On Frank Gasperik

Ten years ago I joined a mailing list devoted to the works of Larry Niven. I’d loved Niven’s works for years but never had anyone to share that love with, and one of the great things about the Internet in those wild and wooly days of the mid- and late-90s was discovering their were other people out there who loved the sames things I did, people I could talk to about my manic fandoms. I subscribed, began reading posts…

And then I felt completely out of my depth.

I thought I knew Niven’s works. I thought I was a pretty bright guy. That was a reality-check moment. 🙂

One of the first conversations I got involved in was one about who our favorite Niven characters were. Bey Schaeffer (from Neutron Star) and Louis Wu (from the Ringworld novels) were frequently brought up. Kevin Renner from the Mote novels got a mention, as I recall.

I piped up. My favorite Niven character? Harry “Redd” Reddington, from Footfall.

Footfall is Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s novel about an alien invasion of the Earth. (At the time it was written it was meant to be near-future; now it works better as an alternate history of the late Reagan era.) Baby elephants from Alpha Centauri come to Earth, drop asteroids on the planet, and humanity fights back. The novel has literally a hundred characters going and doing–from the halls of the White House, to a Kansas farmhouse, to survivalist groups, to the alien fithp themselves.

One of the characters is Harry Redd. It’s been a while since I read the book, so if I’m misremembering details I apologize. Harry was out of work, down on his luck, and the fithp came. The fithp destroyed a lot of the transportation infrastructure, but Harry goes on a road trip to rescue the wife of a friend. Later he ends up working an an engineer on the Michael–the Orion-powered warship the United States built to kick the living snot of the fithp. And the last time we see Harry he’s in space, the fithp have just ripped a hole in the side of the Michael, and Harry’s sent to do what he can, knowing full well it’s a death sentence with all the radiation bombs flying.

(As an aside, I absolutely love it when the Michael lifts off and goes after the fithp starship. It’s the stand-up-and-cheer moment of the book, it’s utterly pulse-pounding and rivetting, and I just love it.)

I wish I could remember exactly what I said about Harry Reddington in that post to the Larry Niven mailing list. It was probably something along the lines of, “Harry Redd was just a normal guy in extraordinary times. He cared about people. He was smart, and he put himself out on the line. He didn’t need to be hero, but he became a hero. That’s why I like Harry Redd so much–he was just a normal guy made good.”

A few hours later I received an e-mail from a member of the list. His name was Frank Gasperik, and his message was basically this: “Thank you for saying that about Harry Redd. I don’t know if you know this, but Harry Redd was based on me. I’m touched that you liked the character that much.”

Frank passed away on Thursday.

He had had a heart attack about a month ago–bypass surgery and intensive care. His wife passed away in the fall. Life hadn’t been kind to Frank the past few years, unfortunately.

I never really knew Frank Gasperik, beyond a few e-mail exchanges and the occasional Niven-related chat. We’d talked Ring Around the Sky in a chatroom around the time I’d sold the proposal–I remember that he had some interesting ideas about space elevators in the Star Trek universe, but nearly five years on I couldn’t tell you what they were.

He was a fan of science-fiction. He was a genuinely nice guy. Smart, but not showy about it. A font of ideas. Someone you could have gone and had a beer with. That was the feel I always got from reading Frank’s posts.

Maybe I’ll dig out my copy of Footfall and read the last hundred and fifty pages…

The world’s a quieter place today. Peace, Frank.

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

9 thoughts on “On Frank Gasperik

  1. Allyn,
    I’m with you. I only knew Frank through the Niven list, and as Harry Reddington (and Mark Czescu in “Lucifer’s Hammer”) but I sure appreciated his presence, his wisdom and his true love of talking and sharing ideas.

  2. Frank was a fun guy to know. A little bogus sometimes, the kind of person who would lecture a professional computer programmer about computers, and his tales had a tendency to grow in the telling — as all the best ones do.

    But Niven & Pournelle captured the essential Frank in characters like “Hairy Redd” and Mark Czescu (Lucifer’s Hammer and Fallen Angels). A kind heart and a never-say-die attitude. (And also an Attitude). In fact, I think Frank may have appeared twice in LH – I suspect he also inspired Harry the Mailman.

    And, yes, he lived a hard life. He drank too much – a habit probably acquired in the Navy. He smoked. The number of motorcycle accidents he survived is amazing, and I suspect he was in constant low-level pain from some of them. He was never well off, but he always managed to keep going, until finally the Last Enemy got him.

    /me Throws glass in the fireplace where it shatters into a zillion fragments.

  3. I knew Frank for years as “Felix” through Master Ho’s Reality Box. It wasn’t until this past winter that we had actually begun to learn about each other beyond the calculated confines of bandwidth. Frank was (and still *is*) a very special soul. He was greatly cherished by his R.B. family. His contributions in emails and chat, whether it was a cartoon shared or words of compassion and support, were always genuine. Frank was a man who lived, online at least (as far as I can attest), through his head and heart. His is a rare breed. He is already sorely missed. Namaste, dear Frank.

  4. It is wonderful to see so many kind and loving tributes to my old buddy Frank Gasperik. Frank was no saint. Frank was capable of doing some pretty reprehensible things… but as far as I know, he didn’t make a habit of it. Sometimes his antics were laughable becuase he loved to make people laugh, he was a real clown at heart… a quality we appreciated in each other. Sometimes his antics were laughable for the wrong reasons (as mentioned in Barry Gold’s tribute here) as Frank had no reservations about lecturing a computer professional on computers, among other similar shows of bravado (for want of a better word). I have only recently reestablished my fannish life after about 20 years of gafia. I live in Las Vegas with my wife Roxanne which hasn’t facilitated reconnecting with our old L.A. fandom friends, and I had not found Frank online when I looked. I wish I had.

    The last time I saw Frank was briefly in 2000. Just before our wedding Roxie and I stopped into the Loscon in L.A. because we were getting married in Orange County, California (Roc’s home turf) and it put us near enough to the con to be able to make a brief appearance there. Sadly, Frank and I didn’t get to talk at all. He was in a wheel chair and had the long shock of white beard, which was all news to me… so much so that, I say with some embarrassment, I didn’t even recognize him. He was well and beardless when I had seen in last, but that was 15 or 20 years ago. In hurrying to some other location I walked right past him and had to be told after the fact that it was Frank. It saddened me then and does again in the remembering.

    Frank was not only my friend but an unabashed Bill Mills fan… and ghod knows there aren’t SO many of those that I could take such a fact lightly. I was always so flattered by his deferrence to me and my musicianship. But Frank was no slouch in the musical field himself and his performances were always colorful, entertaining and utterly Frank… always a crowd pleaser. He and Contessa Stevens wrote a filk of a silly little ‘dirty ditty’ written by Jack Jardine and I which had gotten rather poopular around the L.A. con scene in the late 70’s early 80’s. It was called “It’s My Turn To Sleep In The Middle”. Frank and Contessa Stevens filked it as “It’s My Turn To Sit In The Hot Tub” and surprised me with it when he performed it for the Westercon Fan Cabaret in 1980. I have rarely been so honored! What a flattering and wonderful thing to do. I still feel the same surge of pride and affection any time I think or speak of it. (BTW: you can hear and see Frank in that 1980 performance on my faanish web site The Voices Of Fandom… http:thevoicesoffandom.com )

    I apologize for the length of this entry, but then Frank (or Harry Redd or Felix as you prefer) was not the kind of guy you could just say “I knew him, I loved him and I’ll miss him” about. He was a big, flamboyant, expansive guy and any proper memorium to him will require more space than I am even taking here. But that having been said I will force myself to end this message with the simple fact that I knew him, I loved him and I’ll miss him. Ride on Frank…

  5. I couldn’t understand some parts of this article on Frank Gasperik, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

  6. I met Frank in 1991 when I lived in Cottonwood, AZ and was a friend of his. I lost touch a few years back, but figured I’d get back in touch like I usually did. I had no idea he died until I did a random search for him. It’s hard to believe. God rest his soul.

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