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Roy A. Squires (1920 – 1988)

October 26, 2012

The following is the biography of Roy Squires, Science Fiction fan extraordinaire, book dealer and publisher, which appears in A Comprehensive Dual Bibliography of James P. Blaylock & Tim Powers, by Silver Smith. Roy Squires was a friend of Blaylock’s, Powers’, Philip K. Dick, and of K. W. Jeter, as well as a friend of other notable authors and people in Science Fiction and Fantasy fandom.

This biographical excerpt from the Bibliography is representative of the contextual information provided throughout the book. The Bibliography includes eighteen biographical entries roughly outlining the lives of Blaylock, Powers, and a few individuals involved in their publishing careers over the years.

Roy Squires, Science Fiction & Fantasy Fan, Collector, Book Dealer

Roy Squires, Science Fiction & Fantasy Fan, Collector, Book Dealer. Photos by Dik Daniels.
Courtesy of Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society.

Roy A. Squires (1920-1988)

Roy Squires was a major and influential SF fan, collector, book dealer and small press publisher. Powers likely first became acquainted with Squires through Squires’ bookselling business, and a friendship developed between them. Powers bought Squires’ press publications and Arkham House books since he was in his teens, and Powers later introduced him to Blaylock and Jeter. Squires became a good friend of Philip K. Dick as well.

According to bookman Terence A. McVicker, Squires was an employee of the legendary Los Angeles bookseller Jake Zeitlin, and it’s likely that his years of working with Zeitlin trained him well in the rare books trade.

Chalker & Owings state that “Roy A. Squires was one of the legendary bookmen always discussed with awe and respect by his peers.” (For more details, read the Chalker & Owings extensive bibliographic guide, The Science-Fantasy Publishers, listed in the References section near the end of this bibliography.) Squires was so widely renowned in the field of Fantastic Fiction that he was twice given World Fantasy Awards for nonprofessional publishing and editing (in 1974 and 1975).

Squires was the literary executor for the sale of books from the collections of R.H. Barlow, and Clark Ashton Smith. Squires was also a member of the quirky Chesley Donovan Foundation of Beverly Hills (a SF fan club known for odd events), and various other fan associations.

Squires ran the Fantasy Advertiser magazine for a while, and he was also a dealer in rare SF/F books which he sold through a mail-order catalog business.

Squires was best known for his publishing efforts, because he used the traditional process of letterpress printing. He published numerous chapbooks of major figures of fantastic fiction including Ray Bradbury, Fritz Lieber, Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, and others. Letterpress relies upon having each and every individual letter to be set on its own as distinct pieces of metal type blocks, with spacing or leading accomplished by addition of lead spacers. The type must be set in mirror-image to the final page, and the pages must be set in individual blocks. For books with multiple pages, the page blocks must be made with multiple blocks per large sized pieces of paper with the correctly-numbered pages oriented correctly, so that when the page is folded down into the signatures to be bound in the book, the edges could be trimmed or cut open, and the resultant pages would all be numbered in correct order with correct orientation. All in all, it’s an arduous process requiring great skill and dedication. Squires only worked on one full-length letterpress book, a posthumous work of Clark Ashton Smith’s which Squires created with the assistance of Clyde F. Beck, of Futile Press. Chalker & Owings report that this book was “a gem of perfection”, with each of the type blocks perfectly aligned on both sides of the pages.

Most of Squires’ press publications were small chapbooks and poems, issued in limited, numbered copies which are now scarce and highly-collectible items.

His finely-made, limited editions inspired numerous others to start up small presses for publishing Science Fiction and Fantasy in artificially-scarce, signed and limited editions. Presses which were sparked into existence through inspiration of Squires’ works include: Axolotl Press, Cheap Street Press, Fantome Press, Unnameable Press, Folly Press, and likely many others.

Squires published The Phil Mays Collection of Arkham House Ephemerae, by Roy Squires and Phillip T. Mays (Phil Mays was another friend of Blaylock and Powers, and Blaylock used Phil Mays’ name for one of his characters in The Digging Leviathan). Squires also published Night of the Demon by Phil Garland (Garland later published the joke Ashbless pamphlet “A Short Poem” under his Folly Press imprint in a format very imitative of Squires’ pamphlet publications – see the entry in Various Ephemera, Section 500).

Squires was highly admired by all who knew him, and Blaylock and Powers were no exceptions. Powers listed Squires in the dedications for Dinner At Deviant’s Palace and The Skies Discrowned, and Blaylock used Squires’ name for a character in The Digging Leviathan and for a character in his short story, “Thirteen Phantasms,” the plot of which revolves entirely around Squires. In it, the main character finds advertisements for a Squires-published book by Clark Ashton Smith called “Thirteen Phantasms” in the back of an old 1947 issue of Astounding. He sends off for the book to Squires’ Glendale address, and through some sort of supernatural time travel event, the order is received by Squires in 1947, who then ships a copy of the book back to be received by the protagonist in the present (see entry in the Books section for the Thirteen Phantasms anthology of Blaylock’s short stories).

Squires was involved in the financing and publication of the “…Twelve Hours of the Night…” Ashbless pamphlet issued by Cheap Street Press (for more details, see the entry for George & Jan O’Nale in the Biographica section, and the entry for the “Twelve Hours” pamphlet in Various Ephemera, Section 500).

It is readily apparent that Squires significantly influenced the careers of both Blaylock and Powers. One supposes that exposure to Squires must have brought the authors an education and sympathy for small press publishing and collectible books. Further, the small presses which have published works by Powers and Blaylock early on were inspired by Squires, and even the more recently founded presses were likely influenced to some degree by the presses which were directly inspired by Squires years ago.

When I expressed to Blaylock a retrospective disappointment that Squires never published anything of theirs through his own press, Blaylock opined that he and Powers were still very early in their careers when they knew Squires, and were thus of insufficient profile to be published by him back then. It looks like we collectors must only dream of the alternate history world where Squires ultimately published some of their works.

Much, if not all, of Squires’ book collection was sold off after his death, and I have seen many association copies of various SF/F books on the market wherein authors inscribed their works to their friend, Roy Squires. I have seen copies of works by Blaylock, Powers, Jeter, and Dick – all with written inscriptions made out to Squires.

It seems to me to be a very large oversight that there is little documentation regarding Squires and his contributions to be found online or offline, and I believe that if more collectors and dealers were aware of his influence, these association copies would be rapidly snapped up. He was an award-winning supporter of fantastic fiction, beloved by authors, publishers and fans. Chalker & Owings acknowledge his significance, citing him numerous times throughout their extensive bibliography, and it’s possible that the Squires/Mays book documenting the Arkham House ephemeral items inspired Chalker to do bibliographic work.

Roy Squires died at the age of sixty-eight in 1988.

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Comments

  1. […] I’m very glad you posted the biography of Squires! I met him when I was seventeen and he was a great friend for nearly twenty years, and a whole lot of my tastes, in everything from architecture to literature to liquor to tobacco, are derived from him! Cheers, Tim […]

  2. Raymond Zinn August 14, 2015

    I’m just an old customer of Roy and purchased the vast majority of my SF collection from him. Actually he’s the reason for the collection, now cherished more than my collection of contemporary fiction and nonfiction writers.
    I was very shocked and upset when I found out he had died.
    I have kept every letter and holiday card he sent as well as many of his lists of”for sale booklets” I received from time to time.
    It is due to him that I have so many First Eds and signed no less. He was a true lover of the books he sold, actually I believe he may have begrudgingly (LOL) sold. them.
    I know that if not for him I would not have what I now have, due primarily to his incredible affordable pricing policy, perhaps he knew how much I too loved these tomes.
    It was through him that I was introduced to the writings of Mssr’s Blaylock and Powers, got all of their books with special inscriptions. Heck all that time I thought that they were one person.
    I never got to meet him personally but felt that I did know him, and whenever anyone asks how I got so many Golden Age books I always say his name, reverently and thoughtfully.
    One nice thing he wrote to me was that he enjoyed getting my letters since I wrote them in the style of Calligraphy.
    Terrance ,McVicker was kind enough to sell me Roy’s personal copy of Currey’s SF authors bibliography .
    I do envy those who knew him.
    Thanks Roy you are missed very much.
    Thank you Terry when you took over and carried on the tradition, as I know that it was a big responsibility what with the other things you were doing then.
    R.G. Zinn

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