Archeology is the study of antiquity. Fandom is now into its eighth decade, and the
unfortunate truth about the aging of fandom is that every year brings us depressing
news of the deaths of more and more of the those who, in previous decades, were the
shapers of what fandom is today. This past couple of years has been especially
cruel, with the passing of Charles Burbee, Redd Boggs, Bob Shaw, Ethel Lindsay, Ed
Wood, Joni Stopa, Elsie Wollheim, and just recently, Sam Moskowitz. We're ending
this issue with a remembrance of another well-known fan of many decades by one of
My friend Lynn Hickman died October 30, 1996, at age 70, just eight short weeks after having been diagnosed with lung cancer. Sometime during the first week in August, Lynn decided that he wasn't feeling well. He also decided that he did not have an ordinary cold or even bronchitis or even pneumonia. It might just be something more serious. So, by his own standards, he did something very drastic: he stopped smoking -- this, after being a smoker for his entire adult life. As the reader has already surmised, this action was much too late.
His wife, Carolyn, also aware things were not well, kept urging him to see his doctor. In early September, he finally did. Cancerous spots were located on his lungs and it was discovered that he had second stage emphysema as well as blood clots in his legs. It was determined that he was not a candidate for surgery, and was put on radiation treatments instead. A second examination after the radiation course revealed that the cancer had made considerable growth and the doctor gave him two to six months to live. Lynn cut that to eight days by eating and drinking almost nothing.
But that is quite enough of his death. Let us now examine in some length his life and times. Lynn Hickman was born June 5th, 1926. He grew up with the pulps and science fiction fandom. He was truly a man of his times.
Lynn's early career in fandom took the form of writing letters to the pulps and to fans whose letters he enjoyed reading in their letters columns. He had made a conscious effort not to attend a science fiction convention, although he did enjoy reading about the antics of fans who did. All this changed when Cincinnati won the right to hold the 1949 Worldcon, but even with Cincinnati winning, Lynn was still not sure he wanted to attend a meeting at which he might encounter over a hundred people, even if all of them would be fans! Now, I'm sure that many reading this who knew Lynn may well be astounded by that statement. But the truth is that Lynn never liked being with a lot of fans at one time. This is the reason why he attended very few Worldcons during his last fifteen years. What probably made him decide to attend the Cinvention was that his good correspondent buddy, Don Ford, was to be the chair -- that and the fact that the convention hotel in downtown Cincinnati had beds that pushed into the wall. In later years as he told and retold this story, it was not possible to determine which one of the two reasons had the most weight, but I do believe that it was the bed in the wall that pushed him over the edge, so to speak.
It turned out that Lynn had a great time at Cinvention. When Portland won the right to hold the 1950 Worldcon, he felt that it was just too far to go for a weekend and stayed home. But in 1951, he decided that New Orleans was not too far, and besides, his favorite music, Dixieland, was played all over town there. And so he went. After attending those two worldcons and a couple of Midwestcons (including the first one) there was no turning back. In later years he was proud that he had only missed one Midwestcon!
I suppose it's possible that Lynn will be remembered as a fan legend. His accomplishments in fandom are themselves certainly legendary. In the summer of 1950, Wilkie Conner came to visit Lynn in Statesville, North Carolina, where Lynn was living at the time. They decided to form a club that would give solace and unification to people who were stared at by mundanes as if they were little monsters when they were seen reading prozines, and gave it the whimsical name of 'The Little Monsters of America'. The club lasted for over a decade and sponsored some small conferences. There was even a club fanzine. And in October of 1958, Lynn was present at a meeting that established an even more famous fan group: First Fandom.
From reading various things after he died, I learned that Lynn first published a fanzine sometime during 1950. Over the next forty-five-plus years he published many fanzines and apazines. The two main titles of his general interest fanzines were J.D. Argassy and Pulp Era. Pulp Era was his serious zine, devoted to discussions of all of the pulp magazines. Pulp Era was considered an important fanzine for that reason, so much so that copies of all of the Pulp Eras are now in the Library of Congress.
In 1972, Lynn invited four other pulp collectors to spend a weekend with him at his home in Wauseon, Ohio, to discuss all aspects of the pulps. At the end of the weekend, two of the others, Gordon Huber and Rusty Hevelin, decided with Lynn that this one-shot was too much fun to let die, so they made plans to hold a second one in nearby Toledo. This was the start of the annual Pulpcon conventions. Lynn was only involved with Pulpcon's operations in its formative years, but he always remained loyal to it, attending over half of the meetings. He and Darrell Richardson have been Pulpcon's only two Fan Guests of Honor. Sometime in the 1980s, Lynn was the receiver of the Lamont Award, which is given each year to the person who has made major contributions to the world of pulp magazines. In 1987, he talked 24 other pulp collectors into participating in an apa devoted to pulp magazines. He was its first editor.
In addition to J.D. Argassy and Pulp Era, Lynn published many fanzines with often interesting names: Pack Rat, Wauseon Wonder Stories, Huckleberry Finnzine, The Goody Gumdrop Boys at Jellybean Mountain, and Gooseberries. His reason for using Gooseberries as a title was he liked gooseberry pie and once made several bottles of excellent wine from the gooseberries in his backyard.
I first met Lynn at the first Nolacon, where he was the very first fan introduced there. It was friend for life at first contact. Between 1951 and about 1965 our contact was limited to the conventions that we attended, but after that, he, I and our wives spent at least fourteen weekends a year together. In addition to the many hours that we spent at his kitchen table after our wives had gone to bed, we were privileged to spends many hours in bars in Eng-land, Scotland, New Zealand, and Australia. During these 'discussions', we would argue over the smallest details to the point that anyone in earshot would throw up their hands and walk away. In fact, sometimes in the middle, having exhausted our points of view, we would change sides and continue on. It is safe to say that neither of us made the slightest dent in the other's opinion on anything!
I will miss him more than I have ever missed another fan or friend. He truly was the brother I never had. For the rest of my life I will not be able to taste a new beer, or see a movie, or hear a new joke, or read a book without saying to myself, "Damn, I can't share this with Lynn!"
All illustrations by Diana Harlan Stein