Acclaimed fanzine fan Robert Lichtman died July 6 at the age of 79. He was an 18-time FAAn Award winner — six for his fanzine Trap Door, 10 for his letters of comment, and twice scored “Number one fan face”. Trap Door also was a two-time Hugo finalist. (Issues 21-34 can be downloaded from eFanzines.com.)
Lichtman was born in Cleveland in 1942. His family moved to Southern California in 1951, and he lived there until 1965, except for a six-month period in 1961 spent living in (mostly) Ray Nelson’s attic in the Bay Area.
He discovered fandom in 1958 when he encountered Robert Bloch’s fanzine review column in an issue of William Hamling’s Imagination. That same year he produced his first genzine, PSI-PHI, coedited with Arv Underman.
After discovering fandom, he joined LASFS. He even became one of the international members of the short-lived Young Science Fiction Readers Group (YSFRG) formed in 1960 for the British Science Fiction Association’s under-25 members.
Upon graduation from university, he returned to the Bay Area, settling in San Francisco just in time for the beginnings of what he called “the Hippie Era.”
He reflected on his early life in a File 770 comment last year:
Now and then I wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t discovered fandom at 15. My parents wanted me to become a banker, a concept that made me want to throw up. (I came sorta close 1965-68, when I worked for credit rating agency Dun and Bradstreet as a “credit analyst.”) I didn’t meet my previous wife, the mother of my four sons, via fandom (through Stephen Gaskin’s Monday Night Class, instead, when I was being a semi-hippie living near but not in Haight-Ashbury) — but having them in my life, and so supportive, I count as a happy blessing. Before her, there was Margo Newkom, whose name might be familiar to some of you. She was a “Berkeley fringefan,” and also very funny and smart (and beautiful). We never married, but we had some good years together.
In 2000 he married his second wife Carol Carr; she died in 2021.
In the Seventies Lichtman and his girlfriend (soon to be his wife, and six months pregnant) followed friends to live on The Farm, a 1,700-acre commune in Tennessee. Although he was largely inactive in fandom throughout that decade its myths returned to mind now and then. Lichtman wrote, “Sometimes we would get together and laugh about how we’d more or less ended up in ‘the love camp in the Ozarks’ of which the notorious Claude Degler wrote over half a century ago — though we were on the Highland Rim, not in the Ozarks. Close enough, we thought.”
He stayed there until the summer of 1980 when — after the end of his marriage — he moved to Glen Ellen, California and began working with Paul Williams (the one who began Crawdaddy) on his Entwhistle Books publishing venture. Lichtman had experience doing sales and promotion for the Farm’s publishing wing, The Book Publishing Company. Through Williams he started seeing issues of Dan Steffan and Ted White’s fannish fanzine Pong. Lichtman wrote a letter of comment to it, and soon found himself back in fandom.
In 1983 he started publishing Trap Door. Beginning in 1986 he took up the office of Secretary-Treasurer of FAPA, fandom’s oldest amateur press association (founded in 1937). By the end of the decade he was once again such an integral member of fandom that he was voted the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate of 1989 and attended the UK Eastercon. (Some of his extensive notes towards a trip report are here.)
Prior to the advent of the internet he regularly edited collections of hard-to-come by fanwriting and made them available . These included a collection of F. T. Laney’s fan writing titled Ah! Sweet Laney!, a fanthology drawing from Lee Hoffman’s fanzine Quandry titled Some of the Best from Quandry, and a collection of Walt Willis’s “Fanorama” columns (from Nebula, the British SF magazine) titled Fanorama.
He also edited Fanthology 92, Fanthology ’93 and Fanthology 1994, which were published by others.
When the internet finally caught up to him, he produced a PDF edition of Jack Speer’s Up To Now, a history of fandom as of 1939, (available on eFanzines.com).
Lichtman was a pillar of Corflu, the annual fanzine fans convention, where he was often honored. In addition to all the FAAn Awards he won there, in 1992 he was named Past President of Fan Writers of America (fwa), and he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at Corflu in 2020.