Ed Meskys (1936-2021)

Hugo-winning fanzine editor Ed Meskys, a co-founder of American Tolkien fandom, died of a heart attack on July 25 at the age of 85.

Fred Lerner, who received the news from Ed’s wife, Sandy, adds that Ed “had been in declining health for some time, but was in good spirits when I visited him and Sandy two months ago. I first met Ed 58 years ago and have treasured my friendship with him ever since.”

Meskys found fandom in 1955 and joined a local sf club. He was then 19 and living in the Bay Area of California. During the Sixties he moved to New York (where he joined the Lunarians), then to New Hampshire, his home for the rest of his life.

Ed was born in Brooklyn in 1936 of parents born in Lithuania. His father was displaced by WWI in 1917. His father later married and brought his mother from over from Lithuania in 1930. Meskys spoke Lithuanian at home and learned English as second language when started school. In 1962, Ed took a job at the Lawrence Radiation Labs in Livermore, California, where he had a “Q” (nuclear weapons) security clearance. He also held summer jobs at Fort Monmouth NJ (secret clearance) and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He has a BS (cum laude) and MS in Physics from St. John’s University in New York. He preferred teaching to research and started at Belknap College in Center Harbor, NH in 1966.

Andrew Porter remembers meeting Ed at the Open ESFA meetings in New York more than 60 years ago. “Perhaps the first fan I ever met. A good friend for all this time. So many memories of Ed, ranging from his fanzines (including Hugo Award-winning Niekas) to his enthusiasm for all things Gilbert & Sullivan, his days at Livermore Radiation Labs [in California], where he worked on designing A-bombs, his enthusiasm for the NYC subway system, his booming voice, his passion for Lithuanian food, his ability, after he became blind, to see us as we were when he was sighted, not as we’ve aged to become, his many service dogs which doubled as vacuum cleaners for any food on the floor at parties…”

Ed became fully blind in 1971 from a detached and torn retina in his remaining eye, having previously lost sight in the other one in 1953 due to juvenile diabetes. He learned to navigate with the help of a guide dog, and over the years these dogs, who allowed Ed to keep going to conventions, became fannish friends, too. They were mourned when they reached the end of their lives — the 1972 Worldcon’s daily newzine reported there would be a wake for Ed’s old guide dog “Judge” who’d previously been put down because of cancer of the spleen. Ed’s last dog, “Gyro,” died in 2016 — a dog given the public name of “Killer Dog” (to avoid having people call to him when they shouldn’t), which also recognized the dog’s reputation for destroying toy Teddy Bears.

NIEKAS. In 1962, Meskys gave his existing apazine a new name — Niekas — and a new mission: “Since there was no Tolkien fanzine being published I decided to devote Niekas to Tolkien and try to run at least one Tolkien related piece in each issue.” The name itself had nothing to do with Tolkien, but was an inside joke whose meaning Ed enjoyed explaining with a story. Peggy Rae McKnight (later Sapienza) began publishing Etwas in 1960; “We traded fanzines at the time, her Etwas (German for something) for my Niekas (Lithuanian for nothing).”

Meskys had a series of co-editors on Niekas. Anne Chatland worked on the early issues. Felice Rolfe (later Maxam) co-edited the issues that gained a Hugo nomination in 1966 and won the Best Fanzine Hugo in 1967. Two decades later the issues Ed produced with Mike Bastraw, Anne Braude, and Todd Frazier also received a Hugo nomination in 1989. Frazier continued to help with Niekas until he died in 2012.

Ed had a hand in another famous fanzine, too. He helped Charlie Brown and Dave Vanderwerf found Locus, today the trade paper of the sff field, which began life in 1968 as a zine to promote Boston’s bid for the Worldcon. (They would later host the 1971 con.) Meskys was involved through the first year’s issues ‘til his work on the 1968 Tolkien Conference commanded all his time.

TOLKIEN. Ed not only dedicated Niekas to fostering an interest in J.R.R. Tolkien, towards that end he edited such publications as The Tolkien JournalValinorian Times, and Green Dragon.

He was one of the organizers of Tolkien fandom in the U.S. He was president of the Tolkien Society of America from 1967-1972, taking over after first Thain of the Society had to give it up.

He organized the 1968 Belknap College Tolkien Conference, held at Belknap College in New Hampshire, where Ed was a professor. It was a scholarly literary conference where papers were presented, many of them by people from the sf community, such as Lester del Rey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Dainis Bisenieks, and Fred Lerner.

In 1972, at Ed’s suggestion, Tolkien Society of America merged with the Mythopoeic Society founded by Glen GoodKnight, and overnight the Mythopoeic Society grew to more than a thousand members. Ed became a guest of honor at Mythcon in 1975.

OTHER INTERESTS. Ed also was part of the group created by sf fans who love Georgette Heyer Regency roman novels, called Almack’s Society for Heyer Criticism.

He was an associate member of the modern First Fandom club.

Outside of fandom, Ed provided leadership to the National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire, acting as president of both the NH state affiliate and the Lakes Region local chapter. He and Sandy, whom he married in 1989, lived in rural Moultonboro, NH, in the summer and in North Carolina in the winter.

Late in life he was still producing his email-only fanzine The View From Entropy with help from family and friends.

Ed is survived by his wife, Sandy, and a son from his first marriage, Stanley.

11 thoughts on “Ed Meskys (1936-2021)

  1. I’ll paraphrase an amusing vignette about Ed and one of his guide dogs that Nicki witnessed at a convention many years ago.

    Ed was sharing a room with Art Widner and they had both become hammered after several hours of drink and conversation in the Cincinnati Fan Group hospitality suite. One of the other fans in the room asked if they needed any help in getting back to their room, to which Ed replied, “No thanks, the dog knows the way.”

  2. Hilde and I met Ed in, I think, 1991, though not strictly via sf fandom. Ed had come to Phoenix for a National Federation of the Blind convention, and was staying with Anne Braude (who, as noted, had been a co-editor on Niekas) in her Scottsdale townhouse.

    Anne had a bad case of social anxiety disorder, and mostly socialized via copious correspondence. Ed and I had traded fanzines in the past, so he contacted us and asked Hilde and me to visit him at Anne’s place while he was in town.

    As it turned out, Anne and Hilde hit it off very well together, and Anne became one of our closest friends (though we were never able to convince her to come to one of the local conventions) all the way thru to her death in 2009.

    So always grateful to Ed for that. We’ve only been in very occasional contact with Ed in recent years, but we thought of him occasionally, and hoped he and Sandy were doing well. We’re both saddened to hear of his passing.

  3. I ran many a dealers room with Ed as one of the vendors. We always made sure to give him a table next to an opening for easy access. I don’t know as he ever really sold anything, but he enjoyed sitting and talking to people. At the Ditto in Newport RI, I learned his last name was pronounced “mesh-keys”, with an accent over the first s.

    My sympathies to Sandy.

  4. Sympathies to Sandy.

    I first met Ed at, I believe, a Suncon staff meeting in 1976. I was quite impressed with a blind fan publishing a regular fanzine and acquired a few issues of Niekas in trade.

    I regret that though we both lived in New Hampshire, we never managed to get together.

  5. I’ve known Ed from before he lost all of his sight, and have carried his zine, Niekas, at my dealer table or at his which adjoined mine. Arisia, Boskone, Lunacon… those were the days! I remember that huge printing press he had in his cellar; it had some quirks, but he got issues of Niekas printed on it. A legend has crossed the Rainbow Bridge…

  6. Professor Edmond Meskys and I met during my Junior and Senior years at Belknap College. I attended his physics and astrophysics classes and coffee events at his home. Since graduating in 1973, I went on to earn two advanced degrees. Like him, I gravitated towards teaching after industry design and later managing of companies. He and wife Sandy were our guests at the mug, especially in 2013 on the 40-th anniversary of my graduation and the College’s 50-th year of founding.
    Ed and I stayed in constant contact through the years, the last call being this spring. My wife Chris and I are very sad that Ed has passed-away and wish the best for his surviving Wife Sandy and son Stanley.

    Harry and Christine Bridges
    9518 Clark St.
    Philadelphia, PA 19115

  7. Funny how different people remember different things about people.
    I met Ed when I came to California in 1966, mainly through my soon to be wife, Diana L. Paxson. But, being in fandom, I would certainly have met him otherwise. He was a presence, and the thing that always pops into my mind is how much fun he was to be around. Once he became accompanied by the dogs, I had two people to hang out with whenever I got to see him.

    I don’t think I ever ‘realized’ that he was a physicist. There was fandom, and Tolkien, and trips to The Lamplighters to see Gilbert and Sullivan, and a million other things to talk about. He had a wonderful sense of humor.

    I look back on that group of people to whom I gravitated, with Ed, and Anne Braude, and Diana, and of course the Andersons, and it is all warm fuzzy, and what fandom had promised all along.

  8. There will be a funeral service on September 11th at 11am at St Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Meredith, NH

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  10. Mike Glyer: I’m late to the party per usual. I was doing a Google search for photo reference of Ed and your article popped up. Very well done, indeed. Through our conversations, I knew a lot of the basic facts of Ed’s life, but you presented many juicy bits that made me realize, even more so, what a full life my friend led before we first met at the end of the 70s. I don’t believe that you and I ever actually met but you and File 770 were well-known in the Niekas clubhouse. As virtual strangers, I will ask if you have a higher-octane version of the image from the 1965 London con? If so, and are willing to pass it on, please and thank you. Best. Mike.

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