Ed Meskys (1936-2021)

Hugo-winning fanzine editor Ed Meskys, a co-founder of American Tolkien fandom, died of a heart attack on July 25 at the age of 85.

Fred Lerner, who received the news from Ed’s wife, Sandy, adds that Ed “had been in declining health for some time, but was in good spirits when I visited him and Sandy two months ago. I first met Ed 58 years ago and have treasured my friendship with him ever since.”

Meskys found fandom in 1955 and joined a local sf club. He was then 19 and living in the Bay Area of California. During the Sixties he moved to New York (where he joined the Lunarians), then to New Hampshire, his home for the rest of his life.

Ed was born in Brooklyn in 1936 of parents born in Lithuania. His father was displaced by WWI in 1917. His father later married and brought his mother from over from Lithuania in 1930. Meskys spoke Lithuanian at home and learned English as second language when started school. In 1962, Ed took a job at the Lawrence Radiation Labs in Livermore, California, where he had a “Q” (nuclear weapons) security clearance. He also held summer jobs at Fort Monmouth NJ (secret clearance) and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He has a BS (cum laude) and MS in Physics from St. John’s University in New York. He preferred teaching to research and started at Belknap College in Center Harbor, NH in 1966.

Andrew Porter remembers meeting Ed at the Open ESFA meetings in New York more than 60 years ago. “Perhaps the first fan I ever met. A good friend for all this time. So many memories of Ed, ranging from his fanzines (including Hugo Award-winning Niekas) to his enthusiasm for all things Gilbert & Sullivan, his days at Livermore Radiation Labs [in California], where he worked on designing A-bombs, his enthusiasm for the NYC subway system, his booming voice, his passion for Lithuanian food, his ability, after he became blind, to see us as we were when he was sighted, not as we’ve aged to become, his many service dogs which doubled as vacuum cleaners for any food on the floor at parties…”

Ed became fully blind in 1971 from a detached and torn retina in his remaining eye, having previously lost sight in the other one in 1953 due to juvenile diabetes. He learned to navigate with the help of a guide dog, and over the years these dogs, who allowed Ed to keep going to conventions, became fannish friends, too. They were mourned when they reached the end of their lives — the 1972 Worldcon’s daily newzine reported there would be a wake for Ed’s old guide dog “Judge” who’d previously been put down because of cancer of the spleen. Ed’s last dog, “Gyro,” died in 2016 — a dog given the public name of “Killer Dog” (to avoid having people call to him when they shouldn’t), which also recognized the dog’s reputation for destroying toy Teddy Bears.

NIEKAS. In 1962, Meskys gave his existing apazine a new name — Niekas — and a new mission: “Since there was no Tolkien fanzine being published I decided to devote Niekas to Tolkien and try to run at least one Tolkien related piece in each issue.” The name itself had nothing to do with Tolkien, but was an inside joke whose meaning Ed enjoyed explaining with a story. Peggy Rae McKnight (later Sapienza) began publishing Etwas in 1960; “We traded fanzines at the time, her Etwas (German for something) for my Niekas (Lithuanian for nothing).”

Meskys had a series of co-editors on Niekas. Anne Chatland worked on the early issues. Felice Rolfe (later Maxam) co-edited the issues that gained a Hugo nomination in 1966 and won the Best Fanzine Hugo in 1967. Two decades later the issues Ed produced with Mike Bastraw, Anne Braude, and Todd Frazier also received a Hugo nomination in 1989. Frazier continued to help with Niekas until he died in 2012.

Ed had a hand in another famous fanzine, too. He helped Charlie Brown and Dave Vanderwerf found Locus, today the trade paper of the sff field, which began life in 1968 as a zine to promote Boston’s bid for the Worldcon. (They would later host the 1971 con.) Meskys was involved through the first year’s issues ‘til his work on the 1968 Tolkien Conference commanded all his time.

TOLKIEN. Ed not only dedicated Niekas to fostering an interest in J.R.R. Tolkien, towards that end he edited such publications as The Tolkien JournalValinorian Times, and Green Dragon.

He was one of the organizers of Tolkien fandom in the U.S. He was president of the Tolkien Society of America from 1967-1972, taking over after first Thain of the Society had to give it up.

He organized the 1968 Belknap College Tolkien Conference, held at Belknap College in New Hampshire, where Ed was a professor. It was a scholarly literary conference where papers were presented, many of them by people from the sf community, such as Lester del Rey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Dainis Bisenieks, and Fred Lerner.

In 1972, at Ed’s suggestion, Tolkien Society of America merged with the Mythopoeic Society founded by Glen GoodKnight, and overnight the Mythopoeic Society grew to more than a thousand members. Ed became a guest of honor at Mythcon in 1975.

OTHER INTERESTS. Ed also was part of the group created by sf fans who love Georgette Heyer Regency roman novels, called Almack’s Society for Heyer Criticism.

He was an associate member of the modern First Fandom club.

Outside of fandom, Ed provided leadership to the National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire, acting as president of both the NH state affiliate and the Lakes Region local chapter. He and Sandy, whom he married in 1989, lived in rural Moultonboro, NH, in the summer and in North Carolina in the winter.

Late in life he was still producing his email-only fanzine The View From Entropy with help from family and friends.

Ed is survived by his wife, Sandy, and a son from his first marriage, Stanley.

Pixel Scroll 12/13 Twenty Thousand Links Under the Sea

(1) MOVIE MEME. Mari Ness’ contribution brought the #ExplainAFilmPlotBadly meme to my attention…

Some others –

(2) THINGS TO DO. Mary Robinette Kowal, who uses Habitica as a productivity tool, invites others get the benefit by participating in her guild, “Ink Slingers”

For science-fiction and fantasy writers and editors who are actively working in the field and trying to improve craft. But who also need peer pressure to be productive.

We have some challenges with habits and dailies that you might find helpful.

The way Habitica works is that you break the things you ought to be doing into three types of things.

  1. Habits: which are things you ought to do, but not necessarily on a regular basis. Like “3 minute stretch break.”
  2. Dailies: which you do regularly. Like “Write three sentences.”
  3. To-Dos: which are one time things. Like “Complete revisions for episode 2.”

To use it, you need to create a Habitica account first, then join Ink Slingers.

(3) WENDIG. Locus Online has an excerpt of its interview with Chuck Wendig.

“We’re either moving toward evolution or the ruination of humanity. There’s an angel and a devil. Both of those are manifest in every single technical jump we make. Which one of these do we bet on? Are we going to destroy ourselves with technology, with a nuclear bomb? Or are we going to get nuclear energy? Even a knife can be used to feed my family, or to kill you and take your food. Even the simplest, tiniest technology has a massive polarizing effect on humanity.”

(4) MAXAM PASSES AWAY. SF Site News reports Bay Area fan Felice Maxam died December 1. Maxam, then Felice Rolfe, participated in the Society for Creative Anachronism from the beginning. She was present at its first Tournament in 1966. She also belonged to the Peninsula SF Association in those days. Co-editor of Niekas with Ed Meskys, she was nominated for two Hugo Awards, and won the Best Fanzine Hugo in 1967.

(5) FUTURE OF EASTERCON. Caroline Mullan is publicizing the Future of Eastercon questionnaire one more time. By Novacon, 207 responses had come in. Another 40 have been submitted since. “We’re mailing round to see if there is anyone else out there who would still like to fill it in before we have another go over the responses,” she says.

The Eastercon Options website has been busy over the last month — here are some of the most interesting posts.

Questionnaire Press Release

A questionnaire was open on the website during October 2015. We had 207 responses, about half from people who do not usually attend Eastercon bidding sessions…. https://eastercon.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/novacon-presentation.pdf

What are the issues?

At the Novacon presentation, someone in the audience asked for a general restatement of what problems we’re trying to solve here. We have a number of problems, some more significant than others, some are not problems at the moment but may well become so. It’s fairly obvious from the results of the questionnaire, that we also have a whole bunch of problems that we didn’t really consider to be problems at all, until we started asking questions….

Communication

Fans are often bad about communication. We tend to be rubbish about talking to other people, and even worse about understanding them when they talk back. That’s a bit strange for a subculture that is largely based around forms of communication, from letters to fanzines to films to blogs to conversations and panels at conventions. Historically though, the record of fans communicating, misunderstanding each other, followed by “all Fandom plunged into war” is pretty consistent. So it’s no surprise that here we are in 2015 and the results from our questionnaire show that we’re still doing a lousy job. I’d like to understand why, though the folly of doing this through the act of communicating via yet another written medium has not escaped me….

(6) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • Born December 13, 1925 – Dick Van Dyke

Fans help Dick Van Dyke kick-off his birthday weekend celebration with a flash mob at The Grove in Los Angeles on December 12, 2015.

(7) SITH STATUARY. The BBC profile “The Man Who Turned Lenin Into Darth Vader” tells about Ukranian sculptor Alexander Milov, who got the Odessa city council to allow him to turn a Lenin statue they were threatening to melt down into a Darth Vader statue. It even has free Wi-Fi!

To create his new sculpture, Milov strengthened the original structure and added a helmet and cape made out of titanium alloy – he also inserted a Wi-Fi router in Vader’s head. Despite the statue’s apparent glibness, it serves as a reminder that we can’t control which memories last and which don’t. “I wanted to make a symbol of American pop culture which appears to be more durable than the Soviet ideal.”

(8) COOKING FOR WHO. Chris-Rachael Oseland, author of Dining with the Doctor (recipes inspired by Doctor Who), is interviewed by Salon in “Geek food for the geek soul: ‘As society gets increasingly secular, we need to fill the social void’”.

Oseland will bring out a second edition of her Dr. Who book next year, as well as “Geek Breads,” which includes the “Dune” recipe. If you’ve seen the image of a “Dune” sandworm made of bread that went viral last week, that’s her work….

So it came out of your interest in history, more than fiction or something?

Yes – and I think that’s reflected in most of my cookbooks. “An Unexpected Cookbook,” my hobbit one, is a straight-up history cookbook: It’s all recipes from Tolkien’s childhood in the 1890s.

I’m doing the same thing with my Dr. Who cookbook – anytime where they go back in history, it’s an excuse for me to tuck in a few historical facts… I feel this obligation to make sure I’m historically accurate with these things.

(9) SENSE OF HISTORY. Adam-Troy Castro read Castalia House’s first two blog posts about pedophilia in sf and he challenges the relevance of its entry about David Asimov.

(10) SOUND FOOTING. Star Wars socks from Stance.

Starwars-bg-top-hero-sm

(11) OUT OF THE BOX. This Saturday Night Live faux commercial spoofs toy collecting nerds.

(12) RUCKER RECOMMENDS. Rudy Rucker’s book picks for 2015 ends with four books from this year (the others date earlier). His enthusiasm is contagious, so brace your TBR pile for incoming….!

(10) Paul Di Filippo, A Palazzo in Space. 2015. Paul Di Filippo writes SF stories, a lot of them, and he’s had a zillion collections come out. I collaborate with him on stories sometimes, so I’m very sensitive to the pleasures of his style. He has this jovial voice and an extreme love of words, with a real knack for SF neologisms. Like one of his stories communication devices is said to be “uebertoothed.” And there’s a gang of reality hackers called Los Braceros Ultimos. In one of his stories, “Pocketful of Faces,” he gets into an insane riff about people switching their faces, storylet after storylet, topping himself over and over—its’ like watching some mad juggler. And in the denouement, someone is wearing a fake face on top of a fake face on top of their real face, and who even knows why, but it just has to happen. And the doubly buried faces is like a pale grubworm inside a rotten log. Great stuff. Write on, celestial scribe!

(11) ONE LORD A-LEAPING. Legend of Tarzan official teaser trailer.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and Steven H Silver for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Todd Frazier Passes Away

Todd E. Frazier

Ed Meskys reports that Todd Frazier, his friend and partner in the fanzine Niekas, died February 8. He was 57.

Two papers in Frazier’s hometown ran obituaries, The Citizen of Laconia here and the Laconia Sun here.

Sherwood Frazier said about his brother, Todd’s, interest in sf and fantasy:

Growing up Todd developed an early interest in books and reading. He had amassed a very respectable comic book collection and was an avid stamp collector in his younger years. His real passion when it came to books however; was Science Fiction & Fantasy, his apartment was a reflection of this with numerous book cases of SF & F books, futuristic art on the walls, and mementoes of the many Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Star Trek conventions he had traveled to. This interest led him to Ed Meskys of Moultonborough with whom he edited and helped publish a quarterly “Fanzine” about the genre of Science Fiction & Fantasy entitled “Niekas” for many years.