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.