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AIDS in Science Fiction
Sci-Fi Entertainment, April 1998
Cory Doctorow

Man, this was tough to write. From a technical perspective, it was tricky as hell -- researching the names of every sfnal media person who'd died of AIDS kept me in the library for weeks.

But writing it -- Jesus. Somewhere, about halfway through, the magnitude of it hit me, the sheer volume of people who'd died of AIDS. I ended up writing the intro about eight times, and then one more time at Scott Edelman's request.

Nearly every science-fiction convention has a panel called something like, "It Came From the Slushpile," in which editors read out howlers from their collection of unsolicited manuscripts. During the Q&A, the topic always turns to "What kind of stories don't you want to see?" The answers are pretty standard: we're not interested in Trek knock-offs, or the next Anne Rice, and for God's sake: no more vampires with AIDS stories!

AIDS, in all of its media incarnations -- the gay plague, the third-world plague, the scourge of God, CIA conspiracy, disease du jour -- seems like a bad science-fiction idea. A killer VD that smashes the creative arts, drug subculture and the now-voguish gay community. It gives rise to free condom programs, needle-exchanges, countless risque talkshows where proper prophylactic technique is demonstrated on vegetables.

It feels like the unimaginative McGuffin of a third-rate sci-fi movie.

It feels like a awful, stupid joke.

It isn't. It's a relentless hammer that's come down, again and again, all over the world, and on people from all walks of life. If your life hasn't yet been smashed by that hammer, count yourself very lucky. Hardly a one of us has escaped unscathed.

AIDS has snatched away dozens of talented -- even brilliant -- creators of science-fiction media. Howard Ashman, whose spectacular lyrics brought the flagging Disney film empire out of its coma -- dead. Denholm Elliot, the forgetful Marcus Brody who provided the fulcrum for Indiana Jones's most comic moments -- dead. Richard Hunt, the puppeteer behind Beeker, Sweetums, the Two-Headed Monster and other Muppets -- dead. Anthony Perkins, who, to this day, can scare the hell out of me with that deadpan, "Yes, Mother --" dead. Andy Milligan, the prototype of quick-and-dirty horror directors -- dead.

Expensive new cocktails -- often priced beyond the reach of the masses -- are trickling onto the market, and with each new pharmaceutical press-release, we hold our breath and hope that it's the cure. Maybe one of them is. Some of us still wear our red ribbons, give to research funds, volunteer for hospices -- sure, we do it because it's the right thing to do; but for me, at least, it's also because I'm scared to death that someday, the phone will ring and that awful, stupid hammer will come down again.

On the next page, you'll find the names of some fifty artists caught under the hammer. Their collective contribution to the field is staggering; the pathos of their short lives inspires deepest misery. Take a moment to read through it and to remember each of them.

Michael Abbott
Died 7 April, 1994, aged 39
Designed costumes for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, 1984; and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986
Howard Ashman
Died 14 March, 1991, aged 40
Lyricist for Aladdin, 1992; Beauty and the Beast, 1991; The Little Mermaid, 1989; and Little Shop of Horrors, 1986
Greg Auer
Died 12 June, 1993, aged 53
Produced miniature explosions for Star Wars, 1977; special effects for Carrie, 1976
Tony Azito
Died 26 May, 1995, aged 46
Appeared in Necronomicon, 1993, as the librarian; and The Addams Family, 1991, as Digit Addams
John Beaird
Died 9 July, 1993, aged 40
Wrote My Bloody Valentine, 1981
Michael Bender
Died 3 October, 1997, aged 51
Produced Beetlejuice, 1988
Geoffrey Burridge
Died 1987, aged 38
Appeared in American Werewolf in London, 1981, as Harry Berman; and in Blake's 7, 1978, as Dorian in the episode, "Rescue"
Merritt Butrick
Died 17 March, 1989, aged 29
Appeared in Fright Night II, 1989, as Richie; Star Trek: The Next Generation, as T'Jon, in the episode "Symbiosis;" Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, 1894, as Dr. David Marcus; and Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn, 1982, as Dr. David Marcus
Jeffrey Cochran
Died 26 April, 1997, aged 34
Photo publicity coordinator for The Simpsons
Anthony Cortino
Died 17 March, 1993, aged 44
Hairstylist for The Addams Family, 1991; Mannequin 2, 1991
John J. Dunbar
Died 14 February, 1996, aged 40
Appeared in The Stand, 1994; Freaky Friday, 1995
Denholm Elliott
Died 6 October, 1992, aged 70
Appeared in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, 1989, as Marcus Brody; The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1989; The Ray Bradbury Theatre, 1989, as Richard Braling in "The Coffin;" Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981, as Marcus Brody; The Vault of Horrors, 1973, as Diltant; and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1968, as Mr. Beauchamp
Louis Falco
Died 26 March, 1993, aged 50
Choreographer for Leonard Part 6, 1987
Nigel Finch
Died 14 February, 1995, aged 45
Directed The Vampyr: A Soap Opera, 1992
Miguel Godreau
Died 29 August, 1996, aged 49
Appeared in Altered States, 1980
Richard Hornung
Died 30 December, 1995, aged 45
Costume designer for Natural Born Killers, 1994
Richard Hunt
Died 7 January, 1992, aged 40
Puppeteer, MuppetVision 3D (Disney/MGM Studios), 1991, for Beaker, Scooter, Statler and Sweetums; The Muppets Take Manhattan, 1984; Fraggle Rock, 1983 for Junior Gorg, Gunge and Turbo; The Great Muppet Caper, 1981, for Scooter, Statler and Janice; The Muppet Movie, 1979; The Muppet Show, 1976; Sesame Street, 1969, for Don Music, Gladys the Cow, Placido Flamingo, Sully and the Two-Headed Monster
Franklin D. Israel
Died 10 June, 1996, aged 50
Developed sets for Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Bernard Johnson
Died 22 January, 1997, aged 60
Worked on stunts for Manhunter, 1986 -- the prequel to Silence of the Lambs
Daniel Kearns
Died 7 August, 1995, aged 39
Theatrical manager for Penn and Teller
Tom Kindle
Died 12 February, 1996, aged 47
Appeared in Mork and Mindy, 1978; The Rocketeer, 1991
Jack Krevoy
Died 13 May, 1996, aged 44
Second assistant director for Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings, 1994
Douglas Lambert
Died 1986, aged 50
Appeared in The Hunger, 1983, as the TV Host; Saturn 3, 1980, as Captain James; and Moonraker, 1979, as the Mission Control Director
Paul Michael Lombardi
Died 9 September, 1991, aged 31
Appeared in The Fisher King, 1991, as the radio engineer
Lee Mathis
Died 1 May, 1996, aged 44
Appeared in Scanners: The Showdown, 1995
Winston May
Died 29 April, 1994, aged 57
Appeared in Ghostbusters, 1984, as businessman in cab
Joe Mays
Died 27 January, 1994, aged 45
Appeared in The Seventh Sign, 1988, as the motel clerk
John Megna
Died 4 September, 1995, aged 42
Appeared in Star Trek, 1966, as Fat Little Boy in the episode "Miri"
Andy Milligan
Died 3 June, 1991, aged 62
Directed Monstrosity, 1991; The Weirdo, 1989; Legacy of Blood, 1978; The Man with Two Heads, 1972; The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!, 1972; Guru, the Mad Monk, 1971; Bloodthirsty Butchers, 1970; The Body Beneath, 1970; Nightbirds, 1970 and more than 30 other horror films
Michael Minor
Died 1987, aged 46
Art director for Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn, 1982 and Beastmaster, 1982
Leo Murphy III
Died 8 August, 1993, aged 36
Production aide for The Witches of Eastwick, 1987
Kenneth Nelson
Died 7 October, 1993, aged 63
Appeared in Nightbreed, 1990, as the emergency doctor; Hellraiser, 1987, as Bill; was key set designer for Penn & Teller Get Killed, 1989
Tommy Nutter
Died 17 August, 1992, aged 49
Designed Jack Nicholson's Joker costume in Batman, 1989
Dennis Ott
Died 3 November, 1994, aged 36
Appeared in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, 1991
Christopher Palmer
Died 22 January, 1995, aged 48
Assistant orchestrator for Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, 1985; orchestrated Saturn 3, 1980
John Palomino
Died 3 August, 1997, aged 33
Appeared in Joe's Apartment, 1996, as Tracy Vilar
Anthony Perkins
Died 12 September, 1992, aged 60
Appeared in Psycho IV: The Beginning, 1991, as Norman Bates; Psycho III, 1986, as Norman Bates; Psycho II, 1986, as Norman Bates; The Black Hole, 1979, as Dr. Alex Durant; and Psycho, 1960, as Norman Bates
Michael Peters
Died 29 August, 1994, aged 46
Choreographed Michael Jackson's Thriller
Brian C. Poole
Died 1 November, 1997, aged 41
East Coast publicist for Star Wars
Neal Pozner
Died 21 June, 1994, aged 38
Group editor at DC Comics
Robert Reed
Died 12 May, 1992, aged 59
Appeared in Conquest of Earth, 1980; Wonder Woman, 1976, as Sean Fallon in the episode "The Pluto File"
David Scott Richardson
Died 29 September, 1992, aged 30
Supervisor on The Simpsons; writer on The Flintstones, 1994, appeared in Lust for a Vampire, 1971, as the second villager
Richard Ryder
Died 27 October, 1995, aged 53
Appeared in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, 1993 as a Bajoran deputy
Kenny Sacha
Died 1 August, 1992, aged 39
Appeared in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 1992, as a vampire
Fred Sadoff
Died 6 May, 1994, aged 68
Appeared in The Terminal Man, 1974, as the doctor; The Poseidon Adventure, 1972, as Lincaros
Franklyn Seales
Died 21 May, 1990, aged 37
Appeared in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, 1979, as a crew member
Ray Sharkey
Died 11 June, 1993, aged 40
Appeared in The Ray Bradbury Theatre, 1992, in the episode "By The Numbers"
Eric Steiner
Died 30 June, 1993, aged 47
Directed stage production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Albert Tavares
Died 28 July, 1992, aged 39
Casting director for Aladdin, 1992; Beauty and the Beast, 1991; and The Little Mermaid, 1989
Victor Valentine
Died 1 October, 1992, aged 40
Directed Little Shop of Horrors on-stage in Philadelphia, Honolulu, Boston and Tokyo
Tom Villard
Died 14 November, 1994, aged 40
Appeared in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, 1993, as Prylar Black in the episode "The Collaborator"
Byron Webster
Died 1 December, 1991, aged 58
Appeared in The Poseidon Adventure, 1972, as the Purser
Jim Wiggins
Died 6 November, 1994, aged 30
Second assistant director for Earth 2

With research assistance from Entertainment Weekly, The Internet Film Database, Mark McClusky and Mark Askwith.
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