Robert Allen (Bob) Madle (June 2, 1920 — October 8, 2022)

Bob Madle as 1977 Worldcon Guest of Honor

Introduction by John L. Coker III: Today I received a telephone call from Jane Madle (Bob Madle’s daughter). She was very sad to report that Bob died this past Saturday, October 8th. Jane said that Bob had been in generally pretty good health until recently, spending his time reading, listening to his favorite music, watching baseball on TV with a couple of beers, and occasionally visiting with friends who came to see him.

The death of Bob Madle brings a very long era to a gentle close.  He was a life-long fan and a true living legend.  

Appreciation Prepared by John L. Coker III and Jon D. Swartz. After service in World War II, where he met his future wife, Billie, he attended Drexel Institute and received a bachelor’s degree on the G. I. Bill; he later attended night school for an MBA degree.

He started reading at a very young age, collected boy’s books, was a fan of Burroughs and Buck Rogers, and began reading magazine science fiction with Wonder Stories, the December, 1930 and April, 1931 issues. 

Around this time, he started writing LoCs to SF prozines. In 1934, he formed the Boys’ Science Fiction Club with fellow fans. The following year a letter of his appeared in the pulp magazine Pirate Stories, published by Hugo Gernsback, and won him a year’s subscription to Wonder Stories. In his letter he suggested that Pirate Stories publish a story about a space pirate of the future and that Edmond Hamilton should write it. 

In October 1936, some of the New York Futurians (including Donald A. Wollheim, John B. Michel, Herbert E. Goudket, David A. Kyle, Frederik Pohl and William S. Sykora) took a train to Philadelphia, where they were met by Madle, Milton A. Rothman, and Oswald V. Train.  Later they were joined by other Philadelphia fans. This meeting, known as the First Eastern SF Convention, is regarded as the very first SF convention.

At the first Worldcon in New York in 1939, Madle was picked to represent Pennsylvania.  He was the first American TAFF delegate (1957) and published his famous “A Fake Fan in London” as his trip report. At the 1957 convention, he was made a member of the order of St. Fantony.

Front: Mark Reinsberg, Jack Agnew, Ross Rocklynne Top: V. Kidwell, Robert A. Madle, Erle Korshak, Ray Bradbury Coney Island, 7/4/1939 (during first Worldcon)

He edited several important, early SF fanzines, including Fantascience Digest, in the 1930s – 1940s.  In 1948, under the imprint of New Era Publishers, Madle issued a hardcover book featuring two novels by David A. Keller: The Solitary Hunters and The Abyss.

His awards, appearances, and other honors over the years included: 1974, Big Heart Award; 1977, FGoH, Suncon; 1982, GoH at Lunicon 82; 1990, elected to First Fandom Hall of Fame; 1990, Special Guest, Boskone 33; 2002, Sam Moskowitz Archive Award; 2012, GoH at Philcon 2012. In addition, he is credited with naming the Hugo Award.

Bob Madle at home in 2020. Photo by Jane Madle.

A highly respected book dealer for many years, he published his Amazing Madle Catalogue on a regular basis. His catalogs were full of important bibliographic information, and a joy to read.

Madle was a founding member of FAPA in 1937, a founder of The National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F) in 1941, and of First Fandom in 1958. He was First Fandom’s initial president, holding the office for twenty-five years. He later served another decade as its President Emeritus.

He was the last surviving attendee of the first SF convention (1936) and the first World SF Convention (1939). He was the last surviving founding member of both First Fandom and the N3F and will be greatly missed by the members of both organizations.

Moreover, he was the subject of the First Fandom 2020 Annual, which contained a complete bibliography of his genre writing along with photographs and articles from some of his friends.

From the time he was young, Robert A. Madle was highly regarded as an active fan, fully engaged in the issues of the day and tomorrow.  He got to meet and befriend most of the great SF fans and pros starting in the Golden Age. His was a unique perspective, experienced across ten decades. Bob’s generosity and dedication to SF fandom was only matched by his personal knowledge of the field and the admiration of his thousands of friends.

A life-long fan and a true living legend, he was the last link in an unbroken chain going back to the dawn of the Golden Age of science fiction.

5 thoughts on “Robert Allen (Bob) Madle (June 2, 1920 — October 8, 2022)

  1. We knew it would come, sooner than later, but we thought there would always be one more year. Mike, can you contact me offline? I’d like to ask the owners of the photos if we can get their permission to use some or all of them in the obit that will now have to run in this year’s Philcon program book.

  2. A great guy who had a wonderful life. Proud to have know him for over fifty years. He will be greatly missed.

  3. Pingback: Robert A. Madle, Letters to Magazines – N.E.Lilly

  4. I received his Amazing Madle catalog in the mail for many years. Just flipping through it was a pleasure. Anything I ordered always arrived in excellent condition. A real pro. Thanks for the memories, Robert.

  5. Bob was the first Fan I ever met. I tracked him down from a letter in Astounding and found out he lived a short walk from my house. He was a kind person, caring, and had a gentle sense of humor. To quote Auntie Mame, he opened doors for me that I didn’t even know existed. He introduced me, at Disclave, to the first Pro I ever met: Bob Silverberg: assuring me that Bob had already written (I think Bob was 26 at the time) more science fiction that anybody since Edgar Rice Burroughs. There was nobody at all like Robert A Madle.

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