Monday, March 09, 2009

Presenting: David A. Kyle, my uncle

Uncle Dave, 2005

This is my uncle, David Kyle. He is recognized in the science fiction community as the elder statesman, certainly to the older generation and since the passing of two of his very close friends, Arthur C. Clark and more recently, Forrest J Ackerman, the man who coined the term, sci-fi. I don't know how many present day fans he has, but it's not all that important. He still goes to many sci-fi conventions around the world, but he has slowed down recently. After all, Valentine's Day was his birthday, and this year he turned 90. Of course, I called him. He still goes up and down the stairs in his home and he has no trouble driving into town, to church with my aunt, and to local social functions near Potsdam, NY, where they reside. Way upstate. He is married to my mother's sister, Ruth. His mind is as sharp as it was 50 years ago. Back in 1980, he was authorized by the late E.E. 'Doc' Smith estate to write further adventures in the 'Dragon Lensmen' series. He has written other books and many years ago, was an author and illustrator for detective, fantasy and sci-fi pulp fiction magazines, such as Analog, and was the founder of Gnome Press. Years ago, he and my aunt owned a radio station up there, WPDM.

I remember, when I was four, going to their wedding in New York City. I sat with my grandmother and great aunt in the front row. During the ceremony, I looked up at the stained glass windows. It was an Episcopal church, The Little Church Around the Corner in midtown Manhattan. Quite ornate and somewhat gothic, if I recall. The moment was very silent. Pointing upward, I blurted out, "Is that God?" And I meant it. The question from my young lips reverberated throughout the whole church and within seconds, the congregation roared in laughter. Was that me who disrupted the ceremony? I guess I had my 15 minutes of fame rather early in life.

When I was young, probably from around 9 to 17, they used to fly me up to spend summers in Potsdam. Mohawk Airlines. DC-3s back then. Sometimes, they'd entertain guests for dinner. Earlier on, it meant nothing to me to dine with Isaac Asimov or Robert Heinlein and as I mentioned, his close friends, Forrest J Ackerman and Arthur C. Clarke, like anyone would know who he was. Being famous was not part of my vocabulary back then. Somewhere during my early years my father took me to a midget or sprint car race in Flemington, NJ, where I'm from. "See that guy out there?" he asked. "That's A.J. Foyt." 

"So?" I responded. I knew who Superman was.

My uncle has always had a very vibrant and creative mind and a keen, dry sense of humor. He still does, but I have noticed him slowing down - finally. At 90, can we blame him? For years, he and my Aunt Ruthie used to drive down, to escape the brutal and long winters of the north country. Of course, he did all the driving. Alas, I think those days are no more, but I would love to go back to visit them and to revisit old memories.

He and my aunt have one of the most extensive libraries I have ever seen, along with old, old metal sci-fi toys from here and post-war Japan. This summer, a lot of those will be gone, gone to find other homes. I sure hope I can get up there. In the meantime, Happy Birthday, Uncle Dave. I hope you had a nice Valentine's Day.


  1. He sounds like a wonderful man, and deserves to slow down a bit.
    I would love a writer in my family. They're all artists who think writing is too easy--and sci fi would be incredible

  2. Hi, Pia! What a wonderful surprise.

    Good old Uncle David is slowing down. He hasn't written anything in some time now, although he does correspond with sci fi fans and convention people. He is an amazing man, though, and he's been a part of my life for so long, it will be a very sad day for me when he passes. At least, he's still here, I don't think he's in any hurry to go soon, and most of all, he's had an exceptionally fine life.

    Thank you, Pia.

  3. I met Dave at the 2009 Worldcon, and discovered that he lives just six miles from where my oldest daughter attends college. We exchanged emails, and were invited over. My daughter and I stayed for over two hours chatting about the old days of SF, and audio recording some of David and Ruth's memories, perhaps for a few fanzine articles. It was totally a pleasure, and I hope to visit them again. I read your post before visiting, and felt like they were old fan friends even though we had never crossed paths before in thirty years of fandom. Thanks for your reminiscence.
    -Herb Kauderer