Dave Rike (1935-2014)

Dave Rike (R) and F.M. Busby (L) in 1958.

Dave Rike (L) and F.M. Busby (R) in 1958.


Dave Rike, who did his share to create the “wealth of fable” which inspired the title of Warner’s history of 1950s fandom, has passed away. A note from his son, Darius, in the latest newsletter of First Fandom reports Rike died November 1, 2014.

Dave co-edited the original issue of Innuendo with Terry Carr in 1956, a fanzine best remembered today for publishing the writing of “Carl Brandon”, a hoax who described himself as a fan of color but whose identity was created by several fanwriters to address issues of race within the science fiction community. Those who wrote under the name Carl Brandon included Carr, Bob Stewart, Ron Ellik, Pete Graham, Miriam Carr, Karen Anderson and Rike.

He had a hand in The Incompleat Burbee, an important collection first published in 1958 as Charles Burbee’s birthday present. Pete Graham, Terry Carr, Ron Ellik and Rike produced the 96-page volume containing 45 of Burbee’s best fanzine pieces.

And after cartoonist Ray Nelson invented the iconic fan wearing a beanie, Rike was one of the fanartists who helped popularize the image, along with Bjo Trimble, Lee Hoffman and ATom.

bheer can towerDave also was among the Bay Area fans responsible for the mythic Bheer Can Tower to the Moon (with Terry Carr and Bob Stewart), whose history he retraced for Mimosa #15. The Tower legend cast a figurative shadow over fandom for decades, and many a fannish room party has piled up a Tower of its own. Two examples: The first I ever saw was at the 1978 Westercon. rich brown, Dr. Gafia, noted in his fannish lexicon another at a room party during the 1992 Worldcon. I’m positive the Tower was part of the reason Randy Bathurst sculpted a beanie-weaing bheer can cranking a mimeo for the original FAAn Awards.

Dave, a lifelong resident of the San Francisco Bay area, enjoyed reading and according to Darius, “lived his life surrounded by books.”

He was active in politics and his left-leaning views were sufficiently well-known that a writer for Science Fiction Five-Yearly knew readers would appreciate his ironic contrast about someone standing out “like Dave Rike at a meeting of the John Birch Society.”

Wobbly cover by RikeHe lent his talents as a fanartist to promote the Industrial Workers of the World, creating the cover of Wobbly #2 (1962), illustrating what it would look like if an alien’s first contact on earth was with IWW members. The caption: “Leader? WHAT leader?”

That social conscience may be one reason Rike was on the distribution for Bill Donaho’s Great Breen Boondoggle or All Berkeley Fandom Is Plunged Into War (1963, which listed those being sent a copy).

Given his political activity, and bearing in mind the 1950s were the height of the Cold War, it is interesting that Dave was not deterred from applying for a position that required an investigation by Army Intelligence. Chaos spread throughout fandom as they did their background check, as Harry Warner Jr. explains in A Wealth of Fable:

They did such a thorough job on Rike that they visited a number of fans, some of whom knew Dave in only the most minimal fashion. One investigator was in a terrible tizzy over is inability to understand why so many fanzines which he inspected contained little or nothing about science fiction. Then he found a copy of Taurasi’s sercon Science Fiction Times, which seemed to quiet him. The membership rosters of The Cult and FAPA fell into the maw of the investigative machinery. This caused some individuals in those organizations to fear the most alarming sorts of consequences, none of which occurred.

Dave was a longtime subscriber to File 770. His mail was always identifiable because he liked to write notes in the margins of recycled subscription cards, and send them in the preaddressed envelopes that came with junk mail, his exaggerated large script in the white space making sure the postal service delivered it all to the right destination.

He was more than a witness to legendary times — he helped make the memories.

[Thanks to Robert Lichtman for the story.]

Update 03/06/2015: Corrected year of death in the headline.

Bheer Can Tower to the Moon

Someone posted the image above on a sports-themed message board and I thought those poor mundanes were missing a lot because they’d never heard of the Bheer Can Tower to the Moon.

Dave Rike was among the Bay Area fans who created that Tower of fable in the mid-1950s (Terry Carr and Bob Stewart contributed as well). Rike retraced its history in an article for Mimosa 15 (talking about himself in third person):

While Dave Rike might have been the first to refer to the Tower in print that doesn’t mean that the idea was entirely original with him. It might have been at one party or another that one of the gang would idle away his time while listening to endless fannish talk of the others by attempting to stack up some empty bheer cans. (If they’re drunk by a fannish sort then they become bheer instead of beer cans.) All cans at that time were made of steel instead of extruded aluminum and might have stacked easier. “Hey, Bob, what’re trying to do there?” “Oh, I dunno, jes’ thinking that if I had enough cans I could build a tower that’d reach up to the moon.” “Oh yeah, well you buy the bheer and I’ll drink it for ya.” Something like that. Dave doesn’t remember any attempt to set up a Tower but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

The Tower cast a figurative shadow over fandom in decades to come. I’m sure that’s why the late Randy Bathurst sculpted a beanie-wearing bheer can cranking a mimeo for the original FAAn Awards. And rich brown, Dr. Gafia, said in his faannish lexicon:

Occasionally, even today, partying fans at conventions will construct such a Tower out of bheercans in Terry Carr’s memory. At Magicon [1992] this was attempted on a night when the moon was not visible but Art Widner was heard to intone, “If we build it, it will come.”

My own unforgettable experience with the Tower tradition happened while I was co-chairing the 1978 Westercon. We used the hotel’s Presidential Suite as our evening hospitality suite, serving Heineken in bottles (Poul Anderson was GoH) and other beverages in cans. Both side bedrooms were left open for the party, including mine, but one night I was so exhausted I crashed on my bed while the party carried on without me. I awoke in the middle of the night to discover that everyone had gone, leaving the doors wide open. Before going, fans had stacked all the empties in a pyramid on a coffee table, almost reaching the ceiling – the traditional bheer can tower. And lastly, I discovered my wristwatch had been stolen from my arm while I slept.