David G. Hartwell, July 10, 1941 – January 20, 2016

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016 | Posted by Andy Duncan

Photo by Andrew Porter

Photo by Andrew Porter

David G. Hartwell and I talked on the phone for about an hour Tuesday afternoon, between 3 and 4, Eastern time. I was returning his call. Once our small business was done, the conversation roamed free. David talked about the coming snowstorm and that day’s fuel-oil purchase and the pending sale of the house and how he looked forward to our having dinner at ICFA – where we met, 20 years ago, when I was an unpublished grad student, and David introduced himself to me in a hallway and thanked me for writing a paper on C.M. Kornbluth, and invited me to send it to The New York Review of Science Fiction, and welcomed me to the party.

On the phone Tuesday afternoon, David also talked about his family: Kathryn’s health, Peter’s schooling, Liz’s lunch. “There’s pasta if you’re hungry,” he yelled when Liz got home from school in mid-call, “or pickles, if you just want a snack. I’ll be off the phone in a minute.” Twenty minutes later, he still was talking, about science fiction: not the writing, not the industry, but the community.

He told firsthand anecdotes about Campbell, Delany, Merril, Russ, Sturgeon. He said Lester del Rey bought him a drink, after one contentious panel, because Lester loved newcomers who could tell Lester he was wrong, and back it up with evidence. He said his friend Philip K. Dick, like any other chronically ill person, sometimes required hospitalization, but in between episodes (in other words, mostly) was a brilliant thinker, a loving dad, a sane and solid citizen of the field.

“I love telling 50-year-old gossip,” David said, and I replied, “May we still be telling it 50 years from now.” He said, “Indeed!” and kept going.

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Alan Rickman, February 21, 1946 — January 14, 2016

Thursday, January 14th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape-small

British actor Alan Rickman, known around the world for his spot-on portrayal of Slytherin wizard Severus Snape in all eight Harry Potter films, died today of cancer.

Alan Rickman burst into public consciousness with perhaps his finest film role — the arch villain Hans Gruber in Die Hard (1988), whom Maxim magazine called “The Finest Villain of Our Time.” He played the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) and Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (1995). My wife and I still quote Rickman’s Colonel Brandon around the house. Science fiction fans especially enjoyed his marvelous portrayal of Alexander Dane/Dr. Lazarus (clearly based on Leonard Nimoy’s Spock) in Galaxy Quest (1999). He was cast as Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 2001, and reprised the role seven times over the next ten years. He directed Emma Thompson and her real life mother Phyllida Law in his directorial debut, The Winter Guest (1995).

Alan Rickman began his career on stage in his late 20s; his first film role was the BBC TV’s 1978 broadcast of Romeo and Juliet. He provided the voice for Absolem the Caterpillar in Alice Through the Looking Glass, to be released later this year. He died this morning, at the age of 69.

The Goblin King is Gone. The Starman Has Returned to the Sky. R.I.P. David Bowie

Monday, January 11th, 2016 | Posted by Nick Ozment

labyrinthI’m not going to talk about his musical or cultural influence (which was prodigious), or his film career (he was possibly the best actor among those recognized first and foremost as singers). If you want to explore all that (as well you should), the papers and blogs will be inundated with it for days to come.

My own brief contribution to the media buzz is only this: I’m going to take a moment to offer another little reason why his passing warrants note here on Black Gate. And no, it’s not just because he was Jareth the Goblin King in Jim Henson’s wonderful fantasy film Labyrinth (1986) — although that alone might be reason enough. Nor that in other roles both in film (The Man Who Fell to Earth [1976]) and on stage (e.g. Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars) he often portrayed himself as an extraterrestrial, a man visiting our planet from the stars.

It’s in the music itself. The influence of fantasy and speculative fiction can be heard throughout his oeuvre, and some of his songs are themselves tiny gems of speculative fiction. I’ll quickly cite two examples.

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Another Old Fan Gone: “Ned” Cuyler Warnell Brooks Jr., 1938-2015

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

Ned Brooks Georgia Institute of Technology credit: ©2006 Gary W. Meek Photography, Inc. 1525 Grayson Highway, Suite 410 Grayson, GA 30017 770.978.3618 gm@garymeek.com

Ned Brooks
Photo by Gary W. Meek

I was saddened to read in this month’s Ansible that longtime fan Ned Brooks had died from injuries sustained from a fall. He was 77.

Ned was one of the first to welcome me when I got into fandom way back in my fanzine days of the early 1990s. He and I shared an obsession with collecting books, with him beating me handily by several thousand volumes. I often joked with my wife that if she didn’t stop complaining about my ever-expanding library, she should visit Ned’s house and see what a real collection looks like.

I knew him primarily through his fanzine, It Goes on the Shelf, a review zine started in 1985 in which he wrote about all the strange books he picked out of used bookstores, estate sales, and thrift stores. He had an eye for the unusual, the quirky, the forgotten. More than once I’ve gone to my local university library clutching a copy of IGOTS in order to look up some intriguing title.

IGOTS came around Christmas time every year, and my wife I always looked forward to opening up that familiar manila envelope and reading through the colored pages of Ned’s witty reviews of all the books he’d gathered in the previous 12 months. While I fell out of the fanzine world several years ago, Ned’s zine was one of the only I still received. I wasn’t about to give that one up!

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Tom Piccirilli, May 27, 1965 – July 11, 2015

Saturday, July 11th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Tom Piccirilli-smallFour-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author Tom Piccirilli died today.

The first Piccirilli novel I read was A Choir of Ill Children, which I brought with me on an anniversary getaway to downtown Chicago with my wife a decade ago. We saw a lot of live theatre and shows that weekend, but none was as memorable as that slim novel. That one book made me a fan, and Tom Piccirilli became one of my favorite modern horror writers.

His other novels included A Lower Deep (2001), The Night Class (2001), November Mourns (2005), Headstone City (2006), and The Midnight Road (2007). He also authored eight short story collections, including The Hanging Man (1996), Deep into the Darkness Peering (1999), and This Cape Is Red Because I’ve Been Bleeding (2002).

Piccirilli was also an accomplished editor. He edited the Stoker Award-winning poetry anthology The Devil’s Wine (2004), as well as Four Dark Nights (2002) (with Christopher Golden, Douglas Clegg, Bentley Little), and Midnight Premiere (2007). He was a finalist for the Edgar Award for best paperback original mystery with The Cold Spot (2008), and World Fantasy Award finalist for his collection Deep into that Darkness Peering (2000). He was also nominated for the Macavity Award and Le Grand Prix de L’imagination.

Piccirilli was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2012, and suffered a stroke in 2014. His wife, writer Michelle Scalise, posted this brief message to his Facebook account today: “Tom died today. He was the love of my life, an amazing writer and the best person I have ever known.” He was fifty years old.

Tanith Lee, September 19, 1947 – May 24, 2015

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Tanith LeeTanith Lee’s website, tanith-lee.com, is reporting that she passed away on May 24th.

I read my first Tanith Lee novel, Kill the Dead, in 1987. It was her twenty-fifth novel. In her long career she wrote 90 novels and some 300 short stories, as well as two episodes of the BBC series Blake’s 7. Lee often mentioned that she was unable to read until she was 8, due to a mild form of dyslexia, and she began to write at the age of 9. Her first novel was the children’s book The Dragon Hoard (1971); her first book for adults, The Birthgrave, the first novel in The Birthgrave Trilogy, was published four years later. Lee wrote this small epitaph for her website, and it was posted this morning:

Though we come and go, and pass into the shadows, where we leave behind us stories told – on paper, on the wings of butterflies, on the wind, on the hearts of others – there we are remembered, there we work magic and great change – passing on the fire like a torch – forever and forever. Till the sky falls, and all things are flawless and need no words at all.
— Tanith Lee

Tanith Lee was nominated for the Nebula Award twice, and won the World Fantasy Award twice, for her short stories “The Gorgon” (1983) and “Elle Est Trois, (La Mort)” (1984). She received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 World Fantasy Award ceremonies. She was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award for best novel, for Death’s Master (1980). Her most popular works include Don’t Bite the Sun (1976), Tales From The Flat Earth (five books, 1978-1986), The Silver Metal Lover (1981), The Secret Books of Paradys (four novels, 1988-1993), The Secret Books of Venus (four novels, 1998-2003), and the Lionwolf Trilogy (2004-2007), which John R. Fultz reviewed for us in 2010. Tanith Lee passed away on Sunday, May 24, 2015. She was 67 years old.

Terry Pratchett, April 28, 1948 – March 12, 2015

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Terry Pratchett-smallSir Terry Pratchett, the besteselling author of more than 40 Discworld novels who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for services to British literature in 2009, died today at his home in Britain.

Pratchett published his first novel, The Carpet People, in 1971. The Colour of Magic, the first novel in the famous Discworld series, appeared in 1983. Discworld was an international phenomenon, making him the UK’s best-selling author in the 1990s. By the year 2000 he’d been knocked off that lofty pedestal by JK Rowling, but he remains the second most-read writer in the UK.

Pratchett sold over 85 million books in 37 languages. The 2011 Discworld release Snuff became the third-fastest-selling hardback adult novel on record in the UK, selling 55,000 copies in the first three days. He was very prolific, averaging about two novels a year.

Pratchett was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1998, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for services to literature in 2009. In 2010 he received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.

In December 2007, Pratchett announced he was suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Against all odds he continued writing, completing five additional novels in the Discworld series, including the forthcoming The Shepherd’s Crown, scheduled to be released in August. All told, Sir Terry published more than 70 books in a career than spanned more than four decades.

His death was announced on his Twitter account on Thursday morning. He died on March 12 at the age of 66.

Leonard Nimoy, March 26, 1931 — February 27, 2015

Friday, February 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Leonard Nimoy Dead-smallLeonard Nimoy, the gifted actor who breathed life into the emotionless Vulcan Spock — and in the process created one of the most famous and enduring TV characters of all time — died today in Bel Air, California.

Nimoy was born in Boston in 1931. His first major role was at the age of 21, when he was cast in the title role of the film Kid Monk Baroni (1952), followed by more than 50 small parts in TV shows and B movies, including an Army sergeant in Them! (1954) and a professor in The Brain Eaters (1958). He was a familiar face in westerns throughout the early sixties, appearing in Bonanza (1960), The Rebel (1960), Two Faces West (1961), Rawhide (1961), Gunsmoke (1962), and on NBC’s Wagon Train four times. He starred alongside DeForest Kelley (the future Dr. McKoy) in The Virginian (1963), and with William Shatner in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E (1964).

Nimoy was the only actor to appear in every episode of the original Star Trek series, which ran from 1966-69. He received three Emmy Award nominations for playing Spock, and TV Guide named him one of the 50 greatest TV characters in 2009. The role both haunted him and enriched for the rest of his life — which he famously addressed in two autobiographies, I Am Not Spock (1975) and I Am Spock (1995). After Star Trek ended Nimoy found regular work on the small screen in Mission: Impossible for two seasons, the TV documentary In Search of… , and more recently in Fringe. He also appeared in eight feature-length Star Trek films, including the recent reboots directed by J.J. Abrams. He directed two, Star Trek III: Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Star Trek was one of the first science fiction shows to be taken seriously as adult entertainment, and Leonard Nimoy was a huge part of that success. In his near-perfect portrayal of a hero in flawless control of his emotions, Nimoy connected with his audience — and an entire generation of young SF fans — in a way that very few actors, living or dead, have succeeded in doing. Leonard Nimoy died today of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, at the age of 83.

Suzette Haden Elgin, November 18, 1936 – January 27, 2015

Saturday, February 7th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Locus Online is reporting that fantasy author Suzette Haden Elgin, author of The Ozark Trilogy and the Coyote Jones novels, died last month.

Elgin’s first publication, “For the Sake of Grace,” the first part of her long-running series featuring Trigalactic Intelligence Service agent Coyote Jones, appeared in the May 1969 issue of F&SF. Her first novels — The Communipaths (1970), Furthest (1971), and At the Seventh Level (1972) — were part of the same series. They were collected in an omnibus volume from Pocket Books, Communipath Worlds, in 1980 (below, cover by Mara McAfee).

Communipath Worlds-small Twelve Fair Kingdoms-small The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense-small

Twelve Fair Kingdoms, the first novel in The Ozark Trilogy, came in 1981 (above, cover by Michael Flanagan); it was followed by The Grand Jubilee (1981), and And Then There’ll Be Fireworks (1981). Perhaps her most popular genre work, the Native Tongue trilogy — Native Tongue, The Judas Rose, and Earthsong (cover here) — were published between 1984 – 1994.

Elgin’s breakout book, the non-fiction bestseller The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense, was published in June 1985. Among the book’s other accomplishments, it helped put fledgling publisher Barnes & Noble on the map, selling over 250,000 copies. Elgin founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association in 1978. She died on January 27, 2015, at the age of 78.

Eugie Foster, December 30, 1971 – September 27, 2014

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Eugie FosterAuthor and editor Eugie Foster died of respiratory failure today at Emory University in Atlanta.

Eugie announced last October that she has been diagnosed with cancer, a “malignant, fast-growing tumor, around 6cm, in my sinuses and hard and soft palate regions.” She was undergoing aggressive treatments, including a stem cell transplant, which left her vulnerable to infections. In one of her last blog posts, on August 12, 2014, she wrote:

[One] opportunistic bacteria infection has taken up residence in my lower bowels and another one has set up shop in my stomach. Not only is food unpleasant to eat but it’s not doing anything enjoyable once it hits my GI Tract, including staying put. Waaaahhhh!!

They have me on lotso antibiotics and other meds to make this easier on me. I appreciate that but honestly, I just want to be unconscious. None of this is unexpected but it all sucks. Hurry up stem cells. Graft! Graft already!!

I first encountered Eugie when she took over Tangent Online after Dave Truesdale stepped down. Her own short stories were appearing in Interzone, Apex, Fantasy Magazine, Realms of Fantasy, and other places; her story “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” won the 2009 Nebula Award. Jason Waltz introduced me to Eugie at Dragon*Con in 2010, at her busy press station where she produced the onsite newsletter, the Daily Dragon. I found her charming and highly articulate, filled with drive and energy, and seemingly unstoppable.

Her death was announced in a brief blog post by her husband, Matthew M. Foster. She was 42 years old.

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