James H. Burns Has Died

James H Burns

A day of mourning. Frequent File 770 contributor James H. Burns has died, found by his landlord on June 2. A month ago Jim was hospitalized for blood clots in his legs and put on blood thinners. After he was released, Jim also told me he was troubled by other medical “mysteries,” comparing his case to an episode of House but without ever saying in so many words what the problems were.

Now other friends of Burns’ are saying on Facebook that doctors found a lump in his lungs and he’d been scheduled for a biopsy on Wednesday, but having no one to go with him had stayed home. By the next day he passed away.

Jim was about 56 years old. When this photo was taken by Patrick O’Neill in 1976 or 1977, he was about thirteen or fourteen years old – and already writing for some of the science fiction film magazines. (On the right is longtime sf fan and 1970s convention organizer, Steve Rosenstein.)

File 770's very own James H. Burns (back when he was more usually known as Jim!), circa 1976 or 1977 (when he was only thirteen or fourteen years old, but already writing for some of the science fiction film magazines!), with long time SF fan and 1970s convention organizer, Steve Rosenstein. Photo by Patrick O’Neill.

James H. Burns circa 1976 or 1977 with long time SF fan and 1970s convention organizer, Steve Rosenstein. Photo by Patrick O’Neill.

He was among the first writers for Starlog and a contributing editor to Fantastic Films, and Steranko’s Prevue. Jim was one of the first genre magazine nonfiction writers to cross over to mainstream publications like Gentleman’s Quarterly, Esquire and American Film, while continuing to write for Cinefantastique, Starburst, Heavy Metal and Twilight Zone magazines.

Jim also had the chance to appear in some movies, given minor parts in Igor and the Lunatics (1985), On the Q.T. (1999) and For Love of the Game (1999).

In his last years he became active in radio, and authored Op-Eds and features for Newsday, The Village Voice, thesportingnews.com and The New York Times.

Jim had a large fund of anecdotes about sf, movies, tv and the New York theater, which he enjoyed sharing on several fannish blogs and in the forums at the Classic Horror Film Board.

Around 2012, Jim discovered File 770. Initially I was signal boosting his pieces for other sites, Jim earning his way by authoring entertaining original “hooks” that made fans want to click and read the rest.

I always wished Jim was writing that stuff for me – and eventually my wish came true. He became one of the most active and creative participants here. The past two years we’ve exchanged e-mails every couple of days, Jim constantly coming up with ideas, drafting new articles, or finding ways to adapt material published earlier in his career.

Jim was especially proud of a trio of posts that paid tribute to the influence of his father — My Father, And The Brontosaurus, Sons of a Mesozoic Age, and World War II, and a Lexicon in Time.

Quite often his posts here were inspired by memories of “growing up fannish,” such as the very popular Once, When We Were All Scientists, and CLANKY!.

He also wrote about celebrities he’d known (Joe Franklin, R.I.P., THE Man from U.N.C.L.E.), comics history (Marvel Comics to Implode — End of a Fifty-Plus Year Era and Lee Falk’s Phantom of Happy Memory), longtime figures in NY fandom who’d passed away (Alan Levine, “Original Dealer,” 79 Years Old, R.I.P.), and pop culture classics that needed a champion (Are We Ready Again For George Pal’s Puppetoons?).

Jim’s strength as a writer was his ability to remind readers why they were – as he was – sentimentally attached to the works and experiences that brought us into fandom. That’s been a lifeline for me amid the uninterrupted controversies that fill my blog. Filers often ask each other what they love. That question was one Jim clearly enjoyed answering over and over. How much he will be missed.

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55 thoughts on “James H. Burns Has Died

  1. Jim was one of my dearest, most cherished friends. He was a brother to me. I am heartbroken by his passing, and by this interminable loss and emptiness in my life. May his soul rest eternally in paradise.

  2. Dear Mr. Burns, your steady encouragement, knowledge, kindness, and crappy jokes will be dearly missed. You’ve made a monster cry.

  3. I met Jim at a Lunacon (Sci-Fi), convention, and he was the friend of Charles Collins. I was to find that we had other friends in common. Although we somehow never got to know each other well, fate kept us intersecting into each other’s lives. We had many similar interests, but never got to discuss this. After I saw him at various conventions through the years, we might talk, or grab a fast dinner, but go our own ways. But in 1993 a gorgeous blonde woman came up to me at a house party, slams me one in the arm, and says that because I never telephoned her after we met, she went and married the wrong man. The party’s host, George Koch, then clarified that this woman had confused us. She took me for Jim, as we were the same height, weight, and coloring. Years later, after her divorce became legal, she and I did date on and off, even up to earlier this winter. But fate threw Jim and I together two more times. After not seeing him for years, I thought I spotted him at a party at a Temple in New Hyde Park. I figured I had just seen someone who resembled him, but was much older. Then last fall of 2015, his ‘clone’, as if in a sci-fi story, appeared at the same Temple, for services on a Friday night. Then, I approached him and asked if he was indeed the real Jim Burns. I then told him that he had a sock in the arm coming; was he ready for it ? He broke out laughing, as someone had already conveyed my being punched by this woman back in 1993. “You, you’re Laurence, aren’t you. Wait…I know you and used to see you at the houses of friends at parties….and even author Chris Steinbrunner’s funeral. I didn’t realize that you took one in the arm for me, until recently”. Yeah, I wryly told him, and its still sore. I drove him back to his apartment that night as he had no car. His personal life was not faring well at that time, and he was sharing an apartment. We talked until 2 A.M. We swapped e mails and phone numbers, and we communicated for the next months. I had no idea that he had written his final story…and there would be no more jokes or current crossing of life’s paths. Rest in peace Jim. And by the way. My arm is no longer black and blue but my hand recalls your last handshake.

  4. Pingback: Remembering James H. Burns | File 770

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