Today’s Birthday Boy

This photo of Geis, taken in 1983 by Rick Hawes, shows him at the age of 56.

This photo of Geis, taken in 1983 by Rick Hawes, shows him at the age of 56.

Born July 19, 1927: Richard E. Geis

Dick Geis was an urbane, funny fanwriter with a genius for getting pros involved in his fanzine and presiding over their personal feuds in his pages. Today we’d call those kerfuffles.

Whether titled Psychotic, Science Fiction Review or The Alien Critic it was the same winning recipe. His humorous editorials, everybody else’s problems, and tons of book reviews. It was a semiprozine before the term was invented.

Geis earned 34 Hugo nominations, including a streak where he was a Fan Writer Hugo nominee every year 1973-1986. He won 7 Best Fan Writer Hugos and 6 Best Fanzine Hugos.

While I was in junior high school in the 1960s, a local librarian started a science fiction discussion group. We were never in contact with mainstream fandom, though we had a few hints about it. Merely seeing an ad for Science Fiction Review inspired us to publish a fanzine. We modeled it on Analog and I wrote the Campbell-wannabe editorials.

I wrote a lot of letters of comment to Geis, and sent him my own fanpublishing efforts. Geis was the first to note my inability to choose a felicitous title and even made several suggestions for a replacement, the only one I remember being Back Space. I demurred, and within a few years was publishing another zine with a dubious title, File 770.

He was a legendary recluse. We never met – he stopped attending LASFS poker games about a year before I joined the club. However, when Geis was looking for a Hugo accepter in 1974 Bruce Pelz lined me up for the job. Geis won, so I got to carry the rocket around to parties the rest of the night.

16 thoughts on “Today’s Birthday Boy

  1. I first got to know him as one of the regulars on It wasn’t until later that I learned about his extensive fannish resume.

  2. I exchanged letters with him back in the day, and he was as interesting as John Campbell to talk to in that way. A great man.

  3. My college had a fairly good run of The Alien Critic – early ’70s to early ’80s – bound and shelved along with other magazines; I stumbled on it one day and lost much of the next several weeks to reading it. I have fond memories of the experience. 🙂

  4. @Bruce Baugh: It’s a wonder how a bindery can take what would otherwise be cultural ephemera and turn it into something permanent that can be handled and studied by future generations. I worked in a bindery in the ancient past, and bound everything from Locus to Energumen, and gave them to editors, so I could end up reading past issues when they saw the benefit of permanence.

  5. When I was in my 20s, it was interesting that fandom was one of the few places where the binder’s arts would be considered cool, or at the very least interesting. What a strange and lovely place it was to be.

  6. David Stever: Did you ever compare notes with Chuck and Dian Crayne? They did a lot of binding in the 70s.

  7. I remember more than one fannish household furnished with sofas and chairs made out of glued-together big, heavy cardboard rolls that David brought home from the bindery, that had been the cores of rolls of various binding materials.

  8. And I am an idiot and short on sleep, because I was actually thinking of Dick Eney.

  9. Morris- I remember the Terminus Halloween party where I flipped the ‘couch’ over to serve as the coffin for my vampire costume. I think Spike MacPhee was much more fascinated with my furniture handy work then I was, and I’m certain he kept the chair after the Terminus household broke up. I just also thought about the fact that the Halloween party would have about two months after Jim Saklad took my stitches out at Discon II. Remember that strangest of Worldcon parties?

  10. We definitely had some of that furniture in the house on Aldrich St. where Spike and I were two of the housemates, after Terminus.
    I was at Discon, but I don’t remember being at that party. I’m guessing that the stitches were from the re-attachment after your unfortunate encounter with the binding machine?

  11. Another binder? I had no idea, Mike! I guess I should wondered around when I was at LAcon. Of course back in the day, I did find myself at a party there where a guy looked at my badge and told me that they had misspelled ‘Cochituate’ (the name of the village that I listed as my hometown. I wasn’t sure if I was more surprised that he pronounced it correctly or that the committee really had misspelled it.
    I guess I could have had a better time if I’d met Chuck and Dian (I remember their names), but I had a pretty good one anyway.

  12. No that would have after Aussicon when I was living with Krissy up the street from Dukakis.
    Discon was when Jim took out the stitches I got instead of attending the NESFA meeting in my own house because I’d had the encounter with the doorframe. Being bald now, i can readily see every day the crease I got from that same doorframe. Fourteen stitches, as I remember. Jim had quite an audience when he took them out at the fabulous Washington Sheraton.

  13. It did make me sad, when I started poking my nose back into fandom recently, to discover that Dick Geis was no longer with us. I was an avid reader of his zines, back in the day.

  14. Geis provided a window into fandom before I got around to going to cons in person. More important (for someone with conventional lit training and a love of SF), Geis showed what could be accomplished by amateur criticism and commentary. SFR, TAC, along with Riverside Quarterly and SF Commentary, were sources of smart, committed, and unpretentious writing about SF. And Geis and Alter Ego were funny as hell.

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