Remembering a Man of Light

Ray Nelson, Frank Lunney, & Robert Lichtman, ConFrancisco, 1993; photo by Jeff Schalles

By John Hertz (reprinted from Vanamonde 1508): Robert Lichtman (1942-2022) left for After-Fandom on the day I came home from Westercon LXXIV. May his memory be for a blessing.

He missed his 80th birthday by two months. He hadn’t been to many Westercons recently, either, although he was Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon LV — whose ringmaster, Bruce Pelz, had died two months earlier. He was at Westercon XXXIV; so was Pete Stampfel, who’d played with the Fugs and the Holy Modal Rounders (and later married Betsy Wollheim); people kept telling Lichtman how much they liked the Fugs or the Rounders, so he cut his hair.

Now that he can take no more part in affairs of this world, I can offend his modesty — ow! what was that?? — by telling you his name meant illuminator.

Cover by Harry Bell for TD 16

He was a shining star of fanwriting. His letters of comment won eight FAAn (Fannish Activity Achievement) Awards. His loved and acclaimed — not always the same, alas — fanzine Trap Door won five. In the 2020 FAAn Awards he won Lifetime Achievement.

He wrote one of the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Federation’s seven fandbooks (fan + handbook; pointers from veterans for newcomers), The Amateur Press Associations in Science-Fiction Fandom. He edited a collection Ah! Sweet Laney! (F.T. Laney, famous for Ah! Sweet Idiocy!); another, of Walt Willis’ “Fanorama” columns from Nebula; a fanthology Some of the Best from “Quandry” (Lee Hoffman’s loved and acclaimed fanzine); and Fanthology 92Fanthology ’93,Fanthology 1994. He got Jack Speer’s 1939 history Up to Now onto <>.

He was Secretary-Treasurer of FAPA (Fantasy Am. Press Ass’n, our oldest, founded 1937) from 1986 until his death, no small achievement; if I hadn’t just called him a shining star, enough to make him a pillar. David Bratman said, “As sometime Vice President of FAPA, and as emergency editor after Official Editor Seth Goldberg died in 1997, I … found Robert Lichtman as Secretary-Treasurer an absolute rock of reliability.”

His SAPSzine (Spectator Am. Press Society, acronym deliberate; our second oldest) was Door Knob. His FAPAzine was King Biscuit Time. He had others there and elsewhere.

He was elected the 1989 TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.

He found us in 1958 through Bob Bloch’s fanzine review column in Imagination. By then he was living in Southern California. That year he published his first fanzine, called (what else?) PSI-PHI, co-edited with Arv Underman. He joined the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc., oldest SF club in the world; pronounced as if rhyming with a Spanglish “más fuss”), to which, wherever he is now, he still belongs, since Death will not release you. Later he moved to the San Francisco Bay area; to the Farm, a 1,700-acre commune in Tennessee; to San Francisco Bay again; he married twice, by his first wife four sons, Carol Carr his second as he was hers.

I don’t know the fate of his fanzine collection. I hope it was directed soundly. The tragedy of Harry Warner’s arrangements I learned of too late. Bruce Pelz disposed of his collection while he was alive. Jay Kay Klein’s photographs I believe are safe.

Although the moment seems much longer ago — time flies when you’re having fun — and of course time flies like an arrow — fruit flies like a banana — Pogo fans know about timing gnats (see I Go Pogo no. 20, 1960) — Trap Door 23 has my reminiscence “I Thought I Had a Pumpkin Bomb”. Not counting that, it’s a good issue. The electronic may see it here. Earlier TD reprinted (Trap Door 18) from Van 232 my appreciation of Bill Rotsler, another giant, with Bashō’s poem “A cicada shell / it sang itself / entirely away.”

Westercon, the West Coast Science Fantasy Conference, on the N. Amer. continent west of the 104th W. Meridian or in Hawaii.  Originally faan was a pejorative form of fan; the extra a, or more of them e.g. faaan, denoted excess; enough of this lingered in 1975, when Moshe Feder and Arnie Katz started the F Awards, that the name showed a self-depreciation thought suitable; the Awards were given 1975-1980, then 1994 to date; since their revival they have been associated with the annual fanziners’ con Corflu (corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable). Release, a decades-old LASFS catch-phrase; the electronic may see here. Worldcon, the World Science Fiction Convention.

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One thought on “Remembering a Man of Light

  1. Robert was a real fan and a real friend. We worked on many projects together from the very first TRAP DOOR until the end. I designed the covers for many issues of that fanzine and illustrated many articles, too. I designed the covers for his Laney anthology for him and he edited a collection of Gordon Eklund’s fan fiction for me. We seemed to work together well.

    Robert and Carol were great friends and hosts. Parties and visits were always lots of fun. They would take my wife and me to local restaurants they’d discovered and were never lacking in hospitality and grace. Robert was always an amazing help whenever I needed old fanzine articles or artwork for various projects and always encouraged my many diverse fannish interests.

    He and Carol are irreplaceable. I was the first to tell the story of Robert’s identity problem at that Westercon (and have a great picture of him and Pete Stanpfel standing beside each other at that con, Pete looks like an accountant next to the tie-dyed Lichtman). I appreciate this tribute to my old pal and only wish it would have been, like his passing, postponed for many years.

    In the last five or so years so, many of my friends and collaborators and readers have died that I don’t think fandom really speaks to me any more. My audience have nearly all passed now and have left a big empty space where where fanac and my heart once dwelled. Thus, GAFIA settles over me like fog on San Francisco Bay.

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