Karen Anderson (1932-2018)

Karen Anderson in 1965.

Karen Anderson, author and a master of all the fannish arts, died March 17. Her daughter, Astrid Bear, announced her passing on Facebook.

My mother, Karen Anderson [widow of Poul Anderson], died last night. It was a peaceful and unexpected passing — she died in her bed and was found by the Sunday visiting nurse…. Memorial gathering plans to be announced later, but in the meantime, raise a glass to the memory of a fine woman. If you are moved to make a donation, please consider the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund or the UCLA Medical School.

Born Karen Kruse in Kentucky in 1932, she married sf writer Poul Anderson in 1953. They moved to the Bay Area, where their daughter Astrid (now married to Greg Bear) was born in 1954. Poul died in 2001.

Karen and Poul collaborated on a number of stories over the years, and on the King of Ys series published in the 1980s. And she wrote poetry, including the first published science fiction haiku (in F&SF, July 1962).

Even more notably, Karen made many historic contributions to fannish culture.

She was the first person to intentionally use the term filk music in print. ZineWiki explains

In the 1950s, Karen Anderson spotted a typo in a fanzine while reading an essay by Lee Jacobs on folk music, where he had mistyped “folk” as “filk”. In her words, “Who ever heard of a filk? Since the essay appeared in an amateur publication circulated among science fiction fans, though, there was only one thing to do. Rather than waste a phrase like “filk song”, something must be created to which the name could be applied.” There had been songs written by science fiction fans since the 1940s, but Anderson’s new name for them caught on, and she is credited with naming “filk songs”.

Karen Kruse Anderson also was the first faned to publish a filksong, as Lee Gold documented:

Traveling yet further back in time, to the 26th SAPS distribution, Winter, 1953, on page #22 of Die Zeitschrift für Vollstandigen Unsinn #774 by Karen Kruse Anderson is…the first-known song published as a filk song [123k scan] – written (see the note in The Zed #780) by Poul Anderson.

And Karen, a rare beauty, shined as a costumer. She personified a familiar sf image in this array of “Warrior Women” photographed by George Young at the 1955 Worldcon. (She’s on the right.)

Warrior Women. 1955 Worldcon. Karen is on the right. Photo by George Young.

Later, she brought daughter Astrid into her presentations, as shown here in Ben Jason’s photo from the 1964 Worldcon.

Five years later at St. Louiscon, mother and daughter etched their names in masquerade history as “The Bat and the Bitten.”

Astrid and Karen Anderson as “The Bat and The Bitten,” 1969 Worldcon. Photo by Mike Resnick, used by permission.

Fanac.org relates the dramatic moment:

“The Bat and the Bitten” Astrid Anderson & Karen Anderson delivered a truly chilling performance as a vampire sires a new acolyte. Astrid is the victim in a white mini dress who transforms as the vampire envelops her in her huge black wings and secretly squirted Astrid with a homemade mixture of gelatin, red ink & yellow food coloring so that after the bite, Astrid opened her 14 foot white wings to reveal the blood that ran from her neck and down her dress to a horrified audience. It is still considered one of the best performances to this day and it was awarded both the Grand Prize & Judges’ Choice.

In 1988, costume fandom presented an award for lifetime achievement to Karen Anderson at the Worldcon, Nolacon II (New Orleans). This was the first such award, ever. It is a forerunner of the ICG Lifetime Achievement Award.

Karen had an avid interest in daily life throughout history and in different cultures, especially cooking as shaped by culture, available tools, and local or imported ingredients.

Her interest found a perfect outlet in the Society for Creative Anachronism, started in 1966, of which she, Poul, and Astrid were founding members. She remained active in the SCA for many years, once serving as “herald of the known world.” As late as 2010 she still officered a local organization as Baroness of the Angels.

Karen and Poul joined the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society in 1967. She had earlier made her mark in LASFS history by appearing in the fannish film The Musquite Kid Rides Again (1960), based on a story from Lee Jacobs’ fanzine The Ballard Chronicles,  She moved back to the LA area after Poul died in 2001, and regularly attended club meetings for several years. She won the club’s Forry Award in 2010 for lifetime achievement in sf.

Karen was also a Sherlock Holmes fan, who co-founded a Holmes society with a couple of friends in 1959. The affinity continued all her life. She was made a member of the Baker Street Irregulars in 2000, receiving her investiture as Conan Doyle character Emilia Lucca.

Karen was an extraordinarily bright and talented person who made towering contributions to fandom and the sf field.

Peggy Ranson (1948-2016)

Peggy Ranson. Photo by Vincent Mariano.

Peggy Ranson. Photo by Vincent Mariano.

Peggy Ranson, a very popular fanartist in the 1990s, passed away March 16 from cancer. The family’s obituary is here.

She grew up in Memphis, and attended Memphis State University. While living in New Orleans she worked as a commercial artist for D.H. Holmes and the Times Picayune.

Ranson was employed as an ad illustrator when she volunteered to help with the 1988 New Orleans Worldcon. Guy H. Lillian III remembers, “She co-edited the Nolacon II program book with me, did scads of inimitable and exquisite fan art, and graced every moment we spent with her.” Lillian writes that this piece was her first fan art.

23ranson

She was an L. Ron Hubbard Illustrator of the Future contest finalist in 1990, and attended the awards ceremonies (see photo).

Illustrator of the Future 1990. Peggy Ranson is fourth from right. (Kelly Freas is fourth from left.)

Illustrator of the Future 1990. Peggy Ranson is fourth from right. (Kelly Freas is fourth from left.)

Ranson was a Best Fan Artist Hugo nominee every year from 1991-1998, winning in 1993. Lillian liked to say she was only the second fan from Louisiana (adopted) to win a Hugo (the first was Camille Cazedessus, publisher of ERB-dom.)

Peggy Ranson with HugoShe did countless pieces of art for conventions, bids, and fanzines, and for charitable publications like the Charlie Card Fund’s 1991 Fantasy Art Calendar. Her work won Best in Show at the 1991 Worldcon art show (Chicon V).

There’s a small gallery of her black-and-white art at Fanac.org.

Ranson cover for Challenger

Ranson was a guest of honor at DeepSouthCon 34 in 1996, and Armadillocon 20 in 1998, and other small cons across the South.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005 she fled to Memphis. Afterwards she wrote a long account of her escape and what it was like to return to the heavily damaged city in Challenger 23.

maureen_origAlthough she did some cover art for professional publications, she does not seem to have pursued that as a vocation, for many of her assignments were for books by writers or small press publisers she knew well. This includes her covers for The NESFA Index to Short Science Fiction for 1989 (1992), Maureen Birnbaum, Barbarian Swordperson: The Complete Stories (1993) a paperback of George Alec Effinger stories from Swan Press, Girls for the Slime God (1997) a collection of stories edited by Mike Resnick, and Birthright: The Book of Man (1997) by Mike Resnick. She also did interiors for magazines, including Algis Budrys’ Tomorrow Speculative Fiction.

Ranson is survived by a sister and two brothers (one of them her twin), and several nieces and nephews.

Michael Sinclair Passes Away

Louisville fan Michael Sinclair died March 14 after a long decline. His wife of 26 years, Christa Cook-Sinclair and son, Alex, were with him at the end.

Michael Sinclair under attack by Godzilla.

Michael Sinclair under attack by Godzilla.

Sinclair was an avid science fiction reader who got his first taste of fandom at the original RiverCon in 1975, having found out about it from an article in a Louisville paper. That weekend he met John Guidry for the first time – future chair of the 1988 New Orleans Worldcon won in large measure by Sinclair’s efforts as bid party host.

In Sinclair’s fannish memoir at The Thunder Child he claimed to have become involved working conventions as a result of a loc he wrote to File 770 after the 1979 NASFiC:

File 770 (Mike Glyer’s science fiction fan newzine, reporting on fanzines, sf clubs, conventions, fan funds and fanac) [was] whining about something. I think it had to do with [a fan] huckstering out of his hotel room. In any event, I wrote a rebuttal letter to File 770, saying, “The last thing the fannish world needs is either a Con run by or and or/criticized by lawyers.” Cliff Amos saw the letter and called me up to ask if I wanted to work on RiverCon. I said I would like to work on the film program, but would like to have a budget and not depend on library flicks.

Sinclair surely knew the chuckle this would bring from the many friends he made hosting the string of Hurricane-themed bid parties that brought the 1988 Worldcon to New Orleans – a committee chaired by lawyer John Guidry, and with three more lawyers in the leadership.

The New Orleans in 1988 bidders bankrolled the travel of the charismatic Sinclair all over the country to host room parties where he could dispense Southern charm and hospitality, and French Quarter well drinks. He greeted everyone, “Here, have a Hurricane!” and handed them a potent cup of vodka, rum, and fruit juices, mixed with enough grenadine to turn it fire engine red. This was extremely popular.

The Worldcon bidding system is in large measure a test to destruction. Fans want there to be lots of great bid parties anyway, but implicit in that demand is a test of the bid committee’s creative and logistical competence. Unless a group can put together a string of good bid parties, the thinking goes, you can rule out any chance of them coping with the challenge of an actual Worldcon.

So as an audition for a New Orleans Worldcon, Sinclair’s parties led to a ballot box triumph over three competing bids.

However, Sinclair had never intended to be part of running the Worldcon. Once New Orleans won he was done. Ever since then fandom has made sure to ask whether the folks running the impressive parties are the same ones who’ll be running the con.

Say Da to Moscow bid passport.

Say Da to Moscow bid passport.

Before long the Sinclairs found they missed the fun of those bid parties. Casting about for inspiration, Christa and Mike created a “Say Da to Moscow” Worldcon bid. Because their idea germinated in 1989, two years before the Soviet Union fell apart, they didn’t have to worry about winning, only about having a good time. The bid theme was a satirical play on the idioms and symbols of the USSR’s Communist Party.  Led by “Mikhail Sinclair,” Party Theoretician and General Secretary, the bid’s Central Committee included the late Bruce Pelz, Hotel Liaison; Tony Ubelhor, Minister of Propaganda; Maureen Dorris, Minister of Defensive Camouflage; Jack Reed, Chronicler Emeritus; and miscellaneous Party Members and agents.

Bid parties were paid for by the sale of $5 presupports, which came with a convincing looking passport with all kinds of stuff in Cyrillic lettering.

Christa and Mike soon shelved the party scene as their son Alexander came along in 1990.

The family’s memorial plans are still to be made but, as Mike wished, he will be remembered with a wake later this year at Midwestcon.

TV Interviews Phunny Phormer Worldcon Chair

Photo from 2009 of the Phunny Phorty Phellows street car ride.

Photo from 2009 Phunny Phorty Phellows street car ride.

A local New Orleans TV news reporter interviewed former Worldcon chair John Guidry  for a January 6 feature about the Phunny Phorty Phellows street car ride that kicks off the annual Mardi Gras carnival season.

At the risk of betraying John’s secret identity, you may find it helpful to know he is the one attired as a chef and wearing a yellow Lone Ranger mask.

While riding the St. Charles street car the Phellows sipped champagne, ate King Cake, and let fly the first beads of the Mardi Gras season. They turned back at Canal, then got off at the Willow Street Car Barn to attend the Coronation Ball for their newest Queen and Boss Phellow.

The Love [to Spy on You] Boat

Something I didn’t know about the cruise experience is that apparently passengers are incessantly spied upon. News coverage about the woman who went overboard from the Norwegian Pearl, far from expressing surprise, treated it as a welcome development:

The Coast Guard spokesman called the three-hour search “standard operating procedure for them, when they aren’t certain that someone has actually gone overboard.” He also said that the videotape, which is being analyzed by the FBI, is “crucial” to search efforts. According to Orlando, Fla., TV station WFTV, there were about 1,000 surveillance cameras aboard the Norwegian Pearl, raising hopes that more images might help authorities figure out what happened to Ellis-Seitz.

I knew that was standard in Las Vegas (remember the Corflu Silver progress report that warned against the hotel’s intrusive security?)

Coincidentally, the Norwegian Pearl is operated by the Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL). The company’s passenger fleet once included the S.S. Norway, proposed site of the 1988 Worldcon. Mike Resnick witnessed the birth of the Bermuda Triangle bid at L.A.con II:

That night I went out onto the lanai with John Guidry. After awhile we found a couple of empty chairs and sat down to visit with Neil Rest, who was busy fantasizing about making a Worldcon bid for a cruise ship. Before long he had attracted a hell of a crowd, and by daylight hundreds of people were urging him to make it a real bid. John walked away thinking if there was so little serious support for any Central Zone cities that people actually would support a cruise ship, maybe it was time to put together a New Orleans bid. So that evening saw the birth of two bids: Nolacon II, which won the 1988 Worldcon; and the Boat, which came in second in a field of four.

The committee’s letter of agreement with NCL called for $1.8M to be paid before the boat left the dock. That would have been a sobering thought if sobriety had been much valued by Hurricane-drinking site selection voters.

A final bit of trivia: the S. S. Norway was retired by NCL in 2001. Today it is beached at Alang, India, ready to be broken up. The courts have spent two years reviewing environmental reports and finally given permission for it to be scrapped.

New Orleans, After the Hurricanes

Michael “Have A Hurricane” Sinclair’s convention reminiscences include memories of a loc he wrote to File 770 after the 1979 NASFiC:

File 770 (Mike Glyer’s science fiction fan newzine, reporting on fanzines, sf clubs, conventions, fan funds and fanac) [was] whining about something. I think it had to do with [a fan] huckstering out of his hotel room. In any event, I wrote a rebuttal letter to File 770, saying, “The last thing the fannish world needs is either a Con run by or and or/criticized by lawyers.” Cliff Amos saw the letter and called me up to ask if I wanted to work on RiverCon. I said I would like to work on the film program, but would like to have a budget and not depend on library flicks.

HurricaneThat is too funny, and Sinclair doubtless put it in his memoir to get a chuckle from all the friends who remember how he later won undying fame hosting a string of Hurricane-themed bid parties that brought the 1988 Worldcon to New Orleans – a committee chaired by lawyer John Guidry, and with three more lawyers in the leadership.

Sinclair also tells how he unexpectedly gained rather than lost votes by offending Lee Smoire.