George Scithers (1929-2010)

George Scithers died yesterday, and I want to speak well of him.

George Scithers was a competent, hard-working member of the SF community for decades, and richly deserved the Life Achievement Award he was given by the World Fantasy Convention in 2002.

Young George Scithers was a Colonel in the US Army and studied at West Point in a class taught by Robert A. Heinlein’s older brother.

George Scithers was responsible more than anyone else for the rise of heroic fantasy between 1959 and 1979, through the medium of his fanzine, Amra, in which he encouraged the serious discussion of the form. He won the Hugo Award for best fanzine in 1964 and 1968.

He began a small press of distinction (Owlswick Press, 1973 onward). His bestselling title was probably The Necronomicon, limited, bound in red leather with introductory notes by L. Sprague De Camp. His funniest was probably To Serve Man, a cookbook. Perhaps the most important was Avram Davidson’s Adventures in Unhistory. He wrote the first guide to chairing a science fiction convention in 1965, after chairing the 1963 Worldcon in Washington, DC, Discon I.

George Scithers was the founding editor of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (1977-82), and grew it to the largest circulation in the field in its day while he was editor, and following that was the editor of Amazing Stories until 1986. He won the Hugo for Best Editor in 1978 and 1980. He actually tried to follow the good parts of the John W. Campbell editorial tradition as a magazine editor, and outsold Analog for a time. He notably encouraged young writers, including, in the early years of Asimov’s, Darrell Schwietzer, Somtow Sucharitkul and John M. Ford.

Later George Scithers was the publisher of Weird Tales for many years (with Darrell Schweitzer and John Betancourt). He was a literary agent (the Owlswick Agency) in the late 1980s and 1990s. I generally found him a pleasure to deal with as a businessman.

We were not more than professional friends, but I enjoyed that. He was sometimes a silly man, given to wearing very loud sport jackets, and often greeted me with “woof!” Or occasionally “Woof, woof!” He was eccentric, intelligent, and seemed to me committed to the maintenance and improvement of the SF & Fantasy field.

David Hartwell is an editor for Tor Books.


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