Vale, Bob Sabella

Fanzine fandom lost one of its most faithful and frequent contributors when Bob Sabella, editor of Visions of Paradise, died Saturday, December 3.

He’d recently been hospitalized and diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and Robert Lichtman received this word late Saturday night from Sabella’s son Mark:

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but my dad passed away this evening in the hospital. The final diagnosis was an inoperable, malignant brain tumor (a stage 4 gliobastoma). Over the course of the past week, his condition deteriorated and the doctor’s outlook to even the short-term prospects became grim. He was unresponsive through the end, and went peacefully and without pain.”

At the time Bob Sabella was Official Editor of fandom’s oldest apa, the Fantasy Amateur Press Association. Curt Phillips has volunteered to take over the reins.

[Thanks to Steve Green and Robert Lichtman for the story.]

14 thoughts on “Vale, Bob Sabella

  1. I exchanged emails and read his fmz but never met. He’d just retired, I believe.

    Sad…

  2. Yes, he retired sometime last year — much beloved by his students past and present, who had commemorative t-shirts made and wore them en masse at his retirement ceremony.

    He wrote one book published in 2000, WHO SHAPED SCIENCE FICTION? The back cover text describes it well:

    “This book combines the reading public’s interest in science fiction with the always popular biography genre. The book contains one hundred concise chapters, each containing a brief biography of one of the most influential figures in the development of modern science fiction as well as a timetable detailing the highlights of the person’s life and career. Included are important editors such as John Campbell Jr and Hugo Gernsback; filmmakers such as Gener Roddenberry and Stanley Kubrick; and most importantly, acclaimed writers ranging from historical figures Jules Verne, Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H G Wells to modern masters Arthur Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein.”

    Each chapter runs 2-3 pages, and reading it (I bought a copy a couple weeks ago and have read a few of them) is kind of like reading his SF commentary sections of his fanzine. It’s worth getting.

  3. I was absolutely shocked when I read this. Visions of Paradise was one of the zines that caught my attention when I returned to fandom, or at least electronic fandom, a few years ago. Bob seemed like such a nice guy and VoP was exactly the sort of perszine that I loved back in the seventies. I read every issue and locced most, despite that I hardly ever read sf. Still, Bob’s suggestions introduced me to some good books and authors I wouldn’t have read otherwise.

    We exchanged some letters and Bob showed me some of his historical fiction, which he was working on in his retirement. I’m sure he would have made something of it if he’d had even a little time. What a terrible shame. I can’t help thinking, not only of his family but also of all his students who he loved so much and kept in touch with who are going to be devastated by his loss.

  4. OOoo…. EEEeee! I just got the last issue it doesn’t seem that long ago. The grim reaper has been seen walking on my block too often lately

  5. Completely shocked by this sad news. When Bob retired from teaching, I figured this would mean more time for him to do the things he loved (though clearly, from his writings, he loved to be a teacher), including more things fannish, to be taken so quickly. I just went and re-read the last “Visions of Paradise; no hints at all that this horrible event was only a couple of months off. But, if we live on in the memory of those we touch and leave behind, clearly he will be living large still in the memories of not only his family, but of all those students he helped and encouraged through the years.

  6. This is devastating. I knew Bob from NJ and renewed acquaintances decades later through VoP. He produced a highly readable zine outlining his interests, actions and pursuits. What a loss.

  7. I shocked. I may have published Bob’s last piece in this year’s Argentus‘s mock section. I would gladly have foregone that distinction for many more years of reading Visions of Paradise.

  8. A much-loved teacher, with his whole career in teaching and dealing with students… One of the best in his profession, freshly retired, and now his retirement snatched away by cancer and death. That’s Robert Sabella, and Mike Glicksohn, too. It’s just not fair.

  9. @Chris: I looked at the last issue of VoP and didn’t spot any reference to cancer. However, in the next-to-last issue Bob mentioned the results of a medical test for cancer and that he was “taking care of it.” Evidently it wasn’t something he was ready to comment about in any detail.

  10. Completely stunned and saddened by this news. His “Anniversaries in Science Fiction” articles in Askance have been a highlight for the past couple years. The current issue (December, #25) now has his last column. Plus, I always enjoyed Visions of Paradise and will miss his presence in fandom. I agree with Lloyd, too: it’s not fair that he was not able to enjoy his retirement. He wrote about their plans extensively in VoP.

    Mike: My feeling is that Bob probably didn’t want to say anything until he knew more based on the test results. The cancer must have been in a very advanced stage and he simply was not aware of it until very recently. Very sad, indeed.

  11. I just recently learned of Bob’s death and reacted with the unusual shock and disbelief. It couldn’t possibly be. And yet it was true. I’ve known Bob for a decade and a half or so, mostly from a distance, he in New Jersey, me in Michigan then later Kentucky. But I did have the good fortune and pleasure of having met him in person once many years ago at an Inconjunction in Indianapolis and we hit it off pretty well since we’ve communicated with each other much over all those years. Bob had a good, deep knowledge of Science Fiction and I’m proud that he was a long time contributor to my fanzine The Reluctant Famulus with a column initially called The Jaundiced Eye and later changed to The Old Kit Bag. I appreciated those columns because they raised the level of my fanzine. Bob was a good guy, a fine fan, and I’ll miss him very much.

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