2017: Bill Wright

Born in 1937 in Sydney, Bill remained on the fringes of Fandom (in his own words) till after he turned twenty. In 1958 he joined the Melbourne Science Fiction Club (MSFC), then operating out of a warehouse in Somerset Place. The rest, as they say, is history, although it was another ten years before he became REALLY active.

1969 appears to have been a pivotal year. Not only was he significant in the running and administration of Australia’s 8th National Science Fiction Convention (Natcon) – held in the MSFC Club rooms at the top of that warehouse, but in December 1969 he joined the fledgling ‘Australia and New Zealand Amateur Publishing Association’ (ANZAPA). He was an active contributor until 1979, and again from 1996 to 2012; publishing the long running ‘Interstellar Ramjet Scoop’ (IRS).

In 1970 he became a founding member of the Nova Mob, a Melbourne-based SF literary discussion group originally convened by John Foyster. Nova Mob still holds monthly meetings, at which he continues to be a regular.

In the late 1960s a group of fans joined together to bid for an Australian city to host the 33rd Worldcon in 1975 and Bill was appointed secretary of the bid committee with a brief to manage the correspondence. Bruce Gillespie, who inherited boxes of the correspondence from Ain75’s New York agent Andy Porter, remains impressed with the excellent job he did.

In 1971 he (in his own words) was given a highly visible bit part in John Litchen’s hugely successful bid movie AussieFan, starring Paul J Stevens as Anti-Fan. His main contribution though was to finance the second of two prints which were taken overseas to promote Australia in1975.  Aussie Fan premiered at Syncon 72, the 11th Aussie Natcon in 1972. In August that year, he and Robin Johnson took the film over to the Worldcon where it played continuously for four days. American fans of the day still talk about the impact the film had. It continued to be shown all over America until Torcon 2 (the 31st Worldcon in Toronto in August 1973) which decided that the location of the 1975 Worldcon would indeed be here, in Australia. Aussiecon, the first Australian Worldcon, was held in Melbourne in August 1975, with Bill continuing his role as Secretary.

It is significant that when Bill writes about his own achievements from that era that he remembers not his own contributions, but the people he met, such as Susan Woods (founding Member of Wiscon) and Ursula Le Guin.

Then came a dark period in his life.

IRS ceased publication in 1979 and Bill was barely heard from until he emerged chrysalis like in 1996 with a new revamped and now colourful IRS featuring Ditmar covers, poetry, humour and intellectual dissertations.

In the early 1990s, whilst still gafiating, he donated his entire Fanzine (Fannish publications) collection to the MSFC where it became known as the ‘Bill Wright Collection’. It is now housed in the Monash University Library’s Rare Books Collection. A truly priceless set of historical written ephemera.

In 2002, after retiring, he stepped up his involvement yet again, by joining the Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF), where he continued as valuable, but ‘ordinary’ Committee Member for five years.

During this time he instigated the ‘Bring Bruce Bayside’ fan fund (2003-2004) to send Bruce Gillespie to America to visit with the many fans he had been communicating with for years.

In 2007, the Western Australian Science Fiction Foundation, proposed an award for excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class and disability in a speculative fiction work, in honour of Norma K Hemming and asked the ASFF to implement it. Bill stepped up. For the last nine years he has put in an extraordinary number of hours and phone calls administering this award.

The inaugural Norma K Hemming Award was presented in 2010 at the 67th Worldcon, Aussiecon 4, and has subsequently been awarded at Australian Natcons.

He also took on administration of the A. Bertram Chandler Award for outstanding achievement in science fiction (Australia’s highest fan award), named after acclaimed mid-twentieth century Australian SF author Arthur Bertram Chandler.

Since travelling overseas to drum up support for the first Aussiecon and encountering the LASFAs club rooms, Bill and others have long held a dream of having a central gathering place for fans and a properly administered SF library. In August 2007 a small group of Aussiecon attendees, Bill amongst them, set up Meteor Incorporated; an incorporated association formed to gather funds for acquiring premises and hiring qualified staff for a science fiction institution and research archive under the ownership and control of the science fiction community. The initial seeding money came almost entirely from Bill’s retirement fund in the form of thousands of shares. He and Carey Handfield then worked tirelessly to obtain deductible gift recipient status from the Australian Taxation Office and to set up a process for fans to register their intention to remember the Meteor Fund in their Will. While Meteor Inc was severely hit by the GFC a few years later, it still continues to house fans’ collections in storage places around Australia pending the fulfilment of the dream for a proper place.

In 2013 he successfully stood for DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) and travelled to LoneStarCon 3, the Worldcon in Texas that year. While over there, did he sit back and just enjoy himself? No. He did a study tour of the fannish premises of several American SF Clubs, with a view to determining if their experience could be transferred to Australia.

Unfortunately since 2013 he has been plagued with ill health. He has struggled on and is still attending MSFC meetings and until very recently has continued to administer the awards under the ASFF aegis.

In February 2017, he attended the joint fans’ birthday party where it was revealed he had reached the very venerable age of 80.

A lifetime of exemplary and selfless service to the Australian SF Fannish community makes Bill a very worthy recipient of the 2017 A. Bertram Chandler Award.

Let’s all raise a glass to this wonderful gentleman.

© LynC 2017 (with a lot of help from ‘Aussie Transpacific April 2013’)