Leland Sapiro (1924-2013)

Leland Sapiro (born Shapiro) died October 8. Sapiro was best known as editor of Riverside Quarterly, three-time nominee for the Best Fanzine Hugo (1967, 1969, 1970), “an earnest little fanzine, the hand-knitted fannish equivalent of an academic journal” as described by Alexei Panshin, whose Heinlein in Dimension first saw print there.

The zine began when Sapiro, along with Jon White and Ron Smith revived the fanzine Inside Science Fiction as Inside in 1962. Eventually, Sapiro gained editorial control, renaming it Riverside Quarterly in 1964. The zine continued to appear until it went on hiatus in the mid-1970s. When he resumed publication issues came out infrequently, the last in 1993.

In the early days of academic study of science fiction Sapiro considered his Riverside Quarterly in a rivalry with Thomas Clareson’s Extrapolation. He humbly conceded first place to Clareson in a 1972 Worldcon program book ad while touting his own long list of distinguished contributors.

Among his contributors were Jack Williamson, who let RQ run an expanded version of his Ph.D. thesis H.G. Wells: Critic of Progress, James Blish, Robert Bloch, Algis Budrys, Samuel Delany, Philip Jose Farmer, Ursula K. Le Guin, Darrell Schweitzer, John Sladek and Harry Warner, Jr.

These were the early days of academic interest in science fiction and fantasy. In 1962 Sapiro, Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, Sam Russell, and Arthur Jean Cox participated in a panel discussion about Lovecraft at a LASFS meeting and the published transcript (with annotations by August Derleth) became a sought after collectors item.

Sapiro lived all over North America during his lifetime – Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada, Florida, Texas and Louisiana, to name a few.

Although he had a reputation as a dry, scholarly writer, there was a passionate fan inside. So the story goes, in the 1950s a prozine published a bigoted letter by a Louisiana fan that pushed Sapiro’s buttons. Sapiro, who then lived in Los Angeles, took a plane to New Orleans and a taxi to the fan’s house. When the fan answered the door, Sapiro punched him in the face, returned to his taxi, and flew back to LA.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]