John Bangsund (1939-2020)

John Bangsund “a few years ago”. Photo by Sally Yeoland.

One of Australia’s foremost fans, John Bangsund, died August 22 of COVID-19 at the age of 81.

It was his idea to have a Worldcon in Australia, and he served as Toastmaster when Aussiecon was held in 1975.

John Foyster and John Bangsund, from the cover of eFANAC #13. Photo taken around 1965 by Lee Harding.

Bangsund got into fandom in 1963. His first fanzine article was published by Lee Harding in Canto 1 in 1964. For years he was central to Melbourne fandom, a charter member of the Nova Mob and a member of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club.

His fanzine Australian Science Fiction Review, published from 1966-1969,was twice nominated for the Hugo (1967, 1968), and won a Ditmar Award (1969). (In 1969 he renamed it Scythrop.) Bangsund was a Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist in 1975. Scanned issues of Bangsund’s Australian Science Fiction Review are available at Fanac.org.

Julian Warner wrote about the zine’s importance in the citation for the Chandler Award:

ASFR lasted only a few years but it set a new standard for quality of reviewing, for reasoned criticism, for consistency, for intelligence and for humour. Not only that, but ASFR was noticed overseas as well, putting Australia on the map as a place where fans and writers existed; fans and writers who were worth reading and who were worth knowing. The Australian readers of the original ASFR went on to become our established SF writers, our most erudite critics, our Big-Name Fans and our Boring Old Farts. When the established mainstream author George Turner told his publisher that he was interested in Science Fiction, George was introduced to John Bangsund. John introduced George to a new world which George then made his own.

Irwin Hirsh also notes, “It was through John’s efforts in being able to get ASFR into Australian bookshops that many sf fans were introduced into fandom. Clubs in Sydney, Brisbane and elsewhere were formed out of people reading John’s fanzine.”

Top. left to right: Tony Thomas, Diane Bangsund (nee Kirsten), John Bangsund, John Foyster, Elizabeth Foyster (later Elizabeth Darling) (with Jillian Miranda – not sure of the spelling).  Across the bottom from left to right; Leigh Edmonds, Paul Stevens, Merv Binns. [Identifications by Leigh Edmonds.]

Bangsund was co-chair of the 1970 Australian Natcon, and Fan GoH at Ozcon, the 1974 Australian Natcon.

He won the A. Bertram Chandler Memorial Award for outstanding achievement in Australian SF in 2001, given by Australian SF Foundation, and a FAAn Lifetime Achievement Award from Corflu, a fanzine fans convention, in 2016.

Bangsund’s professional work also was praised by Julian Warner in the Chandler Award citation:

John Bangsund is, first and foremost, an editor…. John’s name appears on many books, of general fiction and non-fiction, and would have been familiar to those who read the prestigious Australian magazine Meanjin during the period in which he served as assistant editor. The Victorian Society of Editors has honoured John by making him a life member because of his many contributions to the Society. In editing the newsletter of the Victorian Society of Editors he became the editor’s Editor.

Books dedicated (wholly or jointly) to John, notes Irwin Hirsh, include Beloved Son by George Turner, Transmitters by Damien Broderick, and More Issues at Hand by William Atheling, Jr (James Blish).

John from Sept. 21, 1968, “The Hideaway – Sassafras, Victoria”

He even made a mark in social media as the creator of Muphry’s Law, an adage that states that “if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.” Bangsund invented it in 1992. While it is easy to imagine Bangsund writing something of worldwide interest, Muphry’s Law implied John sometimes made copyediting mistakes — which for such a polished writer was almost beyond belief.

Over the last two decades Bangsund was beset by many health challenges: a massive heart attack in 1999, a major stroke in 2005, and other life-threatening medical conditions.

Bruce Gillespie paid tribute today: “There would be no SF Commentary without John Bangsund, so very few people have had as much of an influence on my life as him. I suppose we just go on with our lives as best as possible.”

Bangsund is survived by his wife, Sally Yeoland, and sister, Ruth. Yeoland told Facebook readers that consistent with John’s wishes there will be no funeral, but a memorial gathering will be held once the COVID 19-restrictions have lifted.

This is the death notice which will appear in Melbourne’s Age newspaper on August 25.

[Thanks to Bruce Gillespe, Andrew Porter, and Moshe Feder for the story.]

4 thoughts on “John Bangsund (1939-2020)

  1. What a loss. Bangsund was so many things to so many people: writer, editor, publisher, cartoonist, mentor, organizer and an inspiration to everyone. RIP

  2. It was a pleasure to get to know him, however briefly, through our shared interest in A. Bertram Chandler. My condolences to everyone whose lives he touched.

  3. He was my Australian agent, and I his, for years starting in the 60s. I had numerous letters from him, which I brought to Australia in 2010 and gave to Bruce Gillespie, who really should scan them in and release them. I published numerous letters of his, and much material by him, including “John W. Campbell and The Meat Market.” The Cordwainer Smith material from his excellent AUSTRALIAN SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW became the basis for the EXPLORING CORDWAINER SMITH chapbook I published.

    It was John who started the idea of having a worldcon in Australia, in his letters to me, and I took his musings and did up numerous ads for the as-yet-unformed bid, publishing them in my ALGOL, plus in a LunaCon program book and the Worldcon Program Book. The rest, as they say, is fannish history.

    And, because he’d become a recluse, I never did meet him, even on my sole trip to Australia and AussieCon in 2010. Sigh

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