Bob Tucker

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Tucker working on Le Zombie in the mid-1950s. Photo by Bob Madle.

(November 23, 1914 – October 6, 2006)

Arthur Wilson "Bob" Tucker of Bloomington, Illinois, was one of the earliest fans, having discovered sf in 1929 and gotten his first fanzine (The Time Traveller) in 1931. He is arguably the most influential figure in the history of fandom, active for nearly eight decades.

He was a beloved and iconic BNF, one of the insurgents who refused to treat fandom as a serious business for the promotion of science fiction. He is often credited with having introduced humor into fanzines. Despite being a filthy pro, he continued to be fannish and involved in fanac of many sorts.

Known in fandom as Bob Tucker, sometimes “Tuck” and “Boob Tucker,” and professionally as Wilson Tucker, his other pseudonyms were Hoy Ping Pong and Sanford Vaid. He coined the term space opera, created Joe Fann and invented the practice of tuckerization. He created Hoy Ping Pong in the mid-1930s around the same time as the Great Staple War and the first Tucker Death Hoax.

A familiar figure at conventions, particularly in the Midwest, he could often be seen leading his signature Smooth ritual, drinking Beam's Choice bourbon and smoking cigars. He was the perennial toastmaster at Midwestcon, ChambanaCon, Windycon and LibertyCon, and often at other cons (several BYOB-Cons, Ambercons, Chattacons, and Aggiecons, among myriad other mc appearances).

A gifted raconteur, Tucker was typically surrounded by fans eager to hear his tall tales and reminiscences, such as The Rosebud! Story (a blue tale that he only told to audiences he deemed mature and rarely in mixed company). He was a real ladies' man, but extremely gentlemanly about it, always taking "no" for an answer. He led the way, sometimes, with Howard DeVore-printed business cards reading, “Wilson Tucker, Natural Inseminations.” Needless to say, his wife, Fern, rarely accompanied him to cons.

He and Rusty Hevelin had a long-running shtick where Bob called Rusty “Dad,” and Rusty called Bob “Son,” and they made some people believe it, even though Rusty was younger than Bob. Tucker explained their different surnames by saying, “He never married my mother.” Bob also played along when fans assumed the unrelated Larry Tucker was his son. And loads of younger femmefen were honorary “granddaughters.”


He was Worldcon FGoH twice, at Torcon in 1948 and NYcon 3 in 1967. He won the 1970 Best Fan Writer Hugo and the 1954 Best Fan Writer Retro Hugo, and was nominated for the 1951 Best Fan Writer Retro Hugo and the 1946 Best Fan Writer Retro Hugo.

He was one of the triumvirate who ran Chicon, the second Worldcon in 1940 — and the only one of legal age! Forty years later he was a member of the Chicago in 1982 Worldcon bid.

A prolific and excellent faned and fanwriter, Tucker's contributions spanned from the hectograph and mimeo eras to online publishing. His first zine was The Planetoid in 1932 (one of the first fanzines). He wrote in Science Fiction Fifty Yearly:

Distributed in November 1932, or thereabouts, The Planetoid was a midget-sized printed four-sheet chock full of "scientific facts" to, stun the fan world. And stun them it did. The offering met a thundering reception. So thundering, in fact, that I lost the courage to distribute the second issue, and slunk away to hide. Thus ended my first publishing spree.

His most important fanzines included the Bloomington News Letter/Science Fiction Newsletter, Fanews, and especially Le Zombie from 1938 through 1975 (and in 2000 and 2001, the internet zine e-Zombie). Additionally, he published Fantasy and Weird Fiction, 1938–1939; Yearbook of Science, FANEWS(CARD), and the Fanzine Yearbook, 1941–1948. In 1955, he wrote and published the Neo-Fan's Guide to SF Fandom.

He was acting president of the N3F in 1945, a VP of FAPA, and founded (and was Dictator of) the fabled SPWSSTFM, the Society for the Prevention of Wire Staples in Science Fiction Magazines. He belonged to OMPA and FLAP. He was Royal Fellow of the Order of Dagon. He was a member of First Fandom (both in history and the club). He was part of the original Vulcan Publications. He and his then wife, Jane Tucker, organized the 1942 Bloomington Conference (which may have been a poker party!).

In 2001, Leah Zeldes Smith and Dick Smith ran ditto 14/FanHistoriCon 11 in Bloomington to celebrate Tucker's role in fandom, with Bob and his wife, Fern, nominally part of the concom.

Tucker stayed active in fandom until his death in 2006.

Pro Career[edit]

Writing as Wilson Tucker, he had a substantial pro career, the author of 23 novels and 25 works of short fiction, including both mysteries and sf. Some of his major novels were The Lincoln Hunters, Year of the Quiet Sun and The Long, Loud Silence. His first professional SF publication was "Interstellar Way-Station" in Super Science Novels Magazine (May, 1941) and his first SF book was Prison Planet.

In 1965, he wrote (but never published) The Emperor of America, a novel about fandom taking place at a four-day Worldcon.

He served on the International Fantasy Award judging panel. During 1955–1957, he and Robert Bloch, a close friend, edited six issues of the Gnome Press newsletter.

Personal Life[edit]

Bob Tucker, Mari Beth Wheeler and Walt and Virginia Daugherty, from left, during Pacificon in 1946, on what looks like a double date. Photo from the collection of Forrest J Ackerman, scan by Andrew Porter.

In mundane life, Tucker worked as a stage and motion picture projectionist and electrician until 1972, as well as a reporter and editor, while writing SF and mysteries part-time.

One of three children, he was born in 1914 in Deer Creek, Illinois, the son of James and Mary Tucker. His nickname, “Bob,” he said, stemmed from his sister’s inability to say “brother” as a child.

Tucker was married twice, to Mary Jane Joesting of Decatur, Illinois, on March 16, 1936 (they divorced in the 1940s), and to Fern Brooks of Springfield, Illinois, on Nov. 3, 1953. (In between, he squired around fan Mari Beth Wheeler.) He had five children: Robert (whom he called “the real Bob Tucker”) and Judy with his first wife, and David, Brian and Bruce with his second.

More on Tucker:[edit]

  • Video of August 12, 2000, interview by Dick Smith:
  1. Part 1 (IA)
  2. Part 2 (IA)

Fanzines and Apazines:

Awards, Honors and GoHships:

From Fancyclopedia 2 ca 1959
Nickname by which Arthur Wilson Tucker (of the Bloomington, IL Tuckers) is generally known. Besides adding several pages to fan history (which you will find scattered thru this volume) he has had a number of items, to us of interest, associated directly with the Tucker name.

The Tucker Hotel was based on a suggestion of Bob's, in 1952 when the ChiCon II and its prices signaled the start of the Big Convention movement, that fans simply build a hotel of their very own for holding conventions in, moving it from one site to another as required. A campaign arose to send Bricks to Tucker for the construction of this edifice; Rich Elsberry, denouncing this as a vile proish plot to get free bricks, recommended that BT be sent straw with which to make bricks for himself. A group of Anglofans designed, and draftsman Bob Shaw drew up plans for, a Tucker Hotel; Walt Willis and Chuck Harris located a fine site for it.

Tuckerism is the practice among professional authors of using their friends' names for characters in stories they are writing, Bob being a leading exponent of this sort of thing.

There have been two Tucker Death Hoaxes. The first was that mentioned under Staple War, in which a fellow boarder made the announcement to the proz -- not actually meaning it as a hoax, but as a joke, tho a sick one. Another came a few weeks before the Cinvention; at that time Ben Singer, an 18-year-old Michifan stationed at Chanute AFB near Tucker's place, dropped in on Bob and suggested pulling off a Tucker Death Hoax for the con. Bob deprecated the idea and thought he'd quashed it, but Singer found it a fascinating notion and upon leaving sent Don Ford Cinvention chairman] a telegram, ostensibly from Mari-Beth Wheeler, telling him of Bob's death, and sent Art Rapp a news release giving gory details. The story ran that Bob had written a love novel which Rinehart desperately wanted to buy, tho they had lost the manuscript he had sent them; and that when Tucker got their message his children had just finished burning the only carbon copy. Tuck, per Singer, drowned his sorrows, went to sleep drunk while smoking in the projection room of the theater where he worked, and started a fire in which he was fatally burned. His last words deserve recording: "Tell them I'm sorry..." (i e the Cinvention attendees, because he couldn't make it to the con). Rapp took the message at its face value, and flashed the news out to fandom; Will Sykora called Bloomington to check up and found out from the manager of the theater that it was all a hoax, which, accordingly, he indignantly denounced. So did the manager, suspecting Tucker of seeking phony publicity for his writings; only his strong union, Bob says, kept him from being summarily fired.

From Fancyclopedia 1 ca 1944
Nickname by which Arthur W Tucker is generally known.

Person Reasonator 19142006
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