Dick Spelman (1931-2012)

Line for Robert Heinlein's autograph at the LASFS clubhouse in 1973. Dick Spelman is in the center holding a copy of "I Will Fear No Evil". Photo by Bill Warren.

Dick Spelman passed away March 6. After radiation treatments failed to eradicate his cancer, declining health led to his hospitalization with pneumonia and finally placement in hospice care.

Dick was a renowned book dealer at Midwestern conventions in the 1980s, selling new books from a huge island of tables in the huckster’s room. He retired in 1991, sold the business to Larry Smith and Sally Kobee, and moved to Orlando.

Dick had early contacts with fandom, writing letters to the prozines, and his brother Henry belonged to Boston’s Strangers Club. Dick attended the 1952 Worldcon in Chicago but he didn’t go to another until 1972 (L.A.con). By then he was living in Los Angeles and that’s when he transformed into a real actifan.

I got to know him when he joined LASFS in 1973. Dick joined the short-lived sf discussion group we started once LASFS bought its first clubhouse. Milt Stevens, Elst Weinstein and I were among the others in the sparsely-attended group.

During the Seventies Dick was an active collector and researcher. In 1978 he issued four well-respected chapbooks which listed the production of several book publishers: Science Fiction and Fantasy Published by Ace Books (1953-1968), Science Fiction and Fantasy Published by Arkham House (1939-1976), Science Fiction and Fantasy Published by Ballantine Books (1953-1977), and Science Fiction and Fantasy Published by Avalon Books.

Along the way Dick developed his book business and moved back to the Midwest. Dealers who make the rounds of conventions have a golden opportunity to become influential figures in fan politics and Dick made a rapid ascent. A chapter is devoted to him — “Dick Spelman: From SMIF to SMOF” — in Mike Resnick’s Once a Fan. He became a director of the Chicon IV (1982) Worldcon committee, served as president of ISFiC, belonged for awhile to MCFI, and chaired the 1982 Windycon. He worked many more conventions as staff.

Resnick published two of Dick’s stories in the most fannish of his anthologies, “The Forgotten Worldcon of ’45” in Alternate Worldcons (1994) and “The Worldcon of 2001” in Again, Alternate Worldcons (1996). (If you’re curious, the NESFA Recursive Science Fiction site gives the plots of these stories.)

Dick was honored as Fan GoH at the1987 Windycon and the 1991 Marcon.

How much we’ll miss him!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]