Monday, November 06, 2006

Nelson Bond

I met Mr Bond many years ago at a convention in Roanoke.  Somehow, I ended up with the great good fortune of talking to him for 5 or 6 hours that day. He gave me an veritable seminar on the old pulp days. A true gentleman, he was a fascinating tale teller. He was also for many years one of the foremost booksellers in fandom.

from Locus:

Nelson Slade Bond was born November 23, 1908, in Scranton PA, and grew up in Philadelphia. He attended Marshall University, Huntington WV, from 1932 to 1934, and that was also where he met his wife, Betty Gough Folsom; they married in 1934, and had two sons. He worked as a public relations field director for the Province of Nova Scotia in 1934-'35, then began freelance writing, at first with non-fiction pieces.

The first of his many story sales came in 1935, but he came to science fiction and fantasy in 1937 with SF ''Down the Dimensions'' (Amazing) and the memorable humorous fantasy ''Mr. Mergenthwirker's Lobblies'' (Scribner's). The latter, which spawned several related stories, was turned into a radio series, and eventually a TV play. He wrote extensively for Amazing Stories, Fantastic Adventures, Weird Tales, and non-genre magazines Scribner's and Blue Book. His ''Magic City'' in Astounding (1941), part of the ''Meg the Priestess'' series, was very popular. His works were collected in Mr. Mergenthwirker's Lobblies and Other Fantastic Tales (1946), The Thirty-first of February (1949), The Remarkable Exploits of Lancelot Biggs, Spaceman (1950), No Time Like the Future (1954), and Nightmares and Daydreams (1968)

from the Roanoke Times

Nelson Bond's career included fantastical fiction, radio and TV, and local theater.

He wrote about bumbling space travelers, invisible companions, a great bird that would hatch from the Earth as from an egg, a secret race of superhumans who could walk through walls.

He wrote radio scripts and television plays when the mediums were still young, and was once named in a lawsuit filed by Orson Welles -- though he quickly got himself dropped from the suit.

Though he retired from fiction writing in the 1950s, books collecting his stories continued to appear, the most recent, "Other Worlds Than Ours," published just last year.

Longtime Roanoke resident Nelson Bond died Saturday of complications from heart problems, less than a month shy of his 98th birthday. Bond, once called the dean of Roanoke writers, leaves behind more than 250 short stories and a career that earned him the admiration of authors as diverse as Isaac Asimov and Sharyn McCrumb.

"Nelson Bond was large on the horizon for anyone who enjoyed fantastic literature as far back as the '30s," said Harlan Ellison, the 2006 Grand Master Award recipient from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

"For originality and inventiveness he was rara avis," an extraordinary person, Ellison said. "He wrote a clean line of prose, because he understood in that best part of a writer's craft where the soul resides that when you have a fantastic idea in the story line, you must have internal logic."

Ellison, who built his own writing career on short stories, looked to Bond for inspiration, as did Ray Bradbury, who in a 2001 interview with The Roanoke Times praised Bond's sense of humor and quirky imagination.

Born in 1908, Bond grew up in Philadelphia, where his father ran a public relations firm. He attended West Virginia's Marshall College, now Marshall University, where he met Betty Folsom, marrying her in 1934. By 1939, when the couple moved to Roanoke, Bond had already established himself as a prolific and popular writer. Often, he dictated his stories and his wife typed them.

Throughout the 1930s, '40s and '50s he wrote sports, detective and fantasy stories that appeared in magazines ranging from Esquire to Weird Tales. As radio and then television caught on, he was there, scripting hundreds of shows for the national networks.

When he entertained guests in the basement of his Roanoke County home, Bond often shared war stories of his time in television.

He scripted the 1957 CBS teleplay "The Night America Trembled," dramatizing the national reaction to the Orson Welles radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds." It was that show that resulted in Welles' lawsuit.

Bond's signature story was the tongue-twistingly titled "Mr. Mergenthwirker's Lobblies," the story of a man with two invisible companions who can foretell the future. He wrote several sequels and adapted them to radio. When "Mergenthwirker's" aired on NBC in 1946, it was the first full-length play broadcast by a television network.

The teleplay's director, Fred Coe, who went on to be a powerful television producer, invited Bond to join him in the new medium of television, but Bond declined. He later spoke of Coe's offer as a great opportunity that he had missed.

By the 1950s, frustrated with the oppressive working conditions for writers in Hollywood and the death of the pulp magazines, Bond retired from writing. He first opened a public relations firm in Roanoke, then became a bookseller. He was also instrumental in founding the Showtimers community theater, where his nationally renowned stage adaptation of George Orwell's "Animal Farm" was first performed.

Betty Bond had her own career in local television, interviewing notable locals for "The Betty Bond Show" on WSLS (Channel 10).

But Nelson Bond's writing career wasn't quite over. Ellison recalled badgering Bond in the early 1970s to write his first new story in more than a decade, "Pipeline to Paradise," which was eventually published in 1995.

"I'm the one who shook Nelson out of retirement," Ellison said. The new story proved that even though Bond had not written fiction in years, "he still had the chops."

In the 1970s Bond's fans gathered locally to form the Nelson Bond Society, which became the seed for many of the Roanoke-based science fiction conventions and clubs.

In 1998, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America honored him with an Author Emeritus award. In 2003, Bond donated his papers to the Marshall University library, which created a replica of the office in Bond's home where he wrote most of his stories.

Fred Eichelman, who runs the Point North science fiction convention, called Bond a "Renaissance person." His organization's latest newsletter has a photo of Bond and "The Empire Strikes Back" screenwriter Leigh Brackett arm in arm on the cover.

Eichelman, a retired schoolteacher who used Bond's stories in the classroom, recalled an instance when a student wrote to Bond asking what motivated him to write.

"My motivation was to put three meals on the table for my family," Bond replied.

Even with his most creative years behind him, Bond said in 2001 that he had never grown bored. "You've just got to stay interested in life, that's all."

He is survived by his wife, Betty, sons Kit and Lynn, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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