By Rich Lynch: I read the news about him today at the File770.com newsblog: “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.”
My memories of Roger go back to 1987, when I first met him at the Corflu fanzine convention in Cincinnati. We only talked for a very short time, but it was enough to cement a friendship that had its roots about a year earlier when I had contacted him about being on the program at the 1986 Atlanta Worldcon. My wife Nicki and I were organizers of the Fan Programming track at ConFederation, and we wanted to see if he would be available to introduce the highly-entertaining video production FAANS, where he played a hotel detective during a fictional science fiction convention who became drawn into much intrigue involving iconic fannish myths and legends. Alas, I didn’t actually see him at ConFederation because I missed the panel due to a scheduling conflict. But after that, Nicki and I were looking for opportunities to preserve some of Roger’s memories about previous fan eras in our fanzine Mimosa.
And it turned out there were many. Roger was a good writer and the articles he authored or co-authored for Mimosa were both entertaining and informative. They ranged from stories about 1950s science fiction conventions (including the now-famous Room 770 party at the 1951 New Orleans Worldcon) to recollections about nearly-forgotten fan organizations (such as the Morgan Botts Foundation). From a tale about a memorable fan dinner to a recollection of an even more memorable few months sharing an apartment with Harlan Ellison. From a story about the possibly apocryphal Second Fandom to a heartfelt remembrance of his closest friend, Lynn Hickman, written not long after Lynn’s passing. It was our honor and privilege to have published Roger’s essays about his fandom, and I wish there had been more of them.
Even after Mimosa ended its run in 2003, Nicki and I maintained our friendship with Roger and his wife Pat. Strengthened it, actually. We crossed paths only a few times each year at Midwestcons and Worldcons, but always looked forward to times where we could sit down and talking and as well as opportunities to dine together. In particular, Midwestcons were essential fan activities for us because it was a fannish nexus – we knew we could reconnect with Roger & Pat as well as other fans from storied eras of the past.
I can’t remember for sure which Midwestcon it was when I noticed that Roger seemed to be having mobility issues. Pat informed me that he’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease which I knew would eventually result in his death at some indeterminate point in the future. And every year after that he seemed a bit more frail, though far from fragile – fandom had been a big part of his life for many decades and my impression was that it would take something truly dire to prevent him from being at his favorite fan gatherings. And unfortunately, about two years ago, there was.
One of the many things I despise about the pandemic world of 2020 and 2021 was that it curtailed in-person fan events. The last time I saw Roger, at the 2019 Midwestcon, his wellbeing appeared to have worsened to the point where his attendance at future conventions probably seemed questionable. But you know, I never really thought that – he was such a constant at Midwestcons that, to me, it seemed inconceivable that he wouldn’t be back. And then COVID happened.
I wish I could recall what Roger and I talked about during that final Midwestcon for him. We did have some quality time together and probably shared some memories about recent and long-ago fan happenings. But I just can’t remember for sure. So instead I’ll let my mind travel back to a much-earlier Midwestcon. It was back in 1988, not long before the New Orleans Worldcon where he was the Fan Guest of Honor, that Nicki and I tape-recorded a Saturday night ‘bull session’ where Roger and his friends Howard Devore, Lynn Hickman, and Ray Beam had a grand time reliving their fabulous fandom of the 1950s. There was a small crowd of fans who had gathered around and I have an image frozen in my mind of all the pleasantness and amusement on faces of people who were there. And that’s how I’m always going to remember Roger – a good friend who had many memorable experiences that he was happy to share. And in doing so, made them a permanent part of the legendry of fandom. As is he.