Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Rah Hoffman

Rah Hoffman (b. Muscatine, Iowa, 25 November 1920; d. Los Angeles, 25 February 2013)

Robert Arthur Hoffman was the son of Fred Harold Hoffman (1887-1933) and Hazel Miriam Becker (1894-1955),  He had an older sister, Miriam Hazel Hoffman (1912-1975), whose married name was Auld.

Hoffman was a 1937 graduate of Muscatine High School, and in the 1940 Census he is listed as a secretary at a real estate firm.  Sometime later in 1940, or soon after, Hoffman and his mother moved from Iowa to California.  Hoffman studied music at the University of Southern California, his education being interrupted by war service (he was drafted in 1943), after which he received his B.A.

Clark Ashton Smith, Francis T. Laney, and Rah Hoffman in 1943
Hoffman did not write much, and is primarily remembered as a friend and associate of Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961). He became a leading figure behind the scenes in Smith scholarship. Hoffman read Smith's stories in Weird Tales when he was in high school, and visited Smith in Auburn first on 27 December 1941, and several times in 1943, after he was posted near Auburn for his war service. On 30 October 1943 he was accompanied on a visit to Smith by Francis T. Laney (1914-1958), the editor of the Lovecraftian fanzine The Acolyte. Hoffman had secured a number of Smith items for publication in Laney's fanzine, and the Spring 1944 issue of The Acolyte (volume 2 no. 2; whole number 3) contains an article "The Arkana of Arkham-Auburn" as by "R.A. Hoffman" (soon to acquire the nickname Rah), an account of his visits to Smith. (The uncredited co-author was Smith himself.)  The same issue includes a poem ("The Statues") by Hoffman in the manner of Smith, and drawings ("Lemitrons on Venus," the other untitled) by Hoffman, as well as a contribution by Smith ("Excerpts from The Black Book"). "The Arkana of Arkham-Auburn" was reprinted in the Clark Ashton Smith issue of Nyctalops, no. 8 (August 1972).

Hoffman was active for many years in the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, and professionally he was as a film editor in a number of Hollywood studios. Hoffman and Donald Sidney-Fryer met in May 1961, inaugurating a friendship that would last for over fifty years. Hoffman contributed a letter of Smith-related reminiscences to Sidney-Fryer's long-awaited Emperor of Dreams: A Clark Ashton Smith Bibliography (1978).  The letter is reprinted, along with some of Hoffman's photographs of Smith, in the exquisite volume In the Realms of Mystery and Wonder: Collected Prose Poems and Artwork of Clark Ashton Smith (2017), edited by Scott Connors. The 1979 Arkham House volume The Black Book of Clark Ashton Smith is based on a transcription by Hoffman and Donald Sidney-Fryer made of Smith's notebook in 1961-62.

Hoffman is credited with advice and help on the textual corrections to two of the three volumes of the stories of Clark Ashton Smith, as edited by Donald Sidney-Fryer and published as mass market paperbacks by Timescape:  The City of the Singing Flame (1981) and The Last Incantation (1982).  Hoffman assisted Steve Behrends on many of his Smith publications throughout the 1980s, most notably the grab-all volume Strange Shadows: The Uncollected Fiction and Essays of Clark Ashton Smith (1989), edited by Behrends, "with Donald Sidney-Fryer and Rah Hoffman."

In August 1998 Hoffman asked Donald Sidney-Fryer to share his house in Westchester on the west side of Los Angeles, and Sidney-Fryer, in his autobiography Hobgoblin Apollo (2016), called that fifteen year period beginning in 1998 the happiest and most productive of his life. Hoffman died at the age of 92, while recuperating from a broken hip sustained in a fall.

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