Jim Harmon Dies

Well-known fan Jim Harmon died February 16. I had the good luck to meet him for the first time at last year’s Loscon. Unfortunately, on the last day of the con he suffered a mild heart attack and was briefly hospitalized and now, less than three months later, he has passed away.

Harmon was one of the many fans who also enjoyed professional success in sf, writing more than 50 stories for the prozines. Later he gained a strong following in another fandom, among the followers of “old time radio.” His friend Martin Grams recalls:

In 1967, he published The Great Radio Heroes which to this day, is considered a milestone for reference books about old-time radio. Prior to that book, there was nothing really published that truly documented old-time radio through interviews and newspaper articles. Not only was he the first to do any sort of real research, but his smooth prose offered his generation a chance to revisit feelings of nostalgia.

In the mid-Seventies Harmon was West Coast editor of Monsters of the Movies, Marvel’s version of Famous Monsters of Filmland. In 1977 he was presented the Inkpot Award by the San Diego Comic-Con.

For better or worse, Harmon’s early fannish fame revolved around the “Midwestcon Door Incident.” As Harry Warner wrote in A Wealth of Fable:

Around 8 p.m. on May 27, 1954, Harlan Ellison was engaging in the ancient fannish pastime of tossing water encased in paper bags from a window when Jim Harmon happened by the impact point of one missle on the sidewalk. Several fans went immediately to the room where Ellison locked himself. Informed that Harlan was not receiving visitors, Harmon “hit the door about four times with my fist and it splintered and fell down,” as Jim remembered the event later. Ellison, undiscouraged, simply locked himself in another room with an intact door until police arrived.

Later, so Buck Coulson told Mimosa readers:

The police left and that evening Harlan came around to various room parties, apologizing for the affair and taking up a collection to pay for the broken door. A bit later, Harmon came around, ‘disguised’ in Lynn Hickman’s coat (which was about half the size he usually wore), apologizing for the incident… and taking up a collection to pay for the broken door. Our group tossed quarters to each one.

It’s a funny part of fanhistory, but Harmon outgrew it years ago. We can count on Harmon’s memory remaining alive in several different fandoms for years to come.

[Thanks to Lee Gold and Andrew Porter for the story.]

Jim Harmon Briefly Hospitalized

Jim Harmon, well-known fan, sf writer and popular culture historian, suffered a mild heart attack on November 29 during Loscon. He now has been discharged from the hospital after several days of treatment.

I met Jim for the first time on Saturday when we were together on a LASFS history panel, and I happened to be standing beside the Marriott entrance when the red paramedic truck arrived with lights flashing in response to his emergency.

Harmon has asked his friends to distribute this e-mail to reassure them he is doing better:

I was at the SF LosCon, and had appeared on two panels the day before. The con is held is a huge, spread out hotel, the Marriott, and I was tired out from all the walking. I thought about not going the next day, but did. I reached the room I wanted but a wave of dizziness and pain in my chest overcame me. I asked first man I saw if he would help me, hold me up from falling. Of course, he helped and about four came to my aid. The fifth man was Dr.Bill Ernoehazy, a world famous expert on the heart and space medicine. He examined me and told me to see my doctor as soon as possible. I felt well enough to go into the room and be one of two panelists on the history of pulp magazines, for a tiny audience of four. Then I went over to the panel of Ernoehazy on which Barbara also appeared. His ran a little longer than mine, and when it was over I went and sat down next to Barbara [his wife]. The doctor saw me, and said “You aren’t looking better. You are looking worse.” He took my pulse for a few moments. “I’m calling the paramedics.” He got on a cell phone and called them. They came, were very helpful and they took me by ambulance to the Marina Del Rey hospital.

We’re glad to hear you were able to go home, Jim. 

[Thanks to Lee Gold for the story.]