Dick Spelman (1931-2012)

Line for Robert Heinlein's autograph at the LASFS clubhouse in 1973. Dick Spelman is in the center holding a copy of "I Will Fear No Evil". Photo by Bill Warren.

Dick Spelman passed away March 6. After radiation treatments failed to eradicate his cancer, declining health led to his hospitalization with pneumonia and finally placement in hospice care.

Dick was a renowned book dealer at Midwestern conventions in the 1980s, selling new books from a huge island of tables in the huckster’s room. He retired in 1991, sold the business to Larry Smith and Sally Kobee, and moved to Orlando.

Dick had early contacts with fandom, writing letters to the prozines, and his brother Henry belonged to Boston’s Strangers Club. Dick attended the 1952 Worldcon in Chicago but he didn’t go to another until 1972 (L.A.con). By then he was living in Los Angeles and that’s when he transformed into a real actifan.

I got to know him when he joined LASFS in 1973. Dick joined the short-lived sf discussion group we started once LASFS bought its first clubhouse. Milt Stevens, Elst Weinstein and I were among the others in the sparsely-attended group.

During the Seventies Dick was an active collector and researcher. In 1978 he issued four well-respected chapbooks which listed the production of several book publishers: Science Fiction and Fantasy Published by Ace Books (1953-1968), Science Fiction and Fantasy Published by Arkham House (1939-1976), Science Fiction and Fantasy Published by Ballantine Books (1953-1977), and Science Fiction and Fantasy Published by Avalon Books.

Along the way Dick developed his book business and moved back to the Midwest. Dealers who make the rounds of conventions have a golden opportunity to become influential figures in fan politics and Dick made a rapid ascent. A chapter is devoted to him — “Dick Spelman: From SMIF to SMOF” — in Mike Resnick’s Once a Fan. He became a director of the Chicon IV (1982) Worldcon committee, served as president of ISFiC, belonged for awhile to MCFI, and chaired the 1982 Windycon. He worked many more conventions as staff.

Resnick published two of Dick’s stories in the most fannish of his anthologies, “The Forgotten Worldcon of ’45” in Alternate Worldcons (1994) and “The Worldcon of 2001” in Again, Alternate Worldcons (1996). (If you’re curious, the NESFA Recursive Science Fiction site gives the plots of these stories.)

Dick was honored as Fan GoH at the1987 Windycon and the 1991 Marcon.

How much we’ll miss him!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

8 thoughts on “Dick Spelman (1931-2012)

  1. I bought books from him. I remember being short but he let me have a particular book anyway, and when I next saw him I paid him what I owed him. He was surprised, as he had forgotten all about it.

    I’m sorry he’s gone. I keep losing people I knew, and the fandom I knew keeps shrinking.

  2. When I lived in Chicago and first got into Fandom, I used to ride to various conventions in the Midwest with Dick and help him with his table. Great guy and I’m sorry he’s gone. One of the really nice people that kept me coming back to conventions. S***!

  3. Not sure who you’re speaking of as being “in front” of Dick, David, but none of the folks in the foreground are David Gerrold.

  4. I’m saddened to read of Dick’s (Richard Spelman,Bookseller) passing . He was a;ways a good friend and an invaluable “older brother” to a young dealer oh so long ago. He also handled the exhibit hall for the New Orleans World Fantasy Convention in 1994.

    He had a wry sense of humor and combined a great love of the genre and fandom with a very keen ability to analyze a convention on many levels.

    I’ll miss our dinners at conventions and “catching up” on our different travels.

  5. Craig: I meant the man immediately forward of Mr. Spelman, wearing glasses and bent slightly forward as well. If you say that wasn’t David, I have no reason to not believe you.

    Thank you for the clarification.

  6. @David: On the LASFS website there is a photo of Gerrold from those days and his hairstyle was comparable to an Afro at the time.

  7. Dick was a great friend to me when he lived in Chicago and still when he moved to Cincinnati. I learned a lot about life from talking to and watching Dick. He will be greatly missed.

    The Great Convention in the Sky just got a heck of a Dealer Room Manager as well.

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