by Sheryl Birkhead
"Some wines are ageless!"
"And some just turn to vinegar."
Um...er...well, I consider Rotsler to be one of fandom's priceless assets. When I first got into fandom, way back in the Dark Ages, it took a while to figure out the fannish patois. A Neofan's Guide helped with the written word, but there was never any doubt about the content of the simplistic Rotsler cartoons. Don't ever confuse simple with simplistic. The man is about as chary as they come with lines, but packs a deceiving wallop in content.
Alas, I cannot do much more than appreciate the man and, sadly, I don't have any juicy anecdotes to relate. I have never even been privy to one of his legendary dish renditions, when he mystifies all, waiters and mundanes alike, by turning innocent and unsuspecting dishes into fannish mementos. However, I have seen the man at various conventions and watched in awe as he participated in fanartist duels. He wields his felt tip as he would a sword, and has an economy of motion that is a beauty to behold. Few can keep up with him in sheer volume, and none can match his contributions to fan publications over (literally) decades.
I have never seen a biography of this phenomenon, but in bits from various articles have gleaned a bit of understanding of just how versatile and diverse an individual Rotsler is. But he's more than just that. Bill Rotsler has been a delight to fandom for over a half century that he's been in fandom. And there's only one word that adequately describes such a person of lasting, superior quality...
- - - - - - - - - -Lots of readers commented on the feature, with the most amusing one from David Bratman: "It's like reading Partners in Wonder, only shorter and funnier." It was all a surprise to Rotsler, who had no clue we were planning this stunt. He wrote to us: "My God, what egoboo! What a conspiracy! It is unique, fun and flattering!" And then he was gone, dead of cancer just a few months later. Living a continent-width away from him, we had no real idea that his condition had been so dire. And we also didn't know that within three years, two of the artists who contributed to the article would also be gone.
And that wasn't the end of it. Fandom is now into its ninth decade, and the unfortunate truth about the aging of fandom is that every year brings depressing news of the deaths of more and more of those who, in previous decades, were the shapers of what fandom is today. One such person was Lynn Hickman, active in fandom from the 1950s onward, collector extraordinaire and friend of all. Here's more about him:
Top illustration by Sheryl Birkhead and William Rotsler
Middle left illustration by Ian Gunn and William Rotsler
Middle right illustration by Teddy Harvia and William Rotsler
Bottom illustration by Joe Mayhew and William Rotsler