Lee Billings (1956-2018)

Lee Billings at MidAmeriCon II in Kansas City in 2016

Lee Billings at MidAmeriCon II in Kansas City in 2016

By JJ: Originally part of Nashville fandom, Lee (Van Deest) Billings was a member of the Middle Tennessee Science Fiction Society, active in club events, part of the lively community at alt.callahans on Usenet, and participating in conventions all over the country. A singer and brilliant lyricist, she became a big Filker, coordinating the Filk programming at many conventions.

Up to the 1990s, there was a lack of strong filk programming in Southern Fandom. She filled that gap by creating and chairing Musicon for 5 years. She describes that evolution in The History of Musicon 1992-1996.

She was Guest of Honor at Harmonicon III in 1995, and was honored as Toastmistress at GAFilk 1 in 1999, which picked up the mantle of Southern Filkdom after the final Musicon.

Lee was nominated for a Pegasus Award (the Filkers’ Hugo Awards) for Best Military Song in 1995 for The Ballad of Fleet Sergeant Ho. Thanks to Eli Goldberg, her album can be found here.

After moving to Houston two decades ago, she became a strong supporter of Apollocon, and assisted that convention in various roles.

Lee was a jewelry artisan, creating unique and interesting pieces. She and her partner Russ had a Dealer’s Table at many conventions. She regularly posted photos of unusual and fascinating geological specimens on her Facebook wall. In her business’ “About” section, she said, “Starcat Designs came into being in 2002, growing out of my love of rocks and minerals. Most of my jewelry designs are one-of-a-kind.The materials used include stone, glass, organics (pearls, bone, shell, wood, etc.), and metals.”

I only got to know Lee during the last three and a half years, through her participation in the File 770 community and in conversations with her at Worldcon and on Facebook. I’m far from an expert on her contributions to fandom and filkdom; I welcome comments from those who have more knowledge of her life, and links to tributes to her elsewhere on the web.

After being diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer more than a year ago, Lee defied the odds and continued to contribute her wit, wisdom, and assistance to others while fighting to overcome her own illness.

Lee was an incredibly clever, vibrant, and eloquent person, a fierce advocate of fair and considerate treatment for the marginalized and less-privileged, and she will be greatly missed not only by me, but by all who knew her. She is survived by her domestic partner of 20 years, Russ Ault, and their seven rescue cats.

Lee’s partner Russ says:

There will be a memorial service of some sort at a later date. There will be no funeral. Lee requested that her remains be cremated. I will be collecting remembrances to sort through for the memorial. They can be emailed to rault42 [at] gmail [dot] com.

If desired, memorial donations can be made to Project Purple.

Vale, Starcat.
 

Diversity, if we can face it

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1327; originally published 14 Nov 18)  Fred Patten (1940-2018) was a gentle giant.

In APA-L with him we saw this.

His Lzine ¡Rábanos Radiactivos! (“Radioactive radishes!”, an expletive of Profesor Mental in the Mexican comic-book Criollo, el Caballo Invencible) appeared every week over forty-three years – five years after a stroke disabled his favored side, leaving him to type with one finger of his left hand.

Not to be too one-sided, for a moment of plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (“the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing”, attr. Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr [in Les Guêpes “the wasps” Jan 1849?]) you can find in RR 165 13 Dec 67 “We’ve all been crying about the dearth of good genzines in Fandom these days”.

That’s about the strongest language he used, and it was just before praising a genzine.

He did many things, and wrote about them, with quiet vigor.  I said he made prosaic a word of praise.

Besides ours, he was in the great apas FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n), SAPS (Spectator Am. Press Society), OMPA (Off-trails Magazine Publishers Ass’n), and The CultThe Cult??  “The thirteen nastiest bastards in fandom”??  Bruce Pelz said “Someone must have lied.”

Fred chaired Westercon XXVII (West Coast Science Fantasy Conference; 1974) and Loscon XIV (L.A. local con; 1987).  He edited the L.A.Con Program Book (30th World Science Fiction Convention, 1972) – my task for L.A.con II (42nd Worldcon, 1984) – and daily newszine.   He was a fine fanhistorian, e.g. in a series on Worldcon history for the MidAmericon I progress reports (34th Worldcon, 1976).  He wrote up Fan Guests of Honor Bruce Pelz for Noreascon II (38th Worldcon, 1980) and Tom Digby for ConFrancisco (51st Worldcon, 1993).

His first Worldcon was Solacon (16th, 1958).  He joined LASFS (L.A. S-F Soc.) in 1960.  In 1963 he was a Hugo Award finalist for co-editing the clubzine Shangri L’Affaires with Al Lewis and Bjo & John Trimble [there should be, but Electronicland may not manage, a circumflex over the j – an Esperantism indicating the pronunciation “bee-joe”].  He was given the Evans-Freehafer (LASFS award for service to the club) in 1965.  He was a reviewer for Locus and Science Fiction Review.  He co-founded DUFF (the Down Under Fan Fund, which elected me its 2010 delegate – alas, for all Fred’s connection to Australia, though he attended South Gate in ‘58 and lived to see South Gate Again in 2010, see here, p. 20, and here, he could not attend) in 1972.  He was Fan Guest of Honor at DeepSouthCon IX (1971); received a Special Committee Award at L.A.con IV (64th Worldcon) for “a lifetime of service to Fandom” and was Fan GoH at Loscon XXXIII (both 2006); received the Forry (LASFS award for service to s-f) in 2009.

At two special interests he earned particular fame: Japanese cartoons, animated, which came to be known as Japanimation and then animé, and still, which came to be known as manga (Japanese, “whimsical pictures”, in Japan meaning all kinds of cartoons, comics, animation, addressing all ages, and including comedy, commerce, history, mystery, s-f, sports; on Tokyo trains I’ve seen businessmen reading what English for lack of a better term would have to call by the same name as Criollo, comic books), and anthropomorphic-animal cartoons, which eventually gave rise to Furry Fandom.  In 1977 he co-founded C/FO (the Cartoon Fantasy Organization); he was so instrumental at introducing animé to America that he was given the Inkpot (Comic-Con Int’l award) in 1980.  In 2004 he published Watching Animé, Reading Manga: 25 Years of Essays and Reviews. A Dante scholar who became a top university librarian said talking with Fred about animé was like a graduate-level seminar.  These special interests were an ordinary, not a dominant, part of his fanwriting.

He was never an epigrammatist, just perceptive.  It was he, rooming with Art Widner and me at Westercon LIII (2000), who observed that the newest current into s-f cons came not from a barbarian invasion but a widened perimeter.

No one ever said fans were slans (A.E. Van Vogt, Slan, 1940), but we could regret carrying forward all-too-human foibles.  Clamoring against exclusions we don’t hesitate to practice them.  Few of the encomiums at Fred’s death have noted the breadth of his career.  It’s only been two days.  Perhaps we’ll do better when we catch our breath.  R.I.P.

Remembering Jerry Ohlinger (1943-2018)

By Steve Vertlieb: Jerry Ohlinger, who died November 12 was, perhaps, the first movie memorabilia dealer that I ever met or had dealings with. I entered organized fandom in the Fall of 1965 when my brother and I were invited by Forrest J Ackerman to attend the very first Famous Monsters of Filmland convention at Loew’s Midtown Manhattan Motor Inn in New York City. Jerry, along with Steven Sally, were very much a presence in the mid-sixties in New York, and their movie memorabilia shops were popular havens for movie geeks like myself who wanted to own a particular still, poster, or pressbook from our favorite films. Visiting Jerry Ohlinger’s Movie Memorabilia Shop became a singular rite of passage for anyone on the East Coast aspiring to be a serious movie collector. If you didn’t know Jerry, then you weren’t really a “fan.”

Jerry was very personable and friendly, as well as a wealth of knowledge and anecdotal information. As I grew comfortably into the passion of collecting half a century ago, Jerry became one of my principle contacts for source materials. I visited his shop in Manhattan periodically, and grew to enjoy a relationship with him over the years. In these mildly prehistoric days of early collecting, Jerry Ohlinger became the Monstrous maven who guided us through fannish heaven as we came to understand that virtually anything that we wanted, any significant piece of movie collectable, was available for a nominal fee. Jerry was, perhaps, the East Coast godfather for collectors of all shapes, sizes, and bank accounts.

Jerry was a warm, friendly guy with endless patience and a huge heart. He was especially good, kind, and generous to the remarkable cast of characters who worked for him … often housing, feeding, and caring for them when times were lean. These included Ray Pence who lived in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia for a time, and Mike Woodin who both became good pals and chums. Their presence at numerous conventions was always both reassuring and somehow comforting.

My ventures into the big apple had grown infrequent by the early eighties, but I would still bump into Jerry regularly at neighboring conventions in Philadelphia and New Jersey, and Jerry (though growing older like the rest of us) remained a warm, patient, and reassuring presence in my life. I hadn’t seen Jerry in years when I learned, to my infinite sadness the other day, that Jerry had lost his long battle to cancer. I was probably only in my late teens or early twenties when first I encountered the remarkable Jerry Ohlinger. I’ll turn seventy-three in mid December. Jerry Ohlinger occupied my thoughts, my memories, my heart, and my life for much of the past half century. His tutelage and warmth will ever remain firmly ingrained in my journey through fantasy, horror, and science fiction fandom. I was but a mere lad when first we met. I owe much of my life’s passion for collecting to you. Rest In Peace, old friend. My thoughts, memories, and my enduring affection go with you.

Fred Patten (1940-2018)

Fred Patten, a fannish polymath who helped introduce anime to Americans, died November 12.

Fred had lived in a nursing facility since suffering a stroke in 2005. His sister, Sherrill Patten, told LASFS that on November 1 he was found non-responsive, moved to a hospital and treated, but never regained consciousness.

Patten’s first sf convention was the 1958 Worldcon in LA. He joined the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS) in 1960 while still a student at UCLA. He was nominated for a Hugo in 1963 as co-editor of the club’s fanzine Shangri L’Affaires with Al Lewis, Bjo and John Trimble. For his service to LASFS he received the club’s Evans-Freehafer Award in 1965.

L to R: Bill Donaho, Fred Patten, Bruce Pelz. Photo courtesy Metcalf & Brown, taken late 1962 or early 1963.

His biography almost ended in 1965, according to club legend – a party crasher evicted from LASFS’ Halloween event came back and fired a shot through the window, narrowly missing him.

Fred took a master’s degree from UCLA’s School of Library Science in 1963, writing his thesis on the books of Andre Norton. He joined Hughes Aircraft in 1969 as a technical catalogue librarian and worked there until 1990.

He was an insatiable reader and enthusiastic critic. He gained fame as one of the prolific, insightful reviewers for Dick Geis’ Hugo-winning Science Fiction Review along with Paul Walker, Ted Pauls and Richard Delap.

From 1975 to 1977, Delap and Patten produced their own monthly review journal, Delap’s F&SF Review.

Fred also had a strong interest in comics and graphic storytelling. He collected foreign language works like Tintin and Asterix, built a small import business by taking orders from friends, then for awhile tried to make a go of a publication, Graphic Story World, and a bookstore, Graphic Story Bookshop, with Richard Kyle in Long Beach.

He first encountered Japanese manga at the 1970 Westercon, and soon discovered anime. Home video recording units were becoming common, which made it practical if not easy for people to obtain copies of things shown on Japanese TV or syndicated in America. He co-founded the first American anime fan club, the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, in 1977, and was recognized with Comic-Con’s Inkpot Award in 1980 for introducing anime to American fandom.

Fred started establishing contacts with Japanese anime production companies. Toei Animation’s Hollywood representative, then trying to sell an American production of its TV giant-robot animation, gave Fred lots of graphics to write articles for popular-culture magazines like Starlog promoting anime. Over the next 25 years Fred wrote enough pieces to fill a book, Watching Anime, Reading Manga: 25 Years of Essays and Reviews (2004).

These connections led Fred into regular contact with professional animators in Hollywood, where he clashed with them about their stereotyped views of Japanese animation:

Anime also got me into the biggest fight that I have ever been in, with Bill Scott of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame, at the meetings of ASIFA-Hollywood. Scott dismissed Japanese animation as unimaginative costumed-hero stuff, in horribly limited animation. I rebutted, “You should talk! Rocky and Bullwinkle may be brilliant, but it’s hardly for the quality of its animation. You have it animated at one of the cheapest studios in Mexico City. As for the giant-robot stereotype, there’s much more variety in Japanese animation than there is in American animation. It’s that the anime fans don’t want to watch anything besides giant robots.” But it was a lost cause. I was drowned out by Scott and the other American animation-industry veterans chanting, “Poor animation! Awful animation!” I dropped out of ASIFA-Hollywood for several years.

At the same time anime fandom was taking off, there was a parallel development among people interested in anthropomorphic comics and fiction, and Fred was an active participant. Furry fandom began with the amateur press associations (APAs) Vootie and Rowrbrazzle. Vootie, “The Fanzine of the Funny Animal Liberation Front”, run by Reed Waller & Ken Fletcher of Minneapolis s-f fandom, ran from 1976 to 1983. Marc Schirmeister started its replacement, the quarterly Rowrbrazzle, beginning in February 1984.

While helping to nurture these new branches of fandom, Fred remained highly active in mainstream fandom. He chaired the 1974 Santa Barbara Westercon, and the 1987 Loscon. He was on the committees of the 1972, 1984, and 1996 Worldcons. (For L.A.Con, the 1972 Worldcon, he edted the Program Book, and published the daily newzine Wabbit Twacks — a reference to the work of Frederik Pohl, the GoH).

He and John Foyster started the Down Under Fan Fund in 1972, to exchange visiting fans between Australasia and North America in the tradition of TAFF.

In 1971 he was DeepSouthCon’s fan guest of honor.

L.A.Con banquet. Milt Stevens, Fred Patten, Carol Pohl, Frederik Pohl, Dian Crayne. From the collection of Len & June Moffatt.

A highly respected fanhistorian, Fred’s research was helped by his access to Forry Ackerman’s collection of the earliest fanzines. He did an excellent series of articles about Worldcon history for MidAmeriCon’s (1976) progress reports. And he was a dependable authority whose views mattered in debates about whether the first SF convention was Leeds or Philly, and whether the LASFS or PSFS was the oldest existing SF club.

Unfortunately, Fred became bedridden after suffering a stroke in 2005, although with the aid of his sister Sherrill he did sometimes go in a wheelchair to LASFS or visit fans at her apartment, where she fixed up one room as his library with SF art and some awards hanging on the walls. And with the use of a MacBook Pro laptop computer he stayed active in fandom, typing with one finger. Remarkably, he was able to sustain his uninterrupted string of contributions to LASFS’ weekly APA-L until 2009, having an issue of his fanzine ¡Rábanos Radiactivos! in every distribution – for 2,279 weeks in all.

Moving into a convalescent home forced him to give up his sff collection. He donated almost 900 boxes of comic books, records, tapes, anime, manga, fanzines and books to UC Riverside’s Eaton Collection.

Despite finding typing to be much harder after the stroke, his productivity was remarkable. In 2013 he reported that he was reviewing books for three websites and writing a weekly column for another.  In the past half-dozen years he’s edited 14 anthologies of anthropomorphic fiction. He also compiled fanhistorical works like Furry Fandom Conventions 1989-2015.

Fred’s indomitable fannish spirit was acknowledged with a Special Committee Award by the 2006 Worldcon, L.A.con IV, “in celebration of a lifetime of service to Fandom.” He was named Fan GoH of Loscon in 2006, and won LASFS’ Forry Award in 2009. And he was inducted to the Furry Hall of Fame in 2012 at the MiDFur convention in Melbourne, Australia, for a lifetime of service to Furry fandom.

Comic-Con International’s John Rogers Dies

San Diego Comic-Con International’s board president John Rogers passed away November 10 after a two-month struggle with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Rogers oversaw CCI’s incredible growth:

As our longest serving president, first elected in 1986 and re-elected every year since, John’s tenure saw Comic-Con grow from a select gathering of fans to the largest and most prestigious convention of its kind in the world.

He enjoyed the esteem of large numbers of fans. Oakland News Note Now said it this way:

John Rogers was incredible. Not only did he guide San Diego Comic Con through its years of dramatic growth, he never lost his sense of duty to the people of SDCC. He took every complaint and question and comment with true interest and really handled himself like the mayor of a town. He was the Mayor of Comic Con. A really wonderful man.

And with Comic-Con’s high profile in San Diego, the local NBC affiliate is reporting his death, too.

John Rogers is survived by his wife Janet Tait, sister Barbara, and his brother David. In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations to The American Brain Tumor Association or the ACLU.

RIP Bertil Mårtensson (1945-2018)


By Ahrvid Engholm:
A giant of the Swedish sf field has passed away. Bertil Mårtensson died in hospital Sunday November 4 from effects of smoke inhalation, after a fire in his home broke out the Thursday before. He was in bad health the last few years from severe diabetes and rather immobile, which may have contributed. He was 73 (born in 1945).

Bertil Mårtensson entered sf fandom in 1961 and began being published in fanzines as well as doing his own (one title was Ogre). Together with John-Henri Holmberg and Mats Dannewitz Linder he formed the fannish group WDVF (Witterhetssällskapet Din Vän Fandom) which in the 1960s did a series of satirical, witty fanzines under different titles, now considered classics. The group also edited and contributed to SF Forum, the leading fanzine from the Scandinavian SF Association – a heavyweight publication, at present the only Swedish fanzine still being done on paper – at times with Bertil as sole editor. His last issue as SF Forum editor came in 2002. He was also Guest of Honour of several conventions.

He made his literary debut with a short story in the prozine Häpna! in 1963 and his novel debut in 1968 with Detta är verkligheten (“This is the Reality”), oddly enough first published in Danish in April that year (translated by Jannick Storm) but in Swedish not until September the same year. The novel was given the 1972 Eurocon Special Award and was followed by many other titles. Notable ones are Skeppet i kambrium (“The Ship in Cambrium”, 1974), Samarkand 5617 (1975), Jungfrulig planet (“Virgin Planet”, 1977) and the fantasy trilogy Maktens vägar (“The Roads of Power”, 1979-1983; revised in 1997). He also wrote crime fiction, of which his novel Växande hot (“Growing Threat”, 1977) was awarded the 1977 Sherlock Award as the best Swedish crime novel that year. For a list of his around 20 titles (but excluding his academic non-fiction) see the Wikipedia entry for Bertil_Mårtensson.

Four of his short stories have been translated to English, beginning with “A Modest Proposal” in the New Worlds 7 anthology, 1974, but many more have been translated to French and other languages. He is translated to Danish (as noted), German, Spanish, Italian, Czech and Croatian. (I find info, though, that he had a poem in English already in June 1966, in an issue of Leland Sapiro’s Riverside Quarterly, which shows international fandom contacts early on.) His literary output shrunk when his academic career as philosopher took over, as assistant professor of Umeå University and head of the philosophy department of Lund University 1988-1993.

Yours Truly remember meeting Bertil for “real” the first time during a long conversation at a breakfast table with him and his wife Bodil (they divorced in 2005) on my third sf con, Bacon 1978 – though he must have been present also on the 1977 and 1976 cons I went to. Later, in 1981, we had the fake-Nazi scandal about the Lund Fantasy Fan society (LF3), where Bertil had been chairman. He wrote a sharp letter in the student paper telling them to take their made-up story and stick it up their…fake news existed already them. In my Fandboken I note how Bertil “slaughtered the ‘scoop’…speaking as a founder of LF3 (the club accused of being Nazi in Lundagård /the student paper/), in a letter to the editor which went through the story point by point”. (The student paper editor – following the old motto “don’t check a good story, it may be debunked!” – later became editor-in-chief of one of the biggest newspapers, but was a laughing stock in fandom.)

As Bertil lived far down south I met him rather seldom (usually on a con), last time must have been when he was GoH on the 1999 jUnicon. Before this, in the early 1990’s we were in touch as I made a VHS with Swedish fandom’s amateur films, and included Bertil’s “Tidsmaskinen” (“The Time Machine”). It’s an 18-minute-long 8-mm production from the mid-1960’s. The film where Bertil plays the main character exploring a disaster-struck, future world is available here: https://vimeo.com/12849707

Oddly enough I did later have some contacts with his ex-wife, Bodil Mårtensson, who began writing crime novels and has had quite a success with it (she has lately turned to historical novels). Bodil was for a while member of the Short Story Masters society I’m a member of too. Through her I heard a little about how Bertil was doing – but not entierly good news.

Bertil was also into music, played the synth and did cassettes – it began before recordable CDs – of his own compositions. Some of his music can be found here: https://soundcloud.com/flying-bird-produktion. Last time I tried to connect him with was through a friend who does a home page about Swedish filksongs and sf music. I didn’t get any reply.

Bertil Mårtensson – a fannish nickname was “Balte” – was multi-talented, a very fine writer, a true Big Name Fan and one of the pillars of Swedish science fiction. You’d better believe that he’ll be missed!

Dave Duncan (1933-2018)

Canadian sff author Dave Duncan passed away October 29 after sustaining a brain hemorrhage in a fall.

Originally from Scotland, Duncan lived all his adult life in Western Canada. He worked as a geological consultant until at age 53 he made the transition to full-time professional writer.

Duncan was a prolific novelist who wrote both fantasy and science fiction, although he said, “I always regret that my SF books are less popular than my Fantasy. SF actually takes more work to write!”

His best-known fantasy series included “The Seventh Sword,” “A Man of His Word,” and “The King’s Blades.”

He sold his sixtieth book this year – the science fiction novel Pillar of Darkness.

He won two Aurora Awards, for his novels West of January (1990) and Children of Chaos (2007).

He was an eight-time nominee for the Endeavour Award, given for a distinguished science fiction or fantasy book by a writer living in the Pacific Northwest.

Duncan was both a founding and an honorary lifetime member of SF Canada, the country’s association for speculative fiction professionals. He was inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2015.

He is survived by his wife, Janet, whom he married in 1959, and by their son, two daughters, and four grandchildren

[Thanks to Susan Forest for the story.]

2009 Endeavour Award finalists Kay Kenyon and Dave Duncan with award committee member Page Fuller.

Pat Lupoff (1937-2018)

Pat and Dick Lupoff in 1958

Pat Lupoff, the second woman to win a Hugo award, died October 18. She and Richard (Dick) Lupoff, whom she married in 1957, and Bhob Stewart co-edited the 1963 Best Fanzine Hugo winner Xero.

Xero’s discussion of comics sparked other fans to create their own specialty comics fanzines and organize the spinoff comics fandom of the Sixties that has grown so huge today. And when a collection of articles from their historic zine, The Best of Xero, was published in 2004, John Hertz’ review described the fanzine’s early days and named some of now-famous contributors:

Pat & Dick Lupoff typed stencils in their Manhattan apartment, printed them on a machine in Noreen & Larry Shaw’s basement, collated by hand, and lugged the results to s-f cons or stuffed them in mailboxes. The machine had not been given by Damon Knight, A.J. Budrys explained in a letter after a while, but lent. Eventually drawings could be scanned by electro-stencil, a higher tech. Colored ink joined colored paper, sometimes wildly colored. Xero could be spectacular.

…You’ll also see Anthony Boucher, Harlan Ellison, Ethel Lindsay, Fred Pohl, Rick Sneary, Bob Tucker as “Hoy Ping Pong”, Harry Warner — fans and pros mixing it up. Roger Ebert, later a movie critic, contributed poetry, often free-style, or formal and funny…

The Best of Xero won the Best Related Book Hugo in 2005.

Even before starting Xero, the Lupoffs paid tribute to comics in their iconic costumes for the 1960 Worldcon masquerade, as Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel.

The Lupoffs also hosted meetings of the (Second) Futurian Society of New York in their Manhattan apartment in the early Sixties — til the guests’ manners became intolerable, and the couple helped found a schismatic new group, the Fanoclasts.

Pat and Dick had their first child, Kenneth, in 1961.

Pat and Dick Lupoff in 2011

Update 10/21/2018: Corrected to show that Pat Lupoff was the second woman to win a Hugo, the first having been Elinor Busby, co-editor of Cry of the Nameless, the Hugo-winning fanzine in 1960.

Gary Kurtz (1940-2018)

Gary Kurtz

[[Editor’s note: Reposted by permission.]]

By Craig Miller: Devastated. Bereft.

Gary Kurtz has died.

For over 40 years, Gary Kurtz has been my friend and colleague. We have continued working on projects all this time. There’s a film project Gary was slated to produce that I brought him into and he’s been involved with my Star Wars book. But we were friends beyond work.

Gary was an amazing man. Very private. He never wanted to be the center of attention. Even when I was working for his production company, he didn’t want publicity about him, just the film projects. That’s why he’s not as famous as he should be, for all he’s accomplished, and most people didn’t know he’s been ill for some time.

Gary, of course, produced Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. He also produced American Graffiti and The Dark Crystal, among other films and TV projects.

He was the most knowledgeable producer I ever worked with. Always on top of whatever his films needed, able to answer any questions or solve any problems that came up.

He and George Lucas met at USC Film School but started working together, on American Graffiti when Francis Coppola got the two of them together.

Gary served in Vietnam as a filmmaker, taking a camera into combat. He was required to carry a gun but, as a Quaker, went on combat missions with no bullets in that gun. That’s a lot braver (and faithful) than I think most people would be.

We’ve been friends throughout the years, as well as colleagues. Gary’s been living in England since the late ’70s so we didn’t get to spend a lot of time together but we did whenever we could.

I can’t believe he’s gone. It really hasn’t sunk in. He was 78 years old — older than George by a few yeas, well older than me — but he was always tall and robust and, until recently healthy. He seemed like someone who would always be there. It doesn’t seem possible.

Burt Reynolds (1936-2018)

Burt Reynolds and John Williams in a scene from the Twilight Zone episode “The Bard”.

By Steve Green: Burt Reynolds (1936-2018): US actor, died September 6, aged 82. Genre appearances include The Twilight Zone (one episode, 1963, “The Bard”), Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972), Frankenstein and Me (1996), Universal Soldier II, Universal Soldier III (both 1998), The X-Files (one episode, 2002, as God).

Reynolds appeared in more than 90 feature films – most notably, Deliverance, The Longest Yard and Smokey and the Bandit – and 300 television episodes (Darren McGavin’s sidekick in Riverboat, 50 episodes as Gunsmoke’s blacksmith, and the lead in Evening Shade).

The Hollywood Reporter’s obit also reveals this bit of showbiz lore, that he rejected a role that would have changed science fiction history:

Reynolds’ career also is marked by the movies he didn’t make. Harrison Ford, Jack Nicholson and Bruce Willis surely were grateful after he turned down the roles of Han Solo, retired astronaut Garrett Breedlove and cop John McClane in Star Wars, Terms of Endearment and Die Hard, respectively