Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Maureen Kincaid Speller and Gocha R. Tsetskhladze

 I woke up on Monday to the news that Maureen Kincaid Speller had died. This wasn't a surprise - I'd known about her cancer for a while, and her husband, Paul Kincaid, had posted on Facebook to say that she was near the end. But it was still upsetting. I'd known Maureen for as long as I'd been in wider fandom - indeed, she and Paul were among the first people outside local groups I'd really met, when they came and visited one of the pub groups in Manchester. I wasn't around in her glory days of the 1980s and 1990s, when she ran the BSFA, a role from which she was just stepping down about the time I first started getting involved in cons on a wider basis. Mind you, I would venture that Maureen was no less important in fandom, broadly defined, for the past twenty years - she was just slightly less visible, running the APA Acnestis, and more recently acting as the reviews editor for Strange Horizons and assistant editor for Foundation.

Maureen was a good friend, kind and generous. I saw her regularly in the 2000s in London, and then less regularly in the 2010s, when we were at the other end of Kent from her and Paul, and they didn't go to London or conventions as often as they once had. I last saw them I think in 2019, when, unexpectedly, they dropped in to the Eastercon. I'd meant to go and visit this summer, but rail strikes and Maureen going back into hospital put paid to that.

Maureen was a brilliant critic, and an important part of the sf world. If it was not always recognised how important she was, that's partly because a lot of her work was, as I say, less visible, partly because she never pushed herself as much as she could, partly because Paul got a bit more attention, and partly, I'm sorry to say, because she was a woman, and not always taken seriously in the very male world of sf fandom of the twentieth century. But she was important. There was a booklet collecting some of her criticism published by the BSFA a few years ago, and the British Fantasy Society rightly gave her the Karl Edward Wagner Award at the weekend; sadly, she probably never knew that. I am sad that her voice has been stilled, and that we will never get the definitive book on Alan Garner that everyone who knew her knew she had in her to write.

A few hours later, I learned of the death of Gocha R. Tsetskhladze, a titan of the archaeology of the Greek colonies on the Black Sea. I hadn't seen Gocha in over twenty years, but back in the day we were friends, and I participated in the seminar series he ran with Anthony Snodgrass in Cambridge, that became Greek Settlements in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. I think I am right in remembering that was one of the rare occasions I was invited to present, rather than responding to a call for papers, and I thank him for that. It's certainly the only time I ever dined at a Cambridge College High Table.

Both were taken from us far too young, and I shall miss them both.

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