Fred Patten (1940-2018)

Fred Patten, a fannish polymath who helped introduce anime to Americans, died November 12.

Fred had lived in a nursing facility since suffering a stroke in 2005. His sister, Sherrill Patten, told LASFS that on November 1 he was found non-responsive, moved to a hospital and treated, but never regained consciousness.

Patten’s first sf convention was the 1958 Worldcon in LA. He joined the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS) in 1960 while still a student at UCLA. He was nominated for a Hugo in 1963 as co-editor of the club’s fanzine Shangri L’Affaires with Al Lewis, Bjo and John Trimble. For his service to LASFS he received the club’s Evans-Freehafer Award in 1965.

L to R: Bill Donaho, Fred Patten, Bruce Pelz. Photo courtesy Metcalf & Brown, taken late 1962 or early 1963.

His biography almost ended in 1965, according to club legend – a party crasher evicted from LASFS’ Halloween event came back and fired a shot through the window, narrowly missing him.

Fred took a master’s degree from UCLA’s School of Library Science in 1963, writing his thesis on the books of Andre Norton. He joined Hughes Aircraft in 1969 as a technical catalogue librarian and worked there until 1990.

He was an insatiable reader and enthusiastic critic. He gained fame as one of the prolific, insightful reviewers for Dick Geis’ Hugo-winning Science Fiction Review along with Paul Walker, Ted Pauls and Richard Delap.

From 1975 to 1977, Delap and Patten produced their own monthly review journal, Delap’s F&SF Review.

Fred also had a strong interest in comics and graphic storytelling. He collected foreign language works like Tintin and Asterix, built a small import business by taking orders from friends, then for awhile tried to make a go of a publication, Graphic Story World, and a bookstore, Graphic Story Bookshop, with Richard Kyle in Long Beach.

He first encountered Japanese manga at the 1970 Westercon, and soon discovered anime. Home video recording units were becoming common, which made it practical if not easy for people to obtain copies of things shown on Japanese TV or syndicated in America. He co-founded the first American anime fan club, the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, in 1977, and was recognized with Comic-Con’s Inkpot Award in 1980 for introducing anime to American fandom.

Fred started establishing contacts with Japanese anime production companies. Toei Animation’s Hollywood representative, then trying to sell an American production of its TV giant-robot animation, gave Fred lots of graphics to write articles for popular-culture magazines like Starlog promoting anime. Over the next 25 years Fred wrote enough pieces to fill a book, Watching Anime, Reading Manga: 25 Years of Essays and Reviews (2004).

These connections led Fred into regular contact with professional animators in Hollywood, where he clashed with them about their stereotyped views of Japanese animation:

Anime also got me into the biggest fight that I have ever been in, with Bill Scott of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame, at the meetings of ASIFA-Hollywood. Scott dismissed Japanese animation as unimaginative costumed-hero stuff, in horribly limited animation. I rebutted, “You should talk! Rocky and Bullwinkle may be brilliant, but it’s hardly for the quality of its animation. You have it animated at one of the cheapest studios in Mexico City. As for the giant-robot stereotype, there’s much more variety in Japanese animation than there is in American animation. It’s that the anime fans don’t want to watch anything besides giant robots.” But it was a lost cause. I was drowned out by Scott and the other American animation-industry veterans chanting, “Poor animation! Awful animation!” I dropped out of ASIFA-Hollywood for several years.

At the same time anime fandom was taking off, there was a parallel development among people interested in anthropomorphic comics and fiction, and Fred was an active participant. Furry fandom began with the amateur press associations (APAs) Vootie and Rowrbrazzle. Vootie, “The Fanzine of the Funny Animal Liberation Front”, run by Reed Waller & Ken Fletcher of Minneapolis s-f fandom, ran from 1976 to 1983. Marc Schirmeister started its replacement, the quarterly Rowrbrazzle, beginning in February 1984.

While helping to nurture these new branches of fandom, Fred remained highly active in mainstream fandom. He chaired the 1974 Santa Barbara Westercon, and the 1987 Loscon. He was on the committees of the 1972, 1984, and 1996 Worldcons. (For L.A.Con, the 1972 Worldcon, he edted the Program Book, and published the daily newzine Wabbit Twacks — a reference to the work of Frederik Pohl, the GoH).

He and John Foyster started the Down Under Fan Fund in 1972, to exchange visiting fans between Australasia and North America in the tradition of TAFF.

In 1971 he was DeepSouthCon’s fan guest of honor.

L.A.Con banquet. Milt Stevens, Fred Patten, Carol Pohl, Frederik Pohl, Dian Crayne. From the collection of Len & June Moffatt.

A highly respected fanhistorian, Fred’s research was helped by his access to Forry Ackerman’s collection of the earliest fanzines. He did an excellent series of articles about Worldcon history for MidAmeriCon’s (1976) progress reports. And he was a dependable authority whose views mattered in debates about whether the first SF convention was Leeds or Philly, and whether the LASFS or PSFS was the oldest existing SF club.

Unfortunately, Fred became bedridden after suffering a stroke in 2005, although with the aid of his sister Sherrill he did sometimes go in a wheelchair to LASFS or visit fans at her apartment, where she fixed up one room as his library with SF art and some awards hanging on the walls. And with the use of a MacBook Pro laptop computer he stayed active in fandom, typing with one finger. Remarkably, he was able to sustain his uninterrupted string of contributions to LASFS’ weekly APA-L until 2009, having an issue of his fanzine ¡Rábanos Radiactivos! in every distribution – for 2,279 weeks in all.

Moving into a convalescent home forced him to give up his sff collection. He donated almost 900 boxes of comic books, records, tapes, anime, manga, fanzines and books to UC Riverside’s Eaton Collection.

Despite finding typing to be much harder after the stroke, his productivity was remarkable. In 2013 he reported that he was reviewing books for three websites and writing a weekly column for another.  In the past half-dozen years he’s edited 14 anthologies of anthropomorphic fiction. He also compiled fanhistorical works like Furry Fandom Conventions 1989-2015.

Fred’s indomitable fannish spirit was acknowledged with a Special Committee Award by the 2006 Worldcon, L.A.con IV, “in celebration of a lifetime of service to Fandom.” He was named Fan GoH of Loscon in 2006, and won LASFS’ Forry Award in 2009. And he was inducted to the Furry Hall of Fame in 2012 at the MiDFur convention in Melbourne, Australia, for a lifetime of service to Furry fandom.

20 thoughts on “Fred Patten (1940-2018)

  1. Fred did a fantastic job as agent for Aussiecon in the period up to 1975. He also organised many prominent artists into sending their works to Melbourne, for what was probably the best, and certainly the most representative, Art Show ever seen Down Under. This involved a huge amount of work beforehand, collecting the material together and having it packed into multiple crates for air shipment.
    Sadly missed. All sympathy to Sherrill, who made immense sacrifices to make life more livable for Fred.
    Robin Johnson

  2. Sorry to hear this sad news. Fred was the reason I came to LA and joined LASFS after HeiCon in 1970. A good and friendly man who always reached out. Ad Astra, Fred.

  3. Fred is also missed by every member of APATOONS, where his contribs were enjoyed for the crisp artwork and insider opinions. I have to say, I’ve only just realized how modest he is—he didn’t mention any of this stuff in the apa, at least that I recall (which is an escape clause a robot carnival could slide through).

  4. I knew Fred through comic and anime fandom, Apa’s and personal correspondence years before I moved to LA in 1986. When Carl Macek and I started Streamline Pictures in 1989 there was only one person we knew we needed to assist us – Fred. He became out first employee, and was with the company to its bitter end. We were friends and colleagues beyond that, with Fred contributing to many of my book projects including The Animated Movie Guide and another book, Animation Art, as well as writing a weekly column for my group-blog, Cartoon Research. Farewell Fred. You are off to a better place – and made the world you left behind a better place too.

  5. I only met Fred a few times, but I’m very sorry to hear this news.

    I’ve forgotten Fred had been the author of those MidAmericon Worldcon-history articles. I enjoyed them a lot, and would have liked to see more years covered.

  6. Fred was an institution by himself and is going to be missed by a huge section of furry fandom. I worked with and for Fred for the past 6 years to publish his reviews of furry fiction and his furry history articles.

    There’s a list of his articles at top here, I worked with him to start cataloguing all of them on the web. It’s incomplete with the most recent 2 years of stuff still needing to get listed.

    Here’s a list of thanks and praise to Fred from many furry writers and fans, from last christmas.

  7. The husband and I belonged to C/FO back in the day when you had to know someone in Japan to send you video tapes of anime, and then puzzle out what was going on with no dubs or subtitles.

    The fact that you can’t go anywhere in the US nowadays without falling over anime is largely due to Fred.


  8. I remember the VHS days. My friend Mike would come over with some new dubs, and we’d watch the TV shows. Some really interesting and incomprehensible ad would begin, and we’d be even more interested in that than in the show—and they’d end after two seconds, and we’d imagine some guy back in Japan being angry at himself for leaving so much of the boring, silly ads in to annoy his unseen US audience.

  9. I think I first met Fred at the 1963 Worldcon, then was a member, from NY, of Apa-L for a couple of years. Got to see him again at the 1966 WesterCon, and a week later, at my first, and only, LASFS meeting at Silver Lake Playground. I’m pretty sure you have photos of mine with him in them from that era.

  10. Fred was also a member of FNC (Furthest North Crew) since its inception; that was an APA that hit its 100th issue in 2016, with me as one of the two editors at the time. After his stroke we granted him an ’emeritus’ status of sorts so he could continue to receive the APA despite being unable to achieve minac for obvious reasons.

    He also helped get me my first two publishing credits.

    Not only was he a ‘founding father’ of fandom, he was very much into getting people involved so that things could carry on after him. He will be missed, but it’s thanks to much of his own work that the fandom will continue.

  11. Mike, still waiting for Melissa Conway’a eloquent remembrance. Do you still have it?

    They knew each other in those last years, and she is quite distraught, as are those of us who had the pleasure of knowing Fred.

  12. My friendship with Fred began after he donated his voluminous collection to the Eaton Collection. Accompanied by his sister Sherrill, he made almost monthly visits to Eaton to help with the processing of his collection, and to do his own research. I was always awed by his tenacious memory, the breadth of his knowledge in so many areas, and his determination to continue to contribute to sf scholarship in spite of his physical limitations. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to spend so many happy afternoons in Fred’s company, and one of my fondest memories is sharing his delight when he learned he had merited an entry in a Japanese encyclopedia of anime as “The World’s Oldest Living Otaku.”

    I also want to acknowledge the debt that all us who loved Fred owe to his amazing sister Sherrill (aka Sherry) whose dedication to Fred’s well-being during the past twelve and a half years went beyond what anyone could have expected one sibling to do for another. It was Sherry who drove Fred the two hours each way to Eaton once a month, undertaking the arduous transfer of Fred from her van to his wheelchair (and back) without complaint. Sherry was also Fred’s medical advocate, making sure he always got the best care; his research assistant, literally serving as his “right hand” when he needed to take notes; his librarian, making almost daily trips to the L.A. Public Library to keep up with Fred’s voracious reading; his art curator, dedicating a room in her apartment to his large art collection; his IT specialist, making sure his laptop was in good working order at all times; his patron, purchasing the van to transport him, and all the little extras that he wanted or needed; and his best friend.

    I extend my deepest condolences to Sherry and Fred’s other sister,Loel, his two nieces, two grand-nephews, and all his treasured friends in Furry Fandom and at LASFS, his “true home” in the world. RIP, Fred! We’ll miss you.

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  15. Let me add to these glowing remembrances Fred’s participation as a keynote speaker at my second international animation conference, The Life of Illusion, here in Sydney in 1995.

    Fred’s meticulous research, encyclopaedic knowledge and powerful sense of injustice informed his impressive and persuasive talk, ‘Simba Versus Kimba: The Pride of Lions’, published in my second animation anthology, The Illusion of Life 2: More Essays on Animation, Power Publications, Sydney, 2007.

    It is accompanied in the volume by his astonishingly comprehensive ‘Annotated Chronology of Pertinent Works and Publications Relevant to The Lion King and to the Controversy’.

    It was a delight to have Fred here in Sydney, as it was to visit him from 1995 on whenever I passed through LA.

    Although infrequent, each gettogether with Fred, and his wonderful, devoted sister Sherry, was a happy and memorable experience.

    Fred was a remarkable person who accomplished many singular things and made many singular contributions.

    He shall be greatly missed.

    Alan Cholodenko
    Senior Lecturer in Film and Animation Studies (ret)
    Honorary Associate
    The University of Sydney

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