Popular Bay Area fan Mary Kay Kare, who co-chaired Potlatch 19 in 2010 and worked on a large number of Worldcons and other conventions, died in early October of a blood infection. Fans learned of her passing after her nephew contacted the local branch of the Mythopoeic Society to which she belonged, and whose international organization she served as a Steward for a number of years.
Mary Kay grew up in Oklahoma and graduated from the University of Oklahoma-Norman in 1974. She was a member of the Norman Oklahoma SF Society in the late 1970s. Over the years she lived in a number of places including Ohio, Washington and California. By profession, she was a catalog librarian, and for a time worked with the organization behind WorldCat.
She volunteered for conventions ranging in size from a hundred people to Worldcons, in positions ranging from chair to gopher. She liked doing registration and programming the best. She also ran the Hugos for Denvention 3 (2008) and told John Hertz at the end of convention, “I’ve finished administering the Hugo nominations and the voting. I even had fun.”
Her other fannish interests at different times included filking, being a dealer, writing reviews, fanzine publishing, and participating in amateur press associations (apas). Her fanzines include Red Dust. She was a member of such apas as Slanapa, DI apa, Butterbur’s Woodshed, APAPI, and Myriad. When the internet came along she became very active in online fandom.
Not every fan remains a voracious reader after getting deeply involved in so many phases of fandom but Mary Kay did – her Goodreads lists 2,763 books read of all kinds. She also served as a reader for the Mythopoeic Society’s Adult Fantasy award for many years.
In her program participant bio for Denvention 3 she wrote that “The best thing she has gotten from fandom is her husband Jordin Kare, Generic Handwaving Physicist, Rocket Scientist, Mad Inventor, and Filker of Note.” The couple would be Tuckerized in Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s Touch. Jordin’s unexpected death after heart surgery in 2017 was a severe blow and afterwards her friends say she was often withdrawn.
Mary Kay ran for the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund in 2007 – a year no one ended up being selected because the British Eastercon was cancelled. She said about herself in her platform: “After 30 years in fandom I’ve learned to be good at building bridges. I’ve done conrunning, zines, apas, dealing, and filking. I’m very active in online fandom these days too. I am, she said, modestly, renowned for the greatness of my parties.”
I remember that a party is where I first heard her name – Mary Kay Jackson, still being single then — though I didn’t actually meet her til years later. In the early Eighties she helped the group bidding to hold the NASFiC in Austin, Texas run a room party at a Worldcon. Robert Taylor had hauled along a state-of-the-art personal computer and was attracting attention with a fannish dating match service. Every male fan asking to be matched with a woman got the same name: Mary Kay Jackson. When I asked Taylor why that was happening, he said there were 25 names in the database so far, but only one woman – her. (I expect there might have been none except, being on the bid committee, she had basically let them add her name as a favor.)
The significant medical and mental challenges she confronted in the last years of her life she discussed on the Livejournal she kept from 2003-2015, and which is still online.
Mary Kay’s friends are writing tributes to her, and the one from David Bratman is excellent – read it here.
[Thanks to Joyce Scriver, Steven H Silver, Mike Bentley, James Davis Nicoll, and Locus Online for the story.]