Rest in Peace, Biljon

Last night I and the SF community at large lost a terrific and very tall writer with whom I collaborated upon occasion, Bill Johnson. Bill wrote a lot of stories, which he sold mostly to Analog; but some years back I convinced him to submit one instead to Asimov’s Magazine and it won him a Hugo Award. When his name was announced at the awards banquet, nobody was more amazed than Bill. He was self-effacing (no mean feat when you’re six foot seven), unpretentious, and probably the smartest guy in the room all the time. We were roommates in college, students together in a class led by Joe Haldeman & Larry Martin, and both accepted that same year into the Clarion SF Writers Workshop (possibly the only time that three members of a class taught by one of the writers teaching at Clarion that year made the cut into the program). People tend to bond at Clarions; we already had that bond between us but we added to the list other students from that year, including Kim Stanley Robinson, Robert Crais, Lois Metzger, and Michael Armstrong. The only thing I’ll add is, there wasn’t a ceiling tile that was safe from Bill in that dormitory…

Bill was nearly unflappable. Which isn’t true of me, so he worked that for all the laughs he could get. He was a very quietly hilarious guy. But he also suffered from Marfan’s Syndrome, which I understand plagues tall people like Bill. When we were in college he confessed that it probably meant he would have a short life, and he wasn’t sure he would get to see his (hypothetical at that point) kids grow up. Fortunately, he outlived the prognosis, though I suspect he had more stents in him than any other human on the planet.

There are too many stories to recount here. It’s enough perhaps to say that he met in college and married the love of his life, Gretchen, and had great kids, who he got to watch grow up.

Rest in peace my old friend–

SF Grand Master Joe Haldeman on the Oddcast

On Oddcast #67,  the Liars Club interviews Science Fiction Grand Master Joe Haldeman and his wife Gay Haldeman about Joe’s seminal SF novel The Forever War, which won both the Nebula Award and Hugo Award, and has been in print continuously since 1974; about landing in an MFA program in Iowa; and about writing fiction while overly caffeinated. It’s a hilarious and informative dialogue all the way.

Joe & Gay Haldeman

For Pen Lovers: Son of the Return of the Inkograph

So, back in December I posted about my favorite old fountain pen (an affection shared by author Joe Haldeman among others)—the Koh-i-noor Inkograph, which was modeled on a Rapidograph technical pen, but had a funky tip that wrote at virtually any angle and was a pleasure to work with. Article came with a photo of that old crusty Inkograph. Lo, this month, while clearing out some old boxes, I stumbled upon the never-used Fine point version: the extra pen that I’d bought as Koh-i-noor retired the line, back around 1976.

I have since hunted around on Ebay and pen shows, but nobody seems to have any of these anywhere. All the Inkograph listings seem to be for less-appealing earlier models of the pen. And, boy, do I wish I’d bought a dozen of them when they were being discontinued… In any case, here’s a glimpse of one of the strangest fountain pens ever designed, with its original packaging and insert.
Inkograph fountain pen–gf

 

P.S. A followup, courtesy of Poe scholar Edward Pettit: An article that answers why pencils are yellow, and where that “Koh-i-noor” brand originated: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-little-known-reason-pencils-yellow