|Alias(es):||Margaret Phyllis Duce, Helena Roberts|
|Type:||cosplayer, photographer, fanartist, fanwriter|
|Fandoms:||Star Wars, Star Trek TOS, science fiction, Tolkien|
|Communities:||Melbourne Science Fiction Club, Continuum, Austrek, Space Association of Australia|
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Helena Binns (formerly Roberts) (22 December 1941 - 18 September 2023) was a long-time fan within the Australian science fiction community, becoming involved in many groups and conventions. Born Margaret Phyllis Duce, she grew up in the outer Melbourne municipality of Healesville and then spent her teenage years in the Victorian country town of Alexandria. While having a keen interest in astronomy, maths and science, she was denied the educational opportunity to pursue a career in these subjects or in teaching. She also pursued art but had no success.
Helena discovered science fiction at a young age and quickly became an avid reader of pulp magazines, and a pen pal to others who shared her interests. In January 1958, at the age of sixteen, she visited the Melbourne Science Fiction Club (MSFC) and commenced lifelong friendships and associations.
Geoff Allshorn wrote in his tribute for Helena:
"Despite her lack of opportunities in a post-war rural setting, she sought loftier inspiration. Over the years, Helena became something of a renaissance woman who explored many communities and philosophies, including media and literary SF fandom, a variety of science fictional and speculative fiction clubs and conventions (becoming a life member of Continuum in the early 2000s), the MSFC (of which she became a life member in 2009), the Melbourne-based Star Trek club, Austrek, the ... Space Association of Australia (to which she introduced me), and Tolkein-inspired artwork. Some mutual friends indicate that they knew her primarily though one or another of these activities, or through either of her husbands, but I felt privileged to know her through all of these avenues, bar one (Tolkein) – but even then, I note that much of her artwork features flying horses or mythic women/characters, with long-flowing manes or hair or apparel that flutter aeronautically behind them."
Helena was married twice, first to Kelvin Roberts from 1965 to 1991 (when he died); and then to Merv Binns from 1998 to 2020 (when he died).
She participated in costuming, writing and illustrating fan fiction, and even wrote an occasional serious article for the Space Association of Australia.
Helena probably became best known in the SF and Australian space communities for her prodigious photography, firstly with a pre-digital camera and rolls of film, and then later with digital equipment. Bruce Gillespie notes in his tribute:
"As Helena recounts, she was finally able to buy a [digital] camera in the early 1990s. With (Dick 'Ditmar' Jenssen)'s help when buying a computer and learning how to store digital photos, she began to photograph every participant and every program item of every convention she attended."
Helena herself wrote of her enthusiasm for photography in a 2009 autobiography when she was awarded life membership of MSFC:
"I believe that if a convention is worth attending, it's worth photographing - and the same goes for any other special event. It's good to have something to remember it by, and it's even better to be able to share it with others."— Helena Binns, 
After Merv's death, Helena lost touch with her SF friends, and spent her final years in a nursing home, where she died at about 10pm on 18 September 2023.
Helena at Galactic Tours Convention, Melbourne, March 1986 (from Helena's collection).
Helena (wearing black and white jacket) surrounded by friends at a convention in Melbourne, June 1991 (photo from Geoff Allshorn's collection).
Helena and Merv Binns, Continuum convention, 2009 (photo by Cat Sparks)
Sample Fandom Gallery
All photos below (taken at the Galactic Tours Convention in 1986) were supplied from the Helena Binns Collection and used with her family's permission. Unless marked otherwise, all photos were taken by Helena Binns.
Betsi Ashton at Galactic Tours
Space Association of Australia display in the Science area at Galactic Tours
Kate Doolan gives the space shuttle some spit and polish
'All these ships were named Enterprise' - space display at Galactic Tours
“You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.” - MC Greg Franklin and band of slightly cultured but maurauding Klingons
Sue Bursztynski at Galactic Tours convention in 1986 - photo by Helene Shaw
- Geoff Allshorn, 'The Challenging Enterprise of Discovery', in Humanist Blog, 19 October 2023.
- Bruce Gillespie, 'Helena Binns 1941 - 2023: Bruce Gillespie's memories of Helena', in *brg*132, October 2023, pp. 8 & 9.
- Helena Binns, 'Helena on the Fringe of Fandom: Her Authentic Story', 2009, reprinted in Humanist Blog (humanist-world.net)