Remembering Bruce Pelz

Bruce Pelz in 1994

By Rich Lynch: Twenty years ago today I lost a friend.  I remember first learning about it from an Internet news group:  [Matthew Tepper] “I have just returned from tonight’s LASFS meeting.  Larry Niven announced that Bruce Pelz died this afternoon.”

I’m trying to think back to when I first met Bruce.  I can’t pinpoint it exactly, as I’d known of him practically since my entry into fandom in the mid-1970s – he was frequently mentioned in many fanzines that I read back then.  But I’m sure that our first face-to-face meeting was in 1979, when my job in industry took me from Chattanooga all the way out to Los Angeles for some much-needed training in electrochemistry.  I didn’t really know anybody in L.A. fandom back then but I did know the address of the LASFS clubhouse, so on my next-to-last evening in town I dropped in on a meeting.  And it was there that I found Bruce mostly surrounded by other fans while they all expounded on fandom as it existed back then and what it might be like a few years down the road.  It was like a jazz jam session, but all words and no music.  I settled back into the periphery, enjoying all the back-and-forth, and when there eventually came a lull in the conversations I took the opportunity to introduce myself.  And then Bruce said something to me that I found very surprising: “Dick Lynch!  I’ve heard of you!”

Thus began a friendship that lasted right up to his death in 2002.  It took a few years after that first meeting for me to develop a strong interest in fan history, and Bruce was partly responsible for that.  My wife Nicki and I decided to publish Mimosa, a fanzine dedicated to fan history, in large part because of Bruce and other fans interested in preservation of our past enthralled us with entertaining and interesting stories about fandom’s past eras.  It was inevitable that Bruce and I would work together on fan history projects, but it took more than a decade after our initial meeting before the first of those happened – he used his considerable power of persuasion to convince me to be editor of Harry Warner, Jr.’s anecdotal history of fandom in the 1950s, A Wealth of Fable.  It had previously existed as a three-volume fanzine, filled with a myriad of typographical errors that needed to be fixed and more than a few instances of incorrect or outdated information that needed to be re-researched.  This was officially a project of a L.A.’s Worldcon corporation, SCIFI, but in actuality it was Bruce who was the project manager.  And also my chief researcher.  I leaned on him, heavily at times, to take advantage of his deep knowledge of fandom of that era and also his extensive library of fanzines that often contained exactly the information we were looking for.  How he knew where to find it I’ll never know, but he always did.

After that came a much less successful undertaking, the now-moribund 1960s fan history project.  Bruce was once again an able researcher, and his involvement was a big reason we were able to produce a knowledge base of sorts that now resides on the Internet in the form of a very extensive outline.  The project eventually proved to be undoable, mostly because 1960s fandom was so much larger in size and scope than its 1950s predecessor that it became obvious that a lot more research was needed than either of us had time or resources for.  But for a few years we both had a lot of fun, if that’s the right word, discovering and sometimes re-discovering various nuggets of information about that era which eventually made their way into the outline.

It might be that the 1960s project was a progenitor of FanHistoricon.  Bruce, along with Joe Siclari and Peggy Rae Pavlat, came up with the idea and the first one was held in 1994, deliberately sited in Hagerstown, Maryland so that attendees could have the opportunity to visit the legendary Harry Warner, Jr. at his home there.  That’s probably the main memory which most attendees took away with them, but Bruce also used the occasion to do some ideating in the workshop portion of the event.  The result was formation of the Timebinders, an informal association of fans which had the goals of ensuring the preservation of endangered fannish materials and finding ways of making fan historical information more widely available.  That organization, in the end, was a bit too informal to last for very long, but it was most likely an inspiration for a parallel organization which has all the same goals: fanac.org.  Joe Siclari was one of the main architects of that but it’s I think it’s fair to say that Bruce, holding forth as he did at the first FanHistoricon, certainly helped to plant some of the seeds.

Bruce Pelz, Harry Warner Jr., Peggy Rae Sapienza at the first FanHistoriCon (1994)

These are not nearly all the projects and activities that Bruce originated or was otherwise involved in over the more than four decades of his life in fandom.  He was the driving force behind the creation of Retrospective Hugo Awards.  He championed a large fundraising campaign which allowed LASFS to purchase its first clubhouse.  He persuaded LASFS to hold an annual convention, Loscon.  He edited and published the focal point newszine Ratatosk in the middle part of the 1960s.  He was active in many amateur press associations and founded the annual Worldcon Order of Faneditors (WOOF).  He was the much-deserving Fan Guest of Honor at the 1980 Worldcon.  And outside of the science fiction genre, he was one of the creators of the World Mystery Convention, BoucherCon.

Bruce was also an avid fanzine collector, as I’ve described earlier, and at one point had arguably the largest collection in the world.  I feel fortunate that I got to see it, back in the mid-1990s, and it was amusing to learn about his modus operandi for sorting new acquisitions: toss them gently into the air and after they come to rest on the floor, peruse through them for interesting stuff before filing them one by one.  That’s just one of many pleasant memories I have of Bruce.  Living on opposite coasts of the United States, we didn’t physically cross paths all that often and I treasured the times that we did.  The final one was at the 2001 Worldcon in Philadelphia, though I’m not sure when during the convention it was.  It probably happened when we went to dinner on Saturday night, prior to the masquerade.  I remember that we shared about an hour’s worth of conversation, on topics ranging from places in the world we wanted to go back to (he was a world traveler in his final years) to what we thought would make good fan history projects in the future.  Before we parted he told me a story about him spending a night in Robert Heinlein’s fallout shelter that he soon afterwards wrote up for Mimosa.  No surprise, he was also a really good writer.

Back then, I don’t think I ever once thought that would be the last time I’d see him.  He was always a rock, someone whose presence at Worldcons I attended seemed an absolute certainty.  And then, less than a year later, he was gone.  Two decades after Bruce’s passing, rarely does a week goes that I don’t think of him.  He was a great friend.  And also a strong influence.  Whenever I’m at a loss on how to proceed on some kind of fandom-related project I’m involved with, I often ask myself, “What would Bruce do?”  It usually helps a lot.

Atanas P. Slavov (1947-2022)

Atanas P. Slavov

By Valentin D. Ivanov: Bulgarian fandom has lost one of its leading figures: on May 6, 2022 the prominent Bulgarian SF writer, artist, translator, fan, and thinker Atanas P. Slavov passed away after a long illness.

He was born in the town of Burgas and in late 1960s organized the first genre clubs and organization in then-communist Bulgaria. He left us with one novel, The Psychoprogrammed [Man], scores of stories and essays. Most importantly, we will remember him for his influence on countless fans whose lives he touched, spreading the ideas about the constant search for paths to a better, brighter and cleaner future in every thinkable aspect – from moral to ecological and technological.

His stories have been published in Bulgarian, English, German, Russian and Ukrainian.

A gallery of his impressive artwork is here.

He was founder and Editor-in-Chief of the English-language magazine Orphia, which only lasted one issue.

Three times he won the European Science Fiction Society’s ESFS Award, in 2003 for his fanzine Fenternet, in 2004 he was honored in the Best Promoter (of European SF) category, and his almanac Fantastika won Best Magazine in 2015.

Probably, the closest counterparts of Atanas P. Slavov from the Western SF milieu are Kim Stanley Robinson, with his optimism and his positive look at the future, and Stanislaw Lem, with his thoughtful and analytic approach to the world.

Artwork by Atanas P. Slavov

Tomak Julian Baksik (1970-2022)

Tomak Julian Baksik

Michigan fans and other friends around the world are mourning the unexpected passing of 3D artist Tomak Julian Baksik who died of a sudden illness on May 2. He was 51.

He will be greatly missed. The family obituary here describes how and why his was a tremendous presence in the fannish community.

Taken from us too soon, he was an artist of vibrant ingenuity and passionate commitment. His unique and exquisite works were a process of invention, re-invention, design, craft and creation. He dedicated his life to his work, his family and his friends. Tomak touched the lives of those who knew him, with both his artistic vision and his kinetic personality. He lived his life with enthusiasm and unwavering optimism, challenging himself and those around him to expand and explore. He had a deep appreciation of nature and the outdoors, where he was not bound by fences, distances or heights. He inspired those around him to join him on his treks around the world, including to Poland, his ancestral homeland.

As founder and owner of NetherCraft Creations, he designed and manufactured themed surfaces in plastics and metals. His scenic wall panels were described as one of thirteen modern haunt innovations that shook the haunt industry….

Another major work is the Pennsic Cathedral, designed for the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA), a gothic cathedral featuring two rose windows, four flying buttresses, and a vaulted ceiling. Tomak was a member of SCA for over 30 years, where he was allowed to be his own wonderful flavor of strange and extraordinary. Many were his gifts of time, toil, and effort, and his generosity and kindness knew no bounds. He had a great love of teaching and regularly opened his workshop to instruct and mentor in bronze casting, glass casting and bladesmithing. He was an esteemed and favorite guest of many encampments and SCA will dearly miss him.

Click here to see a photo of The Pennsic Cathedral.

Many examples of his work can be seen in the gallery at Julian Bronze.

The Ann Arbor Observer’s 2012 article “Minerva and Cthulhu” has a colorful interview with a couple about the exotic sculpture they commissioned from Baksik. (No photos, unfortunately.)

…Near the porch of the yellow brick suburban house next door, a nearly eight-foot statue of a bearded, three-hoofed, ­octopus-armed Cthulhu, squid-like tentacles protruding from his cloak, stands sentry on a platform, his faux patina nearly blending in with the nearby arborvitae. Poised and ready to pounce from his place on the porch, a small dragon with a hammerhead, serpentine neck, carved scales, and spinelike protrusions displays his fangs.

“They’re real crime deterrents,” jokes Kevin Nickerson, the owner of the home and its unusual art. “Cthulhu alone would scare the hell out of any intruder.” His wife, Jennifer, laughs and says that Cthulhu reminds her of the Davy Jones character in Pirates of the Caribbean.

…Kevin met Tomak Julian Baksik, the creator of all three pieces, through the Society for Creative Anachronism. Mutual interests in science fiction and fantasy—and Kevin’s appreciation for Baksik’s art—cemented their friendship and inspired Kevin to buy the dragon and then to fund the creation and installation of Cthulhu in 2002….

Friends are posting photos of their own projects they worked on with Baksik, including this Facebook album about installing the Hundred Acres Manor Haunted House in Pittsburgh.

Nethercraft, which Baksik founded, also offers an interesting line of vacuumformed panels for use in an “escape room theme, lobby or [to] create that horror filled science lab.” The Steampunk Themed and Space Themed panels are fascinating. A short video shows the latter series assembled as the “Nethercraft Spaceship”.

[Thanks to Anne Gray for the story.]

Farewell to Valerio Evangelisti (1952-2022), Italy’s Greatest SF Writer

Valerio Evangelisti

By Silvio Sosio: Italian sf and horror writer Valerio Evangelisti, 69, died April 18, 2022. The causes have not yet been disclosed.

Evangelisti began his successful career in science fiction in 1993 when his first novel, Nicolas Eymerich l’inquisitore (“Nicolas Eymerich the Inquisitor”) won the Urania Award and became a science fiction bestseller in Italy. After that first novel, Evangelisti wrote eleven more novels about this character, a Catalan inquisitor of the XIV century (based on a real historical character), making Evangelisti probably the most popular Italian science fiction writer.

Evangelisti wrote also a trilogy about the prophecy writer Notradamus, and many historical novels. His work has been translated in several European countries, being greatly appreciated especially in France – the French translation of Nicolas Eymerich l’inquisitore won the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire and Tour Eiffel in 1999. He was also the editor of an online magazine, Carmilla, and conducted some political activity in his own town, Bologna.

[Silvio Sosio is Direttore responsabile for Fantascienza.com.]

Priscilla Tolkien (1929-2022)

Priscilla Tolkien in 2005. Photo by Sancho Proudfoot.

Priscilla Tolkien died February 28 after a short illness at the age of 92. She was the youngest of J.R.R. Tolkien’s children and his only daughter.

Priscilla Tolkien interacted with fandom many times over the years. She attended The Friends of Lewis party held at Magdalen College, Oxford in 1975 hosted by Fr. Walter Hooper, where Owen Barfield, Nevil Coghill, Colin Hardie, A.C. Harwood, Fr. Gervase Mathew, Clyde Kilby, and her brother Fr. John Tolkien were among those present. That’s where Mythopoeic Society founder Glen GoodKnight met her – visiting from the U.S. – and discovered she was then selling books for charitable purposes that had belonged to her father (who died in 1973). About half of these were first edition translations of Tolkien in various languages. GoodKnight bought all he could carry away in two empty suitcases. (GoodKnight died in 2010 and his collection is now at Azusa Pacific University.)

For the U.K.’s Tolkien Society, she wrote “My Father the Artist,” published in a 1976 issue of Amon Hen, the Society bulletin. In 1986 she accepted appointment as the Society’s honorary vice-president, and hosted members of the Society at its annual Oxonmoot.

Priscilla Tolkien in 1992. Via Glen GoodKnight.

Priscilla, Christopher, and John Tolkien were all present at The J.R.R. Tolkien Centenary Conference, held in 1992 in Oxford by the Mythopoeic Society and The Tolkien Society.

In 2005, when the Tolkien Society celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of The Lord of the Rings at Aston University, Birmingham she opened the event by wishing that “a star would shine upon our meeting.”  

She was a probation officer in Oxford, a social worker, and a tutor at High Wycombe College, before retiring.

After her eldest brother John returned to Oxford in 1987, the siblings began identifying and cataloging the large collection of family photographs. In 1992, she and John published the book The Tolkien Family Album containing pictures of the Tolkien family to celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of their father.

She launched the special Tolkien edition Royal Mail stamps commemorating her father’s works in February 2004. 

In 2012, as a trustee of The Tolkien Trust, she joined a coalition of British publishers to sue Warner Brothers for US$80 million, accusing them of exceeding their rights by exploiting Middle-earth characters to promote online gambling (see “What Has It Got In Its Jackpotses?”).

Priscilla is the last of the Tolkien’s four children to pass away, following Michael (1984), John (2003) and Christopher (2020).

Remembering Veronica Carlson (1944-2022)

Steve Vertlieb and Veronica Carlson

[Actress Veronica Carlson died February 27, 2022 at the age of 77.]

By Steve Vertlieb:What follows is truly one of the most personally heartfelt, poignant, and heartbreaking remembrances that I’ve ever felt compelled to write.

Veronica Carlson was a dear, close, cherished friend for over thirty years. I learned just now that this dear sweet soul passed away today. I am shocked and saddened beyond words. May God rest her beautiful soul.

I first encountered my beautiful Veronica at a Fanex convention in 1990. Now, I had been deeply in love with Veronica since I first saw her on screen at the Regal Theater in Philadelphia in 1968 when I went to see the opening performance of “Dracula Has Risen From The Grave” with the wonderful Christopher Lee. When Veronica appeared on camera, however, I thought that my heart would melt.

I thought that she was the most exquisite creature whom I had ever seen. I was hooked from that moment on, and never lost an opportunity to watch the lovely Ms Carlson on screen. It was at a joyous Fanex convention in 1990 that I first met this sweet, gentle creature. I was walking by a gathering of fans in the hotel corridor, and I noticed that Veronica was standing there with them. I turned to look in her direction, too afraid actually to make eye contact, when she simply turned my way as though I had been a part of the conversation from the beginning, and asked what I thought.

I felt as though I had known her forever. She made this complete stranger feel welcome and completely at ease. As a writer and, of course, a poet I asked her if she’d like to read the new poem that I’d written and had brought along with me to the conference. She said that she loved poetry, and would sincerely like to read it. So, I gave her a copy of the poem, and went on my way, never expecting to hear any more of it. The poem, incidentally, was called “Orphan Of The Night,” and concerned a little homeless girl in tattered clothing, seeking comfort and solace from the shadows and menace lurking in the encroaching darkness.

Several hours later, while wandering the hotel hallways, I noticed Veronica walking toward me. As we made eye contact once again, I smiled and said hello. She took my arm in her hands, extended her finger nails and pinched me as hard as she possibly could. Startled, I asked “What was that for?” She replied, rather sweetly I thought, “You made me cry.”

And that, dear reader, was the beginning of a cherished friendship that continued, happily, from that memorable day until now. When I saw Veronica seated at her “Guest” table at The Monster Bash in Pittsburgh during the Summer of 2011, she asked me to sit next to her as she went along signing autographs for the afternoon. We sat and talked for some four hours and, as she conversed with her many admirers, she asked repeatedly “And do you know my friend Steve Vertlieb, the famous writer?”

I chuckled and replied “Veronica, I’m only famous to my mother and to you.”

Later we went out to dinner, and had a lovely time…as we have had every time that I’ve seen her over these past thirty two years. At one particular Fanex convention she asked me quite caringly when I was going to find a girl friend. I looked at her, without the slightest trace of a smile, and said “I’m waiting for you, Veronica.”

There was a moment of awkward silence after that, and then she began to laugh as only Veronica can. What she probably didn’t realize and, perhaps, only partially suspected, was that I wasn’t entirely joking.

During the production of “Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed” in England there was a now notorious sequence in which Dr. Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) viciously rapes Veronica’s character. Peter Cushing objected to its filming, and director Terence Fisher was mortified by its inclusion in the film, threatening to walk out of the production. The scene was never meant to be sexual, but merely an example of Dr. Frankenstein’s intimidation of, and power over, his servants.

The scene was excluded from the film’s original release, but it left its psychological scar upon Veronica who decided to leave the industry, rather than participate in a business that was becoming ever more lurid and suggestive.

It was on the day that Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern Coast of the United States that I returned home from work to find a message awaiting my response on my answer machine. As I listened, I heard the voice of a beautiful woman with a delightful British accent, inquiring as to my safety and concerned about whether I had weathered the storm. She left no name or telephone number, but I thought that it must have been Veronica.

I called her back on her cell phone, and simply said “You never identified yourself.” She began to laugh in that unmistakable, mischievous, full throated laugh that I had come to love, and said that in all of the craziness of the moment, and in her concern for my welfare, that she had forgotten to leave her name. We chuckled and talked for some twenty minutes after that. I cherished our relationship, for she was a beautiful soul, both within and without.

A few years back when Craig Ellis Jamison was in the process of shooting a feature length documentary about my own life and career, I shyly asked Veronica if she might be receptive to appearing on camera to talk about our long friendship. To my utter delight, she said “Yes, of course,” and sat down before the cameras for some thirty minutes to discuss her career, her relationships with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and her long personal friendship with me. While the film was never completed or released, it remains a very special memory of a woman I’d grown to love, admire, and respect.

On one particular visit to the East Coast and a guest appearance at a Philadelphia convention, Veronica had asked everyone she spoke with if they knew me, while wondering aloud if I was coming to the event. I arrived on Saturday of the weekend long convention and, as I meekly peered my head around the corner and into her range of vision, she smiled broadly and proclaimed ever so sweetly “There’s My Steve.”

I last heard from Veronica several months ago when, despite her own significant health problems, she telephoned me at home to express her concerns about my heart issues, recent seizures, and hospitalization. We had a lovely conversation which meant a great deal to me.

I was blessed by the precious gift of her friendship, and the sweet memory of our love … not in a romantic sense, but in the joy and admiration of two dear, cherished friends who somehow found and adored one another. She was, indeed, my very special sister and friend. I miss her already. May God Rest Her Sweet, artistic, and most gracious, sensitive soul.

Rich Lynch: Remembering Roger Sims

By Rich Lynch: I read the news about him today at the File770.com newsblog: “Past Worldcon chair and First Fandom Hall of Fame inductee Roger Sims died January 23 at the age of 91 after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease.

My memories of Roger go back to 1987, when I first met him at the Corflu fanzine convention in Cincinnati.  We only talked for a very short time, but it was enough to cement a friendship that had its roots about a year earlier when I had contacted him about being on the program at the 1986 Atlanta Worldcon.  My wife Nicki and I were organizers of the Fan Programming track at ConFederation, and we wanted to see if he would be available to introduce the highly-entertaining video production FAANS, where he played a hotel detective during a fictional science fiction convention who became drawn into much intrigue involving iconic fannish myths and legends.  Alas, I didn’t actually see him at ConFederation because I missed the panel due to a scheduling conflict.  But after that, Nicki and I were looking for opportunities to preserve some of Roger’s memories about previous fan eras in our fanzine Mimosa.

Me and Roger at the 2011 Worldcon. Photo by Nicki Lynch.

And it turned out there were many.  Roger was a good writer and the articles he authored or co-authored for Mimosa were both entertaining and informative.  They ranged from stories about 1950s science fiction conventions (including the now-famous Room 770 party at the 1951 New Orleans Worldcon) to recollections about nearly-forgotten fan organizations (such as the Morgan Botts Foundation).  From a tale about a memorable fan dinner to a recollection of an even more memorable few months sharing an apartment with Harlan Ellison.  From a story about the possibly apocryphal Second Fandom to a heartfelt remembrance of his closest friend, Lynn Hickman, written not long after Lynn’s passing.  It was our honor and privilege to have published Roger’s essays about his fandom, and I wish there had been more of them.

Even after Mimosa ended its run in 2003, Nicki and I maintained our friendship with Roger and his wife Pat.  Strengthened it, actually.  We crossed paths only a few times each year at Midwestcons and Worldcons, but always looked forward to times where we could sit down and talking and as well as opportunities to dine together.  In particular, Midwestcons were essential fan activities for us because it was a fannish nexus – we knew we could reconnect with Roger & Pat as well as other fans from storied eras of the past.

I can’t remember for sure which Midwestcon it was when I noticed that Roger seemed to be having mobility issues.  Pat informed me that he’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease which I knew would eventually result in his death at some indeterminate point in the future.  And every year after that he seemed a bit more frail, though far from fragile – fandom had been a big part of his life for many decades and my impression was that it would take something truly dire to prevent him from being at his favorite fan gatherings.  And unfortunately, about two years ago, there was.

One of the many things I despise about the pandemic world of 2020 and 2021 was that it curtailed in-person fan events.  The last time I saw Roger, at the 2019 Midwestcon, his wellbeing appeared to have worsened to the point where his attendance at future conventions probably seemed questionable.  But you know, I never really thought that – he was such a constant at Midwestcons that, to me, it seemed inconceivable that he wouldn’t be back.  And then COVID happened.

I wish I could recall what Roger and I talked about during that final Midwestcon for him.  We did have some quality time together and probably shared some memories about recent and long-ago fan happenings.  But I just can’t remember for sure.  So instead I’ll let my mind travel back to a much-earlier Midwestcon.  It was back in 1988, not long before the New Orleans Worldcon where he was the Fan Guest of Honor, that Nicki and I tape-recorded a Saturday night ‘bull session’ where Roger and his friends Howard Devore, Lynn Hickman, and Ray Beam had a grand time reliving their fabulous fandom of the 1950s.  There was a small crowd of fans who had gathered around and I have an image frozen in my mind of all the pleasantness and amusement on faces of people who were there.  And that’s how I’m always going to remember Roger – a good friend who had many memorable experiences that he was happy to share.  And in doing so, made them a permanent part of the legendry of fandom.  As is he.

Roger Sims (1930-2022)

Roger and Pat Sims

Past Worldcon chair and First Fandom Hall of Fame inductee Roger Sims died January 23 at the age of 91 after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease. Bill Cavin sent an email informing some friends, adding that Roger will be cremated, and his ashes buried at sea per his wishes.

After serving a hitch in the postwar U.S. Navy, Roger returned to Detroit and discovered fandom in 1949. He called a phone number in the letter column of a prozine, and got connected to the Detroit Science Fiction League (nicknamed the Misfits).

In 1950 he traveled to Portland, Oregon for the Worldcon – the first of more than 50 he would attend. By the time he went to his second he was fully in the swing of things. At the New Orleans Worldcon of 1951 (Nolacon), he rented a room together with Richard Ellsberry, Max Keasler and Ed Kuss. It was number 770. The party they threw there became a byword for fannish good times, a legend that grew in the telling. Roger said in Mimosa that one of the ‘highlights’ “was a parade around the room in which the marchers rather than walking around the furniture, climbed over it. The march was halted when the slats on one of the beds gave way, spilling fans all over the floor.”

A year later, Roger found he had been catapulted to the top of a list of notables to be introduced at Chicon II, however, his fame had yet to register with the person actually doing the introductions. He recalled in Mimosa:

Opening ceremonies at Chicon found me in the audience; Sam Moskowitz was the Master of Ceremonies. After a ‘short’ speech (as only Sam could) he began to introduce the notables in the audience, and the first words out of his mouth were “Roger Sims!” Now, to this day, I believe that he had not looked at the list until he said those two words; I believe this because the next words out of his mouth were, “Who the Hell is that?” But I stood up anyway. At this point there were a few polite claps and a lot of stares. (The reader should remember that I had, as a result of Room 770, only graduated from the ranks of neo fandom the year before! Now, I’m known for other things, of which most are ‘Rogerisms’, but as Bill Bowers is wont to say, “We love you anyway.”)

During his early days in fandom Roger also acquired the nickname, “Teddy Bear.” According to his friend Lynn Hickman this happened at the 1954 Worldcon in San Francisco when, “Roger was making some moves on a good-looking gal (Irene Baron) and her boyfriend came over and asked her if Roger was bothering her. Irene said: ‘Roger? Of course not. He’s just a Teddy Bear.’”

For a short while, Roger worked in New York City. In 1957, he shared an apartment with Harlan Ellison for three months, yielding enough anecdotes to last a lifetime. As he recalled in a Mimosa interview:

…It was an interesting three months of my life. Harlan was continually broke. I had some money that I had saved up, and I would lend it to him. He would get a check and pay me back, and then two days later he would be broke again. We went back and forth like this for the whole three months. Anyway, he had sold a story to W.W. Scott, who was editor of a SF magazine; Scott was going to send him a check and it would arrive Monday. This was Friday. Well, that would take too long; Harlan had to have the money now, so we went down to Scott’s office. While we were waiting for the check, Scott said to Harlan, “Why don’t you write me a story while you’re waiting?” So Harlan sat down and wrote a story, Scott read it and said, “OK, type it up nicely for me and I’ll buy it.” And he gave Harlan his check, which was for $208. On the way home, we stopped and bought a statue, a book, and a chair. He sent money to his mother, and we took a cab home. We arrived there with seven dollars and fifty cents left….

His first marriage was to Mable “Mae” Young, sister of George Young, another Detroit fan, met when she visited New York. To court her he moved back to Michigan. Soon after arriving he was involved with Detroit’s bid for the 1959 Worldcon. They won, and Roger and Fred Prophet co-chaired Detention, as it was named.

Roger’s first marriage was not a success and the couple divorced. Roger married fellow fan Pat Sims in 1964, having met her at Midwestcon the year before.

Together Roger and Pat hosted Ditto 10 (1997), Ditto 17 (2004) and FanHistoriCon 9 (1999). (Ditto 17 was held in Orlando, because by then the Sims had moved to Florida.)

Roger and Pat also became the 1995 Down Under Fan Fund delegates. Non-fan honors bestowed on them (through fannish connections) included being commissioned as Kentucky Colonels, and being named Honorary Captains of The Belle of Louisville.

Roger and Pat Sims in 1990.

Roger’s one pro sf sale was to Mike Resnick’s Alternate Worldcons (1996), “An Old-Fashioned Worldcon,” – “The 1982 Worldcon in Detroit is a classic event with none of the frills such as Masquerade, movies, gaming, Regency dance, etc. All the trufen attend—all four of them.” (Roger was also a character, in Dick Spelman’s “The Forgotten Worldcon of ’45”, in the same anthology.)

When the Worldcon returned to New Orleans in 1988, Roger was Nolacon II’s Fan Guest of Honor. For the Program Book he “set the record straight” about the famous party at the first Nolacon. (Strong drink may have played a role in everyone’s fun, if that’s what was in the 284 empty glasses Roger estimated were stacked on trays left outside the door.)

In 2020 he was inducted to the First Fandom Hall of Fame.

Lynn Hickman called Roger Sims “the nicest, gentlest, most honest person you would ever want to meet” – the very best way to remember a lifelong fan with many accomplishments.

[Thanks to John L. Coker III for supplying these photos from the archives of First Fandom.]

Bill Wright 1937–2022

Bill Wright. Photo by Cat Sparks.

By Bruce Gillespie: Very sad news received, Bill Wright, stalwart of Australian fandom since the late 1950s, died January 16th in the Alfred Hospital. He would have turned 85 on the 17th. Bill had undergone an exploratory operation for bladder cancer, returned home about a week ago, then rang to say that he had fallen at home and “thought he had broken his back.” He was reachable at the hospital for a couple of days, then not. Thanks to Dick Jenssen for doing his best to stay in touch with his friend of over 60 years. Thanks to his Bill’s sister Rosemary Wright for telling us the sad news.

Bill Wright was a founding member of both ANZAPA and the Nova Mob; HonSec of the Eighth Australian Science Fiction Convention (the eighth Australian Natcon) in 1969; Secretary of Aussiecon in 1975; Awards administrator for the Australian Science Fiction Foundation; Life Member of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club; Founder of Meteor Incorporated; and DUFF delegate in 2013. He received the A. Bertram Chandler Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2017.

He is particularly noted for establishing the Norma Hemming Award for Race, Gender, Sexuality, Class And Disability In Australian Speculative Fiction, and organising it for six years.

His fanzines and apazines include:

  • The Antipodean Areopagus
  • Aussie Transpacific
  • Interstellar Ramjet Scoop
  • The Planet of the Eggs
  • Waiting for Paul J. Stevens Fanzine.
  • The Wright Stuff

(Thanks to Fancyclopedia 3 for the information in Paragraph 2.)

Bill Wright in 1999. Photo by Dick Jenssen.

J. Brian Clarke (1928-2022)

J. Brian Clarke

Canadian sf author J. Brian Clarke (1928-2022) has passed away at the age of 93 reports Robert J. Sawyer, who received the news from Clarke’s son James.

Clarke was the author of 20 published short stories, many of them published in Analog. His first two sales – “Artifact” and “The Ambassadors” were to John W. Campbell and appeared in 1969. Most of the others were sold to Stanley Schmidt, including the stories in Clarke’s popular “Expediter” series. The second story in the series, “Earthgate,” was selected for The 1986 Annual World’s Best SF edited by Wollheim and Saha. The last of nine published stories in the series, “Flaw on Serendip” was nominated for the Aurora Awards in 1990.

Clarke also produced a pair of fix-up novels compiled from works in two different series, The Expediter (1990) and Alphanauts (2006).

Alphanauts won the inaugural A. E. Van Vogt Award given by the Winnipeg Science Fiction Association. Robert J. Sawyer, in his introduction to Alphanauts, said of Clarke’s fiction —

He writes about scientists and engineers, about people who think and do, about problems that have to be solved and the men and women who roll up their sleeves and get the work done. His characters are the kinds of scientists-as-heroes that our real world inexplicably lacks but that were the mainstay of the Golden Age of science fiction.

J. Brian Clarke was a member of SFWA, and SF Canada, as well as a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society, and a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.