Paul Turner

By John Hertz:  Paul Turner has died (1936-2019).  

He left our stage near the end of last month.  His son called me.  I reported to the October 24th meeting of Paul’s club and mine, the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society.  I still have few data.

Paul had been living alone in the Kern County desert, near Johannesburg (pop. 172).  I had visited him there.  He and his son and I drove to the 76th World Science Fiction Convention (San Jose, 2018).  The widow of a friend found his remains.

Paul was given the Evans-Freehafer Award for service to the LASFS in 1964.  He was Fan Guest of Honor at Loscon XX in 1993 (our local convention; Loscon XLVI will be 29 Nov – 1 Dec 2019).

He invented the LASFS Building Fund.  Jerry Pournelle told him “You’re out of your mind.”  Paul said “Sure I am.”  He nurtured the Fund for quite a while until, leaf by niggle, it had grown to what would in today’s money be a low five-figure sum.  This not quite infinitely improbable result sparked Bruce Pelz, whom Paul had earlier defeated for head of the Club, at the time called Director, later President.  In the following while, we all, including Bruce, discovered Bruce’s ability to get money out of stones.  Or maybe we were turnips.  The LASFS got a clubhouse, outgrew it and got another, outgrew it and got a third, outgrew it and is now hunting a fourth.

Paul couldn’t attend the LASFS’ 75th anniversary celebration (founded 1934!) but gave me some remarks to read for him, which I did, and you can see here.

You can also see some of him occasioned later by the LASFS’ 4,000th meeting.  Look here.

He was a good friend to, among many others, Bill Rotsler.  Here’s a photo I’ve long liked that Len Moffatt took of Bill and Paul at Westercon XIX.  

Bill Rotsler and Paul Turner at Westercon XIX in 1966. Photo by Len Moffatt.

Bill may be displaying better judgment by carrying his blaster in a holster than Paul is by drinking Miller beer.  I hasten to add I for another while worked happily with a man named Miller who kept on a shelf in his office a neon sign saying “It’s Miller time”.  These things have a subjective element.

Paul was an electrical engineer and worked on the Space Shuttle.  I’m only a lawyer.  We didn’t talk of science too much – although lawyers are engineers, and to some extent scientists.  We did talk of shoes – and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages – and kings; usually by phone after he’d moved to the desert; sometimes at length.  I don’t remember getting to why the sea is boiling hot.  I think it’s the influence of the Sun, myself.

A woman he knew said, when I called her after his death, that he could show an indomitable spirit.  She didn’t mean the time the three of us went to hear Yuja Wang play piano at Disney Concert Hall.  We all thought Yuja Wang was swell, and in fact indomitable.  It was more like the time Paul went climbing alone in the Sierras, and somehow got two counties’ rescue forces looking for him and giving up saying he couldn’t be found, after which he emerged, hungry and thirsty from lack of food and water, but safe.  He was a couple of years short of eighty then.

He shared, with a friend we had in common, a love of hot, I mean spicy, food.  Once when Paul and I met for breakfast at a Vietnamese restaurant, each ordering a bowl of pho, noodle soup (Vietnamese uses diacritical marks, which I leave out), Paul tasted his broth, threw in his slices of hot peppers and mine, put in some black sauce, added enough orange sauce that his bowl was glistening radioactive orange, and called over the waiter to ask “Don’t you have any hot food in this restaurant?”

One of his unexecuted ideas was Project 44.  He considered building a compass dial outdoors with each of its 44 points – I never did ask why not 32 or 128 – named for a man or woman who had contributed outstanding guidance to humanity.  Think about it.  Whom would you put in?  Whom leave out?  Why her and not her?  What a topic.

I thought of entitling this note “If you say so, King Solomon” (to whom is attributed the book Ecclesiastes, with “To every thing there is a season”), but I didn’t.

Requiescat in pace.

Paul Turner at Worldcon 76 in 2018. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

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2 thoughts on “Paul Turner

  1. Sigh First met him at the infamous 1966 San Diego WesterCon, then at various other conventions and indeed at my one and only LASFS meeting in 1966. And, as you posted, sitting near registration at the San José worldcon last year. A very stylish and with-it image he presented, back when I was a very square guy.

  2. Suzanne Vegas (Horn) asked for her comment and photos to be added:

    Paul was my dear friend for about 30 years. I was the woman John Hertz mentioned in his post above, who accompanied him and Paul to Yuja Wang at the Disney Concert Hall. Paul so wanted to see the Disney Concert Hall, and Yuja Wang was just icing on the cake. (I have been trying to find out how to post some photos of Paul including one of him with his ex-wife Neola Caveny and me, partying at a Masquerade at Westercon in San Diego and another from a grand ball in San Diego with Neola.) Paul worked at Rockwell and also on “Star Trek The Motion Picture”. His friendship with writer/artist Bill Rotsler was a lifelong relationship. He was well known in the science fiction community for his famous “Salons”, private parties in which he invited brilliant science fiction writers to mingle with renowned scientists from JPL to share ideas and inspiration. There was always a fascinating guest speaker, such as astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and the Sign In Guest Books were a Who’s Who in Science Fiction. Paul spent his final days living as somewhat of a hermit in Red Mountain, California, and taking hiking trips into his beloved Sierras. I’m sorry he was never able to complete Project 44. It was a very ambitious project (as were all of Paul’s ideas) involving a lot of great minds, and I was humbled to be included. He will be missed by so many, and so much by me.

    Paul at a San Diego Westercon with his ex-wife Neola Caveney and me (Suzanne Vegas aka Suzanne Horn)

    Paul at a San Diego Westercon with his ex-wife Neola Caveney and me (Suzanne Vegas aka Suzanne Horn)

    Paul & Neola on one of the rare occasions we could convince him to dress up in a historical costume for a Victorian Ball in San Diego.

    Paul & Neola on one of the rare occasions we could convince him to dress up in a historical costume for a Victorian Ball in San Diego.

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