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The Unofficial Robert Bloch Website

Essays

GoHst Writer In The Sky

Mike Glicksohn

I first-encountered science fiction in the early 1950s, on BBC radio and in the odd-sized pulp pages of the combination comic-strip/prose-tale British comics of the era. I became a lifetime addict. A little more than a decade later I discovered Science Fiction Fandom (at the Cleveland Worldcon in 1966) and it became a major part of my life for the next thirty five years.

In the course of my (occasionally high-profile) interaction with fandom, I've had the opportunity to meet/become acquainted with/become friends with most of the science fiction writers from Asimov to Zelazny. A (delightfully) few of these "legends" have had enormous clay feet but the vast majority turned out to be just what you'd expect: decent people who just happened to have a talent that made them heroes in my younger eyes.

But a handful turned out to actually be the larger-than-life giants my teenage self imagined them to be. And the noblest gentleman of them all was undoubtedly Robert Bloch.

When I became a "science fiction fan" I was attracted to the world of fanzines and devoted much of my time and energy to writing for and eventually publishing them. And it didn't take me long to realize that Robert Bloch, internationally-famous author of "Psycho" and hundreds of award-winning horror, mystery and science fiction tales had been and still was a fanzine fan. So when I started my own fanzine, naturally I sent him a copy (it wasn't hard to find his address as his letters frequently appeared in some of the 'zines I'd collected.)

And he responded! With a postcard and some complimentary remarks about my undoubtedly amateurish efforts. The effect on this young fan was electrifying. Robert Bloch had read and replied to my magazine! Robert Bloch!!

Yet I'm probably one of hundreds of fanzine publishers who have experienced that rush at getting a postcard-of-comment from this legendary author. For all his fame, for all his notoriety, Bloch never forgot his roots as a fanzine fan and over the course of his lifetime must have sent many hundreds of hand-written postcards thanking other fans for sending him their publications. Many authors have seemed to feel they owe a debt to fandom but I know of no-one who gave as much or as unselfishly as Robert Bloch. And it's this whole-hearted dedication to fandom, the microcosm which helped him establish his career, which has always made me think Robert Bloch is the quintessentially fannish science fiction superstar, the "spirit" of what makes science fiction fandom a very special place to be.

Bloch was the Guest of Honour at TORCON in 1948, of course. (I was two years old and in England at the time so I couldn't be there.) A quarter-century later he became one of the rare repeat Guests of Honour at TORCON 2 in 1973. And we met in person for the first time (I was helping run the convention.) By then my fanzine was in the running for a Hugo and I'd sent him each issue as it was published (always getting back a hard-to-decipher hand-written postcard which revealed that the issue had been read.) Robert Bloch welcomed me as an old friend. He commented on things in my most recent issue (which had been published some four months before the convention), greeted me as a fellow member of the fellowship of fanzine fans and quite simply impressed the hell out of me. I thought then as I continue to think now: nobody embodies the true spirit of science fiction fandom better than Robert Bloch.

Over the succeeding decades I had the pleasure of meeting Bloch in person several times but I continued to send him my fanzines and he continued to reply with postcards. In 1982, at a convention somewhere, I asked him to autograph a copy of "The Eighth Stage of Fandom", a 1962 collection of articles that he'd written for fanzines over the years. His over-stated but flattering inscription read, "For Mike, who has elevated fandom far beyond the eighth stage, with admiration and affection, Robert Bloch." Just another example of what a true gentleman he was.

When his autobiography appeared in 1993 I immediately bought a copy, read and enjoyed it (while being saddened at how often fate had dealt him a rotten hand) and I wrote and asked him if he'd sign my copy of the book if I mailed it to him (with return postage, of course.) When I got back a wonderful letter from him saying he'd be happy to oblige an old friend (a letter I've kept to this day) I shipped the book to California and since I knew he was ill (although not just how ill he was) I took the time to do something I've rarely done: I wrote a fan letter to an author I considered a friend and told him just how much his writing and our contacts had meant to me. I'll always be glad I did that.

Bob sent the book back quickly with a delightful inscription, reinforcing my belief that he was one hell of a good man.

And a relatively short time later Robert Bloch died.

I wept. And I wondered at the fact that despite all of his personal problems this incredible fan had taken the time to exchange letters with me and to sign and mail me back my copy of his book.

Some amazing people have been a part of science fiction fandom and have given back to it more than could ever be expected. None more so than Robert Bloch. This brilliant writer and consummate punster epitomizes the best that science fiction fandom has to offer.

Had he lived until 2003, Robert Bloch would have been an honoured Guest of TORCON 3. As it is, we recognize that few writers have ever embodied the sense of family and belonging that is the essence of science fiction fandom better than he did and in a very real sense Robert Bloch exemplifies the "spirit" of fandom more than anyone else I know.

It is for that reason I conceived the idea of having him as TORCON 3's "GoHst of Honour." (In case anybody missed it, a convention "Guest of Honour" is traditionally referred to as "the GoH", pronounced "go", hence "GoHst", which is pronounced "ghost".)

I like to think Bob would have appreciated both the gesture and the double pun.

_______________________

Mike Glicksohn has been a fan for 36 years. He won a Hugo for his fanzine in 1973 at TORCON 2, which he helped organize, and was a Guest of Honour at the 1975 Worldcon in Australia. He considers his lengthy friendship with Robert Bloch to be one of the highlights of his fannish career.

This essay originally appeared as part of the website for TORCON 3 -- the 61st World Science Fiction Convention.

This essay is 2002 by Mike Glicksohn, and is reprinted here with permission. The webmaster wishes to extend his thanks to Mr. Glicksohn and Mr. Drew Mathers.