Porter: Appreciation for Richard E. Geis (1927-2013)

This photo of Geis, taken in 1983 by Rick Hawes, shows him at the age of 56.

By Andrew Porter: Hugo award winning fanwriter and fanzine publisher Richard E. Geis died February 4th in Portland, Oregon. He was 85. No cause of death is known.

His death is recorded here.

Richard E. Geis was one of the finest fan writers and fanzine publishers SF fandom ever produced. His own writings, primarily in his schizophrenic “Alter-Ego” editorial role in his numerous fanzines, which were notoriously wont to change their names in mid-publication, are famous in the field. They gained him numerous Hugo Award nominations and many wins. His fanzines, which became focal point fanzines attracting numerous contributions from the finest writers, professional and fannish, and artists, also gained him numerous Hugo nominations and wins.

Geis was a Fan Writer Hugo nominee in 1970 and 1971, and every year from 1973 to 1986, winning Best Fan Writer Hugos in 1982 and 1983. His fanzines were Hugo nominees from 1968 to 1971, and 1974 to 1983. His Science Fiction Review won the Fanzine Hugo in 1969, 1970, 1977 and 1979. The Alien Critic won the Fanzine Hugo in 1974 (tied with Andrew Porter’s Algol), and in 1975. Altogether, he received 30 nominations for the Hugo award, winning eight times.

Geis was a legendary recluse, living his early and later life in Portland, Oregon, and in Venice, California, during his period of hyper-activity in the 1960s and 70s. Even when he lived in the Los Angeles area, he did not attend local fan meetings or conventions. I met him, once, in 1975, in Portland, at his home, while travelling the West Coast after WesterCon, accompanied by Jon Singer.

Geis was also known for his soft-core pornographic novels, of which he claimed authorship of 110, most done as work-for-hire for the major paperback erotic publishers of the day. Many were done under the name Peggy Swenson. He had another four novels published in other genres.

Many of his recent writings are available on eFanzines.com.

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10 thoughts on “Porter: Appreciation for Richard E. Geis (1927-2013)

  1. Alas! All these legendary fans going to the Great Slanshack in the Sky! He’ll be missed.

  2. Thanks for posting the obituary on Richard E. Geis; I was directed to it from the Amazing Stories Blog.

    I did the main part of my fanzine reading in my teens and twenties from the early 1970s to the early ’80s, and Richard E. Geis was a regular part of it. I subscribed to his zine, titled at various times “Richard E. Geis”, “The Alien Critic” and “Science Fiction Review”, (plus a smaller, short-lived auxiliary zine, called “Richard E. Geis”) on the strength of the reputation of his “Science Fiction Review” of the ’60s. I also remember his short-lived column in “Galaxy” during its waning days. I remember that Geis wrote his zine in a diary format, alternating between reviews, letters from readers, notes on his daily life and opinions on current events. He also serialized some of his fiction — I remember a science fiction novel that included a lot of graphic sex. I don’t think Geis and I ever corresponded (at least I don’t remember him writing back), but I have a vivid recollection of his personality. For someone who lived as a recluse, Geis could be very interesting when writing about his day-to-day life. His Alter-Ego character was fun, but in retrospect, it seems a bit of an affectation. Geis didn’t really need it to express his opinions or write about himself.

    Going by his writing, Richard Geis seemed content with the life he had (which was not completely reclusive, if I remember correctly), and I hope he was able to retain that contentment in his final years.

  3. I remember meeting him at Bruce Pelz’s back in the late 60s when Bruce lived in Santa Monica or thereabouts. He came by bicycle. I don’t think that it was a party, probably a poker game.

  4. @Stan: You’re right, I remember hearing from Bruce he showed up for the poker games. I began attending some of those card games a few months after Geis stopped. (He may have moved to Oregon around then.)

  5. Dick Geis was the first editor who ever asked me to write for him. I did maybe two pieces for The Alien Critic when I was the editor at Dell, and never had any contact with him after that, but I still remember him and the magazine fondly.

  6. The first fanzine I ever saw was the Spring 1974 THE ALIEN CRITIC, which I saw at Barbarian Books in Wheaton, Maryland. I will miss Geis’s cranky, gloomy ( I think he WANTED the coming global depression!) but always readable and controversial magazine, which I greatly enjoyed.

  7. Geis was really attuned to 1970s late-night talk radio economic doom and gloom.

  8. Man, sorry to hear about his passing. I don’t know if Alien Critic was the first fanzine I sent away for from the back of a Galaxy magazine, but it was one of the first and opened up a whole new world to my teenaged suburban self. So I tip my hat to him for that.

  9. I found the comments on the web site Andy notes above as varied as the comments here and as similar – influences and such a variety of people. I also subscribed to Alien Critic from and ad in an SF prozine. I was fascinated by the variety of people in the fanzine and started writing to them at the addresses Geis published. I was much of a stray person visiting but the connections allowed me to meet fans.

  10. So very, very sorry to hear about Dick’s passing. His writing played a huge part in my entrance into active fandom during the mid-70s. I still have several copies of Critic and SFR tucked away in boxes somewhere.

    I’m also pleased to see some very familiar names here in the comment section. Good to know the “olden days” still have legs.

    … Reed

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