schools for a volunteer to contact the Swedish Academy.

He readily agreed to write an official letter and simultaneously email the Swedish Academy with the nomination. When that was done, I would send out an officially approved press release announcing the nomination to all of the major newspapers

Well, the morning the professor sent word that the email had been sent, I first alerted the gang with a detailed post at Unca’ Harlan’s Art Deco Dining Pavilion with the good news. For a good long while, this website was the only place to contact him or his legions of friends and acquaintances online. I was within minutes of sending out the press release when I received several emails begging me NOT to.

Puzzled, I asked why and several correspondents explained that the Academy frowns upon public displays or announcements about nominations. So sending out that email would have practically ended any consideration of Harlan’s work for a Nobel Prize.

With a heavy heart I called Harlan later in the morning with the news. “I know kiddo, I know,” he said with some sadness in his voice. “But,” I said, “you still have the nomination. You just can’t talk about it.”

He gave a chuckle and thanked me profusely for my efforts. I’d like to imagine that at the very least he called up Robert Silverberg exclaiming, “Hey, GUESS WHAT I HAVE that you don’t?”

I celebrated my 50th birthday at two years later at L.A.con IV, the 64th World Science Fiction Convention. It was memorable in many, many ways. For good and for naught, as it turned out.

I met up with Harlan and Susan in the Green Room just before his first panel of the day. I came in part to present him with a signed and framed copy of the professor’s Nobel Prize nomination. Susan accidentally spilled some coffee on me and Harlan was mortified even though there wasn’t too much damage done to my pants or leg. As he graciously signed a few books I brought with me, actor Robert Picardo came by to see them. I stepped aside, said farewell and went about my assigned duties in the Press Office.

I met UK author Paul Cornell and gave him an embarrassingly long hug for writing this Hugo nominated Doctor Who episode, “Father’s Day”. The dealer’s room and art show were enormous. There was a marvelous dinner at a Bucca di Beppo’s , a franchise I had never heard up until then of and seemed to me to be solely dedicated to killing off its customer base several thousand calories at time.

At the Business Meeting, Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden and I shook hands as the members voted to split the Best Editor award in two; a Long Form category for the editor of at least four novel-length works and a Short Form category for the editor of at least four anthologies, collections or issues of magazines. (This turned out well for Patrick; he won the first Long Form award a year later at Nippon 2007 and received a wondrous award that featured the traditional Hugo rocket, Mt. Fuji and Ultraman!)

Then there was the Hugo Awards Ceremony on Saturday night. As a staff member of the Press Office, my primary job that evening was wrangle the group 30 or so journalists covering the event. I had them seated in several rows in an area just to the left of the stage. No more than forty feet away from the elevated stage.

I remember that the ceremony was going very well. Connie Willis was the Mistress of Ceremonies. When it was time for the Best Short Story to be awarded, Harlan came ambling on stage to present it.. Mind you, his appearance was not much of a surprise because the short story was his favorite medium to work in and the award has near and dear to his heart.

What happened next…

When I watched a You Tube video of the incident for this tribute was painful and took a great deal of effort because having seen it live and in person once was quite enough for me. It felt surreal. Harlan comes out. They start a humorous exchange and then Harlan puts the head of the microphone, foam and all INTO HIS MOUTH and goes into a weird “babyman” shtick, babbling and well, then, see for yourself:

As I was sitting there, I my mouth gaped open and I said to myself, did I just see what I just saw? There were some audible gasps from around me but, as you can see, it happened so quickly and as you saw Connie Willis left the stage without further incident and Harlan went on to present the award.

Needless to say, things got crazy. Harlan was roundly pilloried and condemned. Everyone had an opinion. A day after the convention closed, I had not read nor heard anything from either party about the “incident”.  Then, on the following Tuesday, the following query was posted on the Unca Harlan’s Art Deco Dining Pavilion:

Anne Batik, Aberdeen, UK – Tuesday, August 29 2006 7:43:46
WorldCon awards ceremony
For the record: I’ve met Mr. Ellison, had a conversation with him, and liked him. I found him intensely funny. I respect his work –a lot– the man is a great writer.

But grabbing Connie Willis’s breast is NOT ok, and people being upset over it is perfectly legit, not just “a bunch of fen in a snit.” Grabbing any woman’s breast, uninvited, much less a professional author of equal stature, in public, just because he wanted to I guess — is **NOT OK**. He really ought to issue Ms. Willis an apology. Period. He has no excuse. That is not how you treat women and not how you treat a colleague.

The man I met ten years ago had more class than that, even though he enjoyed being abrasive. What the heck happened?

Harlan responded a few hours later:

  • – Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:19:50
    REPLY TO LYNNE BATIK:

Would you believe that, having left the Hugo ceremonies immediately after my part in it, while it was still in progress … and having left the hall entirely … yet having been around later that night for Kieth Kato’s traditional chili party … and having taken off next morning for return home … and not having the internet facility to open “journalfen” (or whatever it is), I was unaware of any problem proceeding from my intendedly-childlike grabbing of Connie Willis’s left breast, as she was exhorting me to behave.

Nonetheless, despite my only becoming aware of this brouhaha right this moment (12 noon LA time, Tuesday the 29th), three days after the digital spasm that seems to be in uproar …YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!

iT IS UNCONSCIONABLE FOR A MAN TO GRAB A WOMAN’S BREAST WITHOUT HER EXPLICIT PERMISSION. To do otherwise is to go ‘way over the line in terms of invasion of someone’s personal space. It is crude behavior at best, and actionable behavior at worst. When George W> Bush massaged the back of the neck of that female foreign dignitary, we were all justly appalled. For me to grab Connie’s breast is in excusable, indefensible, gauche, and properly offensive to any observers or those who heard of it later.

I agree wholeheartedly.

I’ve called Connie. Haven’t heard back from her yet. Maybe I never will.

So. What now, folks? It’s not as if I haven’t been a politically incorrect creature in the past. But apparently, Lynne, my 72 years of indefensible, gauche (yet for the most part classy), horrifying, jaw-dropping, sophomoric, sometimes imbecile behavior hasn’t–till now–reached your level of outrage.

I’m glad, at last, to have transcended your expectations. I stand naked and defenseless before your absolutely correct chiding.

With genuine thanks for the post, and celestial affection, I remain, puckishly,

Yr. pal, Harlan

P.S. You have my permission to repost this reply anywhere you choose, on journalfen, at SFWA, on every blog in the universe, and even as graffiti on the Great Wall of China.

  • Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:26:56

CONNIE WILLIS’S LEFT BREAST, REDUX

Did I fail to mention, I am 100% guilty as charged, and NO ONE should attempt to cobble up mitigating excuses for my behavior? As with everything else I REALLY DO (as opposed to the bullshit that is gossiped third-hand by dolts), I am responsible for my actions 100% and am prepared to shoulder all consequences, instead of shunting them off to Vice-President ScaryGuy.

Adultly said, Yr. pal, Harlan

HARLAN ELLISON
– Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:28:31
REDUX, REDUX’D

This may be what killed vaudeville.

he

  • HARLAN ELLISON
    – Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:31:1
    REDUX TERTIUS

How’s chances of me playing either the “I’m an old man and my brain is leaking out of my ass” card … or … even better …

“I’m an old Jew and this is just another example of anti-Semitism because all you goyim are pissed that Jews really DO control the whole world.”

I can go either way.

Yr. pal, Harlan

  • HARLAN ELLISON
    – Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:43:2
    ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH

On a more serious note: if, in fact, Connie (or Courtney, or Cordelia) were/are/might in any way be offended by this latest demonstration of give’n’take jackanapery between Connie and Harlan (now in its longest-run on Broadway), you may all rest assured I will apologize vehemently, will crawl to Colorado through broken glass and steaming embers, and beg her (their) forgiveness. I need no one to prompt me.

Harlan Ellison, a friend of Connie Willis

Connie Willis has never (to my knowledge) ever publicly made a statement about what happened.

You have seen the video. You have read Harlan Ellison’s apology. So much has been said, written and pontificated upon that my opinion won’t mean much of anything in the critical maelstrom that has followed in the wake of Harlan’s passing. I’ve given my testimony. I believe that it just an accident. You can form your own opinions. Harlan would.

A little more than a year later, it was my turn to take a little tour of hell.

My marriage was on the rocks; my then wife moved from Middletown, Ohio where we were living, to Dayton twenty miles away to pursue a degree in medieval history full time. Without her income, I just could not make ends meet on the part-time salary working at the local Sears outlet. Over the preceding year, I started selling my extensive book collection on eBay. As the months went by the bills began accumulate and I sold nearly everything, including all of my signed Ellison editions.

In desperation, I began calling friends in and out of fandom to beg for assistance. When I reached the end of that list, I thought very hard about calling Harlan and Susan for help. I knew they had a done a bit of a philanthropic assistance to others but on the other hand, I hated to impose on them.

One evening, I took a deep breath and I called. Harlan answered.  “Hey, howzit going,” he asked enthusiastically.

For the next few minutes, I then laid out my tale woe. When I finished there was a few moments of silence then, he asked, “How much do you need?” I am embarrassed to say I asked for five thousand dollars.

“Oh, I’m sorry, that’s not gonna happen. I can’t help you that far, buddy, I just can’t.” I was crestfallen. He then said, “I will help you as far as I’m able to right now. Will a couple of hundred tide you over?” I pushed down my disappointment and said yes indeed, I would be incredibly grateful for anything right now. Harlan also said, “ I’m going to do you a favor, too; I’m not gonna come after you for a payback, it’s just an open loan. Just pay me back when you can.”

A few days later, a personal check for two hundred dollars arrived in the mail. That money did not solve my problems. But here’s what it did do; it put food on my table, gas and oil in the dilapidated wreck I was driving and most importantly hope that I could extract myself from the quagmire I was floundering in.

By the end of 2007, I successfully declared bankruptcy, saved some money and with the help of my daughter Laura and some friends I had made in Middletown, moved back to Cincinnati and into a large, cheap apartment carved out of a nineteenth-century tenement house that was located, ironically enough, in the neighborhood I grew up in as a child.

I survived on a grueling series of temp jobs (including a three-month stint at a Amazon.com warehouse which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy) and extended unemployment benefits from the kindly state of Ohio for four long years until I finally landed back at my old dream job Joseph Beth in the fall of 2011.

During that period I also found Juli, my partner and true love. I persuaded her to move up from her warm and comfortable home in South Carolina to brave somewhat intemperate climate of southwestern Ohio, with only the promise of my undying love for her.

Flash forward to 2015. Juli and I live comfortably in an integrated community on the outskirts of the city. She is working in a very sales lucrative position for Verizon and I am holding the position of periodicals manager in the best bookstore in Cincinnati. My work at the store was recognized by CityBeat, the weekly alternative newspaper and Cincinnati magazine as being the Best Magazine/Newspaper outlet in the tri-state area for past three years.

During those years, Harlan and Susan were always on my mind. There had been a heart attack back in the 90’s and a bout of clinical depression in 2011. Then there was Harlan’s stroke two years later. From most of the reports I had heard, Harlan was still his cantankerous, biting self, still writing and editing works, just a little less so than usual.

So, one summer’s day, I went to my credit union and withdrew two sequentially numbered one hundred dollar bills. I went to the book store and chose a small thank you card with a quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which I thought they might find pithy and wise:

Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.

I signed the card with my best wishes, placed the two crisp bills and mailed it. I never heard back from them and frankly, no response was needed. Because sometimes you pay forward and sometimes you pay it back, gladly.

Over the decades that I have known Harlan Ellison, he has done hundreds, maybe thousands of small favors like mine. His stories, novels, teleplays, essays and deeds have inspired millions of people around the world. I am privileged to be one of them.

The afternoon after Harlan died, I received a call from my neighbor Lillian, who asked me to come by and put up the two matching blinds in her bedroom. It took about fifteen minutes. I also loaded the two good blinds in the car so they could be donated to Goodwill. She clapped her hands in delight when I finished, which is all the reward I would ever want from her.

I did not share my grief over Harlan’s passing with her; I had heard about her own stories of grief, tragedy and death from her in-laws and grandchildren. So I chose not burden her with mine.

Lillian is a subscriber to the New York Times, something else that endears her Juli and I. But there is no railing beside the two steps leading up to her front door. So, soon after we moved in next to her, we took it upon ourselves to make sure the paper was on the top step, leaning against the door. This is not only a courtesy, it also tells us on a daily basis that she is still with us. This was yet another lesson Harlan taught me, try never trouble the people you love unnecessarily, offer them comfort and familiarity instead.

Were Harlan and I ever truly friends? We never spoke of it over the years that we knew each other it but I’d like to think to think so. He was certainly there when I needed him and him for me. Even more so now that all we have left are our memories and his work.

Over breakfast this past week, my partner and true love Juli said it best; “He was a man of great knowledge and talent. To some he was a god, to others he was the devil incarnate. So, I guess, in the end, he was a just a man.”

To me, he was quite a man, whom I knew ever so briefly but who will always matter to me.

Goodbye, Harlan.

“My mantra is this: I am engaged in the noblest, most honorable profession that the human mind has ever conceived. I am a storyteller. That’s what I am. I tell stories. I am a writer. Not a famous writer, not a literary writer, not a blah-blah-blah writer. I’m a writer. That’s all I ever aspired to be and, at core, is all I am. I am a very content man. I have spent my life doing what I wanted to do.”

Harlan Jay Ellison, 1934-2018

Harlan Ellison Tribute Roundup

Acclaimed speculative fiction writer Harlan Ellison died today at the age of 84. Here is a selection of tributes and reactions posted in social media immediately following the announcement.

Stephen King

Samuel Delany on Facebook

Here’s the guy who started the notable part of my career. At the Tricon, he ran up to me and demand a story: I wrote it at the upcoming Milford–Aye and Gomorrah, which won the following year’s Nebula Award.

Patton Oswalt

Arthur Cover on Facebook

As most of the planet knows, Harlan Ellison passed away in his sleep last night. I am seriously bummed. Little did I know when I bought the first volume of the paperback edition on Dangerous Visions when I was a sophomore at Tech did those two words would have such a profound impact on my life. Harlan was responsible for my first sale, to the mythical Last Dangerous Visions, at a Clarion Workshop.

He became a big brother figure to me, and I stayed at Ellison Wonderland on and off during the many times when I was *ahem* between places in LA. I knew his dog Abu, who used to sneak out of the house to get some Hungarian Goulash from a couple down the street. I knew his maid Yosondua, a wonderful person. And I missed meeting his mother by a couple of weeks. There’s so much to remember about him that I can barely stand it.

I met a whole bunch of interesting people thanks to him. Forget the famous ones like Erica Jong; thanks to him, I met Pam Zoline, author of “The Heat Death of the Universe.” We saw Borges together. Thanks to him, I discovered Mahler and Bruckner. I turned him on to Kalinnikov. We both read comics and he liked to impersonate the Hulk with the voice of Ronald Coleman. (Try it.) He tried to set me up with young women; usually I ignored them, thus driving him stinking bonkers. And that was just the 70s.

Then there’s that Dangerous Visions thing – a whole bunch of autograph parties just for starters. (And let’s not forget the time he streaked A Change of Hobbit.) He was immensely supportive throughout the entire frustrating, rewarding enterprise. True, he had his faults; usually I ignored them too. But the exception of my family and friends from Tazewell, I wouldn’t know any of you today were it not for his generosity and friendship. He was a helluva guy, and I have been proud to be his friend forever.

Barbara Hambly on Facebook

Just got word that my friend Harlan Ellison passed away last night. An amazing man to know. I knew he was very ill – he’d never really recovered from a stroke a couple of years ago. So I feel no surprise. Just very, very sad.

Michael Cassutt on Facebook

A talented writer for sure, a self-made writer for absolutely sure…. I so remember “Repent, Harlequin” and “On the Downhill Side” and THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER… and his columns that became THE GLASS TEAT, which sent me here to LA…. and more, the friendship that developed in the past decade or so, where I would pop up to Ellison Wonderland and have coffee with HE in his kitchen…. telling tales of George O. Smith and who else. I am actually bawling right now…..Harlan was my big brother and while his passing now, given his stroke three years back, is not a surprise…. it’ s still a shock.

Jaym Gates on Facebook

Harlan Ellison has died. My sympathies to those who will miss him. His voice was powerful, sometimes for good.

As a woman, I am not sad that there will be one less person who thinks it is funny to grope a woman on stage, and who was often used as a smoke screen for bad behavior by creative men.

Wil Wheaton on Twitter

Rest in Peace, Harlan. You always treated me like I was a person whose voice mattered, and I will cherish that memory for the rest of my life.

David Gerrold on Facebook

Harlan didn’t drink. I rarely drink.

Today I will drink.

Today I will toast a man who was a role model, a mentor, a critic, a friend — and ultimately my big brother.

He knew how much I loved him. I told him more than once.

The one thing he said about me that I cherish the most was shortly after I adopted Sean. He said, introducing me to someone else, “David Gerrold is the most courageous man I know.” Actually, it was Sean who needed the courage, but I understood what he was saying. He was acknowledging that I had finally grown up.

Harlan had a great public persona — but it was the private soul I loved the most. And goddammit, I’m going to miss that man.

Charles de Lint on Facebook

I’m very sad to have to write this but Harlan Ellison has passed away. He was a voice of reason, if somewhat contrary, and one of the best short story writers this field, or really any field, has known. He wore his “angry young man” persona lost after he was a young man but behind that bluster was a kind and generous man who would do anything for a friend. He will be greatly missed.

Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing

Ellison’s voice was infectious and has a tendency to creep into his fans’ writing. When I was 19, I attended a writing workshop at a local convention taught by Ann Crispin, who told me that I would be pretty good writer once I stopped trying to write like Harlan Ellison (I went on to sell that very Ellisonian story to Pulphouse).

Harlan was one of my Clarion instructors in 1992. He taught us remotely, by speakerphone, from his hospital bed in LA where he was recovering from angioplasty. I had attended that year because I couldn’t miss the opportunity to learn from Harlan Ellison, whom I held in highest regard (“hero worship” is not too strong a phrase to use here).

Ellison was not a good teacher (that year, at least). In fact, I think it’s safe to say that his instructional methods, which involved a combination of performative bullying and favorite-playing, were viewed as a disaster by all of my classmates, at least in hindsight.

Confronting the very real foibles of the object of my hero-worship was the beginning of a very important, long-running lesson whose curriculum I’m still working through: the ability to separate artists from art and the ability to understand the sins of people who’ve done wonderful things.

John Scalzi in the Los Angeles Times

…My second Harlan Ellison story was from 2011, the last time he was a finalist for the Nebula Award, given out by SFWA. Traditionally, SFWA contacts the Nebula finalists by phone to see if they’ll accept being on the ballot, and knowing of Harlan’s sometimes irascible phone manners, I was the one to call.

Harlan was not irascible. He wept into the phone. He had been ill, he said, and he wondered if what he was writing now still resonated and still mattered to people. To have his professional peers nominate him for one of the field’s most significant awards, he said, meant everything to him.

In that moment he wasn’t a giant of the field, a figure equally loved and loathed, a man about whom everyone had a story, or an opinion, about. He was simply a writer, happy to be in the company of, and remembered by, other writers.

Jeff VanderMeer on Facebook

He was a monumental personality who was influential in his day and to some extent today. He dove into the style and issues of his times with vigor, which sometimes makes his work feel dated but also resulted in classics that feel timeless. As an anthologist, he pushed boundaries in ways that, like his fiction, risked looking silly or actively terrible to modern audiences, but because of that also published a ton of innovative material and furthered the careers of writers who were quite experimental.

In erratic and sporadic fashion Ellison tended to be immensely helpful to some beginning writers and actively not helpful to others for no particular reason. Sometimes, I think, because he was too caught up in his mythology. Sometimes because he had a chip on his shoulder and was mercurial. I have mixed feelings about him for that reason, not to mention others, but there’s no denying he was a protean creative talent. I did learn to take risks in my writing from him, while also learning who I did not want to be as a teacher.

Richard Pini on Facebook

There are no words. He used them all anyway, and far better than most.

Robert Crais on Facebook

We lost Harlan Ellison today. The dedication to THE FIRST RULE reads as follows: “For my friend, Harlan Ellison, whose work, more than any other, brought me to this place.”. He cannot be replaced. He was a giant. He mattered.

David Brin on Facebook

Harlan was wickedly witty, profanely-provocative, yet generous to a fault. His penchant for skewering all authority would have got him strangled in any other human civilization, yet in this one he lived – honored – to 84… decades longer than he swore he would, much to our benefit with startling, rambunctious stories that will echo for ages.

John Hertz

I can’t remember who first remarked that “H.E.” stood equally for Harlan Ellison and High Explosive.

It also stands for His Excellency. Our H.E. being a whole-souled egalitarian would never have stood for that. But if one can break from the bonds of aristocratic associations – which in principle he was always for – it’s true.

I’m glad, not I hope without humility, that what pushed down the Montaigne piece was your notice of Brother Ellison’s death. Although Montaigne and the nature of zeal were two topics I never discussed with him, he might – and he did this sometimes – have approved.

David Doering

I feel a strong sense of loss with his passing. While he and I shared few opinions in common, I always appreciated his ability to stir up discussion.

To be clear, I did not have much personal interaction with Harlan over the years. The first tho was at a Worldcon in the 80s when he asked a large audience who had read a particular book he appreciated. Turned out that only he and I had done so. We chatted for a minute sharing comments, and, as a first encounter, I found him pleasant despite his reputation.

The other time was when Ray Bradbury suggested I call “his friend Harlan” about serving as a guest to LTUE. I can just imagine what must have gone through Harlan’s mind when he got a call from Utah, and from very Mormon BYU at that, asking about being a guest. (Had it happened, it would certainly have stirred things up here!) He was polite, straightforward, and nothing like his public “persona”. I came away appreciating him much more.

The last time was at a LASFS meeting at the old “Hooverville” building. He looked tired, but came to be with fen and seemed to have a good time. I’ll keep that image in my mind as I remember him.

Deadline.com“Harlan Ellison Dead: Legendary ‘Star Trek’, ‘A Boy And His Dog’ Sci-Fi Writer was 84”

Along with the Star Trek episode, Ellison’s 1964 Outer Limits installment “Demon with a Glass Hand” is widely considered among the best of its series. The bizarre, uncanny episode starred Robert Culp as a man who wakes with no memory but an apparently all-knowing glass hand. For years, rumors persisted that “Demon” inspired Terminator, though Ellison was quoted to have said, “Terminator was not stolen from ‘Demon with a Glass Hand,’ it was a ripoff of my OTHER Outer Limits script, ‘Soldier.’” According to a 1991 Los Angeles Times article, Ellison once again sued and settled.

ComicBook.comSci-Fi Writer Harlan Ellison Dies At 84

…Ellison also crafted a script for the Batman ’66 television series that would’ve introduced Two-Face into the show’s canon, but it was never shot. The story recently was turned into a comic titled Batman ’66: The Lost Episode, which officially brings the character into the series.

Variety Harlan Ellison Dead: Sci-Fi Writer Was 84

…When he dealt with Hollywood, he fearlessly said exactly what he thought again and again — often causing fallout as a result. In the wake of the 1977 release of “Star Wars,” a Warner Bros. executive asked Ellison to adapt Isaac Asimov’s short story collection “I, Robot” for the bigscreen.

Ellison penned a script and met with studio chief Robert Shapiro to discuss it; when the author concluded that the executive was commenting on his work without having read it, Ellison claimed to have said to Shapiro that he had “the intellectual capacity of an artichoke.” Needless to say, Ellison was dropped from the project. Ellison’s work was ultimately published with permission of the studio, but the 2004 Will Smith film “I, Robot” was not based on the material Ellison wrote.

Perhaps Ellison’s most famous story not adapted for the screen was 1965’s “Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman,” which celebrates civil disobedience against a repressive establishment. “Repent” is one of the most reprinted stories ever.

Shawn Crosby

[Editor’s note: The evil done to Harlan Ellison’s television scripts by cigar-chomping producers has long been part of his legend. In some of the worst cases he refused to have his name appear in the credits, and they aired with his pseudonym Cordwainer Bird shouldering the blame.]

Harlan’s death is accompanied by the passing of Cordwainer Bird, his writing partner of many years, described as “a short, choleric, self-possessed writer of mystery stories and science-fiction for television”, who “has no compunction about punching directors and producers two foot taller than himself right in the mouth.” Bird’s parents were Jason Bird and Rhonda Rassendyll, and he is nephew to The Shadow and a descendent of Leopold Bloom. As a member of the Wold Newton Family himself, Bird’s illustrious heritage has made him something of a fighter for justice in his own right.

Godspeed, gentlemen…

Mark Barsotti

A great voice silenced.

Until you pick up one of his books…

 

Harlan Ellison (1934-2018)

SFWA Grandmaster and member of the SF Hall of Fame Harlan Ellison died June 28.

A full reminiscence post will follow.

Harlan Ellison at the ABA convention; Larry and Marilyn Niven behind him: Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

[Thanks to ULTRAGOTHA, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Look around! Look around! Look around!

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1304)

White irises bloom
In dozens, in their bushes.
We do have seasons.

But I must write about death.

June Moffatt (1926-2018) left us on May 31st – kindly sparing, we might say, the month of her name.  She and her husband Len (1923-2010) were exemplary of “The Second Time Around”, the 1960 Sammy Cahn – Jimmy Van Heusen song I associate, like much else, with Frank Sinatra (though introduced by Bing Crosby, whom June preferred).

By our mythos, at least half in jest like much else, they’re together again in After-Fandom.  Whether that’s otherwise true is not for me to say.

I never met June’s first husband Eph (“eef”) Konigsberg or Len’s first wife Anna Sinclare Moffatt.  Each had, among much else, been active among us.

Much of what comes to mind about June I wrote about Len (Van 913).  They were like that.  I’ll repeat this: “Conviviality, hospitality were with Len’s wit, amplified, if possible, by June.  Together clubmen and party hosts – the suffix -man is not masculine – they also welcomed and sponsored newcomers with open arms, and discernment, for them no paradox.  Fine fannish things happened at Moffatt House and when the Moffatts went abroad.”

They were the 1973 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegates; their TAFF report, mimeographed by Mike Glyer, was The Moffatt House Abroad; the same was true of them at other people’s parties and at conventions – which from the fannish point of view are, we might say, justly deemed to be no less than other people’s parties.

Glyer has a fine note about June; he’d kindly reprinted my note about Len, and has linked to it.  June was 92.

I always thought she had good taste: outward from our core, the Oz books, especially Frank Baum’s; the comic strips that charmed us, George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, Walt Kelly’s Pogo – which Judith Merril put in her 6th annual Year’s Best S-F; tangent to us, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey, Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe – June and Len were among co-founders of detective fiction’s annual Bouchercon, named for Tony Boucher, so excellent both here and there.

But I was one of those newcomers.

She and Len were active to the ends of their lives in the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society – founded 1934, even then we wanted to be sure of including both science fiction and fantasy.  LASFS (to me “lahss fuss”, to Len rhyming with sass mass) hosts Loscon, where she and Len were Fan Guests of Honor in 1981; they were given the Evans-Freehafer Award for service to LASFS in 1994.  June was Chairman of the Board when Glyer joined in 1970.

June and Len sometimes invited me to other fannish clubs they took part in; naming two, the Petards, which had a Hoist and Hoistess, and the Prestigious International Gourmand Society, which more than once met at a Farrell’s ice-cream parlor, where Alan Frisbie, who among much else hosted the two mascots of the 42nd World Science Fiction Convention, Reynolds Rat and Rat Masterson, at least once consumed a Trough.

June helped crack hazelnuts for a flourless torte I had something to do with.  Hazelnuts are hard.  At the time I quite deliberately had no telephone.  There was a doorbell, rung by a cord that ran down one storey if you knew where to find it.

Moffatt House had, among much else, a plaque “These Are the Good Old Days”.

Fanwriting to me is best as one word; a girlfriend or boyfriend is not merely a girl or a boy who is a friend.  In the s-f community amateur magazines we publish for one another discuss life, the universe, and everything: by the 1940s we called them fanzines.  They may sometimes seem never to mention s-f; but a love of s-f, and a sense of participation, are the string on which the beads of fanwriting are strung.

We did not invent apas, but our first was FAPA the Fantasy Amateur Press Association, founded 1937, still ongoing.  Others followed.  Originally they seemed a convenient way to circulate fanzines.  Eventually apazines took on a life of their own.

The Moffatts’ FAPAzine was Moonshine.  Their Lzine De Jueves (Spanish, “Of Thursdays”, APA-L being collated at but not by LASFS, which since 1934 has met on Thursdays) ran through No. 2084, until the end of 2017, mostly by June, after 2010 by her alone except that Len was always with her in spirit.

She shone with fanwriting virtues, intelligence, responsiveness, good humor, a light touch, reaching the new and the old; she avoided our too-typical vices, retaliation, garrulity, unignition, unfocus; in APA-L, weekly over forty years, a feat.  Had she achieved nothing else she would have earned our awe.  She would have declined it.  She can’t now.

She was my longest-time friend in fandom.  I loved Len, and I loved her.  Writing about death I have written about life.  June was like that.  Goodbye.

June Moffatt (1926-2018)

Len and June Moffatt

Longtime LASFS member June Moffatt died May 31. June’s son Bob Konigsberg announced her passing on Facebook. She was 92.

June attended her first LASFS meeting 1947. By the time I joined in 1970 she was chair of the Board of Directors. Her maturity, compassion, and wisdom made her one of the club’s most admired and respected members.

June married Eph Konigsberg in 1949 and together they had three children Robert (Bob), Katie, and Jerry. June had little opportunity to visit the club for the next decade. After June and Eph divorced in 1964 she resumed going to LASFS meetings. That also was the year the club started APA-L, the weekly amateur publishing association, and June became a faithful contributor for decades.

Fred Pattenn and June Moffatt collating APA-L.

Len Moffatt, himself a LASFS member since 1946, married June in 1966. They both participated in club leadership, alternating terms on the LASFS Board of Directors, and serving in other offices.

Len and June were elected the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegates in 1973. Their TAFF trip report, The Moffatt House Abroad, which I mimeographed and slip-sheeted on the LASFS mimeo (!), for thirty years enjoyed the distinction of being the only full-length North American TAFF report completed and published.

Len and June also were active in mystery fandom. In 1965 they started publishing The JDM Bibliophile, about John D. MacDonald (who wrote in multiple genres, but was especially known for his Travis McGee detective series). And as Sherlock Holmes aficianados, they were members in the Blustering Gales of the SW and the Curious Collectors of Baker St.

In 1970, they co-founded Bouchercon, and chaired three of them. Today the convention is called Bouchercon: World Mystery Convention.

June in the 1970s. Photo by Bill Warren.

As part of another subfandom, she and Len were charter members of the Los Angeles SubERBs chapter of the Burroughs Bibliophiles.

They were jointly celebrated as guests of honor at Loscon 8 (1981), Bouchercon 16 (1985), and Tra-La-La Con (1997). LASFS gave them its Evans-Freehafer service award in 1994.

And at LASFS’s seventy-fifth anniversary in 2009, the couple presented “LASFS ALIVE AT 75!” in rhyme and prose.

JUNE:

In Nineteen Forty-Seven I got a treat
And was taken to the LASFS on Bixel Street.
I met Forry Ackerman, van Vogt and more
Science-fiction fans by the score.

Only a year later, Len predeceased her.

John Hertz and June Moffatt at the LASFS memorial for Len Moffatt.

After that June remained as active in the club as health permitted.

Following two hospitalizations in March of this year she entered hospice care. Her family reports that on May 31 she went peacefully. Her remains will be cremated.

[Thanks to Lee Gold for her help with this story – but any errors are mine!]

More Gardner Dozois Tributes

Gardner Dozois in 2017. Photo by Mark Blackman.

Gardner Dozois died May 27, and Michael Swanwick’s “The Gardner Dozois You Didn’t Know You Knew” (linked yesterday) has gone viral in the sf community.

Many other friends, colleagues and admirers of Dozois are also mourning the famed sff editor and writer. Here are a few excerpts:

Pat Cadigan on Facebook.

You will read a whole lot of tributes to Gardner, lauding him as a person, an editor, and a writer, and even the most superlative won’t be superlative enough.

But Gardner Dozois and Susan Casper were more than that to me…they were family.

I’m not trying to claim I’m part of Gardner’s and Susan’s family. I’m saying they’re part of mine.

But, as Michael Swanwick has pointed out to me, we don’t get the people we love for free. The pain of losing them is the price we pay for the privilege of having them in our lives.

They’re worth it.

Walter Jon Williams: “The Passing of a Titan”.

In public, Gardner was a Personality.  Loud, lewd, and Rabelaisian, he was an effervescent source of fun and mischief.  I remember chatting with him in a crowded restaurant when the room suddenly went quiet, in one of those odd silences that can sometimes occur even in a busy room.  Gardner was the only person in the room who kept talking, and suddenly the entire room heard Gardner’s high tenor voice singing out the words “FEMALE . . . GENITAL . . . MUTILATION.”  

The silence went on for some time after that.

But if he were only the large-scale public personality, he wouldn’t have had the impact on the field that he did, and he wouldn’t have found and published the literate, sensitive stories for which his tenure at Asimov’s became known.  He wouldn’t have won the Hugo Award so many times, and there wouldn’t be so many very good authors who owe him a boost in their careers.

David Gerrold on Facebook:

Over the years, he established himself as one of the people who simply defined what science fiction could be — as a writer, an editor, and a reviewer. It was my privilege to present the Skylark award to him at a Boskone a few years ago — but because of his health issues, he wasn’t able to accept the trophy in person. I think I was as honored to present it to him as he was to receive it.

To put it simply, Gardner was one of the people whose respect I wanted to be worthy of. He edited the Year’s Best SF anthology for over three decades. But it wasn’t until number 23 (if I remember correctly) that he finally decided one of my stories should be included. (And then one more time, a couple years ago.) To make it into one of his anthologies had been on my bucket list. I am heartbroken that there will be no more Year’s Best with his name as editor.

Equally saddening, losing him as a reviewer. Gardner had an insightful eye — which is why I always turned to his reviews first in nearly every new issue of Locus. I think that’s one of the things I will miss the most — there will be no more reviews of short fiction by Gardner and Locus will be just a little less fun to read.

Alastair Reynolds, after recounting Dozois’ influence on his career, ends his  “Gardner Dozois” tribute —

I can’t say I knew him terrible well; we met on perhaps two of three occasions over the years during which he (and his late wife) were charming company, but I liked him very much and his passing will leave a considerable void in the SF community. I always let him know how much it meant to me that he picked up my stories, and I hope some of that got through to him – it really was sincerely meant. And – all too briefly – I ought to mention that he was also a fine and stylish writer, a very accomplished SF thinker who could easily have had a career just as a writer, but who directed most of his energies into editing instead, and thereby did the community a great favour. He was also a very readable diarist, and – although it’s been many years since I last encountered them – his travel writings were extremely enjoyable. He was a loud, colourful presence at SF conventions, but also a sensitive, cultured and knowledgeable man in private.

Lorena Haldeman on Facebook.

Some days you wake up and the daylight seems a little dimmer, your gravitational spin seems a little off; as if a star has gone out and the universe has to learn to adjust to new patterns.

I’ve always truly believed that the best way to keep people with us, in our hearts, when they have to leave the party, is to look for the qualities we so deeply admired in them and cultivate those in ourselves. May a part of me, going forward, always find mad humor in the angry darkness, keep the ability to be gentle in the tossing storm of life, and to be able to find the heart of the story by expertly cutting out the unnecessary.

Matthew Cheney shares bittersweet memories of growing up with Asimov’s – and growing apart, in “Gardner Dozois (1947-2018)”.

Dozois never showed interest in avant-garde fiction, at least to my knowledge, but in his early years at Asimov’s and in the late-’80s/early-’90s Year’s Bests he published quite a bit of work that pushed against various borders and walls, especially the expectations of genre readers about what SF could and, indeed, should be. His was a pluralistic, ecumenical, eclectic vision of the field, one gained from coming up as a writer himself in the years after the New Wave had shaken things up a bit. He loved a good space opera, but he was just as much a champion of “The Faithful Companion at Forty”, the sort of story that less open-minded readers said didn’t belong in a science fiction magazine.

Lavie Tidhar will miss him in a very practical way: “RIP Gardner Dozois (1947-2018)”.

What I can say about Gardner is that he meant a hell of a lot to me. He was my most strident champion in short fiction. He first contacted me about ten years ago, asking to reprint one of my stories in his seminal Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology series. Since then, he’s included me in every volume, sometimes doing me the honour of reprinting not one but two in the same volume. I only skipped one year – I got fed up with short fiction for some reason and published barely nothing, and it was the realisation that I missed a volume in Gardner’s anthology, I think, that made me realise how ridiculous I was being, so I started again.

…He’d asked me for a new one just 3 weeks ago. I was just about to start writing it… I don’t really know what happens now. He was an amazing editor, a defining force, and my knight in shining armour. He knew my work better than I did. There is no one else like him. The world of science fiction is poorer for not having him, but God damn it, I needed you, Gardner!

Jamie Todd Rubin shares memories of one of “The Nine Billion Names of Science Fiction”.

…I was present for an amazing “panel” discussion that included Gardner, and George R. R. Martin at Capclave back in 2013. It was standing-room only, and I stood near the back for two hours, laughing harder than I’d laughed in years. Gardner told stories from his days in the army, and the refrain across the convention the following day went something like: “IF YOU DO (X) YOU WILL DIE.” You had to be there.

…I have to remind myself that Gardner himself was a supernova. He was a nursery for new stars. And while his star may have winked out, there are thousands that he helped create that still shine brightly, and will continue to do so for generations to come.

Alec Nevala-Lee was affected by “The Constant Gardner”.

Gardner and I never met, and we exchanged only a handful of emails over the last decade, but he profoundly affected my life on at least two occasions. The first was when I was twelve years old, and I received a copy of Asimov’s Science Fiction—which Gardner was editing at the time—for my birthday. As I’ve recounted here before, it was that present from my parents, given at exactly the right moment, that made me aware of short science fiction as a going concern, as embodied by its survival in the three print digests. My career ended up being more closely tied to Analog, but it was Asimov’s that set me on that path in the first place. Without that one issue, I don’t know if it would have occurred to me to write and submit short stories at all, and everything that followed would have been very different.

Lou Antonelli says “Farewell, Oh Great One!”

I will always be grateful to Gardner Dozois for encouraging me and giving me invaluable writing advice when I was just starting to write spec fic back in 2003 and 2004, and ultimately accepting my first pro sale, “A Rocket for the Republic”, which was published in Asimov’s Science Fiction in Sept. 2005.

That was the only story of mine he ever accepted, because it was the last he ever accepted before he retired in April 2004. I will always be proud of the fact that mine was the last story he bought before leaving Asimov’s after 19 years.

John Clute concludes his entry on “Dozois, Gardner”  at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction —

It may be that Dozois’s main contribution to sf – including a maturely realistic sense of the nature of the worlds he honoured both in his creative work and in his edited books – was technical: his remarkable capacity to select (and to edit) work that is both exciting to read and adult on reflection. But over and above that, his abiding contributions to the field seem from the first to have been fueled by his deep love for the field, not uncritical but unfaltering.

Richard Parks remembers hanging out on Delphi: “Gardner Dozois 1947-2018”.

I actually “met” Gardner online back in the early 1990’s, in the relatively early days of what was almost but not quite the internet. Before FB and Reddit there was Genie and Delphi, “bulletin board” sites where you logged in through an analog modem to argue and chat with friends. A lot of the sf/f field hung out on Genie, but on one night a week a smaller, very lucky group came together on the sf/f board on Delphi. Membership varied, but at one time or another there was Janet Kagan, Pat Cadigan, Lawrence Person, Jack L. Chalker, Eva Whitley, Mike Resnick, Susan Casper and yes, Gardner Dozois. And me. I wasn’t the only nobody there, of course, but on the other hand there weren’t any nobodies there. It was a friendly group and everyone felt welcome. I certainly did. At the time I had only sold one story, several years earlier, to Amazing SF, and while I was still working hard, I was beginning to think that was it. And even though talking business was generally frowned on, it was there that Gardner broke the news that he was taking a story of mine, “Laying the Stones,” for Asimov’s SF. Now imagine yourself drowning, not for a minute or two but for months, years, and somebody finally throws you a lifeline.

For me, that somebody was Gardner Dozois.

Gardner Dozois Remembered

Susan Casper and Gardner Dozois. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter. Casper and Dozois were married 47 years; she passed away in February 2017.

Gardner Dozois (1947-2018), one of the sf genre’s leading editors for over forty years, died May 27 “of an overwhelming systemic infection.”

As a well-known writer, and also the editor of Asimov’s and a popular series of best of the year anthologies, he received many honors and awards during his career. Dozois won 15 Best Professional Editor Hugos, and a 2014 World Fantasy Award as the co-editor (with George R.R. Martin) of the anthology Dangerous Women. He was the editor Guest of Honor at the Millennium Philcon, the 59th World Science Fiction Convention in 2001.

Before taking over the editor’s chair at Asimov’s he was an acclaimed fiction writer who received 11 Nebula nominations, winning twice – “The Peacemaker” (1984) and “Morning Child” (1985).

Dozois was inducted to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2011.

Prozine editors who plan on being around for awhile don’t just pan for nuggets in the slushpile, they spend a lot of time turning the dross into gold. Gardner Dozois’ efforts along that line during his 20 years as editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction are represented in the 35 linear feet of letters and notebooks plus 35,000 e-mails that make up the archive of his correspondence and papers acquired by UC Riverside’s Eaton Collection in 2014.

Here are some of the tributes posted in the past 24 hours, and also some excerpts from my 1989 and 2001 Worldcon reports that give windows into his popularity and history.

Gardner Dozois and Michael Swanwick at the NYRSF Reading in October 2017. Photo by Mark Blackman.

Michael Swanwick introduces us to “The Gardner Dozois You Didn’t Know You Knew”:

Anybody who was ever praised by Gardner Dozois should know this: He meant it. Not only did he like you personally, but he loved your work.

The second part of that mattered more than the first. I remember once he told me he’d picked up a story by a notoriously unlikeable writer for the Year’s Best Science Fiction. “That’s interesting,” I said.

“Yeah,” he replied, grinning. “The little shit wrote a really good story.”

Gardner was himself an extremely fine writer. If you haven’t read “A Special Kind of Morning,” do yourself a favor and look it up. It’s the apotheosis of science fiction war stories. He almost entirely gave that up when he became an editor because editing uses the same inner resources that writing requires.

He knew this would happen when he first became editor of Asimov’s. But he felt it was a price worth paying because it enabled him to buy stories nobody else would. Some of them most readers now would be astonished to learn were ever deemed unpublishable. There were times when he risked losing his job to publish a story he admired.

He paid the price. He did it for the writers… and for the readers.

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing, pays it forward: “RIP Gardner Dozois, pioneering, genre-defining science fiction editor who helped launch my career”.

…long before he’d published my work, he’d nurtured my career, including my stories in the copious honorable mentions appendices to his longrunning, definitive Year’s Best Science Fiction anthologies, appending encouraging personal notes to the rejections I got from Asimov’s and, on a memorable occasion at Philcon, announcing during a panel that he viewed me as one of the best new writers in the field.

In a field where beginning writers are starved for attention, critical feedback and encouragement, Dozois stood out as an editor who never succumbed to the laziness of simply publishing works by known authors: he was an assiduous reader of the “slushpile” of unsolicited manuscript, which made him an encylopedic guide to emerging talents, long before people were publishable. Beginning writers, years before their first sales, often found themselves meeting Dozois at conferences, only to be treated to specific, encouraging words about the stories he’d rejected and their professional and artistic progress.

…Eight days ago, Dozois’ son Christopher Casper accepted the Science Fiction Writers of America’s Solstice Award for lifetime achievement on his father’s behalf. Dozois apparently told his son to say that the award belonged properly to the writers that Dozois had published. Thankfully, Christopher defied his father and used the opportunity to remind us of Dozois’ shyness and modesty.

When Philadelphia Magazine named him one of “Philadelphia’s 100 Smartest People,” he said, “If that’s true, then God help Philadelphia!” When he was placed in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, he returned from Seattle to report that they’d placed his name and image on a brick which went into the Hall of Fame Wall. “So now I’m really just another brick in the wall.” And when he couldn’t make it to Pittsburgh for the Nebula Awards Weekend, he told Christopher to just say that the award properly belonged to all the writers he’d published.

Rick Moen shared a memory:

The world is already a sadder and less merry place without Gardner Dozois. I will always cherish the Liar’s Panels he used to do at Worldcons, where he and other veteran pro editors would dispense deliberately terrible advice to authors trying to get published. (‘Send lots more dinosaur stories!’)

At the SFWA Blog: “In Memoriam – Gardner Dozois”.

SFWA President Cat Rambo remembers Dozois:

Gardner was always larger than life – a little loud, a little bawdy, and always the biggest presence in the room. But he also knew his stuff, backwards and forwards, and his mark on the genre is written in indelible ink. I’m so glad SFWA got a chance to honor him while he was still around to appreciate it — but I sure wish he’d had a lot more time in which to do so.

Ellen Datlow posted a great selection of Gardner Dozois “crazy faces” on Facebook.

From File 770’s 1989 Worldcon report: Dozois made a memorable entrance with the other Hugo nominees prior to the 1989 ceremony:

I got to the door and heard our processional music was “March of the Gladiators” from Spartacus or something comparable with brassy flourishes and rhythms suited to the stride of captured war elephants.

We walked circuitously through the auditorium like extras in a Hercules movie. Nominees in the professional categories marched at the end. Gardner Dozois basked in the applause, flashing a V-sign at the crowd like Winston Churchill on V-E Day.

The year Gardner Dozois was Worldcon guest of honor, File 770 covered his signature event in “Ben  Frankly Speaking: Millennium Philcon 2001 Worldcon Report”.

…Janice Gelb was irate that the true nature of the “Liars Club” panel had been blabbed by a participant and quoted in the daily newzine. David Hartwell had said, “Did you hear we’re roasting Gardner Dozois? Think he’ll be able to feed the whole crowd?” Everyone involved had been sworn to secrecy in an attempt to surprise Dozois.

The Liar’s Club: The popular panel truly lived up to its name this year. Pat Cadigan, Gardner Dozois, Janice Gelb and George R.R. Martin were on the dais at the beginning. Dozois got everyone’s attention with a drill sergeant’s yell, “Shut uuuupp!” Janice Gelb moderated, later saying she was mainly there to keep Gardner from taking over the microphone for a rebuttal once she revealed that the panel was actually “The Secret Roast of Gardner Dozois.”

Hearing that, Gardner shouted, “My pager went off – bye!” Janice merely explained, “We wanted to get a rubber mallet and hit him every time he interrupted.” Gardner sneered, “You think rubber would stop me?”

George R.R. Martin claimed to avoid duplication that they had simply divided up the Gardner stories. He’d been allowed to tell the story about Gardner’s knob – which George had never touched – and also about Gardner’s nose for stories. When George met Gardner for the first time, at Disclave in 1974, Gardner had a red jelly bean in his nose. George told him, “Most people put those in their mouths.” In reply, Gardner slapped his cheek and the jellybean flew into his hand. He said, “Here, go ahead.”

…A parade of others came up to testify about Dozois. Jay Haldeman recalled that around 1971 he, Dozois and others formed a loose collection of writers who met several times a year and workshopped short stories. Dozois would bring along 35,000-word story fragments. After Jay read about 20 pages he’d think, “Say, this is just great, but nothing has happened.” His brother, Joe Haldeman, wrote a 4-page scene of a former President watching the sun creep across his yard – “Gardner loved it, of course. It was just like his.” Many years later the finished story actually sold to Omni.

… Having just watched Gardner enjoy a ribald song about himself, it was easy to believe Connie Willis’ claim that Gardner is impossible to roast because he can’t be embarrassed. She gave further examples. A Worldcon  gave out a Hugo base that looked like a toilet seat with nuts and balls attached, which began to fall apart as soon as they were given out. When Connie asked Gardner how his Hugo was holding up, he answered, “My toilet seat’s fine, but my balls fell off.” Connie also described a scene from American Pie and promised, “That wouldn’t have embarrassed Gardner….”

Then Connie recalled a dinner group at a recent Worldcon held at a round table, inspiring people to give each other names of participants in the Algonquin Round Table. Connie reported that Gardner was Alexander Wolcott, “Because he’s so funny, and such a wonderful host.” Then, Connie launched into four or five sentences of effusive, frankly honest praise about Gardner’s human qualities. Gardner squirmed and blushed. Connie finished with a triumphal grin, “And now I’ve embarrassed you!”

…[Joe] Haldeman remembered an old Worldcon party. “Gardner invited me to a party back at his place. He stole a bottle of wine from the SFWA suite….” Gardner protested, “You were President!”

Haldeman ignored him and went on to talk about Dozois the editor. “John W. Campbell used to smoke unfiltered Camels in an ivory holder – the only vice that Gardner doesn’t have.” Haldeman complained that after he sent Gardner The Hemingway Hoax, Gardner “cut it to shreds so he could run it as a novella in Asimov’s. He did so much damage to it that it won both the Hugo and Nebula.”

After much more was said about Dozois, he was allowed his rebuttal. Gardner began by verifying how far he could fire a jellybean out of his nose. (Kathryn Daugherty happened to be carrying a bag of pineapple jellybeans which she donated for ammunition.) Then he told a long, risque anecdote about a closed party at the 1974 Worldcon, implicating George R.R. Martin, the Haldeman brothers and some others. Even back in the Seventies this stuff was pretty wild.

Something that struck me personally about this story was how it fit together with my memories of Norm Hollyn (then Hochberg) and Lou Stathis at the 1974 Worldcon taking me to look for some pros they’d met – Dozois being the only name I recognized at the time. What I remembered about that morning, including the hushed secrecy about someone having slept in the closet, fit perfectly with the story Gardner was telling at the end of the roast. Evidently, Norm, Lou and I had shown up the morning after all this had happened….

Verne Troyer (1969-2018)

Verne Troyer as Mini-Me in Austin Powers

By Steve Green: Verne Troyer, U.S. actor, died April 21, aged 49. Genre roles include Pinocchio’s Revenge, Jingle All the Way (both 1996), Men in Black, Wishmaster (both 1997), Young Hercules (one episode, 1998), Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001), Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002), Sabrina the Teenage Witch (one episode, 2002), The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009), Gnome Alone (2015). Hipsters, Gangsters, Aliens and Geeks is due out next year.