Jim Harmon Dies

Well-known fan Jim Harmon died February 16. I had the good luck to meet him for the first time at last year’s Loscon. Unfortunately, on the last day of the con he suffered a mild heart attack and was briefly hospitalized and now, less than three months later, he has passed away.

Harmon was one of the many fans who also enjoyed professional success in sf, writing more than 50 stories for the prozines. Later he gained a strong following in another fandom, among the followers of “old time radio.” His friend Martin Grams recalls:

In 1967, he published The Great Radio Heroes which to this day, is considered a milestone for reference books about old-time radio. Prior to that book, there was nothing really published that truly documented old-time radio through interviews and newspaper articles. Not only was he the first to do any sort of real research, but his smooth prose offered his generation a chance to revisit feelings of nostalgia.

In the mid-Seventies Harmon was West Coast editor of Monsters of the Movies, Marvel’s version of Famous Monsters of Filmland. In 1977 he was presented the Inkpot Award by the San Diego Comic-Con.

For better or worse, Harmon’s early fannish fame revolved around the “Midwestcon Door Incident.” As Harry Warner wrote in A Wealth of Fable:

Around 8 p.m. on May 27, 1954, Harlan Ellison was engaging in the ancient fannish pastime of tossing water encased in paper bags from a window when Jim Harmon happened by the impact point of one missle on the sidewalk. Several fans went immediately to the room where Ellison locked himself. Informed that Harlan was not receiving visitors, Harmon “hit the door about four times with my fist and it splintered and fell down,” as Jim remembered the event later. Ellison, undiscouraged, simply locked himself in another room with an intact door until police arrived.

Later, so Buck Coulson told Mimosa readers:

The police left and that evening Harlan came around to various room parties, apologizing for the affair and taking up a collection to pay for the broken door. A bit later, Harmon came around, ‘disguised’ in Lynn Hickman’s coat (which was about half the size he usually wore), apologizing for the incident… and taking up a collection to pay for the broken door. Our group tossed quarters to each one.

It’s a funny part of fanhistory, but Harmon outgrew it years ago. We can count on Harmon’s memory remaining alive in several different fandoms for years to come.

[Thanks to Lee Gold and Andrew Porter for the story.]

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2 thoughts on “Jim Harmon Dies

  1. I loved reading The Great Radio Heroes. It was detailed, evocative, and very funny. Even though Jim followed it up with The Great Radio Comedians, his Heroes book was funnier.

  2. Though I was born after its era had passed, The Great Radio Heroes unlocked the world of radio drama for me. It allowed me to share my dad’s enthusiasm for the medium, and helped me appreciate the recorded shows I was able to hear, here and there, in the 1960s and beyond. I loved this book and Harmon’s other books on the subject. Sad to hear of his passing.

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