|A Science Fiction Fanzine||Spring - Summer 2007|
Fandom lost two of its greatest citizens last winter, Bob Tucker and Lee Hoffman. Curt Phillips,
friend to both and to Challenger, eulogized Bob in our last issue – and now provides both a
wonderful anecdote and a classic article, reprinted, Curt assures us, with Bob’s prior permission.
Lest we forget … as if we could.
Cincinatti , Ohio – June 1994. Bob Tucker and I are sitting under a shade tree idly watching fans splash about noisily in yet another convention hotel pool while we continue our years-long discussion of fandom and things fannish. Bob has just been telling me about the infamous Tucker Death Hoaxes – which, if you didn’t get a program as you entered the auditorium tonight – refers to an incident in 1934 where a vengeful “friend” wrote a letter to the editor of Astounding Stories (a magazine wherein Bob was the leading letterhack of the day) announcing that Bob had died. The Editor printed it with commentary of his own only to find that it was all a hoax. Though Tucker was completely innocent he nonetheless incurred the wrath of the embarassed editor who banned him from Astounding’s lettercol. Several years later, a misguided fan tried the same stunt in even odder circumstances and caused fandom no end of worry and Bob no end of trouble.
Bob thought neither “death hoax” particularly funny. Neither did I, but I observed to him that on that far-off day when he *did* shuffle off this mortal coil, he would probably ensure himself the biggest funeral in all fannish history since everyone in fandom would have to attend the funeral in person.
Bob furrowed his forehead in thought. “And why would they do that, Curt?” he asked.
“Because,” I replied, we’ll all want to lean over the casket and tell you our funniest jokes just to see if we can make you smile. Then we’ll know if we’re really part of the Third Tucker Death Hoax and you can climb out of the box and we’ll all have a shot of Beam’s Choice and Smo-o-o-oth our way out of the funeral home.”
Bob chuckled. “Not bad,” he said. “Not bad at all, but there’s one thing wrong with your plan.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“If it’s not a hoax, how are you gonna pry that bottle of Beam’s out of my hands?”
That was in 1994, and only 12 years later, Bob Tucker really would be gone, but sitting there by Tucker’s side that June day, it was impossible to imagine that he could ever die. Now it’s 2007 and though he’s been gone for months now, I still can’t accept that he’s not waiting for me at the next convention so that we can pick up our never-ending discussion of fandom right where we left off.