The annual Rotsler Award, established in 1998 and named for Bill Rotsler (1926-1997), is presented each year for wonder-working with graphic art in amateur publications of the science fiction community. It is sponsored by the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests, carries a $300 honorarium, and is ordinarily announced at Loscon, the Los Angeles science fiction & fantasy convention held over the U.S. Thanksgiving Day weekend in November.
Bill Rotsler knew everyone and did everything. He went house-hunting with Marilyn Monroe. He wrote science fiction. He sculpted with welded steel rods. He celebrated the West Coast Science Fantasy Conference (better known as Westercon) as his birthday. In the fan community he was best known for graphic art, mostly in the amateur publications by fans, for fans, which we call fanzines (a name fanzine coined by Russell Chauvenet in the 1940s.)
Rotsler won the Hugo Award (the highest achievement in the science fiction community) as Best Fan Artist on five separate occasions: in 1975, 1979, 1996 (when he also won the Retrospective Hugo for 1946) and 1997, a remarkable span. His cartoons were deft, his serious drawing fine, his fluency downright breathtaking.
The award is coordinated for SCIFI by board member Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink. The current judges are Mike Glyer, John Hertz, and Sue Mason.
Rotsler Award Winners
Click the year/winner line to open up full details about each winner; click on the thumbnails to see larger versions of the illustrations. All images are used with permission.
Martin James Ditmar Jenssen, known among fans as “Dick” or “Ditmar,” got his first look at science fiction art (a painting of Saturn by Chesley Bonestell) when he was eight. Immediately his imagination kicked into gear, and he found himself able to visualize variations in the color, the point of view, and other details or hardware. By the time he was a teenager, he was producing art for his friends’ mimeographed fanzines, which involved using a metal stylus to draw on waxed master sheets.
Seeing for the first time Morris Scott Dollens’ black-and-white space and planetary scenes made him want to learn another technique, scraperboard. This was a thin white clay bonded to a cardboard base, which could be covered in India ink, then scraped away with a scalpel to reveal the white underneath. Ditmar’s efforts in this vein were published on the covers of Australian fanzines.
The advent of computers gave Ditmar a new tool for producing exotic color compositions. “Since I usually always wanted to redo what I had created, in order to reorganize the compositional elements, and/or the coloring, and/or the elements themselves, it seemed that graphic packages would be ideal. Software which would allow me to generate three-dimensional objects in a virtual world, to organize their spatial distribution and relations, to color them as I wished, to manipulate them in unreal ways.” And digital and online fanzine publishers, freed from the cost of printing color art on paper, responded with approval, publishing several elaborate folios of these images.
For 2011 the judges decided upon giving the Award to D West. However, he declined. The judges therefore determined there would be no 2011 Rotsler Award.
Stu Shiffman was the 1981 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate. Then dwelling in New York, later making the Great Northwest Pilgrimage, he has more recently been a resident of Seattle.
He has had eleven Hugo Award nominations as Best Fanartist. He was a Guest of Honor at Minicon XX and Wiscon XII, and has a recipe in The Bakery Men Don’t See (1991). Historical interests and strange animals are often involved in his drawings. Besides science fiction he is a fan of folk music and Sherlock Holmes. He is a judge of the Sidewise Awards.
Dan Steffan, of Portland, Oregon, won the Readercon award for the design of Science Fiction Eye. As of July 2010 he has won the Fanzine Activity Achievement (FAAn) award as Best Fanartist four times, and has had one Hugo Award nomination. He was the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate in 1995.
His imagination, his marshalling of detail, and his poignant satire have kept his reputation high for decades. His work is always part of any conversation about excellence in fanzines. (You’ll see he sometimes signs his name on three lines, DAN STEF FAN. Hugo Gernsback’s old word scientifiction is still with us, stf for short, pronounced “stef.”)
Toronto-area artist Taral Wayne has been nominated seven times for a Hugo Award as Best Fanartist. Writing is also an art; he is a noted fanwriter. History may also be an art; he is a noted fanhistorian. He was Fan Guest of Honour at Anticipation, the 67th World Science Fiction Convention, in Montréal. However, none of these interesting facts is within the scope of the Rotsler.
Taral’s work is by turns serious, sexy, and satirical, with a fluent line and strong composition. At home with space equipment and strange creatures, he was also drawing anthropomorphic animals long before most in North America had heard of animé or manga.
Terry Jeeves (1922-2011) was of First Fandom, that happy band who became active fans at least as early as the first World Science Fiction Convention (1939). He wrote for fanzines, he sent drawings to fanzines; for over forty years he published his own fanzine Erg. He had a way with people, creatures, and machines. They may appear together. Some are the humanoids we have come to know as Soggies. Al Capp fans say these resemble Shmoos. Perhaps. As with many fanartists, Jeeves’ work has a whimsical touch. He could be comic, satiric, poignant; often understated. He was an Englishman.
Alexis Gilliland has a distinctive witty style that has long enriched amateur publications in the science fiction community.
The one color piece included is from Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck (1980). Each card was by a different fan or pro artist, some majestic, some earthy, some wry. Some of the other Rotsler winners did these too. Gilliland’s is in a voice quite unlike what he is mostly known for.
Gilliland has also published s-f, but his pro activity is not within the scope of the Rotsler Award. In fact he has four times won the Hugo Award as Best Fan Artist, but that is not within the scope of the Rotsler either. The Hugos, highest achievement award in the s-f community, are given for work in the previous calendar year. The Rotsler is for long-time wonder-working. And while some Rotsler winners have won Hugos, some have never been nominated for them.