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.
 

21 thoughts on “Lee Billings (1956-2018)

  1. Lee was one of the most vivid and unique people I’ve ever known

    I’m sure where ever she is now, there are kitties.

  2. I also only knew Lee as a voice in the comment section here, but what a voice she was. Condolences to friends and family on their loss.

  3. In her Nashville days she used to come to a lot of cons in the Midwest. I’m in Ohio, and a fellow filker, used to see her a lot at various cons in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. After she moved to Texas I wasn’t in touch with her, but we reconnected on Making Light a few years ago.

    Condolences to Russ and all her friends.

  4. I only knew Lee in passing from the OH conventions. Someone to talk to in the consuite, the rare meal, the ups and downs of her life. So sorry to hear of her passing.

  5. I was surprised yesterday to hear from an old friend about the death of another old friend. Lee and I knew each other way back when we were among the handful of teenagers belonging to the now-defunct Nashville Science Fiction Club. She was Lee Van Deest then, and as I recall she was the only female member of the “Nashville Crazies” as the adolescent NSFC members dubbed ourselves. She was the calmest one of our bunch, and also one of the most intelligent. At the same time that I was slowly developing my chops as a writer, she was writing poetry that would eventually manifest itself as songs, fitting for someone growing up in Music City. And, as others have noted, she cared deeply for … well, anyone who needed to be deeply cared for, really. If someone were to call her a “social justice warrior”, I imagine her response would have been, “Hell, yes, I’m an SJW … what do you want to make of it?”

    As people do when they grow up, Lee and I eventually grew apart. I moved to New England, she moved to Texas, and so we saw each other only occasionally, usually at SF conventions. But we remained friends, and our reunions were always pleasant. I’m afraid the next southern or midwestern convention I attend will be a bit empty, knowing that I won’t bump into her again.

  6. I knew Lee distantly (friend of a friend) in the Seventies when we were in high school. She played in the SCA back then and got a friend and me interested in it to the point that I attended my first SCA event with them. I have often wondered what happened to her after I moved away from home; her youthful enthusiasm for medieval cosplay had a profound and lasting influence on my life. I am sorry to hear of her death but glad to hear she had such an influential effect on the community she so clearly loved.

  7. Brad Handley: Russ said if you wish to make a memorial donation please give to Project Purple….. her favorite color.

    Thank you for that; I’ve added it to the main post.

  8. What Allen said.
    Lee was a presence when I first moved to Nashville, and took me under her wing both regarding filk (she first sang Banned from Argo for me) and later during my brief fling with the Society for Creative Anachronism.
    She will be missed.

  9. She is a warm and cherished memory from my years in Nashville fandom, and the idea that we have lost her is a sad one indeed.

  10. I knew Lee from Making Light, and she welcomed Katie and me to Houston when we moved here. We were never close, but we attended several of her annual Chocolate Decadence parties. I hoped her struggle with cancer would have a better outcome.

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  12. I knew Lee from the seventies until her death. When she moved to Houston in 1999 or so, I told her just before she left that she was going at the same time the Houston Oilers were moving to Nashville to become the Tennessee Titans; I said Houston was getting the better end of the deal. Lee was a unique and great lady; her friends will miss her presence.

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