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SF fan, rock journalist, and all-around fascinating friend Paul Williams died Wednesday night following a long decline due to a brain injury from a biking accident in 1995. I met Paul a few years before the accident, and think I last saw him in 2002 when he and Cindy Lee Berryhill stopped by Conagerie, that year's Westercon in Los Angeles. But it might have been the 2006 Westercon in San Diego instead. The years, they blur.

I met Paul through his decades-long friendship with galacticvoyeur. IIRC, Jeff designed and typeset the 2000 edition of Paul's book, Time Between. He might have done another book of Paul's, too.

I don't have a lot to say about Paul. Knowing him, even just a bit, always happy to see him much as that only happened in passing...it enriched my life and, I hope, brought a bit of pleasure and interest to his. It seemed to. It seem to enough that I'm carrying buckets of guilt at not having stayed in touch these past several years, at having not kept current enough with Cindy Lee's blog to even know about the Paul Williams/Crawdaddy! Day at Boo-Hooray last Sunday until mid-week. I so wish I had been there. And, yes, I'm so unwilling to accept that I can't do everything, much as I give lip-service to knowing otherwise.

Lenny Bailes kindly gave his permission for me to share his thoughts on Paul here. The rest of this post is his:

Paul published his first fanzine, "Within," when he was fourteen years old. Paul was, for some of us, that very best possible "inner fourteen year-old" s-f fan given external reality. He was a boy who exemplified, for me, Van Morrison's couplet "And your dreams come true, if you want them to." (V.M., "Everyone.") Paul stood for all of us who wished to be the child coming to San Francisco wearing a flower in our hair. Paul applied the fan-honored discipline of mimeo ink and stencils, picking up the craft of Ted White in his East Coast associations and giving that craft new meaning in the hippie revolution, Out West. Consider that in his early fantasies about Paul Mu'ad Dib of Dune, and the relationship of those fantasies to rock n roll, Williams was not so unlike the young men who read "The Time of the Hawklords" and were carried away with it to become the band, "Hawkwind."

Maybe not. Maybe we readers of "Outlaw Blues" were wankers who lacked the ability to sort the differences between our hippie fantasies of The Byrds and The Beatles, and the real world, outside. I'm aware that [some among us] know infinitely more about Hawkwind than I do; and there I've gone and made a reference to TEW, which may not evoke sympathy with your own inner fourteen-year old boy -- but whose history is inextricable with the 14-year-old "neofan prodigy" who became Paul Williams, an early young dude carrying the news in San Francisco, also sailing the boat with John Lennon, asking everyone to "Give Peace a Chance."

I've been speaking of the young Paul Williams who was, for me, the stuff of fannish legend. (I didn't meet him, I think, until 1967.) He was another (the youngest!) of those U.S. East Coast fanzine publishers who shaped my ideas through his participation in s-f fandom. And then he went beyond that. Like Greg Shaw, his compatriot, he reflected in his rock journalism the songs we shared as a common affirmation of the reality of alternative lifestyles in the years of Humphrey-Johnson, going to college, Vietnam, and the U.S. Draft.

The older Paul Williams, the literary scholar of Philip K. Dick and Ted Sturgeon (and the constant biographer-celebrator of Bob Dylan) was someone I got to know a bit in the 1990s. Yes, it's true, we all (I) romanticized PK Dick. We overlooked his blindness, his immaturity, and his having gone 'round the bend. Because there was something in PKD's drug-tinged fantasies that struck common chords in us. We danced around the pathology and the cruelty in Dick's life and work. A similar "distortion field" might be said to apply toward Paul Williams' obsession with Dylan and the way it reflected the obsessions of other hard-core Dylan fans. I considered myself to be a huge Dylan fan, but I personally thought Paul had gone a little bit round the bend with his dedication and obsession in tracking the man.

If the same hard core crew (I'm connected to it) were to examine our attitudes and reactions to the work of Theodore Sturgeon, we might find some similar patterns. "More than human, can we be."

If I might be allowed to switch between wearing my J.Garcia custom aviator frames to a darker-rimmed pair of glasses, here we are (for values of "we" belonging to 21st Century science fiction fandom) in 2001 at Potlatch 10, a California literary s-f convention -- with Paul Williams attending as special guest/editor of the Collected Works of Ted Sturgeon for the Sturgeon estate.

We all put on our darker-rimmed "mature" reading glasses for that convention and spent the weekend discussing common myths and "harder truths" about Sturgeon's work. FWIW, I compiled notes on the discussions that are still up on the Potlatch website.

Paul speaks for himself there, if anyone is still interested in reading, as a literary scholar who is also our fellow Theodore Sturgeon fan.

The wild-eyed fourteen year old boy is still in there, at that point, but he's hiding a bit in the twinkle-eyed, smiling older sage.

"More than human can we be!"

Can we?


Geri 2014
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