RIP Jay Kay Klein: Fandom's Photographer Rests in Peace

Spider Robinson writes:

I just received word that Jay Kay Klein, THE photographer of science fiction and fantasy, passed away on Sunday morning, May 13, in a Catholic hospice (a "Francis House") in Syracuse, NY, at age 80, of esophageal cancer.

This sad news came to me today by phone from Craig Peterson, a local plumber and a great-souled man, whom Jay Kay originally hired to fix a bathroom faucet in his longtime home in Bridgeport, NY....and who then, miraculously, took it upon himself to become Jay Kay's final friend, exactly what he needed, helping him with his constrained living situation (Jay Kay's late wife had been a serious hoarder), plowing his driveway, and (all gods be thanked) helping him get his immense and precious collection of over 65,000 negatives of virtually everyone in our field over a 40-year+ period safely to the University of California's Riverside Libraries Eaton Collection of SF & Fantasy. Jeanne would have called Craig a true bodhisattva.

Craig's been going through Jay Kay's address book all day, calling people like Fred Pohl, Bob Madle, and me. He tells me an exhibition and celebration of Jay Kay's photos will be mounted at Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention (Aug 30-Sep 3), by Melissa Conway, the Head Librarian at Riverside Libraries, who now has charge of the collection.

He just forwarded me by email a copy of the obit notice he wrote up for Jay Kay. I attach it, and the photo he included of Jay with one of his own iconic photos of Isaac. (I'm not sure who took it. Craig, I think.) He also sent particulars for Melissa Conway, which I'll paste below.

I met Jay Kay at one of Ben Bova's legendary parties. I am attaching a photo he took of me--not that there'll be any shortage of his photos in BOING-BOING's archives! It was taken only minutes after I was introduced by Jim Baen to Robert A. Heinlein, before the 1975 Nebula Banquet at which Robert was given the first-ever Grandmaster Award. (And just as I'm about to mail this, Craig sent along another shot I can't resist including, of Jay Kay with what appears to be a rare photo of a beardless Samuel R. Delany.)

Craig mentioned that at one point while he was helping Jay Kay shovel through his wife's incredible store of hoarded stuff, they found a small fortune in GM stock. Jay had had no idea it existed, and continued to live like a man of limited means. God knows what his treasure trove of photos is worth, even just in dollars.

Science fiction owes Craig Peterson an incalculable debt. It's only thanks to his hard work those 65,000 negatives reached the right hands in time. I exchanged long snailmail letters with Jay Kay twice in the past couple of years, and knew he was in extremely poor health. He wrote by hand, because, he said, it hurt his fingers too much to type, and sadly his handwriting was incredibly bad. But I could tell he badly needed a friend, and made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to scare up a volunteer who lived near enough to help. I can't express how happy I am to know that Fate sent Craig Peterson to fix Jay Kay's bathtub faucet. I understand Jay Kay left Craig his awesome collection of vintage guitars, and I am very glad. He says they were the topic of the first conversation he and Jay Kay ever had, that day he came to fix the faucet.

Let's hoist a glass in memory of Jay Kay Klein, my friends. I never left his company without a smile on my face. Somebody call Gordy, and Randall, and Ted, and Isaac, and we'll all pass the guitar round in his honour. Science fiction's most acute and astute eye has closed for the last time. But what it saw, we have forever, thanks to photography and the kindness of Craig Peterson.

Jay Kay was one of the gods, when I first entered the field, and he was so kind to Jeanne and me. She was just crazy about him, and also about his photos. So am I.



Jay Kay Klein, 80, of Bridgeport NY passed away peacefully at Francis House in Syracuse NY Sunday morning. Jay was a 1953 graduate of Syracuse University and retired from the General Electric Corporation and Carrier Corporation. Mr. Klein was well known in the World of Science Fiction Fandom, both for his eidetic ('photographic') memory, as well as for his brilliant work as a photographer. In attending many science fiction conventions throughout the years, Mr. Klein took photographs of several thousands conference attendees, including many famous science fiction authors. He numbered science fiction (or 'SF' writers Isaac Asimov, Fred Pohl and Forrest J Ackerman among his close friends. Recently, 65,000 negatives of photographs spanning the last 40 years of Science Fiction conventions and other items having historical significance were shipped to The University of California, Riverside Libraries Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy, the world's largest 'SF' collection. An exhibition of a selection of Mr. Klein's photographs will be on display at Chicon 7--the 70th Science Fiction Convention, Chicago, Illinois, August 30-September 3, 2012. Mr. Klein was predeceased by his wife of 57 years, Doris (Do you have her maiden name?) Klein on October 5th 2011. Jay has is survived by his cousin, Rita Globerman, of New Salem, New York. No calling hours / burial private in Bridgeport cemetery. A celebration of Mr. Klein's life is being planned for his friends at the Chicon 7 convention.

Written by Craig Peterson, May 14, 2012/edits and additions Melissa Conway

Melissa Conway, Ph.D.
Head, Special Collections & Archives
P.O. Box 5900
UCR Libraries
University of California
Riverside, CA 92517-5900
951-827-4673 FAX

Alternate mailing address:
Special Collections & Archives
UCR Libraries
3401 Watkins Dr.
University of California
Riverside, CA 92521


  1. How sad! I remember being bemused at how many pictures in Locus were by this one guy. It is wonderful that least his legacy  is secure.

    Klein was a guest at a few the campus SF conventions (I-Con, Stony Brook LI) my friends ran back in the day. I remember him arriving with a few other New York area SF notables . . . he was utterly boggled and dismayed by the  traffic on the Long Island Expressway. Of course he had his camera with him, and back then I-Con was lousy with pros so he probably had a field day.

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