Ray Nelson

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Perdita and Ray Nelson, 1950s.

(October 3, 1931 – November 29, 2022)

Radell Faraday Nelson was a fan, cartoonist, and writer whose early work (both cartooning and writing) was for fanzines. He became captivated by SF at the 1939 World's Fair.



He became an actifan as a teenager in Cadillac, Michigan. Perhaps his greatest claim to fannish fame is as the creator of the iconic propeller beanie of fandom while a 10th-grader. (He also organized the Second International Beanie Brigade in the early ’80s.)

He advocated Sexocracy, a system of society that’s just what it sounds like.

In the early 1950s, he attended the University of Chicago and belonged to the University of Chicago SF Club. In a loc to G2 10 (March 1962), John Boardman wrote:

Ray Nelson didn’t show up at UC until the 1951-2 academic year. He was then married to Perdita Lilly, his first wife. He, Tom Seidman, Mike Girsdansky, Seymour Nelson and I obtained some brief notoriety in that year as the result of a planned Black Mass. (Seymour is no relation to Ray; his version of the common surname was originally Katznelson;) We had planned to conduct a Black Mass at a Halloween party in 1951, with Ray serving as the high priest and Perdita as the altar. However, the story got out. A Catholic student heard about the proposed diabolism, and carried to the university’s chaplain a story that we planned to steal communion elements. The chaplain told Cardinal Strich, the Cardinal told the university’s president, and the principals in the escapade were confined to quarters.
Roscoe drops all nonbelievers into hell”
by Ray Nelson
. Cover of Spacewarp 36, March 1950.

Ray was a long-time member of CAPA, the Golden Gate Futurians, the Detroit Science Fiction League, SAPS, Little Men, ISFS, LASFS and the N3F. He is also an associate member of the First Fandom club, one of the Wolverine Insurgents, and helped organize The Network. He resigned from CAPA early in 2019, just before the club disbanded because of the deaths of members and resignations.

He was a published artist at a very early age. He and his brother Trevor created a comic strip, "Petie Panda," that appeared in The Oak Ridge Journal in 1945, when Ray was 13 and Trevor was 10.

As a fanartist, his cartoons were highly sought; Harlan Ellison called him a “true ‘craftsman’ of the field” of fanzine art in Sol IX.


His professional work includes the story "Eight O'Clock in the Morning" (which was made into the 1988 movie They Live), the novel The Ganymede Takeover co-authored with Philip K. Dick and Blake's Progress later re-written as Timequest. In the early ’70s. he ran a writers' workshop in the San Francisco area. One of his students was Anne Rice. While a member of the N3F, he once served as judge of the club's Amateur Story Writing Contest.

His SF novels include The Ganamede Takeover (1967) [with Philip K. Dick], Blake's Progress (1975), Then Beggers Could Ride (1976), The Ecolog (1977), The Revolt of the Unemployables (1978), The Prometheus Man (1982), and TimeQuest (1985). An historical mystery, Dog-Headed Death, was published in 1989. Several of his novels have been reprinted by Wildside Press.

Personal Life[edit]

Ray was born in Schenectady, NY. He was married four times: first to Lisa Mulligan; then to fan Perdita Lilly, for whom he wrote a volume of poetry, Perdita: Songs of Love Sex and Self Pity; then, in Paris, to Kirsten Enge, with whom he had a son, Walter; and, in 2017, to Dr. Helene Knox.

More reading[edit]

Fanzines and Apazines:

Awards, Honors and GoHships:

Person 19312022
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