Harry Warner, Jr.
(December 19, 1922 – February 17, 2003)
Fan historian, prodigious letterhack and long-term FAPA member, dubbed The Hermit of Hagerstown, Harry Warner, Jr., did nearly all his fanac on paper. He is best remembered for the many locs he wrote and his two books on fanhistory, All Our Yesterdays, published in hardcover in 1969, and A Wealth of Fable. A Wealth of Fable won the Hugo Award in 1993 for Best Non-Fiction Book.
He lived at 423 Summit Ave., Hagerstown, Maryland — the most famous postal address in fandom — and rarely left it, at least for fannish purposes, preferring to do his fanac through his vast correspondence.
A member of First Fandom, Warner became active in fandom in 1936, penning his first LoC to ASF. Two years later, he launched his first fanzine, Spaceways, which became the Focal Point of Third Fandom (although he himself didn't agree with the numbered fandoms concept).
Born in 1922 in Chambersburg, Pa. to Harry Backer Warner, Sr. and his wife Margaret Caroline Klipp, Harry Warner, Jr. lived in Hagerstown, Maryland, most of his life. Health problems had forced him to drop out of Hagerstown High School by the 10th grade, but he was an accomplished and literate autodidact. He taught himself seven foreign languages well enough to translate letters from overseas during World War II.
He spent 40 years as a journalist for the Herald-Mail, beginning as a reporter on May 17, 1943. Along with covering government and local farming, he wrote obituaries and general news. A speed typist and fast writer, Warner often started writing his stories as he talked to sources on the phone, a colleague recalled. He also served as a substitute editor, laying out pages and writing excellent headlines — talents he learned and used in fandom.
A classical music lover, Warner played the piano and oboe and performed in radio recitals, as well as reviewing local performances for his newspaper.
His interest in history wasn't limited to fandom. He wrote a regular column on Hagerstown history and spent a decade as the media representative on his county government's Historical Advisory Committee, receiving the county's Historical Preservation Award for 1982.
He told few local people about his life in science fiction.
All the while he engaged in a massive correspondence in fandom, contributed to apas and fanzines and published his own. Starting in 1939, he published a perzine, Horizons, and had an issue in all but two mailings of FAPA from then until his death. He also published two issues of The FAPA Correspondent. (He served in each of FAPA's offices.) He was a member of the FATE Tape. He published Rip Fan Winkle for SAPS.
He was an avid baseball fan and supposedly agreed to be FGoH of Noreascon I because the concom promised him tickets to a Red Sox game. When the first FanHistoriCon was held in Hagerstown, specifically to honor his contributions to fanhistory, he refused to attend and agreed to allow only small delegations of two or three fans at a time to visit.
Beginning in the mid-1950s, he became a prolific and painstaking letterhack. Every faned sent fanzines to Warner, and most felt that if your lettercol didn't contain one of Warner's detailed locs, your publication hardly counted as a fanzine. Warner locced everything, from the cruddiest crudzines to one-shots and almost every issue of most zines up until the last year of his life. His address, 423 Summit Ave., Hagerstown, was the most famous address in fandom.
Along with his Hugo Award for A Wealth of Fable, he won the Best Fan Writer Hugo in 1969 and 1972. In 1971, he won the Locus Award for Best Fan Writer. He was awarded the Big Heart Award (the E. E. Evans Memorial Award) in 1969, and was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1995. A member of the N3F, he was on the Board of Directors in the 1940s, edited Bonfire in 1941, and won a Kaymar Award in 1978. He also won several FAAn Awards for his LoCs.
He was a member of IPSO (apazine: Harrisons), the Cosmic Circle (!), the Dixie Fantasy Federation, the Goon Defective Agency, and the Futurian Federation of the World. He was elected Past president of the FWA in 1990.
Sadly, Warner's life ended less than brilliantly. His extensive fanzine collection was dispersed at his death. He had made no provisions for its preservation, and left his estate to his church, which had no idea what to do with them. Inquiries by fans apparently made matters worse. He made no provisions for his burial, either, and had it not been for a neighbor's intervention, Maryland would have donated his remains to science.
His death received a bare few lines in his own newspaper, until outraged fen contacted the paper. Finally, after an indignant Leah A. Zeldes, a fellow journalist, called the paper's editor on such shameful treatment of its veteran hometown newsman, the paper belatedly ran an obituary.
- He was recognized as a Founding Member of N3F in an article by Jon D. Swartz in the January, 2016 issue (Volume 75, Number 1) of The National Fantasy Fan.
- For an early short biography, see Who's Who in Fandom 1940 p914.
- Warner interviewed by Moshe Feder in 1990, part 1
- Warner interviewed by Moshe Feder in 1990, part 2
Awards, Honors and GoHships:
- 1969 — Best Fan Writer Hugo, Big Heart Award
- 1971 — Noreascon, Locus Award for Best Fan Writer
- 1972 — Best Fan Writer Hugo
- 1975 — FAAn Award for Best LoC Writer
- 1978 — Kaymar Award
- 1995 — First Fandom Hall of Fame
- 1979 — FAAn Award for Best LoC Writer
- 1980 — FAAn Award for Best LoC Writer
- 1990 — Past president of the FWA
- 1993 — Best Non-Fiction Book Hugo
- 1998 — FAAn Award for Best Letterhack
- 1999 — FAAn Award for Best Letterhack
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