Janet Kagan: The SFF writer died February 29th, 2008, of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the age of 63. Kagan was the author of numerous short stories and novellas, published in magazines such as Asimov’s and Analog and in many anthologies. Her popular “Mama Jason” stories were re-published as a collection, Mirabile. She also authored the novel Hellspark and an acclaimed Star Trek tie-in novel, Uhura’s Song. Her 1992 novelette, “The Nutcracker Coup,” first published in Isaac Asimov’s Magazine, won the Hugo Award and the Asimov’s Readers Award and was a Nebula nominee. It was reprinted by Tor Books. Her work “The Loch Moose Monster,” also first published in Asimov’s, was reprinted in the seventh annual collection of The Year’s Best Science Fiction. Her story “What a Wizard Does” won the MZB Cauldron Award for Best of Issue in the Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine and was reprinted in The Best of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, Volume 2.
Ernest Gary Gygax: The legendary game creator and writer died at age 69 from complications arising from past multiple strokes. Gygax is most well known as the co-creator with Dave Ameson in the early 1970’s of the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game, which spawned a world-wide gaming craze and helped turned the gaming industry into a billion dollar field. With partners, Gygax formed Tactical Studies Rules (TSR) to distribute the game and other RPG games, and a new magazine on gaming, The Dragon, for which Gygax wrote articles and a column. TSR branched out into the emerging video and computer gaming markets and produced tie-in novels such as the Dragonlance series, tie-in comics series and original fantasy novels. In the early 1980’s, Gygax headed up Dungeons & Dragons Entertainment and produced a cartoon series Dungeons & Dragons for CBS. Financial problems and squabbling among the key partners caused Gygax to step down from the company in 1985. Gygax then created the RPGs Dangerous Journeys and Lejendary Adventure. In 2005, Gygax joined Troll Lord Games to create the Castles & Crusades system of games. Gygax also wrote seven tie-in novels for TSR: the Greyhawk series – Saga of Old City and Artifact of Evil, and its sequel series, Gord the Rogue – Sea of Death, Night Arrant, City of Hawks, Come Endless Darkness and Dance of Demons. He also wrote three novels for Penguin/Roc – The Anubis Murders, The Samarkand Solution, and Death in Delhi.
Ben Chapman: The Polynesian-American actor and dancer died February 21st in Hawaii of congestive heart failure at age 79. Chapman, who as a child in Tahiti appeared as an extra in the film Mutiny on the Bounty, is best known as one of the two actors who portrayed the monster character Gill-Man in the iconic 1954 horror film, Creature from the Black Lagoon. (The other actor was stuntman Ricou Browning.) A contract player for Universal Pictures, Chapman was selected to play the monster on land because of his 6 foot, 5 inch height. He also appeared in the films Pagan Love Song, Hawaiian Nights, Jungle Moon Men, and Wake of the Red Witch with John Wayne. Chapman served in the Korean War as a Marine and was awarded Silver and Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts. He was a real estate executive who often made appearances at movie and collectibles conventions in celebration of his Gill-Man role and even created a website for his fans, www.the-reelgillman.com.