Robert Hood – “Rev. Bob” – Has Died

Editor, writer, webmaster and File 770 commenter Rev. Bob died April 7 at the age of 50. His mother made the announcement on Facebook:  

Many of you know him as Bob or Rev. Bob. He died peacefully at home last night.

The paramedics took him to the hospital in hopes of resuscitating him, but they couldn’t.

It was NOT covid-19.

When Rev. Bob began participating here in 2015 he was working as an ebook creator and as a proofreader/copyeditor doing business as Tittle & Jot.    

For the previous 20 years he had been an active fan of Steve Jackson Games, and by then was maintaining the company’s website.

He was a Tennessee fan and on the conrunning side, for a time, he ran LibertyCon’s board/card gaming. The Chattanooga con is noted as a magnet for Baen authors, and when he finally dropped out around 2015 he said, “I parted ways with the con when they got too overtly conservative for me to feel comfortable attending – not in the ‘I don’t want my money going there’ sense, but in the ‘if they knew how liberal my politics are, I believe I would be very unwelcome’ sense.”

Rev. Bob described himself as a voracious reader who owned thousands of books – many of them print books he had scanned and converted to ebooks, as he once explained:

Goodreads puts me at 4255, and that’s only (a) physical books I’ve scanned since August 2011 and (b) all books purchased since the same date that I’m willing to admit to owning. There are a few other exceptions, like books in storage by a handful of key authors (pre-2011, manually added rather than scanned) or pre-2011 ebooks that I’ve added as I find them (e.g. contents of Baen CDs), but I know I’ve got boxes of currently-inaccessible books that Goodreads doesn’t know about. I’ve even got a bundle of Angry Robot ebooks that I got in their “100 for £100” deal and haven’t completely processed yet. Yes, I’m way behind.

Heck, I’ve got over 1600 DVDs and Blu-rays…

Having once been a prolific writer, he was able to share “Rev. Bob’s Rules for Writers”:

1. Get the words out of your head and into the manuscript.
2. Never submit/publish an untouched first draft. At the very least, read it over one time and be sure there’s nothing you want to change.
3. Pay attention to spelling, grammar, and punctuation. If you’re going to break those rules, do it on purpose.

That’s about it, really.

However, as he discussed from time to time, “Depression and despair have positively slaughtered my creative output since 2016. The chronic pain doesn’t exactly help, either. It used to be nothing for me to bash away at a keyboard for several hours, writing thousands of words at a time. Now I struggle to get from one scene to the next before I have to stop.” 

Yet he was still one of the most incisive and analytical debaters here. And whenever fannish wordplay broke out he contributed to the fun. (Three of his parody filksongs follow the jump.) He will be sorely missed.

[Thanks to Laura Haywood-Cory for the story.]

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Don Lundry Dies

Don Lundry, chair of the 1977 Worldcon, died February 14 after a long illness. The family obituary is here at Legacy.com.

In his last days he was cared for by his wife of 12 years, Peggy Davis Lundry. Previously, Don was married to Grace Campbell Lundry for 40 years before her passing in 2003.

Lundry chaired SunCon, the 1977 Worldcon, held in Miami Beach, with Grace as his effective co-chair.

Prior to that he chaired the 1972 and 1976 Lunacons in New York. He first found fandom in 1967.

Lundry worked for IBM, General Electric, and other firms over the years as a software engineer and manager. He also served as a U.S. Army Reservist in the Signal Corps for approximately 30 years, reaching the rank of Colonel. He was a graduate of the U.S. Army War College.

The “Seven for 77” Worldcon bid Lundry chaired is at least as well remembered as the convention, because the committee took the novel approach of initially not bidding for a specific city, but offered itself as an experienced group of con-runners who would locate a first-rate site and negotiate a good deal. In mid-1974, they were looking at Boston, Atlanta and Orlando. By January 1975 (six months before the vote), they picked a hotel in Orlando and renamed the bid Orlando in 77. Unfortunately, the hotel they selected went bankrupt and in early 1976 the committee was forced to move the convention to the Hotel Fountainbleu in Miami Beach, FL where they ran SunCon.

Don Lundry is survived by his wife, Peggy, three children ten grandchildren; and three sisters.

Yvonne Rousseau (1945–2021)

Yvonne Rousseau. Photo by Jenny Blackford.

By Bruce Gillespie: With great sorrow we learn that Yvonne Rousseau died on Saturday, 13 February, in the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, Melbourne, from Parkinson’s disease. She had suffered from Parkinson’s from before she returned to Melbourne from Adelaide four years ago, after her husband John Foyster died there in 2003, but had entered hospital only two months ago.

She leaves behind her daughter Vida Weiss (who has kept us all informed over recent months), her sisters Val and Glenda, and her brother Linton, and their families; sister-in-law Jo; and former husband Mick Weiss, as well as the friends who enabled her to move back to Melbourne (Kathy and Ian, and Jane and Richard). Her brother George died several years ago.

She had a great ability to make and keep close personal friends, including those in the worldwide science fiction community and the Australian literary and editing world.

She was a Life Member of the Victorian Society of Editors, and was the author of The Murders at Hanging Rock, several published short stories (the best known being “The Importance of Being Oscar”), and many penetrating critical and personal articles.

She was a member of the Collective who published Australian Science Fiction Review, Second Series, and contributor to ASFR, SF Commentary, and many other publications. We feel keenly the loss of Yvonne’s generous and modest personality and her fine mind.

[Reprinted by permission from Facebook.]

Rowena Morrill (1944-2021)

Rowena Morrill. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Renowned fantasy and sf artist Rowena Morrill, who just last year received the Lifetime Achievement World Fantasy Award, died February 11 at the age of 76. Popular with fans, she also won the British Fantasy Award for Best Artist in 1984, and was a four-time Hugo finalist for Best Professional Artist. Her professional peers made her a 1999 Chesley Award nominee for the cover of The Garden of the Stone.

She received her first professional commission in the mid-Seventies from Charles Volpe at Ace Books to illustrate a romance cover. Morrill’s first design for a horror novel was Jane Parkhurst’s Isobel (1977). During her career she produced dozens of covers and many interior illustrations. Her paintings appeared in magazines such as PlayboyHeavy MetalOmniArt Scene International, and Print Magazine.

Her monographs included The Fantastic Art of Rowena (a 1984 Best Non Fiction Book Hugo nominee), Imagine (in France), Imagination (in Germany), and The Art of Rowena. Her work has also been included in several anthologies, including Tomorrow and Beyond and Infinite Worlds.

Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Rowena Morrill’s entry in Jane Frank’s Science Fiction And Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary compared the artist to Frazetta for her “strong, bold, and frequently sensual artwork” and for producing work “featuring heroic and usually erotic renderings of barely-clad, well-muscled warriors and maidens.”

Frank also credits Morrill for opening the door for other women to break into the fantasy art market, however, at the same time her subject matter led her into conflict with fandom’s growing feminist awareness. When her cover painting for andrew j. offutt’s King Dragon, featuring a chained woman being attacked by a dragon, was entered in the 1981 Norwescon art show, one of the organizers wanted it withdrawn because it was degrading to women. It remained on display, partly because the committee would have had to enforce the same standard against other works as well.

Nor was that the last time King Dragon made news. After Iraq’s Saddam Hussein fell from power in 2003, televised reports about Saddam’s palaces and residences revealed two of Rowena’s paintings hanging on the wall of a secluded Baghdad townhouse. (The other was Shadows Out of Hell.) Rowena told a reporter for the New York Daily News, “I would give anything to get them back. I am so upset that they are there.” She had sold the two paintings years before — one went for $20,000 to a Japanese collector — and hadn’t heard about them since.

Rowena was named Chicon 7’s Artist Guest of Honor; unfortunately, health problems prevented her from attending the 2012 Worldcon. She also was the 2017 World Fantasy Convention Guest of Honor.

[Thanks to James Davis Nicoll and Andrew Porter for the story.]

Remembering Christopher Plummer

Christopher Plummer in 2014.

By Steve Vertlieb: Christopher Plummer was among the greatest actors of his, or any other generation of classical artists and performers. His grace, dignity, and commanding demeanor on both stage and screen commanded the respect and allegiance of both collaborators and admirers throughout his remarkable seventy-year career. His mesmerizing artistry demanded respect upon whatever theatrical stage that he chose to appear, while his remarkable appearance was often startling to behold. He was astonishingly handsome, a truly charismatic performer whose finely chiseled features belied a gift of performance that had often risen to ethereal heights. He was a gifted Shakespearean actor whose brilliance and magnetism sublimely transcended both stage and screen.

Christopher Plummer in 1959. Photo by Carl Van Vechten – Van Vechten Collection at Library of Congress, Public Domain

A frequent guest in the early days of live television, Plummer played Mike Connor (a role played previously by James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story, and Frank Sinatra in High Society) in a 1959 production of the celebrated Phillip Barry play in which his brash reporter squires the haughty Tracy Samantha Lord, played by actress Diana Lynn. Plummer essayed the roles of “Cyrano De Bergerac” in 1962, and “Hamlet At Elsinore” in 1964 for the small screen, but his enduring celebrity would soon develop in a larger medium. The actor appeared prominently in Samuel Bronston’s 1964 epic The Fall of The Roman Empire as Commodus.

However, it was his casting as Captain Von Trapp in the superb 1965 film translation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music that brought him to international fame and recognition. Appearing opposite both Julie Andrews and revered actress Eleanor Parker, Plummer virtually stole the film in the role created by folk singer Theodore Bikel in the original Broadway production. Plummer’s deceptively understated interpretation of a deeply private aristocrat troubled by the gradual loss of old world values, while valiantly resisting the repugnant occupation of Hitler’s Nazi bullies, brought startling dignity to a now legendary screen role and performance. While Julie Andrews lit up the screen with her joyous performance as his adorable Maria, it was Plummer whose quiet dignity and strength brought the beloved motion picture to its powerful resolution and victory.

John Huston’s classic 1975 filming of The Man Who Would Be King paired Plummer with actors Sean Connery and Michael Caine. As author Rudyard Kipling, the actor once again dominated the screen in a memorable performance that easily shared screen dominance with his legendary co-stars.

In a startling change of pace, Plummer portrayed one of the most malevolent villains in modern screen history. As a chillingly deranged criminal stalking Elliott Gould in the Canadian thriller The Silent Partner in 1978, Plummer proved that his often charming persona could provide a deadly counterpoint in this remarkable film.

The aristocratic actor would have seemed the perfect choice to essay the role of Sir Arthur Conan Coyle’s legendary consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes…and so, in 1979, the actor assumed the trappings of the classic character, playing opposite James Mason as Doctor Watson, in Murder By Decree. Plummer lent considerable skill to his compassionate performance as Doyle’s singular detective in a rare, yet defining characterization in which the definitively clinical sleuth lets down his guard, allowing an emotional moment of hitherto unsuspected sensitivity and deeply human awareness.

It was in 1980 that Richard Matheson’s romantic fantasy novel Bid Time Return was turned into a deservedly revered film translation. Somewhere In Time features tender performances by leads Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour as lovers struggling to find one another across a sea of time and space, while Christopher Plummer as an autocratic martinet stands troublingly in their path. Accompanied by composer John Barry’s rapturous, cherished musical score, Plummer’s performance as William Fawcett Robinson is that of a deeply scarred, ultimately fragile remnant of an age that has, perhaps, cruelly left him behind … a wounded warrior clawing at the past in order to salvage his dignity and painfully crumbling control.

Plummer as the Klingon General Chang.

In 1991, director Nicholas Meyer delivered the final salutation to the original Star Trek cast with Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. Featuring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, De Forrest Kelly, George Takei, James Doohan, and Nichelle Nichols reprising their classic roles for the final time, the “undiscovered” star of the film was, undeniably, the great Christopher Plummer chewing up the scenery in as delicious a Shakespearean performance as might be imagined. As Chang, the evil general menacing the Enterprise crew, the actor delivers a joyous tour de force with wonderful abandonment and classically trained glee, virtually stealing the film with grace, wit, and menacing charm.

As the actor matured, transitioning into roles befitting his now advancing age, he assumed a comfortable ease in which his performances became ever more flawless and beloved. Opposite actor Russell Crowe in The Insider (1999), a true story having occurred within the CBS Television News Division, Plummer delivered a superb, understated, Oscar-nominated performance as journalist Mike Wallace in what must surely have been among his most respected and beloved characterizations.

In 2001, Plummer starred in a television adaption of On Golden Pond, as the embittered elderly spirit portrayed by Henry Fonda in the long-remembered motion picture version of the award-winning play. It was a role that he would play repeatedly in one form, shape, or another in the years left to him.

Plummer won his first and only Oscar for his wonderful performance in Beginners in 2010 as a dying father not quite finished with providing unsettling surprises for his long suffering family. In 2012, in Barrymore, he played John Barrymore in a bittersweet recreation of the actor’s troubled final years.

Having reluctantly replaced actor Kevin Spacey in the role of billionaire J. Paul Getty, in All The Money In The World, Plummer gracefully essayed one of his most powerful, if villainous, Oscar-nominated portrayals as the cold, calculating oil magnate whose passion for profit eclipsed his tenuous feelings for family and loss.

Plummer once again played an alternately calculating, yet hilarious octogenarian in the hit film production of Knives Out in 2019. It would be among his final film roles.

Christopher Plummer passed away on Friday, February 5, 2021. His roles and performances, along with his near legendary grace, culture, and impeccable class, elevated this noble thespian to reverential heights of international respect and admiration.

He lent Shakespearean dignity to each of his increasingly remarkable performances, becoming the eloquent voice and virtual persona of “Hamlet” in countless screen and stage incarnations. His was the defining voice of classical performance. His loss is mourned….His legacy celebrated. He was an actor for the ages. Rest Well, Sweet Prince.

Kathleen Ann Goonan (1952-2021)

Kathleen Ann Goonan died January 28 at the age of 68.

After teaching for 13 years, she turned to writing full time in 1988. She also attended Clarion West that year. Her first published sff story was “The Snail Mail” in Strange Plasma (1991). Goonan’s first novel Queen City Jazz (1994) began what she would later call her Nanotech Quartet, which also includes Mississippi Blues, Crescent City Rhapsody and Light Music.

The Wikipedia notes:

Goonan is best known for novels which give snapshots taken at different times of a world where nano- and biotechnologies (“bionan”) produce deep changes in humans and their habitat. She explored themes of cultural and social change and catastrophe. She was a great lover of jazz and music in general, and peppered her tales with references to (and reincarnations of) the likes of Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Sun Ra.

Her essay “Science Fiction and All That Jazz” explained the pairing that permeated her own fiction.

…Music and literature are natural partners. Both have an overall form, a time-bounded sequence of beginning, middle, and end. The lyricism of notes or of words sequenced in a particular way, the cadences of timing or plot, lead, if properly balanced, to a single cumulative experience in the mind of the listener or of the reader. There is an undeniable musicality to great works of literature — the booming symphony of War and Peace, or the deep-consciousness rhythms of To the Lighthouse, where we might almost be in the mind of Miles Davis or John Coltrane. When an artist (or an improvisational jazz ensemble) composes a work of music or of literature, organizational impulses are at work. We all have musical brains.

Science fiction, like jazz, found its major flowering in America, despite those who claim Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as the Ur-text of science fiction. Hugo Gernsback’s vision of the scientification of the future thrilled readers with tales of seemingly impossible wonders. But sending the spoken word through wires, flying en masse through the air, and going to the moon turned out to be not fairy tales, but reality. We seized on the wonders made possible by science. We magnified our senses. We did away with big chunks of time and space, or rearranged them. We have changed the rhythms of nature into the rhythm of our own minds and needs via technology, and we are going to be doing a lot more of that. Science fiction is the only literature that takes the real world — the world of genetic engineering, quantum physics, and other keys to unlocking life’s meaning and potential — seriously….

Goonan’s novel In War Times was the 2008 winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and chosen by the American Library Association as Best Science Fiction Novel for their 2008 reading list. Her work This Shared Dream also was a 2012 Campbell finalist. With these books, said Goonan to a Lightspeed interviewer, “I have moved on to an investigation of ‘human nature,’ in particular looking at the sociobiological roots of our strong predilection for war.”

She was a three-time Nebula nominee, for her novels Crescent City Rhapsody (2001; it was also a BSFA Award finalist) and Light Music (2004), and her short story “The String” (1997).

Her book The Bones of Time was a Clarke Award nominee (2000). Her novel and Queen City Jazz and short story “Sunflowers” also were BSFA Award finalists (1999, 1996).

[Thanks to James Davis Nicoll for the story.]

Tim Lane (1951-2021)

Remembrance by Joseph T. Major:

Bruce Gardner knew another wargaming guy.

It was after I had graduated from the University of Louisville, back in 1976.  I was back up in Louisville, trying to put things in order, and there was this guy who was a wargamer.  So I went along.

Tim was portly.  I soon found out that he was fatherless, too: his father had died in Vietnam.  But more to the point, he was also into science fiction.

He blended in quickly.  He went to Rivercon, our convention in Louisville, then to MidAmeriCon 1976 with B. J. Willinger, Grant McCormick, and me.  We had a splendid time, except for the problems you get when you share a room.

Tim flourished.  He joined FOSFA, our local club (the Falls of the Ohio Science Fiction Association), participated in the meetings, and managed to expand his field of operations.

Time passed.  The group changed.  After two or three turnovers, he ended up being the editor of FOSFAx, the clubzine (with Janice Moore as co-editor to curb his enthusiasms).  We started running reviews, had a large and often acerbic letter column, and regular monthly publication (I’m sure this astounded many people).

One thing we did was to send the zine to writers who were reviewed in it.  As a result, we ended up getting letters of comment from people such as L. Sprague de Camp.  On the other hand, we got letters of comment from people such as Piers Anthony, which stirred controversy.

FOSFAx was where most of the articles which were collected as my book Heinlein’s Children were first published.  And there were other reviews and reviewers.  We would do perhaps twenty to twenty-four pages a month, with maybe twenty letters or more, and about as many reviews.  For example, Tim himself would write about baseball, and politics.

Not that we were entirely sercon.  One would have but to get the zine Phosgene (or PhosGene), composed of humorous and satirical (not always the same) articles, some new, many old.

But, as age and debility crept up on us all, things changed.  Tim’s conservative political views became more acerbic, which provoked long and strident debates in the letter column.  He lost his job due to an inability to adapt to changing computer technology.  Finally, his health broke down, and he had to abandon the publication, back in 2011.  He spent some time in various residential hotels before having to move to a care facility.

He was bedridden, but still alert, and trying to express himself in various venues.  Lisa and I would go see him.  We had been used to having Friday dinners with him and Elizabeth Garrott, his housemate, and sometimes Grant McCormick, our tenant, and now that he was unable to get out, we tried to bring him information.

Then the lockdown came.  He had email, he communicated, but it became less and less.  I heard from him on my birthday and then the next day on Christmas.  Grant said he heard from him January 6th.  He seemed all right then.  After that . . .

It turned out he had died on January 15, a little more than a month after his 69th birthday, and was buried in the family funeral plot he had.  So ended a faned with multiple Hugo nominations.

Timothy Brian Lane

December 12, 1951 — January 15, 2021

Phyllis Eisenstein (1946-2020)

Phyllis Eisenstein. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Nebula and Hugo nominated author Phyllis Eisenstein died December 7 at the age of 74 after a year-long struggle with serious neurological problems. The family obituary, which will appear in the Chicago Tribune, is here.

Eisenstein was born in Chicago in 1946, grew up there, and for awhile attended the University of Chicago. She met her future husband Alex at the weekly gathering of Chicago science fiction fandom. They married in 1966.

Phyllis and Alex Eisenstein at Chicon V (1991). Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Her first published sf story was “The Trouble with the Past”, written in collaboration with Alex, in New Dimensions 1 (1971) edited by Robert Silverberg. An acclaimed writer with six published novels and 50 short stories, she was twice nominated for the Hugo Award, for her novella “In the Western Tradition” (1982, also a Nebula nominee), and the novelette “Nightlife.” Two additional works were Nebula nominees, the short story “Attachment” (1976) and novelette “The Island in the Lake” (2000). Her short story “Subworld” was a Seiun Award nominee (1997). Eisenstein’s novels Born to Exile won a Balrog Award (1980) and Sorcerer’s Son was a British Fantasy Awards finalist (1980).

Her 1978 short story “Lost and Found” was adapted for television by George R.R. Martin and aired in 1986 on The New Twilight Zone.

She also wrote a nonfiction book, Overcoming the Pain of Inflammatory Arthritis, which she said “is about the use of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) for arthritis, a disease I’ve had all of my adult life.”

After establishing herself as a professional writer, she returned to college and finished her education, earning a 1981 B.A. in anthropology from the University of Illinois.

For fifteen years she was the Managing Copy-editor at Leo Burnett Agency, and worked at the Publicis Agency for several years prior to joining Burnett.

Eisenstein was also a gifted teacher, beginning by assisting Roger Zelazny at the Indiana University Writers Conference in 1977, then teaching sff writing at the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop, Oakton Community College, and the Writers Digest School. Ultimately she taught fiction writing for nearly twenty years at Columbia College Chicago where she received the Excellence in Teaching award.

One recommendation she made to improve a writer’s work even showed up as a Jeopardy! game show answer in 2016 —

  • In A Storm of Swords, he acknowledged “Phyllis, who made me put the dragons in it.”

The correct question was “Who is George R.R. Martin?”

Martin dedicated the third book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series to her for reasons he explained on a panel at Chicon 7 in 2012:

“The dragons were one aspect that I did consider not including. Very early in the process, I was debating, should I do this just as like historical fiction about fake history, and have no actually overt magic or magical elements, but — my friend Phyllis Eisenstein, a wonderful fantasy writer who lives here in Chicago, I happened to be talking to her at very early stage in the process. Phyllis has written some great fantasies herself. She said, “Nah, you have to have dragons. It’s a fantasy, you know!” And I dedicated A Storm of Swords to Phyllis, who made me put the dragons in, and I think that was the right thing to do.”

She was an icon of Chicago sf fandom. At the Chicon 2000 Worldcon, the Fan Lounge was laid out as the reconstructed living room of a Chicago fan of the ‘80s. The space was furnished with an ill-assorted bunch of old couches, lamps and end tables. One couch was occupied by two crash-test dummies, the first dressed as Neil Rest in sandals, jeans and a Windycon 7 t-shirt, and the other as Phyllis Eisenstein, attired completely in black, a “goth” ahead of her time.

Roger Sims and Dave Kyle in Chicon 2000 Fan Lounge. Photo by Laurie Mann, from Fanac.org.

Also at Chicon 2000, and other conventions over the years, Alex and Phyllis Eisenstein shared their astonishing collection of sff artworks. There were over 200 covers from prozines and paperbacks and interior illustrations by Ed Emshwiller, Frank Kelly Freas, Edd Cartier, John Schoenherr, Ed Valigursky, Richard M. Powers, Mel Hunter, Wallace Wood, H. R. van Dongen, and others of note. The display included one of my all-time favorites, Kelly Freas’ 1954 Astounding cover for That Sweet Little Old Lady. Alex and Phyllis labored for 17 hours to put up the exhibit and 5 hours to take it down. The show was covered under a special $1 million insurance policy obtained by Chicon.

In recent years, Eisenstein’s writing career, which began so successfully, endured some unfortunate setbacks. The last volume of her “Book of Elementals” fantasy trilogy was left unpublished when Meisha Merlin Publishing suddenly ceased operations in 2007 and it remains unpublished.

Then, although she completed the first novel in a new science-fantasy series called “The Masks of Power,” she held it back purposely, working to complete the entire trilogy before its publication. At the time of her death, the “Masks of Power” series remained unfinished.

She is survived by her husband Alex. The family obituary closes with these thoughts:

Phyllis was a talented, resourceful, very creative person, with a kind and generous spirit, who will be deeply missed by her family and her friends…and especially by her thousands of devoted readers, who have enjoyed her literate, intelligent, believable stories, which ever have explored a wide range of speculative, futuristic, and fabulous worlds.

Alex and Phyllis Eisenstein. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Ben Bova (1932-2020)

Author and Hugo-winning editor Ben Bova died November 29 at the age of 88. Family member Kathryn Brusco announced the cause of death was COVID-19 related pneumonia and a stroke. Tor.com’s Andrew Liptak also confirmed the death with a second source (“Legendary Science Fiction Author Ben Bova Has Passed at the Age of 88“.)

Bova’s first professional sf sale was a Winston juvenile, The Star Conquerors (1959), and his first published short fiction was bought by Cele Goldsmith at Amazing – “A Long Way Back” (1961). During the Sixties he had nearly two dozen more novels and stories published.

He made several sales to Analog before meeting editor John W. Campbell, Jr. face-to-face at a Worldcon in Washington, D.C. After shaking his hand, Campbell provocatively said: “This is 1963. No democracy has ever lasted longer than 50 years, so this is obviously the last year of America’s democracy.”

Another story sold to Campbell, “Brillo” (1970), co-authored with Harlan Ellison, was his first story to be up for an award, a Hugo nominee. (And ten years later they won a judgment against ABC and Paramount, makers of Future Cop, for plagiarizing their idea.)

Bova also served as the science advisor for the Canadian television series Ellison created, The Starlost. Appalled by the production, Ellison assigned his credit to “Cordwainer Bird,” and Bova resigned but didn’t have the “contractual right to remove his name from the credits.” His novel The Starcrossed, is loosely based on those experiences.

Ben Bova studied journalism at Temple University in the Fifties, paying his way through by working as a copyboy at the Philadelphia Inquirer on a shift that started at 6 p.m. and went until 3 a.m. He learned “the basics of writing news copy are simple enough: be clear and deliver on time.”

He acquired his interest in science from visiting the Fels Planetarium, part of Philadelphia’s science museum, the Franklin Institute. “I never took a formal college course in science; I learned from the director of the Planetarium, I.M. Levitt, who became a lifelong friend and mentor.”

In 1956 he was hired by Glenn L. Martin Co. and worked on Project Vanguard, having marketed himself to recruiters as “someone who could understand what the engineers were doing and translate it into copy that the general public could understand.” In the 1960s he worked for the Avco Everett Research Laboratory.

When John W. Campbell, Jr. suddenly died in 1971, Bova was offered the job of editing Analog Science Fiction magazine. “It was like being drafted to run for president. You’re terribly afraid you’re not up to the task, but you can’t refuse to step up to it.” He eventually asked the publisher’s executive who had hired him why he was picked for the job, when much better-known science-fiction writers had been considered. The executive answered that he had made it a point to read the work of each person up for the job. “Ben,” he said, “you were the only one I could understand!”

Bova made Analog, already the prozine with the largest circulation, even more successful. His accomplishments included publishing Spider Robinson’s first sale, a Callahan’s Bar story, and during his tenure acquiring many Hugo-winning stories, among them Larry Niven’s “The Hole Man” and ”Borderland of Sol”, Vonda McIntyre’s Dreamsnake, George R.R. Martin’s “A Song for Lya,” The Forever War and “Tricentennial” by Joe Haldeman, “Home Is the Hangman” by Roger Zelazny, “Eyes of Amber” by Joan D. Vinge, and more. He was the winner of the first Best Professional Editor Hugo (1973), and collected five more while at the helm of the magazine.

He left Analog in 1978 to edit Omni, holding that post until 1982.

During Bova’s career he wrote over 120 fiction and nonfiction books. His novel, Titan, part of The Grand Tour series, won the prestigious John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 2007. Another in the series was Jupiter —

Bova served as President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) from 1990 to 1992. SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal paid tribute: “I am devastated that our community has lost Ben Bova. He was so welcoming to new writers and embodied the philosophy of paying it forward.”

He also held the position of President Emeritus of the National Space Society

Bova taught science fiction at Harvard University and at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, where he has also directed film courses. He received his doctorate in education in 1996 from California Coast University.

He was Worldcon Author Guest of Honor at Chicon 2000. He was awarded the Robert A. Heinlein Award in 2008 for his work in science fiction.

Bova was married three times. He had a son and a daughter with his first wife, Rose. They divorced in 1974. That same year he married Barbara, and their marriage lasted 35 years, until her death in 2009. In 2013, he married Rashida Loya.

Richard C. West (1944-2020)

Tolkien scholar Richard C West died of COVID-19 on November 29 in Madison, Wisconsin. 

He was the editor of the book Tolkien Criticism: An Annotated Checklist (Kent State, 1970), co-winner of the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inkling Studies (1976). He contributed essays to numerous books and journals about Tolkien and fantasy, and served on the board of editors for the journal Extrapolations.

Richard helped found Tolkien and Fantasy Society at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1966, and also founded a Tolkien book discussion group which met continuously for more than fifty years. He was a founding member of The Madison Science Fiction Group, and one of the founders of the feminist science fiction convention, WisCon. He published the pioneering Tolkien fanzine / journal Orcrist, 8 issues from 1966 to 1977, with an anniversary 9th issue in 2017. 

This is just the beginning of a list of his accomplishments. There is an extensive bibliography on Tolkien Gateway

“A modest and kindly man, I don’t think Richard ever realized that he was one of the best of the best of Tolkien scholars,” John D. Rateliff, another leading Tolkien specialist, said of West today.

West was retired as Serials and Technical Services Librarian from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He married Harriet Perri Corrick in May 1977 in Madison, WI. Perri currently has COVID-19 as well but is not as ill. 

[Thanks to Diane Martin for the story.]