Friday, 2 January 2009

Those We Lost in 2008

SF&F is an ever-aging genre, and sadly we lost some more great figures from the field in the past year. This list is by no means complete. Maximum kudos to the diligent David Langford, whose monthly newsletter Ansible keeps track of this unwelcome task every month and which provided the basis for this list (check the link and the individual 2008 issues for much more exhaustive details).

Forrest J. Ackerman (1916-2008), a major genre fan who also worked as a critic, short fiction writer, editor and agent (for the immortal Ed Wood, among others). An important populariser of the genre, he is credited with inventing cosplay (by attending the first-ever Worldcon in costume) and bringing the term 'sci-fi' into the mainstream, to the despair of many (but probably the delight of the term's apparent originator Robert Heinlein, who would likely have taken the blame otherwise).

John Alvin (1948-2008), American artist who created many infamous and iconic movie posters, most notably the 'magic finger' image for ET. His other work included Blazing Saddles (his debut), Gremlins and the Star Wars anniversary re-release posters.

Robert Asprin (1946-2008), US SF&F author, best-known as the co-creator (with Lynn Abbey) of the Thieves' World fantasy shared world.

Pauline Baynes (1922-2008), a noted British artist who gained widespread recognition for illustrating the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Famously, she was Tolkien's illustrator of choice, with the author once declaring that she had "reduced my text to a commentary on the drawings," (for Farmer Giles of Ham). She later achieved great success in her own right, winning the Kate Greenaway Medal for her work on a book entitled The Age of Chivalry.

Jane Blackstock (1947-2008), former Gollancz rights director and publisher.

Algis Budrys (1931-2008), German-born SF author.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008), one of the most famous, recognisable and influential figures the genre has ever produced. As well as a backlog of indisputable science fiction classic novels (most notably Rendezvous with Rama, The City and the Stars, Childhood's End and The Fountains of Paradise), he collaborated as writer with Stanley Kubrick on the 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, whose impact on both SF and Hollywood was enormous. He also presented a major 1980s documentary television series, Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World, that was an international success. It was one of his mid-1940s articles in Wireless World that established the viability of using geostationary orbit as an ideal position for communications satellites, and his writings on the use of technology have been influential and inspirational for entire generations of space industry workers. He had been resident in Sri Lanka since the 1950s.

Hugh Cook (1956-2008), British fantasy author best-known for his hugely, insanely ambitious Chronicles of an Age of Darkness series which ran for 10 volumes (out of a projected 60) in the 1980s. Scott Lynch once cited The Walrus and the Warwolf as one of the most memorable book titles of all time, and may not be wrong.

Alexander Courage (1919-2008), Emmy-winning American composer of television and film music. His TV work included Lost in Space and Voyager to the Bottom of the Sea, but he remains best-known as the creator of the original theme to Star Trek, partially reprised in Star Trek: The Next Generation and most of the subsequent movies.

Michael Crichton (1942-2008), a sometimes-SF&F writer who found immense international success with novels such as The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park and Congo, all of which were made into successful movies. His latter career was dogged by controversy over his scepticism over global warming and his startling personal attack on one literary critic by portraying him as a child molester in a subsequent novel. However, his books were popular and drew many new fans to the genre.

Don S. Davis (1942-2008), American actor with many genre roles, most notably as General George S. Hammond on Stargate SG-1 and its spin-off, Stargate Atlantis. He also had a recurring role on The X-Files as Dana Scully's father.

Thomas M. Disch (1940-2008), SF novelist and short story writer, “the most respected, least trusted, most envied and least read of all modern first-rank sf writers” (John Clute, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, 1993).

George MacDonald Fraser, OBE (1925-2008), British author of the Flashman historical novels and scriptwriter of the James Bond movie Octopussy.

E. Gary Gygax (1938-2008), American game designer and fantasy novelist best known for his creation (with Dave Arneson) of the original, enormously influential Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game.

Charlton Heston (1924-2008), American actor and arms rights lobbyist, best-known for his roles in various Biblical epics but with famous genre turns in Planet of the Apes (followed by an extended cameo in Beneath the Planet of the Apes), The Omega Man and Soylent Green.

Robert H Justman (1926-2008), American television producer, best-known for his roles as producer and assistant director on the original Star Trek, and as a producer on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Michael de Larrabeiti (1934-2008), UK novelist, best known for the Borribles trilogy of children's books.

Heath Ledger (1979-2008), Australian-born actor whose main genre credits were as one of The Brothers Grimm and as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

Anthony Minghella (1954-2008), British writer and director behind several major films, including The English Patient and Cold Mountain. His main genre turn was as scriptwriter and director on the supernatural love story Truly, Madly, Deeply, starring Alan Rickman.

Paul Newman (1925-2008)
, American actor of considerable success and critical acclaim. He had major roles in several movies with SF&F elements, most notably the fantastical Hudsucker Proxy and post-apocalypse drama Quintet, as well as providing voice work for Pixar Animation's Cars. His last on-screen role was in Road to Perdition.

Geoffrey Perkins (1953-2008), a British radio producer best-known for his work on The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry (1932-2008), American actress and wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, best-known for playing Nurse Christine Chapel in Star Trek, Lwaxana Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, and for voicing Starfleet computers in all five main Star Trek series. She was slated to continue this tradition with JJ Abrams' new Star Trek movie at the time of her passing.

Leonard Rosenman (1924-2008), multi-Oscar-winning composer who scored many genre films, including Ralph Bakshi's take on The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Robocop 2 and many others.

Roy Scheider (1932-2008), American actor best-known for his role in Jaws and its sequel. He also had a recurring role as Captain Bridger on seaQuest DSV and played Heywood Floyd in the movie adaption of Arthur C. Clarke's 2010.

Dave Stevens (1955-2008), American comics writer/artist who created The Rocketeer (a movie version was produced by Disney in 1991).

Levi Stubbs (1936-2008), although more well-known as the lead singer of the Four Topps, he had a minor but highly memorable contribution to the SF&F genre when he voiced the marauding, psychopathic sentient plant Audrey II in the 1986 movie version of Little Shop of Horrors.

Jinzo Toriumi (1929-2008), Japanese anime writer whose work included Astro Boy, Speed Racer and the Japanese version of Battle of the Planets.

Joan Winston (1931-2008), a major figure in early Star Trek fandom who attended the recording of the final episode of the original series, where she befriended Gene Roddenberry. This in turn gave her the cachet to organise the first official Star Trek convention in 1972, which was an enormous success. She played a vital role in keeping the fires of Trek fandom burning during the decade when the show was off the air.

Stan Winston (1946-2008), US special and visual effects pioneer and a multiple Oscar-winner for his work on Aliens, Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park. He was a frequent collaborator with James Cameron and was working on Terminator Salvation when he died.


doug said...

I didn't know Levi Stubbs died this year. I'll have to play "Levi Stubbs' Tears" in his honor.

Mark Newton said...

This is a good post - and offers some necessary perspective. I think these sorts of things get lost in all the heated online discussions and lists...

Jebus said...

I didn't know Hugh Cook died! His series is one of my all time favourites and I had planned to re-read it this year. Bugger...