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Wednesday 23 October 2002

Lloyd Biggle, Jr.

An Appreciation by Michael A. Banks

The first time I met Lloyd Biggle was at the 1974 Midwestcon, in Cincinnati. I remember vividly a lengthy conversation with him, on the subject of genealogy. We traded some family stories, and he explained why he was fairly certain his family was at one time “Bickel.” It changed, he theorized, because “Biggle” was easier to say and write. Which remark led to speculation about how words were trimmed and shortened by usage, and eventually might just wear out. And so on.

About six months later, I saw Lloyd again at Confusion in Ann Arbor. Bill Cavin and I, along with one or two others, rode with Lou Tabakow from Cincinnati, battling heavy snow on the way. I think we all were more than a little tense after the endless hours packed into Lou’s Ford wagon. The stress was double for me, with some other things happening in my life.

The next evening, though, and all stress disappeared in a special moment — due in large part to something Lloyd had engineered. The venue was the Confusion banquet, which began just like any con banquet. Juts before dessert, we startled when several of the doors to the banquet room flew open, and a group of madrigal singers strolled in. They traveled to various parts of the room and sang... it mattered not what they sang. It was lovely, wonderful, and more.

Perhaps it was only me, but the event topped off a wonderful con, and created a moment to memorize. I’m sorry to say that I don’t recall whether the singers were from EMU or where. But I do remember who set it all up — thanks, Lloyd!

I recall many conversations with Lloyd Biggle, more often than not about words and writing. He would talk about how ideas could be held and shaped and turned around into something wonderful. He showed me how he sometimes created stories simply by looking at a situation from a new, and different angle — or perhaps just backwards.

I remember Lloyd, Stan Schmidt, Dean McLaughlin and I standing by the pool at a later Midwestcon, making really awful puns. And, sometime in the early 1980s, getting one of the surprises in my life when I walked into the Cincinnati Convention Center, to see Lloyd coming down one side of a double escalator, and Verna Smith Trestrial (Doc Smith’s daughter) coming down the other. (The occasion was the National Convention of Teachers of English, which I dropped in on to visit a non-fan friend.)

I first became aware of the Science Fiction Oral History Project, and Lloyd’s involvement at a Rivercon. I was amazed at the dedication and interest Lloyd put into it. And if he didn’t make it to a Worldcon or this or that con, he was well-represented by people he’d inspired to contribute time and effort to SFOHA.

I also remember Lloyd telling me of something that happened some years back that resulted in an immense, lifelong burden. It was the sort of thing that 99 people out of 100 would complain about and use to rationalize a bad life. But Lloyd never complained about it, to my knowledge. He went about living his life, being Lloyd Biggle, even though he could have gotten by with less.

The last time I saw Lloyd was about three years ago, at Inconjunction, in Indianapolis. I had gafiated early in the 1990s, and seeing Lloyd again at one of my first cons since told me that I should never have gotten away from it all. Fandom (and prodom) has too many good people like Lloyd.

We stayed in touch by letter for a time, then, as happens, one of us forgot to write or couldn’t write, or whatever. Then, last month. Lloyd was gone.

I have a number of convention photos of Lloyd, and a letter or two from him. I used to have some of Lloyd’s novels, autographed; they disappeared in one or another of my moves during the 1990s. Those aren’t important. I miss Lloyd himself, but will always remember those great talks about words and writing. And I suspect I’m not the only one. As is true of many, the world is a bit smaller with Lloyd Biggle, Jr. gone — but it was enriched by his presence and his work.

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