Samuel Edward Konkin III
July 8, 1947 - February 23, 2004)
Samuel Edward Konkin III, often known as "SEK3", was a Libertarian Science Fiction activist. He was a member of the New York University Science Fiction Society and a founder of apa-nu. He published a fairly elaborate fanzine, New Libertarian Notes (its name varied), and one-page newsletters at many Worldcons and other conventions. He also published his personalzine Clear Ether! and some other zines in various APAs.
In his sociophilosophical beliefs, he was a radical free-market anarchist, but his demeanor was not at all that of an extremist. If SEK3 agreed with a third of your opinions, he counted you as one-third of a libertarian angel, not two-thirds of a diabolical statist. Thus he was, for example, a devotee of C. S. Lewis and a member of the C. S. Lewis Society, despite holding no religious beliefs of his own. He customarily dressed in black, would drink only the best bheer and hosted fandom's most intellectual room parties.
Known apazines by SEK3 were Tarzine of the APAs (APA-L), The Competitive Quest (Alarums & Excursions), Frefanac! (Frefanzine) and starting with volume 2 Clear Ether! was supposed to combine them all so it started being published in variety of APAs instead of one (later Tarzine of the APAs sometimes accompanied CE as a commentzine as well as The Competitive Quest sometimes appeared in A&E). Also, approximately starting with volume 4 was accompanied with commentzine ...And on Green. It's not enough information at the moment, but volume 2 of Tarzine of the APAs was probably published in Scapa Flow (starting in 1980. Typewritten issue vol. 2 No. 2 tells that it's a "commentzine for Scapa Flow") and volume 3 was revived in APA-L as "more-or-less weekly" contribution (there were at least eight issues in 1987).
According to Marc S. Glasser (the official collator of APA-NYU), SEK3 was the co-founder of APA-NYU back in 1974, and he contributed to it on and off until his death in 2004. There were times when he was in it almost every month, and then there were years when they didn't hear from him at all. Probably it depended on what else was happening in his life--when he was getting regular work at a printing shop, it was a lot easier for him to typeset and print zines to contribute. (It was usually titled Clear Ether!, but he used ...And On Green! occasionally for zines made up entirely of comments on other people's zines. Marc doesn't think he ever used Tarzine of the APAs in APA-NYU.) Marc also confirms the meaning of names above and adds that Tarzine of the APAs was a pun on Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
In 1975, SEK3 proposed his own philosophical system called agorism (from the Greek word "agora" meaning "open market") which is basically a branch of free-market anarchism and Libertarianism with a particular practical strategy. He wrote a couple of non-fiction books about it and inspired Libertarian SF writers to write about it in fictional form (most notable examples are Viktor Koman and J. Neil Schulman). His own fictional writings (the Rann Gold trilogy and The Legend of Anarcho Claus) were serialized in New Libertarian Notes and later zines. Double Prometheus Award winner Brad Linaweaver, co-editor of the Prometheus Award SF anthology, Free Space (St. Martins, 1997), called Konkin the "spiritual cheerleader" of that book as well.
Sam considered that fiction and drama—in particular science fiction and fantasy—were more important in changing society than nonfiction, and he made it a point to surround himself with talented novelists, playwrights, and screenwriters. He did not consider science fiction and fantasy peripheral to his work as a libertarian, but the centerpiece of it. His fannishness was not his hobby but the core of his libertarian mission.
Personal life history
SEK3 was of Slavic ancestory, with his (great?) grand-parents being Russian Doukhobors migrated from Russia to Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1890s (see Clear Ether!, vol. 3 No. 2: "My ancestors were treated worse than the Jews in Russia before they were shipped out en masse in 1890," see also Doukhobor ship passenger lists, 1898-1928 by Steve Lapshinoff & Jonathan Kalmakoff.) He was born in 1947 and about 23 years later, in 1970 he published his first zine (Laissez Faire!) in Madison, WI (while attending graduate school at the University of Wisconsin for two years). What happened in between is not well-known, but his family moved to Edmonton, Alberta, when he was a child where he lived through college. During his high school years, he had been interested in the Social Credit movement and by the time he entered the University of Wisconsin he was a fan of science fiction in general and especially the works of Robert A. Heinlein, in particular the novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (see Prometheus newsletter, Vol. 22, No. 1).
After he earned a BS(Hon) degree in chemistry from the University of Alberta in 1968, he entered the University of Wisconsin for graduate studies in Chemistry, in 1971, he moved to New York City to seek a doctorate in theoretical chemistry at New York University, achieved a Master of Science degree in chemistry, but refused to turn in his doctoral thesis, after he had completed all work, because "didn't want to spend the rest of my life working for the military-industrial complex." (According to Schulman's Fannish Tribute.) It was a period of time when he co-founded NYUSFS and its APA, APA-NYU (also known as Apa-nu and APA-v – v stands for greek letter nu,) started publishing his fanzine New Libertarian Notes, apazines Clear Ether! (APA-NYU) and Tarzine of the APAs (APA-L). Place where he lived at during this period, on East 11th Street in NYC, was referred to as AnarchoSlum.
Then, in 1975, he moved to California (with two months trip across several cons and other events) which coincided with changing of title and format of New Libertarian Notes – it became New Libertarian Weekly, semi-pro weekly newszine. SEK3 lived in Southern California the rest of his life except for two years in Las Vegas. He, with anarchoroomies lived at apartment complex in Long Beach, CA, known as AnarchoVillage, where New Libertarian Weekly was collated, D&D played, various meetings took place. In 1975, he and others founded a Libertarian Science Fiction APA, Frefanzine (the first disty was collated and distributed at NASFiC 1). AnarchoVillage was occupied by fans and libertarians until 1984. In 1978 New Libertarian, became monthly and then bi-monthly semiprozine, that was published semi-regularly until 1990.
In 1990, he got married and had a son, that was followed by a disastrous divorce. He was not heard of almost at all during next eight or nine years, until the Internet era (end of ’90s) when he become active in different email lists (list LeftLibertarian on eGroups/Yahoo is one of the most interesting examples), started several websites, resumed apazines, and even tried to resurrect New Libertarian. Not everything was a success, but at least e-list archives can tell us something about his last years until 2004, when he was found dead in his apartment in Beverly Hills.
From 1974 until his death, SEK3 made his living as a pre-press production specialist in magazine and book publishing, beginning as a typesetter and layout specialist, and eventually becoming an accomplished graphic artist and book designer, skills that served him well in his fan activities, including publishing the libertarian APA Daily Frefanzine at various SF conventions, including Worldcon, since 1996. He was a book designer and producer of over 60 hardcover and trade paperback books. (Schulman's Fannish Tribute.)
Fun and fan facts
On July 8, 1947, the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) public information officer Walter Haut, issued a press release stating that personnel from the field's 509th Operations Group had recovered a "flying disk", which had crashed on a ranch near Roswell. On that same day, Samuel Edward Konkin III was allegedly born in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Robert A. Heinlein's birthday was July 7, just a day before SEK3's birthday, and SEK3 almost every year organized combined Heinlein-Konkin Birthday Parties for two days straight. See J. Neil Schulman's blog post for some details.
SEK3 is credited with coining the fan term frefan (Libertarian Science Fiction fan, plural frefen). He coined a lot of other words, but others were mostly about libertarian matters.
- Tarzine of the APAs (APA-L)
- The Competitive Quest (Alarums & Excursions)
- Frefanac! (Frefanzine)
- Frefanews (Frefanzine)
- Clear Ether! (variety of APAs)
- ...And on Green
- New Libertarian Notes
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