The 62nd World Science Fiction Convention

  • Sept. 2-6, 2004
  • Boston, MA

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October 29, 2003

Hal Clement, 1922-2003

We are deeply grieved to report the passing today of Hal Clement: writer, teacher, fan, and much-loved friend of Noreascon Four.

Born Harry Clement Stubbs, Hal saw his first story published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1942. He is regarded as the exemplar par excellence of what is now termed hard science fiction. His works include Iceworld (with an alien protagonist who is a chemistry teacher), Close to Critical, and Mission of Gravity.

He adopted the pseudonym "Hal Clement" because he thought his involvement in science fiction might reflect badly upon him during his undergraduate work in astronomy at Harvard. (He didn't know that his advisor, Prof. Donald H. Menzel, was a friend of Hugo Gernsback, who published the first science fiction magazine in 1926.)

Hal served in the Army Air Corps Reserve during World War II, and he was recalled to active duty during the Korean War.

He earned two masters degrees (in education, in 1946, and in chemistry in 1963) and taught science at Milton Academy, Milton, Massachusetts for 38 years, until his retirement in 1987. He continued to instill a sense of wonder in young (and not-so-young) adults at science fiction conventions with his delightful presentations and slide shows.

We will miss him.

Harry Stubbs

Hal working Registration at Noreascon I. (Photo by Jay Kay Klein)

Addendum:At their business meeting on November 2, the New England Science Fiction Society voted to honor Harry by creating the position of Hal Clement Science Speaker to bring a hard science speaker to each Boskone. At the upcoming Boskone, there will be an exhibit of his written and pictorial work in the Art Show, and a charity auction to benefit the Joslin Diabetes Center will be held in his name on Saturday evening.


I first met him when I was working as the guest liaison for Con*Cept in Montreal. He was utterly charming, kind enough to sign a copy of MISSION TO GRAVITY for me, and on the return trip to the airport we started talking about writing, cons and fen families. "You're going to raise your kids to be fans, right?" he said, his eyes twinkling.

I assured him that any Fletcher offspring would be raised in the faith. He will be deeply missed.

In a genre that is known for the friendliness and accessibility of its authors, Hal Clement stood out even further, as a true beacon of congeniality.

I first met him at a small convention in Troy, New York in 1987, and spent the better part of an hour talking to him about space exploration and interesting moons in our solar system. From that time onward, if any discussion at a convention ever ran up against a real stumper of a science question, I'd think, "I'll bet Hal Clement could help with this," and usually within the day, I'd be able to track him down and get some useful information.

He was well known for being willing to answer anyone's questions, sign anyone's books, and attend just about any convention or party to which he was invited. He never stood on ceremony, and as far as I could tell he never cared whether anyone addressed him as "Hal", "Harry", "Mr. Clement", or "Mr. Stubbs".

A brilliant mind, an influential author, and a wonderful person, Hal Clement enriched the lives of many, many people during his long and fruitful life in the science fiction community.