David A. Kyle

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Dave Kyle at LAcon 4; Photo by Mark Olson

(February 14, 1919 – September 18, 2016)

Dave Kyle was a fan from the early 1930s until his death in 2016, making his fannish career the longest ever. He chaired a Worldcon, NYCon II in 1956, and was Fan GoH at Constellation, the 1983 Worldcon.

Born in Monticello, New York, David Ackerman Kyle started as a science fiction fan in the early 30s writing to the prozines and then to other fans who also wrote to them — his first correspondent was Forrest J Ackerman! He wrote his letters in purple ink and called himself the "Purple Bat." While still in Monticello, he founded Chapter 5 of the Science Fiction League (Fred Pohl claimed that Kyle met the requirement of having at least three fans as members by adding two fictitious names, but Kyle said he had high school friends as members ... live bodies, even if they were not fans.) Chapter 5's main activity was writing letters under Dave Kyle's name.

In the mid-1930s, he went to art school in the Flat Iron Building in NYC while living in the 23rd St. YMCA. In 1936, Kyle became a member of the NYBISA, a chapter of the ISA, which met at Will Sykora's house. Even though the ISA was nominally a science club, so many fans joined that this group became an sf club and was the first organized club in New York. Kyle traveled to Philadelphia with the NYBISA late in 1936 to attend the First Convention.

New York fandom was extremely fractious, and there were soon multiple clubs. Kyle stuck with his friends in Manhattan, a group which became the Futurians and with whom he retained contact while he was at college in Alabama (though he finished college at Columbia).

At the first Worldcon in 1939, there was a rift between the Futurians (who had originally been chosen to lead the convention) and the members of New Fandom (who replaced them). It was expected that there might be some friction between the groups at the convention. Anticipating this, Dave Kyle published a small pamphlet he wrote titled: A Warning!. Kyle hid the copies in the lobby when he entered the Caravan Hall where the convention was held. Other Futurians found the copies and started distributing them. When the convention committee learned of this, Chairman Sam Moskowitz banned them from the convention. Those banned in this first Great Exclusion Act included Donald A. Wollheim, John Michel, Frederik Pohl, and Cyril Kornbluth. Kyle, who wrote and published the pamphlet, was not banned because he was already in the con.

Dave created a fanzine that is often credited as being one of, if not, the first comics fanzine and in the early 1970s published Skylee Sun.

With Fred Pohl he was a founder of the Hydra Club in the late 40s. (The War had pretty much ended fannish activity in NYC and riding back to NY from the first post-War Philcon, they had the idea of starting a club in New York. As it turned out, the Hydra Club became more of a pro association than a fan one.

Beginning in 1948, Dave was a partner in Gnome Press with Marty Greenberg and was part of the first Science Fiction Book Club. Greenberg was the idea man who found manuscripts, while Kyle handled editorial and production as well as doing art design (and sometimes the art itself.) The very first book, The Carnelian Cube, was printed by Kyle's family printing business, but later books were done by Colonial Press in Massachusetts, a specialist book printer that Kyle located.

In the ’50s, Kyle was at the epicenter of much fannish activity. He headed the failed Amalgamated Greater New York Fan Groups in '53 Worldcon bid and co-chaired Metrocon 1 in 1953. His next bid succeeded and he was chairman of the 1956 New York Worldcon, NYcon II.

That's where “Dave Kyle Says You Can't Sit Here” and the Balcony Insurgents became fannish legend. That incident was "remembered" one year at Lunacon when Dave was appointed as the usher for the VIP seating section at the Masquerade so he could tell people whether they were permitted to sit there or not.

On the more controversial side, he was part of the group that created WSFS, Inc. out of the NYcon II structure, and subsequently, Plunged All Fandom Into War. (See WSFS, Inc. for much more.)

He met Ruth Landis, a reader of sf who was not yet part of organized fandom, at the Clevention in 1955. By 1956, she had moved to NYC and was secretary of NYcon II. Sometime after the Worldcon, he moved to Potsdam, NY, where he had set up a radio station. In 1957 for their honeymoon, he organized the (in)famous Plane Trip (it got caught up in the penumbra of WSFS, Inc.) to the first non-U. S. Worldcon, Loncon, in 1957.

He and his family lived in England for a time in the 1960s. He was anointed a Knight of St. Fantony and was co-chairman of the Syracuse in '67 bid.

Professionally, he wrote two profusely illustrated books on science fiction and has written sequels to E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman novels. He published the early comics fanzine The Fantasy World.

As of 2011 he had attended more Worldcons than any other science fiction fan or pro. He was Most Senior Fan.

For decades, Dave would walk around conventions asking fans to write an entry in a notebook he carried with him. Traditionally, you could spot Dave due to the red jacket emblazoned with a First Fandom patch that he often wore.

He wrote reminiscences of many Worldcons for the Noreascon Three PB:

Dave Kyle was one of the members of the first Philcon, in 1936, which is claimed to be the very first science fiction convention. Dave travelled by train to Philcon accompanied by Fred Pohl, Johnny Michel, Don Wollheim and Will Sykora. A video interview of Dave at Philcon 2012, including his memories of those days, can be found at the Philcon website (IA)

He was the subject of the first Original Member Spotlight by John L. Coker III and Jon D. Swartz, that appeared in the New Series #42, 4th Quarter 2014, issue of Scientifiction: The First Fandom Report. He was also the subject of a Founding Member article, also by Swartz, in The National Fantasy Fan for September, 2015 (Volume 74, Number 9) (IA). His life and work was the subject of the 2019 2-volume First Fandom Annual, edited by Coker and Swartz, and with a comprehensive bibliography by Christopher M. O'Brien.

He took over management of the Big Heart Award from Forry Ackerman in 2000. In 2018 the award was re-named the David A. Kyle Big Heart Award.

Fanzines and Apazines:

Video of Dave Kyle interviewed by Joe Siclari in 2012 (IA)

Awards, Honors and GoHships:

Person Reasonator 19192016
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