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.

Curt Stubbs (1948-2019)

Longtime Arizona fan Curt Stubbs (1948-2019) passed away on September 14 at Pepe Hospice in Tucson, Arizona, of a brain hemorrhage, complicated by chronic ill health.

He discovered fandom in 1974 and soon became one of the pillars of Phoenix fandom, helping to found LepreCon, and the Central Arizona Science Fiction Literary Society (CASFS).

Curt also was involved with the successful Phoenix in 1978 Worldcon bid, and worked on the Denver Worldcon art show (Denvention II, 1981). In between, Denver’s MileHiCon 11 (1979) made him their Fan Guest of Honor.

Jeanne Grace Jackson’s tribute in the September issue of DASFAx adds:

…Curt was a lifelong poet, and was sometimes published. He served as a perennial docent at the University of Arizona Poetry Center; his tenure there—the longest on record—was terminated by his death. He was also active in Tucson’s LGBTQ community, and recognized by the Southern Arizona Senior Pride organization as their Poet Laureate in 2017. Several Tucson fans are working to conserve his papers.

 …During my early years in fandom, he was known as “Captain Coors,” always the life of the party at fannish gatherings with tricorn hat, handlebar mustache, and a can of Coors beer. The back seat of “Cthulhu,” his jalopy, often overflowed with empties. He and I enjoyed many a gaming session together with other fannish friends, most often playing Tunnels & Trolls or Diplomacy. We shared many good times in Phoenix fandom, as well as a few rocky ones (during which we were allies, not antagonists)….

He is survived by his son, Joel, his granddaughter, Eryn, his sister, Donna.

Curt Stubbs in 2017.

Katherine MacLean (1925-2019)

Katherine MacLean

Katherine MacLean died September 1 her son, Carl Mason, reported on Facebook. She was 94.

While she worked as a laboratory technician in 1947 MacLean began writing science fiction. Her first published story, “Defense Mechanism,” appeared in Astounding in 1949 and the majority of her short fiction was published during the following decade. “Second Game,” written in collaboration with Charles V. De Vet was a Best Novelette Hugo nominee in 1959.

In the Seventies MacLean produced three novels, one of them a fix-up combining several of her shorter works.

She was married to Charles Dye from 1951-1953; later married David Mason, 1956-1962; and her third husband was Carl West.

For Eric Leif Davin’s Partners in Wonder: Women and the Birth of Science Fiction, 1926-1965, MacLean supplied him with a detailed description of her negotiations with John W. Campbell in regards to the publication of her earliest stories. She had to be convinced by Astounding’s associate editor L. Jerome Stanton that Campbell wasn’t stringing her along by asking for revisions out of an unwillingness to publish a story by a woman. Indeed, he would buy three of her earliest stories and publish them under her full name.

Critics and colleagues praised her sff highly: Damon Knight wrote, “As a science fiction writer she has few peers; her work is not only technically brilliant but has a rare human warmth and richness.” Brian Aldiss said she could “do the hard stuff magnificently,” while Theodore Sturgeon observed that she “generally starts from a base of hard science, or rationalizes psi phenomena with beautifully finished logic.”

In 2017, Samuel R. Delany campaigned to make her a SFWA Grand Master:

Since it is not about quantity, but quality and influence, that is why the award should be given her. As I wrote to her when I the award was announced for me:

“Among the great absurdities of the SF world is that I am a grand master and you are not. Happy birthday and much love.” By not honoring her, we make our awards mean less. Her single collection of short stories (The Diploids) and her Nebula Award winning novel [sic] (Missing Man) pointed a new generation of writers the way sentences had to be put together to tell a story both humanly and intellectually satisfying, and an older generation recognized it.

MacLean’s novella “The Missing Man” won a Nebula Award in 1971. The expanded novel-length version was nominated for a Nebula in 1976. In 2003 MacLean was honored as an SFWA Author Emeritus. In 2011, she received the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.

Fritz Leiber and Katherine MacLean in 1952.

Jack Weaver (1926-2019), Retired Fanac.org Webmaster

Jack Weaver & Laurie Mann at LACon IV, 2006. Photo by Melanie Herz

Jack Weave(Dec. 30, 1926 — Sep. 2, 2019)

By Edie Stern: Florida fan Jack Weaver was primarily known for his work as webmaster of FANAC.org, a role he held from 1995 until 2016. He was the designer, programmer and content manager of the site for more than 20 years, receiving an award at FanHistoricon 13 in 2016 for this accomplishment.

In the 1950s, Jack served in the Navy as a submariner. He later joined IBM as a customer engineer, and then moved on to hardcore programming. By the 1980’s he was working on real-time telephony applications. Jack was a member of the Wappingers Falls volunteer fire department until, in his words, he “lost an argument with a firetruck.” The resulting hardware in his leg caused considerable medical problems later in life as well as compromised mobility.

A long-time science fiction reader, Jack was introduced to fandom through Tropicon and SFSFS, the South Florida Science Fiction Society. In the 80s, he was a Tropicon mainstay, especially when it came to the physical labor of putting on a convention. He, along with Lee Hoffman, ran art show setup and take down. You can see many of Jack’s photos of Tropicon on the FANAC website.

Forced away from in person fannish participation by family medical issues, Jack continued to be a presence. In the mid-90s when The Fan History Project started, he got involved with the website. After his retirement from IBM, Jack personally wrote all the code to create the website pages, before standard software was available on the web. This code is still running today, and Jack’s last code drop was in January of 2019. He credited his work on FANAC with keeping him mentally sharp, despite the challenges of old age.

Jack is survived by his three children and many grandchildren. According to his son John, his death was painless and peaceful, and “He died the way he wanted to, in his own home, not a hospital room.”

Brad Linaweaver (1952-2019)

Brad Linaweaver in 1989 holding his Prometheus Award. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

Prometheus Award-winning author Brad Linaweaver died August 29 after a long battle with cancer. He would have been 67 on Sunday.

I met Brad long ago through other Libertarian fans and knew about his good sense of humor – he attended the satirical Hogu Ranquets organized at Worldcons by Elst Weinstein and John Novak. His goal was a pro writing career and he made his mark with some noteworthy sff.

The novella version of his novel Moon of Ice was a Nebula Award finalist (1983) and the novel length version won a Prometheus Award (1989). Linaweaver shared a second Prometheus Award (1998) with Ed Kramer for co-editing Free Space, a libertarian science fiction anthology from TOR books. His novels Anarquia with J. Kent Hastings, and Sliders (based on the television series) were also Prometheus nominees.

Linaweaver’s other novels include The Land Beyond Summer, four Doom novels with Dafydd ab Hugh, and three Battlestar Galactica novels with actor Richard Hatch.

He had original story credits on a number of films, including The Brain Leeches and Jack-O for Fred Olen Ray.

He was proud to add, in the bio he sent me when I ran program at the 2000 Loscon, “Besides playing a werewolf in the upcoming Vampire Hunters Club, his media credits include story adaptations for radio, and cameo appearances in almost a dozen feature films, including Attack of the Sixty Foot Centerfold. Brad even did a scene with Kato Kaelin before he because America’s most famous houseguest (Kato, not Brad).” Kaelin was a witness in the OJ Simpson trial (1995).

His nonfiction appeared in National Review, Chronicles, Reason, The Agorist Quarterly,and Famous Monsters of Filmland.

In 2004, he co-authored Worlds of Tomorrow with Forrest J Ackerman, a hardcover coffee table book that spotlights science fiction cover art from the Golden Age.

He was the publisher of Mondo Cult Magazine and its associated website, edited by Jessie Lilley Campbell.

One of Linaweaver’s proudest possessions was a small brass cannon once owned by Robert and Virginia Heinlein. For nearly 30 years they fired it every July 4 at the Heinlein residence. Virginia bequeathed to Linaweaver when she died in 2003. He restored it and in 2007 made a video of it being fired several times (with very small charges). (Cannon discharges begin around 6:41.)

One Went Twice, One Tried Twice

Geraldyn M. “Jerrie” Cobb poses next to a Mercury spaceship capsule.

by John Hertz: (reprinted from No Direction Home 25) Earlier (here) I told of Owen Garriott 1930-2019 (age 88), the first astronaut to operate an amateur radio station from Space (call sign W5LFL).  He was the science pilot of Skylab 3 (1973); he went again on Space Shuttle Columbia (1983).

Geraldyn M. Cobb 1931-2019 (also age 88) died a month earlier.  She had a solo pilot’s license at 16; both a private and a commercial pilot’s license by 18.  She went on to earn Multi-Engine, Instrument, Flight Instructor, and Ground Instructor ratings, and an Airline Transport license.  At age 19 she was teaching men to fly.  At 21 she was delivering fighters and four-engine bombers to foreign Air Forces around the world.  At 29 she had logged 7,000 hours in the cockpit.  She had set world records for speed, distance, and absolute altitude.  She was the first woman to fly in the Paris Air Show.

In 1960 William Randolph Lovelace II 1907-1965, a United States physician, was head of the U.S. Nat’l Aeronautics & Space Adm’n Special Committee on Bioastronautics.  He and Brig. Gen. Donald Flickinger invited Cobb to undergo the physical testing regimen developed by the Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education & Research, Albuquerque, New Mexico, to help select the first NASA astronauts.  She was the first woman to pass.  Twelve more followed.  The program had not been authorized by NASA.  It was cancelled.

Cobb wrote to President Kennedy and saw Vice President Johnson.  On 17-18 Jul 62, U.S. Representative Victor Anfuso (Democrat – 8th District of New York; served in 82nd, 84th-87th Congresses 1951-1953, 1955-1963; lived 1905-1966) held public hearings before a special Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science & Astronautics.  Cobb testified “We women pilots…. seek only a place in our nation’s Space future without discrimination.”  NASA required all astronauts to be graduates of military jet test-piloting programs, and have engineering degrees; no woman met those requirements.  No action resulted.  Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova (1937-  ) became the first woman in Space on 16 Jun 63.

Cobb undertook a career as a missionary pilot to indigenous people of the Amazon jungle.  For the next 48 years, typically flying solo in her Aero Commander, using self-drawn maps and pioneering air routes across rainforests and the Andes Mountains, she enabled deliveries of clothing, food, medicine, and seeds.  In 1973, President Nixon awarded her the Harmon Trophy, naming her “the top woman pilot in the world.”

In 1998, NASA announced it was sending John Glenn 1921-2016 back into Space at age 77 to study effects on an older human body.  Cobb asked to go.  The Nat’l Organization for Women campaigned for her.  She was 67.  She was not sent.

She was placed in the Nat’l Aviation Hall of Fame in 2012.  R.I.P.

Carl Slaughter (1958-2019)

File 770’s Carl Slaughter died August 11 in a car accident. The Murray, Kentucky fan had just moved back to the U.S. in March after years spent teaching English in China.

Carl had more than 250 reviews, interviews, features, and critiques published at Tangent, Diabolical Plots, SF Signal, File 770, and the Critters Workshop. I’m grateful he was so generous with his talent here.

Carl discovered fandom in a roundabout way, as he recalled in “An Interviewer’s Journey: From Battery Power to Warp 9”:

I didn’t set out to become an interviewer.  Or a muse for that matter.  Video compilations, never conceived it.

I just wanted some feedback about the first 10 chapters of a novel I intended to write.  To qualify for that feedback, Critters, the oldest and largest online speculative fiction workshop, required that I provide feedback to other writers.  Soon I started getting feedback from those writers about my critiques of their stories:  You understand my story and what I’m trying to accomplish with it much more than other critiquers.

When Tangent put out a call for reviewers, I used my Critters work to get on as a reviewer.  Fellow Critter Frank Dutkiewicz introduced me to Diabolical Plots, which was trying to accomplish the monumental task of reviewing all of Daily Science Fiction’s stories.  So I used my Tangent work to get on with Diabolical Plots.  I checked out the Diabolical Plots site and discovered that they also do interviews. Mike Resnick was my first interviewee…

When David Steffen, editor of Diabolical Plots, transferred his attention to The Submissions Grinder, which became an institution virtually overnight, he connected Carl with John DeNardo at SF Signal.  When DeNardo shut down his site in 2016, I invited Carl to contribute to File 770.

One of his first interviews here was with Liu Cixin (“Liu Cixin, The 3 Body Problem, and the Growth of SF in China”). By the following year he had registered the 100th interview of his career, with Cat Rambo.

Carl was a whirlwind of productivity. Even as he was transitioning between sites in 2016 he did 225 posts — interviews, features, profiles, reviews, essays, editorials, and news tips. I was energized by his creativity and constant flow of ideas, and he broadened File 770’s coverage with his many YouTube video roundups.

Professionally, for the past 15 years he traveled the globe teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) in 6 countries on 3 continents.  His essay on Chinese culture was published in Beijing Review. His essay on Korean culture was published in The Korea Times, as was his expose on the Korean ESL industry. For several years, he was editor of ESL Book Review. He created a Facebook page “ESL Around the World” with many photos of his classes.

A student with Carl Slaughter in the “English Corner” at China Australia High School in Zhengzhou.

He earned his BA in Communications in Journalism and Broadcast from Murray State University. Throughout his years of travel Carl made many friends while maintaining strong ties to Kentucky, his family, and church, returning periodically to the Western Kentucky area. 

He is survived by his older brother Paul Eugene Slaughter of Landisburg, Pennsylvania and younger sister Elizabeth Ann Slaughter of Round Rock, Texas.

Thanks to Elizabeth for contacting me with the news about Carl, and for sharing a draft of the family obituary. Elizabeth says Carl’s memorial service, when scheduled, will be at the Collier Funeral Home in Benton, Kentucky. A statement about making donations in his name will also follow once an appropriate non-profit is selected.