Perry A. Chapdelaine Sr. (born Anthony di Fabio), sf author, early Dianetics exponent, and editor of two collections of the letters of John W. Campbell, Jr., died November 24 at the age of 90.
Chapdelaine joined the Army in World War II and was sent to the University of West Virginia to be educated as a civil engineer. Following his discharge he used his veterans’ benefits to attend small colleges, earning both a B.A. and M.A. in mathematics, with a minor in psychology.
A longtime reader of Astounding, he was attracted by its early articles about L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics and in 1950 traveled to Elizabeth, New Jersey where he took a six-week course at the Hubbard Dianetics Research Foundation. One class was led by John W. Campbell, Jr., who made students practice how to respond to hecklers while selling Dianetics.
Chapdelaine achieved a Hubbard Dianetics Auditor certificate shortly before the place was shut down by the state attorney general. He opened two Dianetics centers in Alabama, got involved with the Hubbard Research Foundation in Wichita, and eventually did some related work in California. He claimed to have produced the first “clear.”
But he wasn’t making enough money at it to support his family. He moved back South and got a civilian job with the Air Force, where he was eventually part of the effort to transition Air Force logistics systems from using punchcards to electronic computers.
By 1966 he was an assistant professor of mathematics at what is now Tennessee State University. There he got a grant from the National Science Foundation in 1969 to run a computer assisted instruction laboratory, but in 1970 he was dismissed from the faculty.
Between 1967 to 1971 he began having success at selling short fiction, first to If and Galaxy, and finally to Campbell’s Analog. Unfortunately, Campbell died just two months after that story came out. Chapdelaine wrote in the introduction to the first volume of Campbell letters:
By 1971, at John’s death, I’d developed a strong father-fixation with John as my nexus, and cried openly on his death. He’d been part of my “real” world since 1939, a man of so many attributes and talents that even at this writing I feel a great sense of loss.
Chapdelaine contributed articles and reviews to fanzines such as Bruce Gillespie’s Science Fiction Commentary and Richard E. Geis’ Science Fiction Review. He was a prolific letter writer, too. As a young fan in the early 1970s, I struck up a correspondence with him that lasted for several years.
Chapdelaine went on to place three novels with British publishers, Swampworld West (1974), The Laughing Terran (1977), and Spork of the Ayor (a fixup based on his short stories, 1978).
After I finished my master’s degree in 1975, I wrote to him about my ambition to work on a book about Campbell’s letters, and the steps I’d taken so far, such getting Poul Anderson to lend me those in his possession to make xeroxes. Chapdelaine moved quicker than I did, sensing the opportunity to use such a project to launch his own publishing firm. He secured the necessary permissions, had Conde Nast find the file copies of Campbell’s letters in its warehouse, and got others from Peg Campbell.
With the aid of co-editors George Hay (founder of Britain’s Science Fiction Foundation) and his son, Tony, in 1985 he brought out The John W. Campbell Letters, Volume 1. The very last letter in the volume is one Campbell wrote to me, added to take the sting out of the whole affair.
His last published science fiction story appeared in 1979, “The Return of Prince John Israel Mcwayizeni Shaka,” in George Hay’s anthology Pulsar 2.
The family obituary at Legacy.com says Chapdelaine is survived by his wife Mary Ann, his 10 children with his first wife, Ruby, (who predeceased him), and 32 grandchildren.
[Thanks to Joseph T Major, Michael J. Walsh, Catherine Crockett, Steven H Silver, and Martin Morse Wooster for this story.]