Resnick Lives on in His Friends’ Memories

By Rich Lynch: It was back in 2001 that my late friend Mike Resnick, in a fanzine article about what he’d include in a personal time capsule, wrote something that came across as perhaps overly pessimistic but also sadly prophetic: “My fandom is dying.  It’s been dying for years.  It’ll be decades more before the last remnants are gone, and I have every hope and expectation that it will outlive me.”

At the time that Mike wrote that, he was nearly four decades into what was a very successful career as a professional writer.  But he was also very much a science fiction fan, having discovered fandom in 1962 in the pages of a fanzine.  And it was his perception, back then, that his fanzine-centric fandom was in the midst of what seemed a steep decline.  Which had brought on that bit of pessimism.

I can’t remember for sure when Nicki and I first met Mike – it was probably about the time of the 1988 Worldcon – but I do know when we became friends.  It was in 1994, during that year’s Worldcon.  We had an enjoyable long conversation with him in the Cincinnati Fantasy Group’s hospitality suite, where Mike had settled in after having missed out on winning a Hugo Award due to a controversial decision by the award administrators.  He told us that he had read a few issues of our fanzine, Mimosa, and out of the blue offered to write us an article for the next one.  Which we gratefully accepted.  It turned out to be one of the best pieces of non-fiction he ever wrote: “Roots and a Few Vines”, where he described in detail his experiences at the 1963 Worldcon in Washington, D.C. which made him a fan for life and set him on the road to becoming a science fiction writer.

That article got so much positive reader response that Mike ended up writing eight more articles for Mimosa, including a series of four first-person remembrances of other Worldcons he had attended.  And he attended a lot of them.  Mike ostensibly used Worldcons as opportunities to meet with publishers about book contracts and the like, but he was actually there as a fan.  From the time we became friends until just a few years ago when health considerations started to affect his ability to make long trips, he was a constant presence at nearly every Worldcon.  His most famous fiction series, one which brought him awards and award nominations aplenty, was Afrocentric in theme (one of Mike’s favorite travel destinations was Kenya) and many of his friends, us included, started to affectionately refer to him as ‘Bwana’.  I remember that he kept trying to convince Nicki and me to come along with him on one of his Africa trips but by that point in our lives we were not so much into that kind of an adventure.  Instead, we preferred a more vicarious experience by listening to him talk at conventions about his travels.

One of the shorter trips he took was back to his original home city of Chicago.  Near the end of the “Roots and a Few Vines” article, Mike had written that: “I’ve won some awards, and I’ve paid some dues, and I don’t think it’s totally unrealistic to assume that sometime before I die I will be the Guest of Honor at a Worldcon.”  It was a much-deserved honor that finally came to pass in 2012, in Chicago, and I was happy to be on a panel with him about a joint interest we both had – Broadway musicals.  But it turned out that my knowledge on the topic was not even close to what Mike and the other panelists displayed so I spent most of the hour just reveling in the experience while trying not to embarrass myself.  After that we often compared notes about musicals we’d seen and liked (and sometimes disliked).  And that, in a way, was the inspiration for Mike’s final fanzine article – a musical theater survey that was published in 2019 in the fanzine Challenger.  In it, he and eight other Broadway enthusiasts (me included) listed our top twelve favorite musicals.  Which, I’m sure, would have resulted in many more enjoyable hours of discussion on that topic with him.

Mike and me, with other panelists, on the Broadway musicals panel. Photo by Nicki Lynch.

Instead, I’ve spent some time trying to organize my thoughts on how I would remember my friend Mike.  Cancer is a cold, ruthless killer, and his last days from what I’ve read are not the way I’d want to go out.  But my memories of him, indeed memories of him by all of his friends, live on.  Of all the pleasant times, and there were many.  I’ll end this remembrance by going back the time capsule article that Mike wrote for Mimosa.  In it he listed all the things related to fandom he possessed that he would preserve in stasis, if he could, for fans of the year 2100 to discover.  And he also would have included a contextual note for all those future fans:


Dear Citizen of 2100:

     I hope you are living in the Utopia we envisioned when we were kids first discovering science fiction. I am sure you have experienced technological and medical breakthroughs that are all but inconceivable to me.

     But I have experienced something that is probably inconceivable to you, at least until you spend a little time studying the contents of this capsule.

     I wish I could see the wonders you daily experience. But you know something? As badly as I want to see the future, to see what we’ve accomplished in the next century, I wouldn’t trade places with you if it meant never having experienced the fandom that this capsule will introduce you to.

     Enjoy. I certainly did.


I feel grateful to have been part of Mike’s fandom.  And I feel regret for all those future fans of the year 2100 who won’t have the chance to meet Mike in person.  But they can still meet him through his fiction and descriptions of his fandom, and that ought to make him larger than life for them.  He already is for me.

[Illustration for Mike’s article by Joe Mayhew.]

The Man Who Claimed the Moon

Esther and Lester Cole at the 1954 Worldcon. Photo by Wally Weber.

By Rich Lynch: It was back on Christmas day that an email from an old friend arrived which provided some sad news.  Esther Cole let me know that: “You probably know that Les died in late September.  He had been very sick for a long time.  Still, he hung on, and was 93 when I kissed him goodbye, the night before he died.”

I actually hadn’t known, and apparently neither had anybody else in science fiction fandom.  Esther had not sent an obit to the local newspaper and Ventura is far enough off the beaten track, at least for most fans, that I may have been the first person to learn of Les’s passing.  We had been friends for a long time.

It was back in 1991 that I first became acquainted with Lester and Esther Cole.  I was doing some research for a new edition of Harry Warner, Jr.’s book A Wealth of Fable, an informal history of 1950s science fiction fandom, and had contacted them to gather additional information about the 1954 World Science Fiction Convention, which was held in San Francisco that year.  (Les had been co-chair and Esther the treasurer.)  It was two years later, at the 1993 Worldcon (also in San Francisco), that Nicki and I got to meet them – they had attended to participate in several discussion panels about fandom from that fabulous decade of the 1950s.  I was moderator for the panel about the `54 Worldcon and I remember that it was highly informative and also really entertaining, so much so that I am hoping that an audio recording will someday surface.

Nicki and I became friends with the Coles at the 1993 Worldcon, and following the convention we persuaded them to contribute essays to our fanzine Mimosa.  Esther’s appeared in the 16th issue, in December 1994, and described the half century that she and Lester had been science fiction fans.  It was titled, appropriately, “I Married a Science Fiction” and evoked a comment from another fanzine publisher that this was the kind of article he would want to build an issue around.  But it was Les’ article, which appeared in the 18th issue in May 1995, which was of even greater historical interest because it provided an inside story about the time, in February 1952, when the Little Men’s science fiction club of Berkeley, California (of which he was President) had staked a claim for a tract of land on the moon.  It resulted in mainstream news coverage around the world.

And now he’s gone.  Nicki and I had visited the Coles several times at their home in Ventura in the years since that 1993 Worldcon, the last time in the summer of 2018 on our way up the California coast to Worldcon 76 in San Jose.  Les had just returned from a short stay in the hospital and was not feeling well, so we spent most of our time talking to Esther.  We departed fearing that we may not see Les again, and maybe not Esther either since we don’t get out that way very often.  But when I told her gently that I this might be the last time we’d ever cross paths, she just smiled and told me: “We won’t let it be.” 

I’m sorry that I won’t be seeing Les again, and I’m missing him.  But as for Esther, I’m going to try very much to make sure she is right.

The Best Broadway Musical That’s Currently Playing

By Rich Lynch: As I mentioned in Part 1 of this essay, Nicki and I took a four-day mini-vacation in NYC back in early January.  We do this every year because Januarys are low season there.  That means many of the busiest places in the city are far less claustrophobic, and there are usually bargains to be found — including Broadway tickets, thanks to the TKTS discount ticket booth in Times Square.  For this trip, we did six shows in four days, which was enough to impress the people who shepherd ticket-buying lines at TKTS: “That’s awesome!” one of them told us.  But sometimes you have to pay closer to regular price for a ticket to a show that you really, really want to see, and that was the case for a superb musical we saw on the last day of our trip.

Part 2: It’s a case of life imitating art.

I’m not surprised that Hadestown wasn’t one of the shows available at TKTS.  It’s been one of the most popular musicals on Broadway ever since it opened back last April and it cleaned up at the 2019 Tony Awards, winning eight Tonys including Best New Musical and Best Original Score.  The matinee we were at was a special performance to benefit The Actors Fund and it had some special attendees — a few rows ahead of us, down at stage right, about a dozen people were receiving American Sign Language interpretation.  One of them was Russell Harvard, a hearing-impaired actor we’d seen the previous evening in the cast of To Kill a Mockingbird.  Now I know what Broadway actors do on some of their afternoons off — they see other Broadway shows.

I really, really liked Hadestown.  It’s a re-imagining of the ancient Greek myth about Orpheus and Eurydice, set in what looks to be Great Depression-era New Orleans.  Orpheus is a street musician who just cannot seem to finish writing his song, and Eurydice is a drifter who falls in love with him.  Hades and his wife Persephone are also characters, as are the Fates and Hermes (the latter functioning as a one-man Greek Chorus).  Hadestown is depicted as an industrialized underworld that’s being built by a soulless indentured labor workforce which can never leave (as Eurydice eventually finds out to her regret).  It has become a prosperous island in a sea of poverty, with a foundry and even an electric power infrastructure.  And also a wall, which is the subject of the musical’s most powerful song, “Why We Build the Wall.”  It’s sung by Hades accompanied by the Fates and other cast members, and one of the things that makes the song so imposing and ominous is that the actor portraying Hades, Patrick Page, has a voice at least an octave below bass.  Here’s a sampling:

“Why do we build the wall?  My children, my children, why do we build the wall? … Because we have and they have not!  Because they want what we have got!  The enemy is poverty, and the wall keeps out the enemy.  And we build the wall to keep us free.  That’s why we build the wall, we build the wall to keep us free.”

Hades and The Fates sing “Why We Build the Wall”

There’s obvious resonance with today’s political situation, of course, but the Hadestown musical, including that song, was written years before the Trump era.  It was created by Vermont singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell, who back in 2006 decided she wanted to write a folk opera.  Between then and now there were two preliminary versions of the musical as well as a concept album by Mitchell, with work on what became the Broadway production starting in 2012.

Hadestown debuted on Broadway the better part of a year ago, so it was a pleasant surprise that the entire original cast was still in the show.  The only name we were really familiar with was Reeve Carney, who played Orpheus — we’d seen him in the Penny Dreadful cable TV series — but the most prominent actors in the show were André De Shields, who played Hermes, and Amber Gray as Persephone.  De Shields won a Tony for the role, beating out Patrick Page among others, but it was Gray who had the best moments on stage.  Her Persephone, Queen of the Underworld and Goddess of Fertility, must spend six months of every year down in Hadestown (which brings on autumn and winter up on the surface).  But in the other six months she’s a free spirit “Livin’ It Up on Top” — one of many good songs in the show, all of which advance the plot in their own ways.  Some were staged really creatively, an example of which was another by Persephone, “Our Lady of the Underground,” that opened the second act.  It was done as if she were headlining a nightclub, complete with a small jazz band.  What made it both unusual and memorable was that during the song she breaks the fourth wall by individually introducing the band members to the audience.

Persephone is “Our Lady of the Underground”

So I’m also going to break the fourth wall and highly recommend this extraordinary musical to you, dear readers.  I’ve read that later in 2020 it will be going on tour to more than 30 cities (appropriately, one of them New Orleans), and you absolutely MUST see it when it comes to a playhouse near you.  Do not miss out — it’s that good!

(Excerpt from “Why We Build the Wall” ©2006 by Anaïs Mitchell.)

Another Henson Exhibit Exists!

By Rich Lynch: My friend Martin Morse Wooster’s February 3rd File 770 post about visiting the Jim Henson exhibit at the University of Maryland has inspired me to write about my own Jim Henson exhibit experience.  Only this one was up in New York City, not over in College Park, Maryland.  It was part of a four-day mini-vacation in NYC that Nicki and I did back in early January which also included a theatrical performance (which I’ll describe in part 2 of this essay) that was very much in the science fiction/fantasy genre.

Part 1: It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights.

The Museum of the Moving Image is a gem of a place that I can hardly believe Nicki and I have missed seeing until now.  MMI is out in Queens next to the Kaufman Astoria Studios, and according to the museum’s website its intent is to “advance the understanding, enjoyment, and appreciation of the art, history, technique, and technology of film, television and digital media”.  And from what we saw there was ample evidence that it was succeeding.

There’s not a whole lot of space available (just two floors), but what they had was used intelligently.  The upper floor was set up as a walk through the history of the moving image, beginning with a collection of magic lanterns dating back to the end of the 19th Century.  A lot of it was hands-on — the core exhibition, Behind the Screen, provides a simplified immersive experience, as the museum’s website describes it, “in the creative and technical process of producing, promoting, and presenting films, television shows, and digital entertainment”.  This included small studios for demonstrating various post-production techniques such as adding foley sound effects to a recorded video.  It was all pretty fascinating to observe, and just by itself was worth the visit to the museum.

But that’s not what we had come there to see.  The other floor of the museum, since 2017, has been home to The Jim Henson Exhibition.  MMI describes it as a “dynamic experience [which] explores Jim Henson’s groundbreaking work for film and television and his transformative impact on culture.”  In all there are about 300 items on display for what is really a quite inclusive retrospective of Henson’s career as a puppeteer, animator, actor, inventor, and filmmaker.  This includes many of the Muppets, and the museum had obviously arranged them with the assumption that they would be part of countless numbers of selfies and photo ops.  Ours included.

Nicki Lynch, Big Bird and Cookie Monster

The exhibition consisted of more than just static displays.  There were also video screens which showcased some of Henson’s earliest involvement in television, including the Sam and Friends show for WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. which aired for several years starting in the mid-1950s.  That was where Kermit the Frog made his first appearance.

Henson and his fellow puppeteer Frank Oz gained national popularity in the early 1960s when one of their Muppets, Rowlf the Dog, had a continuing role as a sidekick of sorts on The Jimmy Dean Show.  And then international popularity in the late 1960s when their Muppets became featured performers on the public television show Sesame Street.  But for me and Nicki, we became fans of the Muppets when they got their own syndicated television series in the mid-1970s.

Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge

The Muppet Show was ostensibly a variety show, hosted by Kermit, and featured some very entertaining sketch comedy as well as a plethora of famous guest stars.  So it was really a pleasure to spend half an hour, in the exhibition’s screening room, re-watching an episode which had originally aired more than 40 years ago.  The one they were showing featured Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge as musical guests, but the Muppets themselves had the most amusing bits: Resident daredevil The Great Gonzo recited a multiplication table while standing on a hammock and balancing a piano (with predictably disastrous results).  Mad scientist Dr. Bunsen Honeydew debuted his latest invention, atomic elevator shoes.  Weight-conscious Miss Piggy ordered up a watercress sandwich on whole wheat with four ounces of rhubarb juice, otherwise known as the ‘Fatso Special’.  Feral rock band drummer Animal ate a TV dinner, which turned out to be an actual TV.  And the show’s resident stand-up comic, Fozzie Bear (accompanied by Rowlf), sang “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee, An Actor’s Life for Me”.  More than 40 years on, it was all just as enjoyable as the first time we’d seen it.  Ah, nostalgia!

Next:  Livin’ it up on top with Hadestown.

My First Scary Movie

By Rich Lynch: Somewhere around 60 years ago I had the bejeezus scared out of me.  

I recently read in the File770.com newsblog that November 29th was the 60th anniversary of  the premiere of the Cold War-era sci-fi movie The Atomic Submarine.  I didn’t see it until probably a year or so later, when it was shown on one of those Saturday afternoon scary movie matinees that were popular on television stations back then.  And boy was it scary!  I was not yet a teenager and I remember that at the most intense point of the movie I had covered my face with my hand and squinted through the gap between my fingers.

Six decades later I’m trying to figure out why it seemed so frightening to me.  The plot was fairly pedestrian as B-grade sci-fi movies go – a U.S. Navy atomic submarine (which was pretty new real-world technology back then) was sent on a mission, under the Arctic ice pack, to find out why ships had gone missing in that part of the world.  It turns out that an undersea UFO was the cause, which is not much of a spoiler since the promotional poster for the movie shows a flying saucer.  Why the UFO was hanging out and destroying ships that passed by its vicinity was never explained, but it all was just a MacGuffin to get the submarine and the UFO next to each other so we could get to see the alien monster.

And a nightmare-inducing monster it was!  One-eyed, ugly, and truly evil – it killed off the redshirts of the boarding party in terrifying ways, and was planning to bring samples of humanity back to its own world to dissect in preparation of a large-scale invasion of Earth.  How in the world (literally!) could the U.S. Navy prevent that from happening?

I expect that this movie is obscure enough that probably only the scary movie aficionados have ever seen it.  But it turns out that if you want to see it, you can – it’s apparently now in public domain, and there’s a pretty good digital transfer available on YouTube.  So you know what?  I’m gonna watch it again.  I know it’s not going to be very much of a “Keep Watching the Skies!” sense-of-wonder experience, but I still want to see if I’m even remotely as scared as I was way back then.  And I’m kind of hoping that I will be.  Well, maybe just a little anyway.

Dublin 2019 Photos by Rich Lynch – Monday

Wow, a front row seat!

…at the “Really Big Telescopes” science panel.

Prof. Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Dr. David L. Clements, Dr. Inge Heyer, David DeGraff

More photos from Rich Lynch follow the jump.

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Dublin 2019 Photos by Rich Lynch — Sunday

This is the guy who kept me in fandom 33 years ago

… but that’s another story. (Kees Van Toorn)

More pictures by Rich Lynch after the jump.

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Dublin 2019 Photos by Rich Lynch – Friday

A cold truth surfaces…

The Dublin Convention Centre is too small for the size of this convention.  By a lot.  Thursday was chaos in the halls leading into the meeting rooms.  Packed solid with people trying to exit rooms where panels had ended and others who were wanting to get into those same rooms for the next round of panels.  Convention Centre staff became the traffic police in a mostly vain attempt to keep everybody moving.

By Friday the chaos had abated by a bit, but there have still been severe people flow problems.  Overnight each floor of the Convention Centre was taped off into queue lanes, one for each meeting room.  It’ll not quite an airport boarding lounge situation but very similar.  And this created addition confusion until, finally, everybody started to figure it all out.  But this system created lots of delays and there are usually lines of people waiting access for some rooms even after the scheduled panel  starting time.

This has resulted in plenty of people with frayed tempers, from what I’ve observed, but no meltdowns.  At least for now but there are still three days to go. 

One other thing I observed— the traffic police are not to be messed with!  More than one person was firmly directed to clear out of some area where queues would be forming.  Don’t think anybody has dared to jump a line after seeing them in action!

Heicon Memories panel

Panel opened with round of applause for Silverberg when he stated that this is his 66th Worldcon.  He has the record, I think.

Suzanne Tompkins, Ginjer Buchanan, Robert Silverberg, and Mary Burns.

Suzanne Tompkins, Ginjer Buchanan, Robert Silverberg, and Mary Burns.

eFanzines Live!

Bill Burns and Geri Sullivan.  Unsurprisingly, most everybody in the room not only knew about the site, they also were frequent visitors.  And many of us even have Fanzines hosted by the site!

Geri Sullivan and Bill Burns

Keith Kato’s Chili Party

…was held in Oscar Wilde’s House.  There was even a docent tour.

Oscar Wilde