Erle Korshak (1923-2021)

Publisher, editor, bookseller, and fan Erle Korshak, 97, died August 26, 2021. Korshak was best known as an early Worldcon organizer and founder of Shasta Publishers, one of the earliest hardcover science fiction small presses.

Erle Melvin Korshak was born in October 1923, and became a science fiction fan when he discovered an issue of Astounding in 1934; by the late ’30s he was an active collector and involved in fandom. In 1939 he co-created Moonstruck Press, an attempt to compile a bibliography of every fantasy book published until that point. According to the antiquarian book dealer L.W. Currey, “The first science fiction and fantasy bookseller, was apparently science fiction fan Earle [sic] Melvin Korshak…. Publishing his first Science Fiction and Fantasy Catalog, mimeograph single sheet listing fantasy magazines and 14 fantasy books.” (AB, October 19, 1983).

Korshak helped organize the second World Science Fiction Convention, Chicon I, in 1940, with Mark Reinsberg and Wilson “Bob” Tucker, serving as secretary of the convention committee and acting as “temporary chairman” on the first day when chair Reinsberg was ill. Their efforts helped ensure that Worldcon would be an annual event.

In 1946, Korshak began selling used books, and in 1947 founded Shasta Publishers with Reinsberg and T.E. Dikty. They published landmark reference work The Checklist of Fantastic Literature by Everett F. Bleiler (1948), along with books by Alfred Bester, Fredric Brown, John W. Campbell, Robert A. Heinlein, A.E. van Vogt, and others. The press closed in 1957.

Korshak’s involvement in fandom diminished in the following decades. In the late ’80s he began to attend conventions again.  Shasta was reborn in 2009 as Shasta-Phoenix, founded with his son Stephen D. Korshak, featuring books of classic Science Fiction art including From the Pen of Paul: The Fantastic Images of Frank R. Paul (2009).

Korshak was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996. In 2000, he was the recipient of the Barry R. Levin Lifetime Collectors Award for his pioneering efforts as an early Science Fiction publisher and bookseller. He was scheduled as guest of honor for Chicon 8, the 80th World Science Fiction Convention, to be held September 1-5, 2022.

Full obituary and appreciations will run in the October issue of Locus.

2 thoughts on “Erle Korshak (1923-2021)

  • August 27, 2021 at 1:38 pm

    This doesn’t do justice to him. Read what Heinlein thought about him in Patterson’s biography. Or look up what happened with Philip Jose Farmer.

  • August 29, 2021 at 7:28 am

    The passing of such a great man as Erle M. Korshak reminds us of how he profoundly influenced the field (and me). He was the only known fan to have attended each of the first fifteen Worldcons. What a meaningful life he had. He had a great memory, especially for SF incidents and anecdotes from the good old days. He worked hard, took care of himself and others and prospered. Erle was looking forward very much to the honor of being “First Fandom Guest of Honor” at Chicon 8. Today, we are sending comforting wishes to his family, especially Stephen and Alma.


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