Ian Holm (1931-2020)

Yaphet Kotto, Sigourney Weaver, and Ian Holm (as Ash) in Alien (1979).

Actor Ian Holm, an iconic figure in many sff movies and television productions, died June 19. His final illness “was Parkinson’s related” his agent told The Guardian. (The BBC tribute is here, and the New York Times obituary here.)  

He played the whole range of Shakespearean roles, including the fantasies, and gained fame in other non-genre roles.

But after chronic experience with stage fright drove him from live theater, he turned to TV and film work. His role as Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie in the BBC’s production of The Lost Boys (1978) won him a Royal Television Society award and a Bafta nomination.

In 1979 he made his first major Hollywood appearance, as the sinister android Ash in Alien. “It wasn’t a particularly pleasant film to do,” he later recalled. “It was 16 weeks of bloody hard work down at Shepperton Studios.”

Ian Holm as Bilbo, center, in Fellowship of the Ring (2001).

Time Bandits (1981) brought him back as Napoleon, a character he also played on UK television in the previous decade in the Napoleon and Love miniseries.

That was also the year Holm’s performance in non-genre Chariots of Fire won him a Bafta for best supporting actor, and earned him an Oscar nomination.

And in the same auspicious year, he took the part of Frodo Baggins in BBC Radio 4’s 1981 adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.

His connection with sff would continue, cast in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985), and as Lewis Carroll in Dreamchild (1985), Dennis Potter’s fantasy based on the life of Alice Liddell. He was in the TV miniseries The Borrowers (1992) and Return of the Borrowers (1993) as Pod, one of the fifteen-centimeter-high humans who live in the English hinterland. 

He was knighted in 1998 for “services to drama.”

Holm played Bilbo in Peter Jackson’s three-part Lord of the Rings screen adaptation, with filming on The Fellowship of the Ring beginning in 1999. At five-feet five inches he was physically suited to the character, in addition to the acting gifts  he brought to the part. Bilbo did not appear in The Two Towers, but Holm returned for the final movie, The Return of the King, as well as the first and third instalments of the Hobbit trilogy (as “Old Bilbo”), which were released in 2012 and 2014 respectively.

The New York Times obituary quoted:

“I’m completely amazed by the reaction that the films have had,” he told the British newspaper The Independent in 2004. “I get a lot of fan mail addressed to Bilbo and sometimes Sir Bilbo,” he said. “It’s hardly ever addressed to Ian Holm.” He made sure to sign replies with his character’s name, he added.

Sadly, unlike Bilbo, Holm could not sail away to the Undying Lands.

He is survived by his fourth wife, Sophie de Stempel; five children; and eight grandchildren.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy for the story, and the next-to-last line.]

Monica Stephens Dies

Monica Stephens

Monica Stephens, Steve Jackson’s companion for more than 30 years and an employee of Steve Jackson Games for nearly as long, died June 18 of congestive heart failure as a side effect of chemotherapy. She was 59.

At Nolacon II, the troubled 1988 Worldcon where I ran program, she and Steve co-edited Domino Theory, the daily zine and the equally vital daily “pink sheet” with the correct program schedule (a life-saver, because two other obsolete versions were circulating in the pocket program and on the hotel monitors). It was one of the earliest, if not the first, Worldcon newzine to be created by desktop publishing, and as Jackson says, “Thanks to a huge corps of volunteer reporters and distributors, managed to report on the train wreck without being pulled under it.”

Monica made it to a lot of Worldcons after that, sometimes working as a gopher.

Her other fannish accomplishments included a great deal of activity with FACT (Fandom Association of Central Texas). And she got a proofreader credit in Howard Tayler’s Schlock Mercenary: Under New Management.

Steve Jackson’s tribute on the SJ Games site adds:

She worked in every department that SJ Games ever had, except (possibly) miniatures casting. She started as a typesetter, back when we had our own typesetting equipment. At various times, she also did layout, print buying, editing, playtesting, accounting, convention support and convention booth work, and landscaping – she was the best tree-trimmer we had. And, with Czar Andrew, she had the thankless and ever-growing task of managing the Munchkin database. (She also helped me make up the first Munchkin playtest set, and she was the very first one to tell me that Munchkin was going to be a hit. She was right.)

She liked nature: flowers, trees, frogs, lizards – even spiders (but not snakes). She shared my love of water gardening. She read science fiction and enjoyed conventions.

She is survived by Jackson, and her brother Sid and sister Stephanie.

Remembering Jim Burns

James H. Burns and Steve Vertlieb at Sardi’s.

By Steve Vertlieb: It was four years ago on June 2nd, 2016, that I lost one of my dearest, most cherished friends. What would normally have been among the happiest nights of my life … receiving a cherished life achievement award in Louisville, Kentucky … was tempered forever by the sobering reality that a friend and brother, who had for years championed and lobbied for my trophy, had passed away suddenly mere hours before I was to receive it. Here was my heart aching remembrance of Jim Burns as I wrote it four years ago today.

My win for the 2016 Rondo Hall Of Fame Award the other night was, is, and always will be tempered by the heartbreaking news and realization that my beloved friend and brother, Jim Burns, has tragically passed away at age fifty four of an undisclosed illness. Jim was one of the best friends that it’s ever been my honor to have. He was a cherished pal, confidante, and brother. Jim and I would speak for hours on the telephone, catching up on the latest news, talking, and always, always laughing.

When I nearly died just six or so years ago during major open heart surgery, Jim was ever on the telephone, and always sending me supportive e-mails and love. Jim pushed hard for my lifetime achievement award at the Rondo’s every year, and it was Jim who joyously announced my win for the Hall Of Fame by awaking me from a deep sleep just two months ago to inform me that I’d been elected to the Rondo Hall Of Fame.

My elation on Saturday morning in Louisville, Kentucky, was abruptly shattered when David Colton (the head of the Rondo Awards, and former editor of U.S.A. Today) gave me the terrible, terrible news that Jim has passed away on Thursday, June 2nd. Jim…I love you. I shall always love you. I cannot believe that I’ll never hear your voice, or your terrible jokes ever again. I cannot believe that I’ll never again know the happiness of reading your prolific commentary on the arts. Your work was sheer poetry. It was beautiful, haunting, and evocative. Your last years were tortured, and I hope that you found a degree of comfort in my love and respect for you, and in our profound bonding and friendship.

I dedicated my Rondo Award to you in my acceptance speech in Louisville Saturday evening. You always wanted to win a Rondo but never had an opportunity to do so. You were one Hell of a writer. May it bring you a degree of solace to know that David Colton dedicated this year’s Rondo Awards ceremony to you. I love you, Jim. I miss you…and I cannot believe that I will never have an opportunity to speak with you again. God Bless you, my friend. God Bless you, my cherished brother.

Sleep well, Prince Jim. Sleep throughout eternity in the knowledge that you shall always be loved….both by me, and by so many adoring friends and fans.

[Editor’s note: Here are links to all the posts Jim wrote for File 770 during the last six months of his life.]

JAMES H. BURNS POSTS

John Horton Conway (1937-2020)

By Edmund Schluessel: Two tweets from his colleagues report the death of Prof. John Horton Conway, one of the most renowned mathematicians of the past century, from COVID-19.

As a mathematician Conway will probably be most remembered for his eponymous “Game of Life”, which illustrated how complex behaviors in mathematical systems could emerge from simple rules. Conway’s explorations in this subject fundamentally expanded the applications of the branch of mathematics known as cellular automaton theory.

Conway also earned a reputation as a popularizer of mathematics, writing multiple texts that brought ideas from the most abstract realms of mathematics to the everyday person. His mathematical game “Sprouts,” which draws on ideas from graph theory, presents a challenge with unexpected patterns emerging in each variation despite starting from rules appropriate for kindergarteners.

Among his most significant recent contributions was a series of papers with Simon Kochen which attempt to use mathematics to establish a deep relationship between free will and quantum mechanics.

Born in Liverpool, England in 1937, Conway spend the second half of his career as John von Neumann Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Princeton University.. He is survived by his wife Diana, seven children, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Merv Binns (1934-2020)

Merv Binns at the 2010 AussieCon. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

By Bruce Gillespie: Mervyn R. Binns, best known to everybody as Merv Binns, died April 7 at the Kingston Centre, Monash Health, Melbourne. Born July 8, 1934, he was 85 years old. Merv had suffered serious heart problems during the last two decades. He was admitted to hospital about a month ago, then suffered a seizure on April 2. He had been slowly slipping away since then.

Because of the coronavirus shutdown in Australia, his funeral can only be attended by a very small number of people, so his wife Helena will arrange a gathering in celebration of his life and work as soon as feasible.

Merv Binns was Melbourne’s ‘Mr Science Fiction’ from when he was a teenager and worked behind the counter at McGill’s Newagency, Melbourne. This was one of the few sources of science fiction books and magazines and Melbourne in the early 1950s. He and a small group of teenagers formed, first, the Melbourne Science Fiction Group, then the Melbourne Science Fiction Club, in 1952. After the Club obtained its own clubrooms, Merv became the main driving force of the Club, a social centre for Melbourne fandom from then until now.

In 1971, Merv, with generous help from Sydney fan Ron Graham, established Space Age Books in the centre of Melbourne. It provided not only a retailer of SF and fantasy books and memorabilia, but also a social centre for Australian fans and pro writers. Merv published Australian Science Fiction News, which was both a valuable newszine and a marketing tool for the shop. However, Space Age Books was forced to close a few months after Aussiecon II in 1985, and Merv took early retirement. His interest in the science fiction world never diminished, and in 1998 his life greatly improved when he and Helena Roberts married. Helena has been staying at the Kingston Centre during Merv’s last days.

Merv received four lifetime achievement awards (the Big Heart Award, the A. Bertram Chandler Award, Peter MacNamara Award, and the Eternity Award), as well as a number of awards for his magazines and writing.

Tell the Truth and Run

By John Hertz:  (reprinted from Vanamonde 1389) Dan Goodman (1943-2020) was active in New York, San Francisco, L.A., and Minneapolis fandom.  In New York he was in FISTFA (Fannish & Insurgent Scientifictional Association; scientifiction the coinage of Hugo Gernsback 1884-1967); FISTFA started APA-F, the first weekly fannish apa, which in 1964 inspired APA-L; APA-F lasted until ’69, we in APA-L are still at it.

When I came to fandom in 1969 he was already here.  Then and since I’ve seldom been able to attend LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society) meetings; my Lzines (APA-L is the Amateur Press Ass’n – LASFS, though collated only at, not by or for, the club) have been printed and gotten to the Official Collator, then the distribution gotten to me, with assistance.  

For years Dan was my go-between.  If I wasn’t home he slid my disty (John Trimble famously said Anyone who would call a distribution a “disty” would probably call it a “disty-wisty-poo”; naturally we –) under my door; I didn’t have a transom for him to throw it over.  I lived near Alvarado St.; he sometimes called this the Alvarado APA, or STUD (Shoving Things Under Doors).

We talked of shoes – and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages – and kings. Then and since another of my interests has been the folkdance of southeast Europe; Yugoslavia (as it then was), Bulgaria, Greece.  He joked that his physical condition left him with the balance and coördination of someone who’d had a few beers, or a shot or two of šlivovica (“shlee-vo-vee-tsa”, plum brandy), so he could dance the kolo (Serbian dance idiom; people in a curved line, or you could call it a chain, holding hands, no partners, with individual variation on a basic step; kolo, literally “circle”, or “village”) as well as anybody else.

He gave me a Serbian proverb, Reci pravo pa bež’ (“reh-chee prah-vo pa bezh”, more formally beži “beh-zhee”) – Tell the truth and run – which I took to an ethnographer friend who, knowing the region well, said he’d never heard of it, but it had not only the right spirit but the right linguistic structure.

After a while Dan moved to Minneapolis.  He started, edited, and I believe named the Minn-STF (there’s scientifiction again; more formally the Minneapolis Science Fiction Society) clubzine Einblatt.  He got one SF story published that I know of, “The Oldest Religion” in Tales of the Unanticipated (1988; semiprozine, sometimes “TOTU”, started by Minn-STF, independent since 2003); he was in the fanzine Lofgeornost at least as recently as 2014.

In February of 2020, with his health failing at last, and after he’d been hit by a train – not the only reason I’m glad Van 1389 wasn’t ready in time to be dated April 1st – Minn-STF brought a meeting to him.  He did not live to see the end of March.  Ave atque vale.


The amateur-journalism hobby is credited with inventing the amateur press association, in which, subject to local variations, members print their own zines and get them to a central officer, who collates and distributes them; the first known is NAPA the Nat’l Am. Pr. Ass’n, founded 1876, still active; the first fannish, FAPA the Fantasy Am. Pr. Ass’n, founded 1937, still active; most apas have been monthly, or quarterly: weekly was and remains a shocker, even after the rise of Electronicland.

[Editor’s note: In the fifth paragraph the Latin letter “c” has been substituted for a character which WordPress does not support and persists in turning into a question mark.]

Lyle Waggoner (1935-2020)

Lyle Waggoner and Lynda Carter in Wonder Woman.

Actor Lyle Waggoner died March 17 at the age of 84. Although he narrowly missed genre fame in the Sixties — a finalist for the title role in the Batman TV series, he lost out to Adam West — in the Seventies he was cast in his best-known genre role as Col. Steve Trevor, Jr. in the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman TV series.

Waggoner played a supporting role in the TV production of Once Upon a Mattress (1972) with Carol Burnett, while also working on her weekly variety show (1967-1974), source of his biggest fan following.

He also was in episodes of the original Lost in Space, Supertrain, Time Express, Mork & Mindy, Fantasy Island, and in the movies Journey to the Center of Time (1967), and Wizards of the Demon Sword (1991).

Kate Hatcher (1974-2020)

By John Hertz:

Bright-spirited – fool? wise?
Bees from flowers and from weeds
Bring honey.  Shall we?

Who walks in where fools fear to tread? 

I can’t say Kate Hatcher was an angel; she was a human woman.  Angels are something else.

That much was true of her.  She was something else.

Maybe she’s an angel now.

Ben Hatcher, who had devotedly husbanded her, telephoned me early on Friday – March 6th.  Kate would have wanted, he said, for me to hear it from him.  I said I’d try to keep worthy of that.

I had known her since 2014 when she worked on the first Utah Westercon.  Five years later she chaired the second – which was combined with the 13th NASFiC, another first.

Until 2014 the West Coast Science Fantasy Conference had never been in Utah.  It had found its way out of Los Angeles by 1951 (Westercon IV, San Francisco), out of California by 1959 (Westercon XII, Seattle); out of the United States, 1977 (Westercon XXX, Vancouver); as far east as allowed, 1996 (Westercon XLIX, El Paso); off-continent, 2000 (Westercon LIII, Honolulu).

But someone must bid to host it, and win votes.  Salt Lake City fans did that with Westercon LXVII.  In 2019 it was in Utah again (Westercon LXXII, Layton).

That was not extraordinary enough.  Since 1975 a North America Science Fiction Convention has been held when the Worldcon is overseas; in 2019, the Worldcon was in Dublin, so there was a NASFiC; Kate chaired the bid for the 2019 Westercon, also the bid to host the NASFiC conjointly, and chaired the two combined cons after both bids won in two separate votes; also, joined with them, a 1632 Minicon (fans of Eric Flynt’s 1632 series), and Manticon 2019 (fans of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, with its Royal Manticoran Navy i.e. Space navy).

Some of our cons get names; this combination of four was called Spikecon, being 50 miles from where the Final Spike was driven to complete the Transcontinental Railroad 150 years earlier.  Railroad engineer’s caps were part of the con.  The Transcontinental Railroad is historic.  So are wrongs in its accomplishment.  Human history is part honey, part aloes.

Kate and Ben, reading and watching and gaming with SF, knew little of organized (if that word may be used) fandom when they came to LTUE half a dozen years ago.  They found out – or were recruited – or something.

LTUE – Life, the Universe, and Everything – began as the Marion K. “Doc” Smith Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy at Brigham Young University.  Three decades later it’s still held at Provo, Utah, in February, describing itself as both “a three-day academic symposium on all aspects of science fiction and fantasy” and “a gathering place for fans of our creative and innovative world to hang out and share their love of all things amazing, obscure, and even not-quite-real”.

That’s not the 1890-1965 “Doc” Smith who wrote Skylark and Lensman stories, it’s the 1932-2002 BYU professor.  There’s a book People Named Smith.

Dave Doering, the Westercon LXVII chair, was glad Kate arrived among us.  Three months before his con he found he had no program; I’ll omit details; anyway Kate in those circumstances was willing to give it a try: did remarkably well: was then recruited by Westercon LXX (Tempe) and LXXI (Denver), and the 76th Worldcon (San Jose).

She developed the art, science, or mystery of getting sponsorships.  Here is another balancing act.

Our cons are non-profit.  The fees we charge for membership (we insist we offer memberships, the privilege of participating, not tickets, the entitlement to watch what someone else makes) may prove insufficient to cover costs.  Whatever commerce means, still unclear after centuries or millennia, we don’t want to be commercial; the road there isn’t our way.

With all this in mind can we – should we – get individual, or even (gasp) corporation sponsors?  Healthfully?  How?  For what?  Think about it.

We vote for Westercons two years in advance.  By voting time at Westercon LXX the bid Kate chaired for LXXII remained unopposed.  This amounts to a compliment, the community’s saying “We can’t do better; go ahead.”  Westercon history shows that an unopposed bid might still not win our votes.  I’ll omit details.  Anyway, Kate’s bid won; then she was made, and served as, chair of the con – another thing which ain’t necessarily so.

We vote for Worldcons two years in advance; NASFiCs, one year.  At the 2017 Worldcon we voted for Dublin in 2019 – so there would be a 2019 NASFiC.  Where?  Conducted by whom?  This was decided at the 2018 Worldcon – a year after voting for the 2019 Westercon – and by members of the 2018 Worldcon, not necessarily the same voters.

Someone – Kate has been credited, or blamed – had the bright idea of combining the 2019 NASFiC and Westercon.  She was made the chair of a bid.

If you took part in that discussion, you’ll remember it.  If not, imagine it.

By NASFiC voting time the Utah bid remained unopposed – and won.

As the band Chicago sang – remember them, or imagine them – “Only the beginning.”

Also in this story is SMOFcon.  Our term SMOF, for “Secret Master of Fandom”, seems to have been coined in the early 1960s, maybe by Jack Chalker.  Later Bruce Pelz called it a joke-nonjoke-joke.  It came to be used, more or less good-humoredly, for people often involved with conducting our cons, clubs, and like that.  By 1984 we had a SMOFcon, hoping to hand on, or off, expertise.

SMOFcon XXXVI was 30 Nov – 2 Dec 2018 at Santa Rosa, California (SMOFcon XXXVIII is scheduled for 4-6 Dec 20 at Montréal, Québec).  Kate figured she’d better attend.  How?  Luckily she won a scholarship.

She went to study.  Naturally she was asked to teach about sponsors.  In principle that was jes’ fine, share and share alike.  In practice – well, I’ll continue to omit details and only say that as the adventure went on, to and through Spikecon, SMOF was not always praise in her private conversation.

Of course some people were very helpful.  It would be tragic to draw a false conclusion like expertise is bunk and condemn oneself not just to re-inventing the wheel but, as Dean Gahlon of Minneapolis says, re-inventing the square wheel.  Perhaps in a free-form world like fandom both gaining and giving know-how may call for extra thought.  And one has to look.

What struck me, over many hours by phone and in person with her during these few years, was a willingness to try things, to reach her own conclusions about what could or couldn’t be done, and perhaps as a product, an ability to find ways of making things work.

Other folks noted how she could get sought out and brought in.  If she herself was left holding the bag, she made it a Bag of Holding.

In my own metaphor, which I think I can now tell you, I called her Pennzoil.

I can’t wholly omit her physical health.  It was, to speak mildly, wretched.  She wasn’t entirely wheelchair-bound.

Besides Ben, her family included – as she sometimes described her daughter – an autistic giggle factory named Ireland.

Kate did not push burdens to the fore.  She had a bright spirit.  Luckily she had an independent mind.  With these gifts she achieved much.

Dave Doering said she always gave 110%.  Even from him that was an understatement.

Kowtowing never, asking from allone
(As Heinlein said), she learned
To look, think, for herself and others,
Easy or hard, whether advice helped or burned.

                                                      

My poem at the beginning is in unrhymed 5-7-5-syllable lines more or less like Japanese haiku; at the end, an acrostic (read down the first letters of each line) more or less like a quatrain in Chinese regulated verse: for the scansion, I try sentence-stress instead of the First Tone (Chinese has no sentence-stress), and disregard insubstantial words (omitted in literary Chinese); below, / marks the caesura, R the rhyme; “allone” alludes to Time for the Stars ch. 17 (1956), where our narrator is told, in System Speech, “Outdown go rightwards.  Ask from allone.”

– – / – x x
x x / x – – R
x x / – – x
– – / x x – R

Abby Has Died

By Mark L. Blackman: New York fan Ariel Makepeace Julienne Winterbreuke – also known as I Abra Cinii, Ariel Cinii and simply Abby – was found dead in her “Upstate Manhattan” apartment on Sunday, March 8. She was 66. Neighbor and fellow fan Bill Wagner provided the few details available:

Some sad news. New York fan and my direct next door neighbor Ariel Winterbreuke was found dead in her apartment. She had been dead at least a week. A neighbor said the police went down the fire escape to get into her apartment for a wellness check. Reportedly she had recently appeared thin and not looking well. No cause of death is yet known.

Abby, one of the first trans people in Fandom, was phenomenally creative and inventive (she even devised an alien language and way of thought for her fiction called Sartine). She was an apahack (in both incarnations of APA-NYU), an artist, a filker and performer (known for “Imported Sly,” “Unknown is Unending,” and the New York-centric “The Alternate Side” and “Swing Low, Sweet Double-A”), and the author (as Ariel Cinii) of the Touching Lands’ Dance trilogy (The Family Forge, The Organized Seer and The Telepaths’ Song).

Abby attending an open-air art exhibition in Rockefeller Center. Photo by and used with permission of Deb Wunder.

Earl Kemp Dies

Earl Kemp in 2007. Photo by Bill Burns, Corflu, Austin, Texas.

Past Worldcon chair and Hugo-winning fanzine editor Earl Kemp (1929-2020) died February 6 at the age of 90. The news was only recently shared by his son, Erik Kemp. Earl died from injuries suffered in a fall: after getting up from his computer, he fell and struck his head on the corner of his desk.

Although fandom was a small pond in the Fifties and Sixties, Earl was a very big fish in it. He worked hard to be a mover and shaker, and to circulate among its top writers.

Earl had been born in Arkansas and later moved to Chicago, where he worked in a job printing shop and learned typesetting and book composition techniques for offset printing.

After exchanging a few letters with Mari Wolf (who was conducting “Fandora’s Box” for William Hamling’s Imagination), she connected Earl with local Chicago fan Ed Wood, which led to Earl joining the University of Chicago Science Fiction Club in 1950.

He attended his first Worldcon when it was held in Chicago in 1952. Earl later said, “It was like walking into a world I had been seeking for a very long time. I felt, instantly, that I was at home at last and among my kind of people.”

Earl would become president of the University of Chicago Science Fiction Club and hold office for almost a decade (although the university was told a student’s name for that purpose.) Meanwhile, he chaired two unsuccessful bids to return the Worldcon to the city. As they say, the third time is the charm: he served as chairman of the 1962 Worldcon, Chicon III.

In 1955, Earl and several other UofCSF Club members started Advent:Publishers with the idea of bringing out critical works about science fiction. Advent’s other founders, besides Earl, were Robert Briney, Sidney Coleman, James O’Meara, George Price, Jon Stopa and Ed Wood. Damon Knight had written a goodly number of critical essays for science fiction magazines by then, and it was Earl’s idea to assemble them into a book. In 1956, Advent published as its first book Damon Knight’s In Search of Wonder. Advent would also publish major nonfiction works such as James Blish’s The Issue at Hand, Don Tuck’s massive bibliographic Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy to 1968, Robert Bloch’s The Eighth Stage of Fandom, as well as Harry Warner, Jr’s All Our Yesterdays and Alexei Panshin’s Heinlein in Dimension.

Earl said in one autobiographical comment, “[By] 1959 I was a reasonably well known science fiction fan, collector, bibliophile, pain-in-the-ass wannabe something significant. By that time I thought I knew absolutely every single person of any consequences involved with science fiction, and they knew me.”

Alexei Panshin sketched Earl’s character in these terms in “Oh, Them Crazy Monkeys!”:

…Earl’s strength was his ability to always think of the next thing to do, and then draw other people into wanting to play the game with him — very much in the same way that he’d propose writing a book on Heinlein to me, and then convince me to write it so Advent could publish it.

I described the Earl of those days this way in “The Story of Heinlein in Dimension“:  “He was a doer, not only full of bright ideas, but also able to bring them to fruition.  A typical Kemp project had an element of originality, called for a lot of work, but yielded results that only imagination and effort could achieve.”

In the copy of the essay which Earl read and then returned to me all marked in red, he inserted the phrase “by a lot of people” after the words “a lot of work” in the previous sentence.  That’s an important addition.  It emphasizes the group nature of these endeavors.  They weren’t undertaken for personalistic Crazy Monkey reasons, but rather for the sheer fun of doing them.

…On the other hand, Earl Kemp’s greatest weakness was that he had the demands of his own Crazy Monkey to contend with.  He aimed to get ahead.  He wanted to be a success.  He longed for recognition.  He wanted to rub elbows with the rich and powerful.  He wanted to be a player.

The reality, however, was that Earl had a living to earn at a job he didn’t always like, working as a graphics artist for a printer.  He couldn’t help thinking that he was capable of more demanding work and of exercising greater responsibility, and he wanted to better himself.

Earl Kemp in costume at the 1960 Worldcon masquerade. Photo by James O’Meara

In 1963 Kemp edited The Proceedings: CHICON III, published by Advent:Publishers. The book included transcripts of lectures and panels given during the course of the convention, along with numerous photographs.

Earl’s work as Worldcon chair gained fresh notoriety in the last decade when NIU posted an online exhibit of correspondence related to the 1962 Chicago Worldcon, including his invitation to Isaac Asimov to deliver a pseudo-lecture on the theme of “The Positive Power of Posterior Pinching”. (The suggested pseudo-lecture did not occur.) The exhibit was the basis for Stephanie Zvan’s 2012 post “We Don’t Do That Anymore”, the point of which seemed to be missed by Earl, who left a comment: “What a wonderful find. Thank you very much for posting this. It’s nice to be reminded of some of the good things. I admit I’ve forgotten this, but it certainly was Ike.”

He was a prolific fanzine editor, who won the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine in 1961 for his publication Who Killed Science Fiction? It was a classic Kemp project, edited with his then wife Nancy Kemp (1923-2013). To create the fanzine, “Earl sent the same five questions to 108 people, the elite of the science fiction world. And he printed the seventy-one responses he received.” Robert A. Heinlein participated, but insisted on being listed as an anonymous respondent. Who Killed Science Fiction? was distributed through the Spectator Amateur Press Society (SAPS), a long-running amateur press association.

In December 2006, Earl released the “complete and unexpurgated” text of Who Killed Science Fiction? as a webpage on eFanzines. The first question reads —

1)  Do you feel that magazine science fiction is dead?

YES:  2

NO:  55 replies, of which 38 qualified their “no” by following it with “but…,” and an alarming percentage of these 38 indicated that the death struggle was already in sight.

YES: Eleven replies, stating either “yes” or definitely dying already (this figure includes my personal vote).

After Earl won the Hugo, Heinlein seems to have regretted not putting his name on his reply.

In Seattle in 1961, after I had been awarded the Hugo for Who Killed Science Fiction?, Robert Heinlein approached me. He had this deliberately calculated way of insulting through faint praise; his words would flow out of him effortlessly as if he had spent some time rehearsing them, perhaps saying the words aloud to himself. 

“If I had of known what a good job you would do with Who Killed Science Fiction?” he said, “I’d have allowed you to use my name in it.”

Gee, thanks, Bob? I believe that was the closest I ever came to receiving an apology from Robert Heinlein

The Hugo win spawned some controversy among those who felt it was wrong for the award to go to a publication that only had a single issue. The eligibility rules for fanzines soon were changed to prevent the recurrence of a one-shot winning. The requirement for a fanzine to be “generally available” may also have been inspired by the zine having been distributed through a members-only apa.

Earl produced a number of other fanzines up until 1965, including Destiny and SaFari. After a 37-year break, he returned to editing fanzines with e*I*, which focused on Earl and his friends’ memoirs of the science fiction world. e*I* ran from 2002–2012, and won a FAAn Award in 2009.

As a fan legend and successful fanpolitician Earl had his share of critics and detractors, but for jaw-dropping accusations none approached the level of D. Bruce Berry, who wrote a 38-page rant, A Trip To Hell (1962), about the evils of fandom in general and Earl Kemp in particular. Berry, who also lived in Chicago area, alleged that Earl, wearing a mask, had robbed him on the streets of Chicago on Labor Day night in 1958. This did not take into account that on that date Earl was attending the Worldcon in Los Angeles (South Gate in ’58). Additionally, Berry accused Kemp of railroading him into an insane asylum for three weeks. This became, if nothing else, a collectible zine.

Or considering what happened later, was D. Bruce Berry surpassed by the FBI and Richard Nixon? You may think so after reading Earl’s version of being prosecuted for distributing pornography, “Dickless in San Clemente,” in Michael Dobson’s Random Jottings 8.5.

During the 1960s and ’70s, Earl worked with William Hamling at Greenleaf Classics, publishing erotic paperbacks (quite a few of them written by sf pros under pseudonyms). One of Earl’s great pleasures was the artwork – though probably not for the reason you think. As he wrote in e*I*

In the 1960’s, after the Porno Factory moved to California and when I was boss, one of my biggest thrills was posing for the covers of some of our books. And, later, when we began using lots of photographs, I enjoyed that one as well for different reasons. The cover artists who worked for us quickly learned of my addiction and would occasionally conspire to involve me a bit more directly.

I remember one particular cover of one of our books that I was very proud of for a number of reasons. I seem to remember it as being an exceptionally good novel and one that I singled out for special handling. It was GC222, Song of Aaron, by Richard Amory, a sort-of sequel to his best-selling Song of the Loon from the previous year.

I had Robert Bonfils, our in-house Art Director, do a wrap-around painting for the cover. It shows two cowboys in the middle of forever (two hills over from Corflu Creek), stopping, dismounting, and stretching. I posed for both cowboys in this painting.

In 1970, not long after the federal government released the Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, Greenleaf Classics produced a shortened edition called Presidential Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography “replete with the sort of photographs the commission examined.” The commission had been created by the Johnson administration, and among its conclusions said that they found there was “no evidence to date that exposure to explicit sexual materials plays a significant role in the causation of delinquent or criminal behavior among youths or adults.” Nixon was in office by the time the report came out, and his administration emphatically rejected the commission’s findings and recommendations.   

Following publication of the Greenleaf Classics version of the report, Kemp and Hamling were prosecuted for “conspiracy to mail obscene material.” At trial, the report as published by Greenleaf was not found to be obscene, but the brochure sent out advertising it for sale was found to be clearly obscene by the jury. Earl was sentenced to a one-year prison sentence (as was Hamling), however, both served only the federal minimum of three months and one day.

Earl’s other output, listed in the Internet SF Database, is three anthologies edited under the Jon Hanlon pseudonym: Death’s Loving Arms & Other Terror Tales (1966), Stories from Doctor Death and Other Terror Tales (1966), and The House of Living Death and Other Terror Tales (1966), and the nonfiction work Sin-A-Rama: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties (2004), co-authored with Brittany A. Daley, Hedi El Kholti, Miriam Linna, and Adam Parfrey.

The Wikipedia includes The Science Fiction Novel, edited by Earl Kemp, Advent:Publishers (1959).

And the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction adds The Memoirs of an Angry Man: The Wit, Wisdom, and Sometimes Humor of The Fourth King of Pornography (2013)

Earl also appeared (sort of) in Milk (2008), about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California: he was one of the extras. “I’m part of the wallpaper in many scenes. Please applaud loudly when you see the guy in the very loud, 1979 three-piece plaid suit.” (Frank Robinson was another, in one scene noticeably wearing a Greek sailor’s cap and a sweater emblazoned ANITA THE HUN.)

As Earl was ending the run of his amazing fanzine e*I* in 2012, he was presented a Lifetime Achievement Awards at Corflu Glitter, an award created to “salute living fans for their excellent fanac over a long career in Fandom.”

The next year (2013) he was inducted to the First Fandom Hall of Fame.

His survivors include sons Erik Kemp and Earl Terry Kemp.

Earl’s website with many photos is still online here.