In memoriam: Fred Patten (1940-2018)
Fred Patten was born in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 1940. By the time he was ten years old, he'd become interested in science fiction and had started to collect SF books and magazines. From 1958 to 1963 he attended UCLA, where he graduated with a master's degree in Library Science. During his university years, he discovered science fiction fandom, joined the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS), and started to write for fanzines.
In the 1970s, Fred became a partner in a bookstore in Long Beach, and also developed an interest in manga and anime from Japan. In 1977, along with Mark Merlino and others, Fred was one of the founding members of North America's first anime fan club, the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization. Partially through the C/FO, he and Mark expanded their mutual interest in animals in cartoons and science-fiction, which was a major step in the early evolution of furry fandom. A lot people aren't aware that in North America, both anime and furry fandoms share an originating root!
Furry fandom gradually became more organized in the mid-1980s, and one of its early manifestations was a zine called Rowrbrazzle, which started in 1984. Fred became its editor in 1989, and he held that position for the next 16 years. In 1990 he joined Streamline Pictures, an American distributor of anime, which had been formed two years earlier by television writer/producer Carl Macek and animation historian Jerry Beck (who would later go on to help create the animation news site Cartoon Brew).
It's really difficult to sum up Fred's fan activities, because he was incredibly active! For more than fifty years, he wrote hundreds upon hundreds of reviews (well over a thousand, by his own estimate), covering manga, science-fiction, anime, animation, and furry. His bibliography in The Internet Speculative Fiction Database? That's just a drop in the bucket. Online, you can find some of his reviews that appeared in Animation World Network, Cartoon Research, Yarf!, Anthrozine, Dogpatch, and here on Flayrah.
Fred helped staff several science-fiction conventions. He co-founded the Down Under Fan Fund, which helped members of the science-fiction community to travel between the U.S. and Australia. In furry fandom, he was one of the founders of the Ursa Major Awards. He was also interested in the historical aspects of fandom, and wrote an early chronology of furry, describing its growth from 1966 to 1996.
His work was recognized by his fellow fans, receiving a 2006 award from Worldcon "in celebration of a lifetime of service to [science-fiction] fandom", and in 2011 at a ceremony at MiDFur in Australia, for his service to furry fandom.
In 2005 Fred had a stroke, resulting in partial paralysis. Bedridden, he moved into a care home, making it necessary to give away his huge personal collection of fandom-related items - close to 900 boxes! - which were donated to the Eaton Collection of the University of California, Riverside. He had the friendship and support of many people, like David Bliss, who travelled to Canada and Australia with him. And Kay Shapero, who did a lot of work for the Ursa Majors, and set up a web page to keep Fred's friends up to date. Most of all, Fred's sister Sherry was extremely helpful during his waning years.
But even his health setbacks didn't slow him down; he stayed active. Working with reduced mobility on his MacBook Pro laptop, Fred went on to edit at least 14 anthologies of short stories, many of which provided publishing opportunities for members of the Furry Writers' Guild. In 2015, one of his fellow Guild members, Phil Geusz, interviewed him for his 75th birthday, and two years later Dogpatch organized a shout-out for his 77th birthday. [Update: Dogpatch's tribute to Fred Patten]
On November 1, 2018, he was found to be non-responsive and was moved to a hospital, but he never regained consciousness, and passed away on November 12. He was 77 years old, a month shy of turning 78. Roz Gibson broke the news to many of us.
Fred and I weren't close, but I edited several of his book reviews and announcements here on Flayrah. I'm not sure when I saw him last - it was either at the 2003 Worldcon in Toronto, or at C-ACE in Ottawa in 2004. We had a strong, mutual interest in furry fandom's history, and without Fred's help I would have had a much more difficult time delving into its past. Although I could easily disagree with him over the importance of small details, we both felt motivated to post reviews online, wanting to help people connect with new things (or to avoid them). I felt embarrassed about my sporadic writing in comparison to his prolific output.
A few months ago, I was happy to tell Fred that his books had been used as references when the Library of Congress had created two furry subject headings; it was a great feather in his cap as a librarian. Fred also understood French to some extent, so we were able to talk about French comics and animated films. My last communication with him was in mid-October, to tell him about a graphic novel called Rat & les animaux moches, which I hoped he'd mention to Lex Nakashima, who was also interested in that sort of thing.
Fred remained involved throughout 2018. On the Furry Writers' Guild forums, he let us know about a Japanese fanzine, Philosofur #2:
"The Japanese fanzine of essay, chronicle and research about Furry/Kemono fandom, April 2018, is 156 pages. It's more like a trade paperback book than a fanzine, with a full color dust jacket. Besides my [Chronology of the fandom], the contents include 'Personal, or political? From the political news concerning furries in 2017' by Tomohiro Inokuchi; 'On the history of anthropomorphism in Japan' by Calamansi Tachibana, and a translation of 'What's the deal With furries? What a decade of research reveals about a misunderstood subculture' by Dr. Courtney Plante."
His other fandom activity in 2018 included poems in Civilized Beasts volume III, winning an Ursa Major Award for Dogs of War, as well as publishing two more anthologies, What the Fox?! and Exploring New Places. As of his passing, he had been working on a Cóyotl Award anthology.
Rest In Peace, Fred. Thanks for everything.
(Along with the many sources I used to put this together - all of the links here, as well as Wikifur - here are other tributes to Fred:)
- From Mike Glyer in File 770, a popular news blog in Science-Fiction fandom.
- Memorials from the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society.
- This post by Kunzait_83 gives a detailed story about how Fred crossed over into anime distribution, plus some of the history of the spread of manga, anime and fansubbing in the U.S.
- Patrick Macias talks about Fred and Osamu Tezuka.
- KyotoVideo posted some old fandom scans.
- Mark Evanier.
- Jonathan Clements.