The Millennium Philcon®

August 30, 2001 - September 3, 2001
Philadelphia, PA
59th World Science Fiction Convention

[Ben Franklin in Space]

About George H. Scithers: Four Hugos, His Innate Wickedness, Woof, and All That

by Darrell Schweitzer

Let me get some of the preliminaries out of the way first. George Scithers is Millennium Philcon's Fan Guest of Honor, but, for all that Fandom may well be a Way of Life (FMWBAWOL, pronounced "Fim-wa-ba-wol," and condemned by the orthodox as liberal revisionist waffling from the traditional FIAWOL), or maybe not, it does set the scene at least to mention that George was born in 1929, is a graduate of West Point and Stanford, and is trained as an electrical engineer. At various points in his mundane life he had much to do with keeping communications working in Korea and commuter trains running in Philadelphia.

His professional science fiction career has been distinguished. He was the founding editor of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, for which he won the Hugo twice, in 1979 and 1981. He began or gave a substantial boost to the careers of such writers as John M. Ford, Somtow Sucharitkul (a.k.a. S.P Somtow), and Barry Longyear, publishing the latter's celebrated, Hugo-and-Nebula-winning and filmed "Enemy Mine" in the September 1979 issue. As editor of Amazing, 1982-1986, he gave that magazine a much-needed boost. He has been co-editor (or sometimes publisher) of Weird Tales since 1988. This experience with various magazines has enabled him to carry on some charming traditions. For example, the last story he bought for Asimov's was by Gene Wolfe. The first story he bought for Amazing was by Gene Wolfe. The first story he bought for Weird Tales was by Gene Wolfe. As George has often confessed a secret desire to edit Planet Stories one day should that day ever arrive, I am sure he will try very hard to introduce Gene Wolfe to write a Planet story.

[George Scithers @ Denvention, 1981]He was also a great patron of the late, great Avram Davidson, publishing him extensively in all three magazines. And as editor/publisher of Owlswick Press, George published (and designed, beautifully) the last two of Davidson's books published in his lifetime, The, Adventures of Dr. Eszterhazy and Adventures in Unhistory.

Indeed, as a specialty publisher, he has produced a long series of handsome books, ranging from illustrated editions of Sprague de Camp and Lord Dunsany to an alleged facsimile of the original manuscript of Al Azif, more commonly known as The Necronomicon.

As a writer he has published but a few stories, but has managed to sell to some of the greatest editors in the history of science fiction, including John W. Campbell, Jr.; Ben Bova; and Frederik Pohl.

But never mind all that-or, put it aside for a moment.

Let us consider George Scithers as a fan. He has been active in fandom since the '50s. George is one of the earliest members of the Hyborian Legion, an association devoted to the perpetuation and admiration of Robert E. Howard, Conan, and all things swordly and sorcerous. But for a single sheet announcing the formation of the Legion, George was the publisher of all issues (from Vol 11, No. 1 to Vol 11, No. 71, 1959-1982) of the Legion's journal Amra, for which he won two Best Fanzine Hugos (1964, 1967).

Amra was, for the time, a truly incredible publication. Long before the days of desktop publishing, in an era of mimeograph, ditto, and manual typewriters, Amra was neatly printed by offset lithography, with beautiful, often very subtle reproductions of the artwork of the great illustrator Roy G. Krenkel. The written content was impressive too, the contributors including Poul Anderson, Jerry Pournelle, Fritz Leiber, L. Sprague de Camp, Leigh Brackett, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and several times (albeit posthumously) Robert E. Howard himself. Several books have been compiled out of Amra material, the best of them being the three from Jack Chalker's Mirage Press, The Conan Reader, The Conan Swordbook, and The Conan Grimoire, which also reproduce much of Amra's sumptuous artwork.

But that's not all. George was once a worldcon chairman and has lived to tell about it, having run Discon I in 1963, having made several basic innovations in worldcon procedures which are still with us today. The Masquerade as we know it is a Scithers invention. Before that, there was a costume party; but the formal event, in which contestants parade across a stage in front of judges, was a Scithers invention.

You must ask George the story of how he called the event to order with a pre-arranged swordfight. (Those were simpler times, before weapons policies.) George has a lot of stories like that, which display a whimsical side. He is also a great patron of the art of the Limerick, for example, and of the Feghoot (those short-short stories that end in awful puns, as pioneered by the late Reginald Bretnor in his Ferdinand Feghoot series, the very last of which appeared in Weird Tales). He is also someone who picks up a ringing phone and answers, "Telephone," and, for reasons even his closest associates don't fully understand, will hang up with "Woof." He occasionally uses such quaint and curious phrases as, "in spite of your innate wickedness."

So, in short, George is someone who has been just about everywhere and done everything in fandom. As a member of, variously, WFSA, LASFS, PSFS and The Elves' Gnomes' and Little Men's Science Fiction, Chowder & Marching Society, he has shown himself to be a master parliamentarian.

But how is his true fannish nature most clearly evident?

It's very simple. Getting back to the subject of telephones for a moment, I need only point out that George's current number spells ASK GHOD.

With an "H."

What more can you ask?

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