Jim Young (1951-2012)

Jim Young at the 1993 World SF Convention, Confrancisco. Photo by © Andrew I. Porter.

Jim Young, who helped make Minneapolis fandom legendary, died peacefully on June 12 around 11:10 a.m., a week after emergency surgery for a malignant brain tumor. He never regained consciousness. He was 61 years old.

Jim was present at the creation of MN-Stf, The Minnesota Scientifiction Society, in 1966. He “did nearly everything” at the first Minicon in 1968 remembers Fred A Levy Haskell. Even Minicon’s famous blog was rumored to have originated as a punch recipe learned from his mother.

Jim was the original spearhead for the Minneapolis in ’73 Worldcon bid. Having been lucky enough to lose to Toronto, Minneapolis fans never stopped throwing bid parties.

And naturally Jim participated in Minneapa, the local amateur publishing association. Jim appears in the third row of this 1974 photo of Minneapans with a drink in his hand. (Blog, perhaps?)

Jim’s career in the State Department’s Foreign Service took him to Botswana, Russia, Nigeria, and England. After retiring as the U.S. Coordinator for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) he moved to Southern California and worked tirelessly to break into the entertainment industry.

He also made his mark as a pro writer with two SF novels, The Face of the Deep (1979) and Armed Memory (1995), and four stories. “Microde City” inspired the cover of Asimov’s June 1993 issue, which depicted one of the Hammerheads who use their genetic engineering technology to transform humans into sharks. Dave Langford’s eye was caught by a line in Jim’s “Ultraviolet Night” (F&SF, March 2004) – if getting quoted in Thog’s Masterclass is not a pat on the back, I suspect Jim intended the effect he created:

As he stood there waiting for his lower brain to stop broadcasting retaliatory lizard thoughts, it occurred to him that this was a message loaded with semantic interference, a veritable Cadillac of cognitive dissonance.

Jim’s final two published stories were “The Whirlwind” in F&SF (Jan./Feb. 2011) and “Spamhead” in 10Flash Quarterly (March 2011, full text available free here).

In one of my last conversations with Jim he said he had a novel on submission with Tor. And last year we exchanged e-mails as we both hoped to get a story out of his latest role – he played Adolf Hitler in Nazis at the Center of the Earth (under the name James Maxwell). Jim was waiting on a green light from the director, in whose good graces he naturally wanted to remain. For whatever reason we never got that done and the project went straight to video this spring. I’m sorry I didn’t get to write that up, and the rest of the stories that might have come from the acting career he enjoyed so much.

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7 thoughts on “Jim Young (1951-2012)

  1. All sympathies to his family and friends. A similar thing happened to my paternal grandmother, who never woke up after brain surgery, either.

  2. I will never forget the times Jim and I would chat in the office of the Minnesota Technolog (the student publication of the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Technology) back in 1975-1976, literally about everything. He could not believe how badly the student newspaper, the Minnesota Daily, flubbed up the most famous line from an advertisement for “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, which was to be shown in a couple nights: the ad said, “Thrill again to the immortal phrase ‘klaha boroho nihi.'”
    Oh, how Jim howled about that!

    Thank you, Jim, for some wonderful memories, your stories, and your piano playing.

  3. And like a flash, it’s over. A few years ago, before the economy tanked, Jim was excited about moving back to Minnesota and, among other things, starting a band with me. We never did get to play together, now never will. He couldn’t sell his house and decided to stay in L.A. and just keep hammering away at his great work right where he was. Very glad he got his last novel off to Tor. And there you go…

  4. He did indeed have a novel (in fact, a trilogy) on submission to Tor and I had every intention of publishing it. We never formalized the deal and started the revision process because of health issues on my side, but Jim was unfailingly kind, patient, and understanding about that. Of course, we both thought we had plenty of time . . .

    I can’t begin to describe how guilty, sad, and cheated I feel. But that pales into triviality compared to how unfair fate has been to Jim and, by extension, all of those who loved and will miss him.

  5. Jimmy Young is my cousin, and I loved him and will miss him very much!

  6. Al Porter’s great commentary on the life of Jim Young really brought back memories. Jim was more than the prototype of the gosh-wow-boy-o-boy science fiction fan. In his teen years he was the kind of fellow that Alex & Brett Harris talk about in their book “Do Hard Things”. Not many 17 year olds will walk into a hotel manager’s office to negotiate a convention contract! I’m sure that his drive, energy and, yes, even his diplomacy did much to shape Minn-Stf and all of fandom. As hard as it was to bow out of the Minneapolis in ’73 worldcon bid, Jim’s masterful effort to do what was best for fandom as a whole has established a tradition which will be remembered for many years to come. I only hope that future generations of Americans will be able to take up the torch of freedom the way he did for the USA: with enthusiasm, hard work and striving to do what is best for all.

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