Past Worldcon chair and First Fandom Hall of Fame inductee Roger Sims died January 23 at the age of 91 after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease. Bill Cavin sent an email informing some friends, adding that Roger will be cremated, and his ashes buried at sea per his wishes.
After serving a hitch in the postwar U.S. Navy, Roger returned to Detroit and discovered fandom in 1949. He called a phone number in the letter column of a prozine, and got connected to the Detroit Science Fiction League (nicknamed the Misfits).
In 1950 he traveled to Portland, Oregon for the Worldcon – the first of more than 50 he would attend. By the time he went to his second he was fully in the swing of things. At the New Orleans Worldcon of 1951 (Nolacon), he rented a room together with Richard Ellsberry, Max Keasler and Ed Kuss. It was number 770. The party they threw there became a byword for fannish good times, a legend that grew in the telling. Roger said in Mimosa that one of the ‘highlights’ “was a parade around the room in which the marchers rather than walking around the furniture, climbed over it. The march was halted when the slats on one of the beds gave way, spilling fans all over the floor.”
A year later, Roger found he had been catapulted to the top of a list of notables to be introduced at Chicon II, however, his fame had yet to register with the person actually doing the introductions. He recalled in Mimosa:
Opening ceremonies at Chicon found me in the audience; Sam Moskowitz was the Master of Ceremonies. After a ‘short’ speech (as only Sam could) he began to introduce the notables in the audience, and the first words out of his mouth were “Roger Sims!” Now, to this day, I believe that he had not looked at the list until he said those two words; I believe this because the next words out of his mouth were, “Who the Hell is that?” But I stood up anyway. At this point there were a few polite claps and a lot of stares. (The reader should remember that I had, as a result of Room 770, only graduated from the ranks of neo fandom the year before! Now, I’m known for other things, of which most are ‘Rogerisms’, but as Bill Bowers is wont to say, “We love you anyway.”)
During his early days in fandom Roger also acquired the nickname, “Teddy Bear.” According to his friend Lynn Hickman this happened at the 1954 Worldcon in San Francisco when, “Roger was making some moves on a good-looking gal (Irene Baron) and her boyfriend came over and asked her if Roger was bothering her. Irene said: ‘Roger? Of course not. He’s just a Teddy Bear.’”
For a short while, Roger worked in New York City. In 1957, he shared an apartment with Harlan Ellison for three months, yielding enough anecdotes to last a lifetime. As he recalled in a Mimosa interview:
…It was an interesting three months of my life. Harlan was continually broke. I had some money that I had saved up, and I would lend it to him. He would get a check and pay me back, and then two days later he would be broke again. We went back and forth like this for the whole three months. Anyway, he had sold a story to W.W. Scott, who was editor of a SF magazine; Scott was going to send him a check and it would arrive Monday. This was Friday. Well, that would take too long; Harlan had to have the money now, so we went down to Scott’s office. While we were waiting for the check, Scott said to Harlan, “Why don’t you write me a story while you’re waiting?” So Harlan sat down and wrote a story, Scott read it and said, “OK, type it up nicely for me and I’ll buy it.” And he gave Harlan his check, which was for $208. On the way home, we stopped and bought a statue, a book, and a chair. He sent money to his mother, and we took a cab home. We arrived there with seven dollars and fifty cents left….
His first marriage was to Mable “Mae” Young, sister of George Young, another Detroit fan, met when she visited New York. To court her he moved back to Michigan. Soon after arriving he was involved with Detroit’s bid for the 1959 Worldcon. They won, and Roger and Fred Prophet co-chaired Detention, as it was named.
Roger’s first marriage was not a success and the couple divorced. Roger married fellow fan Pat Sims in 1964, having met her at Midwestcon the year before.
Together Roger and Pat hosted Ditto 10 (1997), Ditto 17 (2004) and FanHistoriCon 9 (1999). (Ditto 17 was held in Orlando, because by then the Sims had moved to Florida.)
Roger and Pat also became the 1995 Down Under Fan Fund delegates. Non-fan honors bestowed on them (through fannish connections) included being commissioned as Kentucky Colonels, and being named Honorary Captains of The Belle of Louisville.
Roger’s one pro sf sale was to Mike Resnick’s Alternate Worldcons (1996), “An Old-Fashioned Worldcon,” – “The 1982 Worldcon in Detroit is a classic event with none of the frills such as Masquerade, movies, gaming, Regency dance, etc. All the trufen attend—all four of them.” (Roger was also a character, in Dick Spelman’s “The Forgotten Worldcon of ’45”, in the same anthology.)
When the Worldcon returned to New Orleans in 1988, Roger was Nolacon II’s Fan Guest of Honor. For the Program Book he “set the record straight” about the famous party at the first Nolacon. (Strong drink may have played a role in everyone’s fun, if that’s what was in the 284 empty glasses Roger estimated were stacked on trays left outside the door.)
In 2020 he was inducted to the First Fandom Hall of Fame.
Lynn Hickman called Roger Sims “the nicest, gentlest, most honest person you would ever want to meet” – the very best way to remember a lifelong fan with many accomplishments.
[Thanks to John L. Coker III for supplying these photos from the archives of First Fandom.]