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Greg Pickersgill remembers Ken Bulmer

HKB was definitely a Right Guy, both as a fan and as a writer who produced some work of genuine charm that was actually memorable, which is a damned sight more than can be said of very many other authors.

He was a fan back in the days when it was a Proud and Lonely Thing, with a small but entertaining and readable bundle of fanwriting and fanzines to his name, including a real issue of Nirvana in 1949, a fanzine that had become the stuff of legend even before a stencil was cut. He never did much fanwriting after the 1950s, but he did from time to time show up in such as Peter Weston's Zenith/Speculation, where he often had something to say that was quite outside what might have been expected from a self-confessed hack writer. He may have written to order and by the length, but he actually knew a lot about what makes fiction work.

I'm slightly surprised, thinking about him now, at how much of his stuff sticks in my mind, especially from my earlier days of sf reading. Some of it was just memorable because it was new to me, like the space war stories in New Worlds of the early 60s, but there's also really good stuff that's worth going back to – some fine little pieces in Science Fantasy, for example, including a real favourite in "Strange Highways" (S-F February 1961). Also in the frame for me is The Demons, one of the first sf novels I ever read, way back in about 1965, which is memorable for more than just the bizarrely rodentlike photo of Ken on the back cover of the Compact edition.

And then there's the almost forgotten, except by me and Rog Peyton, short novel The Golden Age, published under the pseudonym Rupert Clinton in New Worlds in 1961 – a really effective alternate worlds story that certainly deserved the book publication it never ever got.

It's a real shame that Ken sort of became the forgotten man of British sf and fandom. He really was a good all-rounder – not fantastically brilliant at any or everything, but a lot better than most. That sounds like damning with faint praise, but I'd be bloody happy if someone were to say that about me, and I think Ken, a realistic guy, would have been delighted by the idea.

He was also, beyond all the above, a thoroughly decent fellow, and I wish I had had more sense and time to get to know him better when I had the chance. Too young and stupid though.

Greg Pickersgill

Steve Sneyd: a footnote on Ken Bulmer

Vignette, which he published in 1954, was almost certainly the first anthology of sf poetry to appear in this country (though he didn't describe it as such, rather as a one-shot poetry fanzine for OMPA). Inter alia it included Brunner, poems reprinted from '41 US fanzines, and a reprinting of Arthur C. Clarke's pioneering article in a 1938 Novae Terrae calling for a poetry of science fiction.

Steve Sneyd

Curt Phillips remembers Howard DeVore

Here is the posting that I'd hoped I'd never have to write:

Howard DeVore has died. I just got the news from Mark Hickman who got it directly from Howard's family. It happened yesterday, Dec. 31 in the late morning. He'd been moved to a rehab facility and had been there about 15 hours and simply passed away. Mark knew no other details as yet, but speculates that Howard will be cremated and that there will be a memorial service at Worldcon and at Midwestcon.

"Big-Hearted" Howard DeVore was one of the best known and best liked fans of all time. He was a SF reader and collector since at least the mid 30's, and when he went off to fight in WWII he moved all his books and magazines into a spare room of his house and padlocked the door shut so that he'd never have to worry about what was happening to his collection while he was away. The key went with him to Europe and flew with him on all his combat missions over France and Germany. Howard was an Aerial Gunner in the US Army 8th Air Force and flew the belly-gunner's position in a B-17, probably the most dangerous single job on that aircraft. He rarely talked about his war years and when he did it was nearly always some incredible tale of outwitting the Army at it's own game – a practice at which Howard was a master. However, several years ago Howard and I both took on the job of guarding the huxter room at Pulpcon and spent the night alone locked in that big old room full of pulps. Howard wasn't able to sleep and so we sat up most of the night and talked. Eventually he started talking about his experiences in WWII and for the first time I heard the real story of the horrors he saw first hand in the skies over Europe. I won't go into details, but his war bore little resemblance to the prettied-up war movies that we've all seen. He saw war at its worst and did his job in spite of it all. Ever since that night Howard's been one of my heros of WWII. He'd have laughed at that idea. I think he'd actually have hated that idea. But heros are rarely the guys who ask for the dirty jobs; they're the guys who get the dirty job done no matter what the cost. And, that was Howard DeVore.

In fandom, he did it all and cast a wide shadow. He published zines – most recently in PEAPS and in other apas, was involved – directly and behind the scenes – with many conventions, was a master SF dealer and became the dealer that editors and other professionals turned to for rare SF, he was an early mainstay of the NFFF, First Fandom, and other fan groups, was a publisher of NFFF publications and wrote a book or two of his own, and no doubt did a great deal more that we'll all hear about in the fullness of time.

Howard's greatest fannish impact was as a mentor and a friend to countless fans all across the entire spectrum of fandom – including me. He was the guy who would always know the info that you wanted or would know where to find it. He knew where to find books and pulps that no one else could find. He had the connections and the knowledge of how to use them. A very handy fellow to be friends with.

He was hardly perfect. Howard smoked too much and continued to do so long after he knew better. He could get furious when a friend of his was being done wrong by anybody else – and would frequently assume the duty of correcting the situation – which was something else that he was very good at. He and his late wife Sybil raised a good bunch of children. I finally met one of his daughters, Karol last year at Midwestcon and immediately found her to be as delightful to talk with as her dad (and much prettier ...). Last year when the Midwestcon weekend came around I was still at work that Friday and had had a terrible week. Irritable co-workers, angry surgeons, lost surgical instruments, grouchy patients complaining, heartbreaking patients dying ... and just at quitting time I got the news that the vacation time off I'd requested had been denied. In that moment when all seemed lost, I remembered that the Midwestcon was to be held that weekend and that I'd heard a report that Howard – who'd been very ill – was thinking of showing up for it. In that very instant I knew how I'd spend my weekend. I drove directly home, packed a small bag, grabbed some cd's of old time radio shows for the truck, kissed Liz good-by for the weekend and drove all night to Cincinnati, arriving early that morning for Midwestcon. I was so sleepy all that day that I probably appeared drugged to all who saw me, but I grabbed a catnap outside by the pool and managed to function. Met some good friends, and got to hang out with Howard, who had indeed shown up. He looked better than he had in quite a while and proudly reported that he'd quit smoking and had lost about 35 pounds. I'd always known that he could do both of those things whenever he'd just make up his mind to do so. We talked several times that day about little things; old times at conventions, people we'd known in PEAPS, about a video tape he'd sent me of a flight on a restored B-17 that he'd taken a few years ago – one of his first flights since leaving the Air Force over 50 years earlier. That evening at the end of the day, we just sat and enjoyed being there with our friends. And that was the whole point. That's always the whole point, really. I'm very glad now that I followed my hunch last year and dropped everything to drive all night to attend Midwestcon for only a day. That was the last time I got to sit and talk with Howard, and it was a very, very good day.

Till the next time, Howard....

Curt Phillips