By Alma Alexander — Mar 29, 2019
I am still hoping that I might get a chance to see you in April - but you may not be in the frame of mind for visitors if sleep is what is what you need right now - so I will share this here, in case April doesn't happen, in case this is the only place I get to share it.
You were the co-GOH at the very first science fiction convention I went to, In Auckland, in 1995. (The other was RogerZelazny; that must have been one of his last hurrahs because if you will recall the con was in April and by June we had lost him...) I have to confess that the reason I raced to that con, when I found out about it, was ROGER ZELAZNY who had been one of my literary gods for years. I had not read anything by you at that time. But I got into the writing workshop that the two GOHs were running at the con. I remember it with astounding clarity. The format was that each of us five participants got to say a few words about the others' stories, and then you two, the pros, weighed in. Before I got my benediction from Roger Zelazny (those words are kind of carved in my brain) I received back the copy of the story that had gone to you. My EYES crossed. You had annotated this thing to an inch of its life, little scribbles in pencil in every available space. Every single thing, even when I was being pulled up for some literary sin, intensely kind, and apropos, and valuable (and there were a couple of scribbles in there that merely said "nice!" so there was that... :) ) I pored over that manuscript for weeks afterwards. I learned more from that one manuscript than I might have done in a year's writing course.
Somehow I ended up with your email, and knew you were in Seattle. And some little while later I found myself in Vancouver - in Canada - and I did one of my chutzpah-hy things - I emailed you, and I said, hey, remember me? I'm the ingenue from the Auckland workshop. ANd I"m near(ish) to where you are. And I might be coming down to Seattle for the day. And could I -um - buy you a cup of coffee or something? There was every possibility that you would look at that email and go, who the heck is THIS and why is she emailing me? Instead, you emailed me back, and told me that there seemed to be little point in breaking my neck whiplashing between Vancouver and Seattle for a couple of hours, that there was a party at your place that night (hello Vanguard!), and that I could come to that and crash on your couch that night. You picked me up when I got to Seattle (I don't remember how I did - bus, maybe?) and you said, mysteriously, that you wanted to show me something before you took me home. I said, what? and you said, just keep your eyes peeled. That is how I met the Fremont Troll, gasping as he first hove into view, and you wore... such a smile. Then it was home, and party, and you introduced me to your friends, and in the aftermath you and I stood at your kitchen sink washing dishes and having a companionable discussion about science fiction, writing, life, and everything. I have never forgotten this. I never will.
I've been re-reading some of your books. "Dreamsnake", of course, and then there was something that I'd forgotten that I owned - signed by you - at that Aucland con, so many years ago: "Enterprise: Captain Kirk's First Adventure". I'm lingering over the last pages of that right now.
I was hoping to get to tell you this in person - which may or may not still happen depending on the state of your health and whether you're willing or able to be tired out by all the people who want to come by and shake your hand - but I wanted to get this on record, just in case it does not.
Back in Auckland in 1995 you were an unknown to me. But I discovered you, then. And I kept on discovering you. And the unknown writer became a vibrant, kind, smart, passionate person - one whom I have been proud and happy to know.
Thank you for the words. And the dishes at midnight. And the Troll.