Marilyn Joyce “Fuzzy Pink” Wisowaty Niven, wife of author Larry Niven, died on Sunday, December 3. Tim Griffin announced her passing on Facebook. She was 83.
Her roommate at MIT in the Sixties gave her the nickname “Fuzzy Pink” due to her affinity for fuzzy pink sweaters, and that’s what she was called thereafter by almost any fan who knew her. While at MIT she was active in MITSFS, a club notable for its science fiction library, which by the mid-1960s held over 10,000 volumes. She maintained a separate index to the collection dubbed the “Pinkdex”.
She met her future husband, Larry Niven, at NyCon 3, the 1967 Worldcon. They wed in 1969 and were married for 54 years.
She joined the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society in 1968, and had been elected a member of its Board Directors by the time the group bought its first clubhouse in 1973. A few years later she and Larry donated their early home computer to the club, which was entered on its rolls as club member Altair Niven. In 1982, Fuzzy Pink received the Evans-Freehafer Award for club service. The following year she was one of the Guests of Honor at Loscon 10, the club’s annual convention.
The Nivens’ home was a center of LASFS social activity for decades. In the Seventies this included weekly poker games following the Thursday night meeting. Those poker games were the reason I joined LASFS as a college freshman. There were two tables. Larry, Jerry Pournelle, and the rest of the prestigious players gathered around the “blood” table, where all of a player’s buy-in had to be wagered if called. Fuzzy Pink presided over the “rathole” table where I played, because one could hold back everything but a dollar, which meant I could stretch my five bucks for maybe a couple of hours. There I learned to play LASFS Poker with its ridiculously-named variants like Werewolf, Vampire, and Girdle Sale in Yankee Stadium. Fuzzy Pink was a patient, good-humored and gracious host. If there was ever any screaming drama, it happened at the other table…
She also was one of the people instrumental in creating the social side of Georgette Heyer fandom. Fuzzy Pink was part of the Almack’s Society for Heyer Criticism that hosted a tea at L.A.Con, the 1972 Worldcon. And as John Hertz told the story in Mimosa 26, “Fuzzy Pink Niven no longer mixes the eggnog that inspired the first Georgette Heyer convention,” which was held at the St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco, in 1975.
She was a skilled practitioner of many kinds of crafts, including lace-making and creating table-settings, creations she sometimes entered at the L.A. County Fair. She led a lace-making workshop at Noreascon 3, the 1989 Worldcon.
One of the group’s founders, Fuzzy Pink was named a Fellow of NESFA in 1976.
She was one of the 31 women to whom Robert A. Heinlein dedicated his 1982 novel Friday.
And she was a member of the Board of Directors of the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI) Inc., the organizer of many conventions over the years which currently is bidding for the 2026 Worldcon.
By Ahrvid Engholm: I have never known anyone with so much energy as author-publisher-reporter-translator-sf-expert-etc Bertil Falk. Now after a long time’s illness this hurricane of a force is no longer with us. It may be of slight consolation that he managed to publish several of his life projects before finishing his 90 years on Terra, ending October 14.
His Swedish translation of James Joyce’s “untranslatable” Finnegans Wake came last year, a work of love taking 60+ years. We also saw his massive, three-volume history of science fiction in Swedish, Faktasin. Unlike earlier sf history works, it covered what’s been written in Swedish only, making it a unique study. And a little earlier came his biography Feroze: The Forgotten Gandhi. Covering Indira Gandhi’s husband, written in English and well received in India, discovering a man that really had been mostly forgotten. An interview about this book is here.
But Bertil Falk did so much more! I first met Bertil on the SF-Kongressen 1977 and was later contacted to help out with a very nice (lots of old-timers showed up!) Spacecon in 1980, where Bertil with companions Anders Palm and Lasse Junell launched a Captain Future pulp-sized novel. Bertil had been a fan of this “Wizard of Science” since crawling out of the cradle, finding him in the 1940’s pulp Jules Verne Magasinet. As a journalist he later met and interviewed Captain F’s author Edmond Hamilton. And when he revived Jules Verne-Magasinet in the late 1960’s he published “The Return of Captain Future”. His interest in good old space adventures made me found Bertil Falk’s Space Opera Prize (RSN winner TBA!). I hope there is enough interest to make it annual.
I got to know Bertil really well after I in 1982 was engaged in the popular tech/science magazine Tekniknmagasinet. Bertil wrote lots of articles for us and though he lived in the south he often came up before deadlines to help out, beside his then dayjob at the Kvällsposten evening paper. When you heard a typewriter hammer fast, hard and relentlessly you knew that Bertil had arrived to our little office. Though at times breaking even, the lack of astronomical success made our magazine slip to another publisher. But we co-workers kept in touch.
Bertil then crossed the North Sea working for the newly started TV3 satellite channel in 1987. Transmitting from London it challenged and in effect tore down the Swedish government TV monopoly. Bertil made a fine historical report on Jack the Ripper for the station.
He wrote non-fiction on many subjects, especially popular culture history (pulps, crime fiction, comics), as well as hammering out short stories (countless cosy mysteries for the weeklies) and novels (sf and crime). He was also translator and sometimes the publisher of the results through his publishing house Zen Zat.
He was especially interested in “reviving” popular fiction writers from yesteryear, and re-printed stories and books by eg Sture Lönnerstrand, Vladimir Semitjov, August Blanche, Aurora Ljungsted, Ed Hoch, Jacques Futrelle and others. His Swedish Wikipedia entry lists ca 50 “selected writings” (mostly book titles) and 25 “selected translations”, but there’s more than those selections. Of his later production, beside Joyce and Faktasin, he was especially proud of his Viking detective stories about Gardar Gåtlösaren (“Gardar Riddlesolver”).
In Zen Zat’s planetary system of whirling massive objects, every December saw flashing falling stars in the form of Bertil’s small printrun – 100 copies tops – Christmas specials. They would have virtually anything you could wish for, e.g. a reprint of Bertil’s short story debut at age 12, “A Trip in Space” (1946, see here) and debut in longer format, “The Masked Gangleader” (1954). A. Engholm’s first short story collection Murder on the Moon was more like a tiny asteroid in Bertil’s rich and vivid publishing space…
From the late 1990’s and for several years he continued exploring popular literature history as editor of DAST Magazine, acronym for D)etective A)gent S)cience fiction T)hriller. Bertil was no doubt among our foremost experts on early magazine fiction and the history of the sf genre in general. But it was a broad approach allowing for Joyce and modern poetry beside pulp heroes and locked-room mysteries. I often appeared in DAST (Bertil inspired my interest in genre history) and about the same time he dragged me into the newly founded Short story Masters society. It became a bubbly source of more short stories and anthologies. One example is the probably first anthology of Swedish crime fiction in English, Crime the Swedish Way, with Bertil as a main initiator. He went to the Bouchercon 2008 to hand out and promote the anthology.
“Falk” means Falcon. Bertil flew high and wide, and his sharp Falcon gazed at the the broad horizons of literature.
By Bruce Gillespie: Helena Binns has been a stalwart of Melbourne fandom since 1958, when she made contact with the Melbourne Science Fiction Club. She has been both artist and writer for MSFC publications, and for the last fifty years she has been the photographer for most conventions held in Melbourne, including four Aussiecons.
Born Margaret Duce on December, 18 1941, in the countryside outside of Melbourne, Victoria, she was introduced to science fiction at a very young age by an uncle, and read her first sf short story when she was 5 or 6. Her uncle’s magazine stash gave her, at the age of 13, the address of a fan in Wellington, New Zealand, which led to a pen friendship with famous New Zealand fan Mervyn Barrett. He told her about the Melbourne Science Fiction Club. She began to contribute to Etherline, the Club’s long-lived magazine of the 1950s.
When she was 15, she was denied permission to study science during the last two years of her secondary schooling at a country high school. This heartbreaking event was a major influence on the rest of her life. She was able to study Art at Melbourne Technical College, and later tried to rely on her artistic talent to try to make a living. She retained a vital interest in the sciences for the rest of her life, but could never find a way of acquiring qualifications in those fields.
On January 23, 1958, she visited the Melbourne Science Fiction Club for the first time, making friends immediately with fans such as John Foyster, Chris Bennie, Dick Jenssen, and Mervyn Binns. She remained a contributor to Etherline and attended Melcon, the Melbourne convention of 1958, the last Australian convention until 1966. She remained in touch with the Club, which in the early 1960s was kept going almost solely by Merv Binns.
In 1965 she married Kelvin Roberts, a commercial artist who specialized in photographic retouching. They both enjoyed the movies shown regularly at the MSFC. For reasons that she cannot account for, she changed her name from Margaret to Helena.
1966 saw the revival of Melbourne fandom at the Easter convention in Melbourne. In 1973 she received her first camera, and began her lifetime of chronicling every convention she attended. Helena and Kelvin were the official photographers for Aussiecon in 1975 in Melbourne, the first Worldcon to be held in Australia.
Kelvin died in 1991 of lung cancer. Helena gradually became closer to Merv Binns, who had been a good friend for over thirty years. They married in 1998, and attended every Melbourne convention together. Helena was made an Honorary Life Member of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club in 2009. She was also involved in Star Trek and Tolkien fandom, and was a lifelong member of the Space Association of Australia.
Merv died in 2020 of heart failure. Helena found it difficult to maintain the large house they rented in South Oakleigh. She entered the Wantirna Views nursing home in early 2022, and died there on September 18 this year. She is remembered with great affection by all her met her. She left behind an enormous collection of books and memorabilia, and also a large collection of CD-ROMs of convention photos.
[By Bruce Gillespie, based on Helena’s own autobiographical essay.]
By Steve Vertlieb: Allan Asherman has passed away. He was a revered writer, journalist, Star Trek scholar … and cherished friend. My brother Erwin and I first encountered Allan at Forry Ackerman’s original “Famous Monsters Convention” at Loew’s Midtown Manhattan Motor Inn in the heart of New York City in September 1965. Along with fellow fans, collectors and writers such as George Stover, Wes Shank, and Gary Svehla, Erwin and I, along with Allan, were introduced to the expansive world of organized “Fandom.”
Erwin and I visited Allan many times over the ensuing years at his parent’s apartment in Brooklyn, New York. It was Allan who introduced us to Buster Crabbe when we three journeyed as star struck teenagers to The Concord Hotel in the Catskills in 1969, and sat in rapturous awe before the hero who had enchanted our childhoods as Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Red Barry, and Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion.
I can remember a young gentleman in his early teens, so many years ago, joining us for an afternoon at Allan’s home. This young fan, Scott MacQueen, went on to become one of America’s greatest film scholars and preservationists.
In 1969, after having shared a joyous day with Buster Crabbe in upstate New York, courtesy of Allan, I returned the favor when he visited Erwin and I at our own parent’s home in Philadelphia. I had arranged for, perhaps, the very first “fan” interview with William Shatner at “The Playhouse in the Park” near Philly where Captain Kirk was co-starring with Jill Hayworth in a theater in the round production of There’s A Girl In My Soup. I happily gathered together my brother Erwin, and Allan, to join me when I interviewed Shatner for a British fanzine that I was writing for called L’Incroyable Cinema Magazine.
My published interview with Bill Shatner was later re-published in the third issue of The Monster Times, the world’s first and only bi-weekly Monster tabloid. Still later, it was published yet again within the pages of Allan’s definitive, original study of the Star Trek phenomenon, the famed Star Trek Compendium.
Allan and I were among the original stable of staff writers for The Monster Times in 1972, while Allan journeyed to planets and galaxies “Where No Man Had Gone Before” as a revered, legendary figure in the vast world of all things Star Trek.
Allan visited my home, and my parents, many times over the ensuing years and, when I married my then wife, Maria, visited us for a memorable weekend where I proudly gifted my dear friend with some treasured soundtrack albums by composers such as Miklos Rozsa and Bernard Herrmann.
As we grew older, our paths diverged. Allan married his sweetheart, Arlene Lo, and settled on Long Island. We met once more for a couples weekend with fellow fans Bill and Mary Burns, Bruce and Flo Newrock, Maria and I.
Every year during the holidays Allan would telephone me, or I would telephone him, and we’d catch up on each other’s lives.
In recent years our communications became fewer, and I always regretted not having just one more opportunity to meet with Allan, and talk endlessly into “the wee small hours of the morning.”
Despite the absence of regular telephone calls, however, I always cherished Allan’s friendship. Then, on the evening of September 23, 2023, I received a somber phone call from my brother Erwin in Los Angeles. He’d heard from Allan’s devoted wife, Arlene, that Allan had passed away suddenly at age seventy-six in a freak accident.
Allan Asherman and I were friends for very nearly sixty years. Despite the physical distance between us, I always cherished Allan, both as a dear friend, and as a brother. I remain numbed by his passing, and by his terrible loss from my life, yet shall forever hold dear my memories, recollections, conversations, associations, and friendship with this dear man.
My sense of loss and utter desolation, however, is palpable. May God Rest His Sweet Soul, sailing the galaxy eternally upon the gallant bridge of the “U.S.S. Enterprise.”
Until we meet amongst the stars once more, dear friend, I shall ever love and cherish both your memory and friendship.
By William F. Wu: My longtime friend Michael D. Toman died at home of natural causes in the last week of August. I knew him for forty-nine years. He was extremely kind and generous, very well educated, as well as being a brilliant, modest, and considerate friend.
His tastes were wide: Classical literature and of course science fiction and fantasy from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley to the most recent editions of Analog, Asimov’s, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. In casual conversations, he might reference the ghost stories of M.R. James and the work of Tolstoy (with the opinion that Tolstoy was unfairly denied a Nobel Prize), then express a thought connecting them to a work by Robert A. Heinlein or Lewis Carroll or John Updike. In music, he was well versed, as a baby boomer would be, in classic rock, but he also loved opera and blues – a range of taste I find to be rare. He often – one approving neighbor said almost nightly – listened to classical music. Movie soundtracks were another favorite and he would sometimes describe instrumental moments he loved using musical terms I never learned. Soundtracks by Miklós Rósza and Elmer Bernstein were among his favorites. He told anecdotes about the improvisations of early bluesmen as easily as referencing a Beatles song.
Michael – he eschewed “Mike” many years ago and I’m writing “eschewed” because he would find it funny – “Gesundheit!” – grew up in Lansing, Michigan, and attended Michigan State University for his bachelor’s degree. While I was born and raised in the Kansas City area, I have multi-generational roots in Michigan. My mother and her mother grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., and attended the University of Michigan, where my parents met. I attended that university, got my bachelor’s degree in 1973, and took a year off from school before starting grad school in 1974.
Michael attended the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop in 1973, which was also a for-credit class at Michigan State at that time. Among the people he met there was Alan Brennert, who became a lifelong friend. Before starting my grad school classes at Michigan in the fall of 1974, I attended Clarion that summer. One day, as I was walking up the hall in a dormitory, I glanced into the open doorway of a room where various manuscripts were on a table, available to read. A stranger was standing in the room, looking over the manuscripts, and I wondered why someone outside the workshop was in there.
It was Michael, of course, and he had come from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, where he was studying for a master’s degree in library science, to visit that week’s instructor. After all these years, I don’t remember which instructor that was, though it was either Robin Scott Wilson the first week or Harlan Ellison the third week. He also came back to see Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm in the final two weeks. We first met in the instructor’s room one evening with some other attendees.
I was impressed. Michael had a short story, “Shards of Divinity,” in the anthology Science Fiction Emphasis #1, edited by David Gerrold. I had bought the anthology, which had just come out in April of that year, and remembered the story. Michael was the first published author in my generation I met after reading his work, being about a year-and-a-half older than I am. He was friendly and funny. When I told him I had read that story of his, and liked it, he was surprised and modest, and covered his reaction with a joke about “Trekkies.” I had been writing stories all my life, but I had just started taking a professional approach and submitting stories during the previous twelve months. He had accomplished what I was aiming for.
Michael and I became friends gradually over time. During the following school year, I went to my first sf con. I took a girlfriend to Kalamazoo, where Harlan Ellison was the guest of honor. I had enjoyed meeting Harlan – including his highly disapproving critique of a failed story I wrote to his assignment about “where lost things go” – and visited with Michael and Harlan at the con. At another con that year, a ConFusion in Ann Arbor, I crossed paths with Michael again. I took my current girlfriend and Michael observed that I was wearing the same shirt as the last time he had seen me, but adding with a kind of humor I would come to know well, “same shirt, different girl.” It was funny but I had some explaining to do.
Subsequently Michael received his master’s degree and began working as a librarian at Lansing Community College. I was in a combined master’s and doctoral degree program in American Culture. We continued to cross paths at nearby cons and also the Worldcon in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1976. Eventually we visited back and forth between Lansing and Ann Arbor, discovering many more common interests including the original King Kong movie and alternate history fiction – and he knew more about both subjects than I did. We corresponded more often than we saw each other. Back then, when a “long-distance call” cost extra money, we saved pennies by not using the phone.
When I applied, in 1977, for affiliate membership in Science Fiction Writers of America on the basis of a story published in a British anthology, Michael was the membership chairman. I received a letter of acceptance from him in which the body was informative and professional in tone. In a P.S., he added a humorous personal note as one friend to another in a style that he would use in correspondence with just about everyone for the rest of his life.
By 1978, we decided to go to the 36th World Science Fiction Convention, also known as Iguanacon II, in Phoenix together and share a motel room. We found a place much cheaper than the high-priced Hyatt Regency convention hotel. This motel was in walking distance of the con and we met another motel guest who was a fan. She went by Mickey and said she had never met published writers before. We enjoyed visiting with her and were careful to explain that our careers were still limited. At that con, we met writer Ed Bryant, who was editing an anthology at the time (he had already rejected a story of mine). We also met writers Pat Murphy and Cherie Wilkerson, who had attended Clarion that summer. They also became longtime friends.
At this con, we also learned of more science fiction and fantasy writer friends of our age group living in the Los Angeles area. As always, in visiting with people at the con, Michael was modest about being a published writer and always enjoyed complimenting and encouraging other writers whether they were published or not. He liked sharing information when he could about new short story markets and sometimes comments he had received or heard about from various editors that might reveal leanings they might have. This, too, continued for the rest of his life.
I had a year to go in grad school, though I didn’t know exactly when I would finish – I was about to start my doctoral dissertation, which I completed just about twelve high-stress months later. After all this time in school, I had lost interest in becoming a college professor somewhere. I knew I only wanted to write, though how I’d make a living wasn’t clear. Michael took part in a strike at the library, where he had a stressful split shift every day of work. Over time after the strike, the woman in charge gradually reduced the number of working hours of every employee who had taken part in the strike and was successfully forcing them to find work elsewhere.
At this 1978 Worldcon, we complained and commiserated about our lot and meandered toward the idea of moving to Los Angeles together after I had my doctoral degree and when he was ready to escape the stress and uncertainty of his library job.
Also that year, Michael had a story published in an anthology in France. It appeared as “Contre-odyssée”in translation and was “Against the Odds” in the original English. He was always disappointed that he was never able to get it accepted in the U.S. Two years earlier, “Shards of Divinity” had appeared as “Quelques miettes de divin” in a French anthology. In 1978 I had another short story published in a British anthology that was a sequel to the one in which my first professional sale had appeared in 1977. In the U.S., our publishing histories were Michael’s “Shards of Divinity” and a short story of mine that had appeared in a regional magazine in 1974. That publication was not deemed sufficient as a credential for SFWA membership. Despite writing and submitting our work often to U.S. magazines and anthologies, we each had two stories in European publications that outnumbered our individual stories in the U.S. That was an irony we shared with considerable annoyance.
During these years, Michael became friends with fellow Michigan State alum Joan Hunter Holly. Her first sf novel was published in 1959. Joan was down-to-earth and always supportive of his writing efforts. She lived in Lansing and ultimately had thirteen novels published and a number of short stories. Michael had a particular liking for her novel The Flying Eyes, in which aliens first appear over Spartan Stadium at Michigan State. She was SFWA treasurer in the late ’70s and Michael worked with her in his role as membership chairman. Through her, he met longtime writer Lloyd Biggle and he introduced me to both of them. Joan was a heavy cigarette smoker and died at the age of fifty, in 1982, from lung cancer. This hit Michael very hard. He spoke of her at times for the rest of his life.
In 1978, George Scithers, the editor of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, as it was titled at the time, accepted a novelette of mine. This gave me the credential to become a full member of SFWA, for which I got another letter from Michael with another dose of humor. The story was published the following year. Though our progress was slow, we felt optimistic about the direction of our writing careers.
I finished the rough draft of my dissertation in August of 1979 and the prospect of leaving my grad school life behind was becoming real. On Labor Day weekend of 1979, Michael came to Ann Arbor with some fan friends from Michigan State and one of them drove us down to Louisville to NorthAmeriCon ’79, the second North American Science Fiction Convention because the Worldcon was in Brighton, England, that year. The trip was an experience common to all of us: science fiction writers and fans saving money by sharing gas and a room, including some of us sleeping on the floor in those days when our bodies were young. At that con, we met writer Tim Sullivan, who became a longtime friend, and writer and orchestral composer Somtow Sucharitkul. Tim and Somtow lived in Boca Raton, Florida.
At one point, I was talking to one of them in the dealers room when someone interrupted, wanting to introduce another individual who lived in Boca Raton. I drifted away and learned much later that the new arrival was Diana G. Gallagher, at that time an unpublished writer working on an sf novel. While I didn’t meet her at that time, we would eventually get married.
Michael and I reaffirmed our plan to leave the long Michigan winters behind for Southern California. Knowing a number of writers already in the L.A. area – including Alan Brennert — made it a much more inviting location than any place where neither of us knew anyone. I received my doctoral degree in December of 1979 and drove my old, bought-used, gas-guzzling, but large sedan to pick him up in East Lansing in June of 1980.
Michael always hated driving. He never was in an accident or received a traffic citation. Even so, he would take a bus, ask a friend, or walk if possible – anything but drive. He owned cars at several times in his life but still avoided driving if he could. Because he never had an explanation (“I just don’t want to”), I had to accept this, as did all his friends. So for our long trip, I agreed to do most of the driving and he agreed to spell me occasionally. We crammed the big car full of our stuff and departed late in the day.
On the second day, we had an experience Michael loved describing. I had been driving for hours in an overcast but dry day as we went south in Indiana. He agreed to take over so I could rest. As soon as he got behind the wheel and returned to the Interstate, a downpour began. He was both annoyed and hilarious: “You see what happens when I drive? You see?” He was laughing and serious at the same time. “You drive for hours and it doesn’t rain. You see?” He had more to say as lightning and thunder added to the storm.
Even so, he was a good sport and drove through the downpour for about an hour. At that point, at his request, I took over again. In minutes, the rain stopped. Then the clouds parted and I was driving in sunshine. I can’t remember exactly what Michael said in this moment, but he went on for a while – again, funny and serious at the same time.
We knew even then that when we would tell the story, listeners would assume, even while enjoying the anecdote, that we were exaggerating – especially given that were professional storytellers. In fact, the experience was exactly as I described. The fact that people didn’t necessarily believe it in full added both to Michael’s enjoyment of recounting the events and also to his annoyance about it. He told the story off and on for many years.
After a few days with my parents in the K.C. area, we drove into the Colorado Rockies. By prior arrangement, we took part in a weeklong Milford workshop in Telluride. Milford had begun in the 1950s and set the workshop pattern that led to Clarion. George R.R. Martin attended; we knew him from cons in the Midwest when he lived in the Chicago area. P.C. Hodgell, a Clarion-mate and good friend of mine, took part. We met Connie Willis, who became a longtime friend, and Kevin M. O’Donnell, Jr., who also became a good friend.
At the end of the week, Michael and I continued on our way. At one point, still on a winding mountain road, I needed Michael to drive for a while. He griped even more this time, in part because the lenses in his glasses had come loose and were held in place by clear tape – which narrowed his field of vision. I took over again as soon as I could. We reached Grand Junction in the evening and got a motel room.
Ready to leave the intensity of Milford and stress of driving behind for a while, we went to see a movie at a local theater – which happened to be showing The Shining. We knew it was based on a Stephen King novel but not that it was set in the Rockies. Nor was watching it a great way to relieve stress. After it was over, we laughed at the irony. And finally found time to relax.
In the Los Angeles area, we first stayed with Jim and Valerie Ransom, friends Michael had known in Michigan. Their kindness and patience with us can never be repaid. I found a part-time job at the L.A. City Hall with the help of Garrett Hongo, an old friend from my grad school days in Ann Arbor, as Michael applied for library jobs. We also house-sat for another old friend of Michael’s, as well as for Cherie Wilkerson and later a cousin of mine when they went out of town on long trips. One month we house-sat for the parents of a former girlfriend of mine – in fact, the girlfriend about whom Michael had observed “Same shirt, different girl” six years before.
I also attended that year’s Worldcon, which was in Boston. Someone – almost certainly either Tim Sullivan or Somtow Sucharitkul — introduced me to Diana G. Gallagher. She and I started a correspondence and sometimes talked on the phone throughout the following six months.
In January of 1981 Michael and I moved to an apartment complex with some of the other writers we knew, sometimes including Theodore Sturgeon. Michael started working for Harlan Ellison full time – each weekday I drove us to Harlan’s house where Michael, in librarian mode, typed cards to catalog Harlan’s immense book collection. Meanwhile, having received interest in my doctoral dissertation by a publisher of scholarly work, I sat in the art-deco dining pavilion and revised my dissertation. We had known Harlan for some years, of course, but these months deepened our friendship with him. During this time, Harlan accepted a story by Michael titled, “Quarto,” for The Last Dangerous Visions. It was a brilliant pastiche of work by Jorge Luis Borges but did not make the final cut for the upcoming edition as I write this in 2023.
That spring, I attended the first International Conference on the Fantastic in Boca Raton, Florida, in part because my friends Tim Sullivan and Somtow Sucharitkul would be there. I read a short story and presented a scholarly paper drawn from my dissertation. More importantly, I got better acquainted with Diana. As a result of this trip, a couple of months later, I moved in with her and her two kids in Boca Raton.
I was apologetic toward Michael for moving on and he assured me that pursuing a serious relationship with a woman made sense to him. About three months later, Michael got a well-paying job as a reference librarian at The Aerospace Corporation. I did not return to Southern California to live until 1987, though I visited several times. Michael and I continued to correspond and, with his new income, he often called while I was still counting pennies. These years were full of bonding experiences that anchored our long friendship in years to come.
Michael always took great pleasure in helping writer friends any way he could. Sometimes he would make sure someone knew about a potential market; many times he would write to libraries to recommend they buy certain books. He also wrote to strangers with compliments and suggestions. In a striking example, he made Alan Brennert aware of two short stories when Alan was on the staff of The Twilight Zone in the ’80s. One was “Dead Run” by Greg Bear and the other was my “Wong’s Lost and Found Emporium.” Both were adapted for The Twilight Zone. All his life, he found ways to promote fiction by friends and strangers.
In 1985, I came out to L.A. with a friend and, with Michael, we watched the weeklong filming of “my” Twilight Zone episode, written by Alan Brennert. That would not have happened without Michael.
At the same time, Michael’s writing grew less frequent. He continued to submit stories already written and a poem, “Seven Ways of Looking at Godzilla.” The latter remains unpublished and I’ve suspected science fiction editors might not have appreciated its literary side and that editors of literary work were put off by Godzilla. In that poem, there’s that surprisingly wide range of interest and knowledge again, similar to his interest in blues and opera mentioned earlier. He filled paper grocery sacks and file folders with story ideas in his tight scrawl.
In the ’80s and ’90s, he had short fiction published in Cold Shocks, edited by Tim Sullivan; Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine, edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch; Fantasy Tales; and Fantasy Macabre. Beginning in the early ’90s, he did not write fiction for roughly the last thirty years of his life. He often said, “It’s easier to manage other people’s careers than your own.” Even so, he always insisted that he wanted to write more.
In 1987 I moved with my wife Diana and stepdaughter Chelsea to a small town in the Antelope Valley called Lake Los Angeles. The lake has been dry for decades and it’s nowhere near Los Angeles, being in the high desert north of the San Gabriel Mountains. However, I could now drive to the near edge of the L.A. sprawl in about an hour. Starting in the fall of 1987, five of us who were already acquainted got together for sushi and plum wine roughly once a year until the recent pandemic. The other three are Alan Brennert, Michael Cassutt, and Robert Crais. Michael and I had met Bob Crais at Clarion in 1975 when we returned to visit Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm. Michael Toman could not bring himself to try sushi and ordered his own dinner, but for many years we all enjoyed Japanese plum wine. Alan dubbed us Brothers of the Plum. I have always enjoyed the get-togethers and Michael in particular benefited from the camaraderie as his own writing efforts were left behind. He became more self-conscious than ever about telling new acquaintances that he was a published writer of fiction, but we always reminded him that he was.
In 1995, Michael became a reference librarian for the South Pasadena Public Library. It was, at last, the work he truly wanted: Working up lists of books for the library to buy, helping members of the public find books they sought, and also suggesting books they might like but didn’t know about. Bringing readers and books together brought him special satisfaction.
In the 2000s, Michael made editors of The Best American Short Stories aware of Harlan Ellison’s story “The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore.” This became Harlan’s first appearance in this series from the literary world. Out of all the countless ways in which Michael helped other writers, he took special pride in this.
His devotion to helping also included keeping friends up to date on many sorts of news related to creative work through correspondence and eventually email. In time, he became especially fond of File770.
Related to these activities, he treasured being a generally unknown yet influential “force for good,” as he phrased it – and said he would like to be remembered as such. Here it is. Those of us who benefited from his kindness will always remember.
And, of course, the personal side of our friendship continued. When I remarried in 2007, Michael was best man at the wedding.
Michael repeatedly gave me an intended compliment that revealed something about his long years of not writing fiction. He would say, “I really admire your discipline,” in writing my work. I always gave him the same answer, that I liked writing short stories and novels. It’s something I really want to do. I explained that I enjoyed writing and was not disciplining myself in the sense he meant. Granting that of course there have been days when I was not in the mood but had a deadline to meet, overall I enjoy the process of writing fiction – emphasis on “process.” Though he always enjoyed corresponding with people, often with cultural references and humorous observations, Michael reached the point where he truly did not enjoy writing fiction and could only have done so with the “discipline” of forcing himself to do so.
Sadly, that meant that no one will ever read the unwritten stories based on the many premises he scribbled down. Many combined unlikely concepts along the line of his story “Against the Odds,” in which an additional travail for Odysseus occurs when he finds himself in our time in the back of a bus. At his best, Michael was brilliant in pastiche and with creating premises he never developed.
Just as he never offered a reason for his aversion to driving, he never made an effort to discuss his writer’s block. He insisted he wanted to write short stories but did not write for so many years – in a reference he would recognize, his intention to write and his published stories were jam tomorrow and jam yesterday — but never jam today.
I think Michael’s greatest moment of writing gratification came in the 2000s when Harlan gave him permission to enter part of his story “Quarto” in a contest judged by John Updike. Michael had long enjoyed and admired Updike’s work and was thrilled when Updike awarded Michael’s entry first prize. Michael received it from Updike in person.
So now my friend of forty-nine years is gone.
Somewhere, there’s an alternate world where Michael D. Toman enjoys writing fiction and fully develops all his premises with great personal satisfaction. That’s a world where we could enjoy all the pastiches and mashups and other story concepts brought forth by his intellect and knowledge and sense of humor. And it’s a world where every writer he ever helped and befriended recognizes and applauds his accomplishments.
I hope the Michael D. Toman I knew has found his way there now.
Editor John R. Douglas, who is being honored with a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award this year, died August 3.
Douglas, an influential editor in the sff field for several decades, began his career at Berkley in 1978. He later worked at Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster, Avon Books and HarperCollins. He was responsible for acquiring and editing hundreds of sf and fantasy titles as well as mysteries, thrillers, other genre fiction and many kinds of non-fiction. He had been an editorial freelancer since 1999, continuing to work with words in many different ways.
He also served as editor of the newzine SF Chronicle after it was sold by founder Andrew Porter.
John R. Douglas, born in Toronto, Canada in 1948, started reading sf when he was about 14. He went to his first convention in 1969 while he was in college — LunaCon in New York. A year later he met fellow fan, Ginjer Buchanan. In 1975 he moved to the United States and they married.
He was among the fans who co-founded the Ontario Science Fiction Club in 1966. The group later sponsored TorCon 2, the 1973 Worldcon; Douglas was the treasurer.
John is survived by Ginjer; they were married for 48 years.
[Editor’s Introduction: Fanzine fan Jerry Lapidus (1948-2023) died April 19 at home in Ormond Beach, Florida. Tim Marion and he were both members of the same amateur publishing association (apa) years ago, and Tim says the final version of this tribute will appear in another apa, FLAP.]
By Tim Marion: Jerry Lapidus began his fannish career in the late 1960s while still a student at Syracuse University. There, he was part of a group of fans that included Lisa Tuttle, who became a fellow member of SLANAPA with him. He published the most adventurously beautiful and graphic fanzine of its time, Tomorrow And…, which was probably the first place that ever published Dan Steffan art (who later became one of, if not the, best artists in SF fandom). He was a multi-apan in the early 70s and a member of APA-45, FAPA, and The Cult, as well as a charter member of SLANAPA. For all of these apas he did a “catch-all” apazine of personal material, as well as an individual mailing comments zine.
When Jerry went away to Amsterdam to study theatre, Bob Vardeman kindly typed up and reproduced his trip reports so that he did not miss a single monthly mailing of SLANAPA. When he returned to the U.S. four months later, Jerry himself published a massive, 20pp zine of nothing but mailing comments to everyone. Although pure text, it was a joy to look at and fun to read — again, 20pp of text; reproduced using blue mimeo ink on lime green paper. (The blue text of this issue is inspired by Jerry’s catch-up apazine.) I thought of Jerry as a “trublufan” for all of this.
Since it was blue ink that he used, us relatively unsophisticated Newport News fen, who mainly used ditto, were mystified, and assumed that he was using ditto to print on lime green paper. So we tried it, with significantly inferior results.
Later, in the late 1970s, I was again in SLANAPA and got a kick out of using blue ink for text with my Rex Rotary M4 mimeo, and preferred lime green paper. Along about this time I threw the Rex in the trunk of my car and decided to move from Newport News, Virginia, to New York City. Jerry was one of the first people I contacted here.
I recall going to The Cloisters (museum of medieval reliquaries) with him, his wife Anita, and Lisa Tuttle. I wish I had thought to bring a camera. Normally museums wear me out utterly, but I was fascinated by The Cloisters, as well as The Unicorn Tapestries which were on display. Also glad to finally meet Jerry, as well as Lisa (who had dropped out of SLANAPA a few years before). These were fun times, made only slightly vague now with the passage of (almost exactly) 45 years…
It would seem to me that in the Perfect World, Jerry would still be alive and publishing Tomorrow And… and once again electrifying fandom with his daring layouts and beautiful graphics. That accomplishment is how I would like to remember Jerry. I don’t care to remember the times that he was angry at me (I felt unfairly); no, I would rather remember that later he passed along his entire fanzine collection to me for what was really a pittance. I got to read a lot of zines I had only ever heard of before, including his zines. As pathetic as it must sound, this old fanzine fan actually had some of the best times of his life going through those boxes of fanzines. Thank you, Jerry.
By Steve Vertlieb: I learned this morning of the terrible news that the great Tony Bennett had passed away at age 96. He was a legendary artist and performer whose class, dignity, and style had no equal. In a world occupied by crass commercialism and juvenile imitation, Tony Bennett was quite simply a living legend, the final act and curtain call for a generation that has seen its last bow.
For my special anniversary gift to my precious Shelly in 2018, I purchased virtually the best seats in the house for the spectacular Tony Bennett concert at the venerable Academy of Music (“The Old Lady of Locust Street”) here in Philadelphia. We were seated Orchestra Center on the very first row. I could actually have touched the stage had I chosen to do so. Astonishingly, we might almost have reached out and shaken the hand of this living legend. Tony Bennett was 92 years young. I’d loved him for well over sixty years. However, due to his age, I honestly wasn’t sure of what to expect from a live performance. It was sheer magic, however. He was quite simply electrifying.
His voice was clear, strong, and amazingly powerful. He had no problem hitting the high notes. It was as if a half century had evaporated. He was obviously thrilled by the adoring crowd of literally thousands of fans and loving admirers, while transformed by their over powering affection. He sang his heart out. I’ve seen many concerts over the years. My favorite has always been Sinatra, Ella, and Basie at The Uris Theater in New York in the early seventies … but this night’s stunning performance by Tony Bennett was every bit as exciting and joyous. It was an electrifying evening of music and songs by literally the last of the great popular singers.
They’re all gone now … Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Mel Torme, Peggy Lee, Judy Garland, and Bing Crosby. Tony Bennett was the very last of the classic, legendary performers who proliferated concert halls and recording studios throughout the nineteen forties, fifties, and sixties. This was a truly remarkable appearance by the very last of his breed. Tony Bennett delivered an electrifying vocal performance that memorable night and he’d never sounded better. At the wondrous age of ninety-two years, he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt why he remained the magnificent persona that he was, and shall always be … a star.
God Rest Your Sweet Soul, Tony. You were the best of the best. Your music shall live for eternity. “You Left Your Heart” in perpetuity for all of us to listen to, cherish and to remember.
By Steve Vertlieb: Celebrating the life, legacy, and fiery brilliance of composer Jerry Goldsmith, born February 10, 1929. Had he lived, he would have turned 94 years of age this year. His miraculous scores and recordings continue to brighten the cinematic universe with their astonishing, profoundly original themes and orchestrations, far eclipsing the less intricate scoring of most modern films and film composers in today’s minimalist culture. Less seems more in our current celluloid climate and musical universe.
Jerry Goldsmith was one of the last of a sadly dying breed of film composers who endowed their symphonic motion picture explorations with a deeply rich tapestry of sublime joy and thematic wonder. Along with his contemporaries, Elmer Bernstein, and John Williams, Goldsmith’s remarkable lyricism remains a profoundly significant influence upon the world of scoring music for the motion picture screen.
I was fortunate enough to have had a degree of personal interaction with this legendary composer briefly in 1980 when he telephoned me in response to an inquiry I’d made, first through his representation and then, later, with Jerry himself. Here’s a personal letter from the revered composer in response to an article I’d written about him for Cinemacabre Magazine forty-three years ago.
I’d telephoned Jerry at his home, and had left a message with his housekeeper, requesting some photos of him with which to illustrate a soon to be published article that I’d planned to write about his music and career. I never actually expected to receive a response, and was understandably stunned when he reached out to me the following morning. He telephoned me at home some twelve hours later, and was most gracious and cordial in our conversation, offering to ship out a package of stills once he’d received them back from his photographer.
I pinch myself to this day, recalling that I’d actually received an intimate telephone call from Jerry himself. When my telephone rang the next morning, I heard a richly refined voice at the other end of the line asking if he might speak with me. I nearly had a seizure when the caller identified himself as Jerry Goldsmith, and that he was returning my telephone call from the night before. It was a very different time, I guess, when one could actually participate in such intimate individual interaction with a composer on such a powerfully personal level.
He was very kind and most gracious during our telephone conversation and subsequent correspondence. Our brief association so many years ago remains a cherished memory, and certainly a highlight of my own life and experience. His letter, presented here once more, remains one of my most treasured possessions.
Jerry left us on July 21, 2004, at age 75. Remembering the incomparable Jerry Goldsmith on this melancholy anniversary of both his birth, and tender passing.
By Ahrvid Engholm: I think the cosmic composer, friend of fandom, Ralph Lundsten was more appreciated abroad than in Sweden. For instance, folks of the national radio were sour when he hosted the popular “Summer” show and broke an unwritten rule by playing only his own songs… He never hid his talent under the bushel and that won’t go down well in the Jante Law land.*
Ralph Lundsten was born far up north, from which he acquired the calm, common sense and love of nature of the northerners. But deciding to move to Stockholm at young age 15, he also showed initiative and being enterprising.
The first time he heard a violin concert on radio, he said in an interview, he immediately bought musical note paper and began writing his own concert… His first electronic music was made with a tape recorder on which he recorded strange sounds and then cut and glued with small tape pieces. He helped creating the famous Electronic Music Studio (EMS) in Stockholm reflected in his debut on record, EMS Nr 1 (1966, see also “Elektron Musik Studion, Dokumentation 1-4”, 1966-1973). And he was early with building his own electronic instruments and synthesizers, being much of a pioneer. The better equipment he acquired the less “concrete and dissonant” his music became and he developed a style of a broad “sound carpet” of soft meditative thoughtfulness, often inspired by nature and love.
I first met Ralph when a local sf club was invited to make a much-appreciated visit to his magnificent home Villa Frankenburg around 1980, his pink “castle of wood” just east of Stockholm. It was a dump when he took over and he spent many years renovating it to a magnificent site of cosmic dreams and fantasy, which included his own advanced electronic Andromeda Studio. I remember between sipping tea we could try his Andromatic love synthesizer, which produced sounds as we touched each other. I know he loved science fiction. He had shelves of skiffy books and named albums after A. E. Van Vogt, Cordwainer Smith and others. We also had Ralph guesting at conventions a few times.
Art magazines and TV shows would make colorful reports from his cosmic castle. He often talked about space and liked to call himself an ambassador of Andromeda. If someone had a cosmic mind, it was Ralph Lundsten!
And he had his own fan club, Andromeda Fan Society, which every summer was invited to a big gathering at Ralph’s with music, ballet (he wrote many ballet pieces), cakes, and relaxation. Ralph Lundsten also entered the Guinness Book of Records as composer of history’s most played “jingle”. A piece of his “Out in the Wide World” was for decades played hundreds of times every hour as the intermission signal of Radio Sweden’s international broadcasts – a total of over 4 million times!
There is a lot of Ralph Lundsten’s music on e.g. Youtube. Just enter him into the search box.
I think I’ve cracked his secret: despite seeming so relaxed and easy going, when nobody watched — he was a workaholic! Over 100 records (in all different editions), 700 opuses, dozens of films (often experimental, some award winning), years creating his Frankenburg home, exhibitions, time for his fan club and much more — it all speaks for itself. This busy bee became 86 years young, beginning his trip to space July 5th.
And BTW, he was a reader of my fanzine. I note a LoC from him, April 2019, though only saying “Thanks!” it sufficient for a message from a galaxy far, far away…
* Law of Jante: “You’re not to think you are anything special” etc.