CHRIS BOYCE

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It's no diminishment of the regrets I've expressed for previously deceased ASTRA members, when I say that none will be more missed than Chris Boyce, who died suddenly at his work in the Reference Library of the Glasgow Herald on Tuesday 29th June, 1999. This isn't the place to set out his many kindnesses to me over the years, but it's a great loss to me as well as to the society.

I first met Chris in 1967. I had just made my first professional sale to Amazing Stories, and Chris had already appeared three times in Impulse, twice with cover art by Keith Roberts. He was working then in the Technical Section of the Mitchell Library. I was in a singers' workshop called Folk Song Repertory at the time, and a member called Willie Ross told me Chris wanted to meet me. We hit it off from the outset and Chris quickly joined ASTRA, taking an active part in the early stages of the Interstellar Project. In 1970 and 1971 Chris gave us three highly original talks, 'On the Interpreting of Extraterrestrial Cultures', which were printed in Spacereport and one was reprinted in Asgard. When we decided to expand the Interstellar Project with the Extraterrestrial Contact discussions which became Part 2 of "Man and the Stars", the original plan was for Chris to write that section of the book. For a time we were meeting in the ASTRA rooms in Hamilton on Saturday mornings for joint work sessions on it. But with mounting other commitments, including becoming engaged to Angela Mullane, in the end Chris wrote only the introductory chapter to that section.

Meanwhile Chris and I were running the Glasgow SF Circle, first at the Granville Bar and then more formally at the Charing Cross Hotel, with a programme kept in step and jointly announced with ASTRA's. In 1974 Chris won the Gollancz/Sunday Times SF novel competition with "Catchworld". We found this out only ten days before the award was to be given at the Eastercon in Newcastle, and I set myself the task of organising a supporters' bus from ASTRA and the SF Circle, although I couldn't tell anyone why they had to be there. Jim Campbell, Robert Shaw, John Kelk, Bill Ramsay, and Gavin Roberts were among the ASTRA contingent. "Catchworld" and "Man and the Stars" were published almost simultaneously, and the Isobel Begg chat show we appeared on together on STV was a highlight of that year. One of his prize possessions from that time was the original of a special SF issue, for him, of Ewan Bain's 'Angus Og' comic strip in the Daily Record, where Chris was working in the library at the time. The Chris Boyce/Duncan Lunan double act featured at a number of events over the years, including a sales conference at the launch of the IBM PC, and a seminar at Glasgow University Dept. of Adult & Continuing Education. The SF Circle eventually moved at Chris's suggestion to the Admiral Bar on Waterloo Street, as a social night on the first Wednesday of each month, with an ASTRA one two weeks later. The standing joke was that at the SF Circle everyone talked about spaceflight and at the ASTRA meeting everyone talked about SF.

In 1973 ASTRA began the Interplanetary Project, again with Chris heavily involved, and the last chapter of "Man and the Planets" is based on his talks on von Neumann probes and on mind-machine interactions. The chapter is to be reprinted in the second volume of Samo Resnik's "Fantasia" book series, in Slovenia. In the 1976 crisis ASTRA was saved by Chris Boyce and Jim Campbell, who took over the running of the society at a crucial time and kept it going until the Memorandum and Articles of the society as a limited company came into effect. When the new ASTRA rooms were opened Chris gave one of the first lectures on O'Neill habitats and he contributed articles on them to Asgard and to the "Pulsar" science fiction series edited for Penguin by George Hay, the Space Settlers and ASTRA honorary member who died in 1998.

"Brainfix", published in 1980, suffered an ironic twist of fate. Chris had difficulty placing the novel because it kept coming true: the first draft had Russia invading Afghanistan in 1988 and America withdrawing from the Olympics in protest, whereupon it happened ten years early. Even then publishers found it too hard to believe: not the nationwide use of mind-altering drugs by a government determined to stay in power, not the wiring up of the SAS into a single mental entity as an instrument of repression, not the nuclear 'accident' arranged with the Americans after Scotland becomes independent, no, they were easy to believe. But three million unemployed in Britain - fantasy! But it had already happened by the time the book came out and a couple of years later, when a signed copy came up for auction at a convention, the cry was "What am I bid for this piece of science fact? Chris was a stalwart of Glasgow SF conventions which began in the late 1970's, and was Guest of Honour at several of them. He had several short stories in the German SF series "Science Fiction Story Reader" and in the US magazine Aboriginal SF, with both of which I put him in touch.

Chris took part in several National Children's Book Week programmes which we organised, and in the 'SF Writers' Weekend' which we organised as part of ASTRA's High Frontier exhibition in 1979, at the Third Eye Centre and Glasgow Film Theatre. Chris had a particular fondness for SF movies: he went to see 2001, a Space Odyssey so many times in Cinerama that the theatre staff gave him complimentary tickets - Chris said they thought he wrote it. In the last few years he had organised several ASTRA visits to films like Deep Impact and Armageddon. During the 1970s Chris was developing his model for simulating extraterrestrial encounter situations, test-firing them at meetings in the ASTRA rooms. The first public simulation was run at our 'High Frontier' exhibition in 1979, after Chris published "Extraterrestrial Encounter a Personal Perspective", to which I contributed a guest chapter in turn. We had in mind that this would be an on-going engagement, but I haven't yet found a publisher for "Search Among the Stars", the next one I had in mind. The publishers, David & Charles, ran a public opinion poll on reactions to ET Contact to coincide with publication. Having perfected the ET Encounter simulation technique, Chris ran many of them at SF conventions, usually with ASTRA participation, including a very big one at the 1995 Worldcon in Glasgow. He had a big elaborate one in reserve featuring H.G. Well's 'War of the Worlds' happening in the present day, which now we won't be able to play. Mars and Well's invasion had a particular fascination for Chris: to his regret he didn't find a publisher for "Martians", a major novel set in the present as it might be if the invasion had actually taken place. It was quite appropriate that his coffin was carried into the crematorium to the Mars movement from the Planets Suite - and even more appropriate that we left to 'Jupiter the bringer of Jollity'.

In 1980 Chris gave a series of lectures on Cosmology to ASTRA and at the same time ran a series of teaching sessions in the ASTRA rooms with his new Pet computer. For many ASTRA members that was their first experience of the new cyber revolution. In the early 1980's when I was living with Chris and Angel he took over production of ASTRA circulars on a more advanced machine, and when he moved to the Glasgow Herald as it then was, and was the prime mover in computerising their reference library. He wrote many articles on computing and on space for the Herald, and often helped ASTRA members with their computer problems. Unfortunately his attempt to create a bulletin board for ASTRA fell foul of the society's internal politics at the time. Also in the mid-80's he hosted several ASTRA AGMs, and committee meetings for our attempt to bring the Brunel University Space School to Glasgow. In 1989 he lectured at our commemorative Apollo anniversary exhibition in Princes Square, and he also gave a reading at one of our anniversary events at Cottier's Theatre.

At the end of the 1980's Chris, Angela and Alasdair Gray formed Dog & Bone Publishing, which published Chris's mainstream thriller "Blooding Mister Naylor" and Archie Roy's psychic research memoir, "A Sense of Something Strange", as well as doing the layout and typesetting for "Starfield" the anthology of science fiction by Scots which I edited for Orkney Press. The cover story was "The Rig", which had been the first of Chris's to catch my attention in Impulse with a cover by Keith Roberts; this time it was painted by Sydney Jordan, in two versions, and at the launch we made Chris a present of the first one. The second featured on the book jacket and in ASTRA's 'Urban Spaceman' art exhibition, at the 90's Gallery, the Edinburgh International Science Festival, and elsewhere.

More recently Chris was becoming actively involved in ASTRA again as his children reached their teens. He supported the discussion projects on Andy Paterson's space art and Chris O'Kane's Mars Project, and in 1998 launched one of his own to review "Extraterrestrial Encounters" after twenty years. The ET Presence discussions were based on highly original papers by Chris himself and he had begun writing the new book, asking Andy Nimmo and me to read and comment chapter by chapter. Unfortunately only the first chapter was finished.

Chris arranged the use of the Herald Library's photocopiers to produce the '45 Years of ASTRA' history at the end of 1998, and he had been supporting ASTRA financially since the beginning of 1999, helping the society to weather the problems caused by the recent dip in membership. He and Angela also allowed ASTRA to store our library in their loft after we were required to move it from Airdrie Observatory. In the last week of his life he began to create a new website for ASTRA's central programme. Chris had chaired a planning meeting for that programme in 1998, one result of which was Jamie McLean's Fantasy Space Programme, in which he gave Jamie a great deal of support, making a big effort to attend the meeting at the end of June, only days before his death. He exchanged multiple e-mails with Andy Nimmo about the website that weekend, and the night he died I was to have gone along to the Herald Library to see what headway they were making. Apparently the event was instantaneous and he keeled over in mid-sentence while talking to a colleague. The website is now well advanced in preparation and is still based on the format Chris had e-mailed to Andy.

Chris is survived by Angela and by their daughters Petra and Toni to whom the ASTRA members and Council extend their deepest sympathy.

 

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LEN CARTER

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Date Last Modified: 31 07 1999