I don’t have any pictures with Mike Resnick. This is because our acquaintance and elbow rubbing at cons dates back from when all our pictures were in actual paper.
Which is to say, I PROBABLY have pictures with Mike Resnick, but our box of pictures (I know, other people put them in albums) hasn’t surfaced since we moved. (It’s probably in the storage room or the garage. I want to find them before mice or flood get them, so we can have them digitized for the kids.)
Weirdly, the moment I heard he’d died, the first thing I thought is that I’d never got to keep my promise to belly dance for him.
Which is stupid, because unless I lose another thirty pounds (hey, it was eighty early last year) no one wants to see THAT.
But finding he’d died was a shock, and people think weird things when shocked. I knew he was very ill, but I had no clue of the gravity of it. This is happening a lot these days, because you know, in a way the science fiction world has fractured. Part of it is politics which have torn asunder what used to be a network of acquaintance and friendship. I personally have lost a lot of the first friends I made among my colleagues who now think I’m insane, while I can’t figure out where their logical thinking went. I mean, I knew we always disagreed on political principals, but that’s not the same as disagreeing that everyone should have what my friend Dave Freer calls “a fair go” and be treated decently. This broke a lot of long running mailings lists where pros communicated. The other part of it has been SFWA beclowning itself to the point that most of us walked away in disgust. SFWA used to be, if nothing else — and it really was very little else, since SF geeks never could figure out how to make it work as a professional organization, partly due to the weirdness of the business itself — a good mailing list/reference to figure out “where so and so is now.”
Of course, when I sold my first novel in 98, we relied on the pony express for communication, so we might not know someone had died till the new edition of the directory listed his properties as “estate of.”
The other part of losing track of everyone has been the (good) collapse of the gatekeepers. These days I might not know of a major seller, even in my favorite subgenre, until I get one of his/her books and realize they have twenty out and their reviews run into the mid-hundreds.
It was easier to form mailing lists and associations of writers when every break-in was announced in Locus.
Actually when I first broke in, I was almost immediately pulled into a mailing list with a lot of professionals, including — of course — Mike Resnick. Very cautiously and tentatively, we used the list to communicate which publishers not to trust, how someone had got shafted and also what publisher x was looking for this season. Cautiously and tentati
I’d met him in person before. I believe it was at my first Worldcon, Dan and I went to a launch party, and right now I can’t remember for which book. He’d had a lot of t-shirts, shorts and other swag printed with the cover of the book. They were free for the picking, and I got a shirt and Dan got a pair of shorts, and Mike, good humored, signed them. Which is why they’re still in (a different box of) keepsakes, in my closet. As he finished signing them, Dan — who is the more normal of the two of us and is sometimes afflicted with a sense of property said — “I wish I’d brought a bag. When we get in the elevator, people are going to think we undressed you.” Which of course got Mike laughing and explaining he never signed his own clothes. One conversational gambit led to another, and I told him I was taking belly dancing classes to lose pregnancy fat. He had belly dancers at his party and was amused with the idea of a writer who also belly danced, so he said next party I’d have to dance.
I’m sure some of the idiot younglings are clutching their #metoo stuffed dolls at the remark, but it wasn’t in the slightest lecherous. He just gathered I was shy about dancing in public, but wanted to, and was trying to do what he could to encourage me.
Health, and hypothyroidism putting weight on me made me give up the hobby. As did the fracturing (though not precisely breaking) of the friendship with the person who shared the hobby. (Um…. I’m ten pounds from the weight at which I can comfortably run, though of course I want to, running being addictive. Maybe belly dancing might be resumed.)
I’ll just note that as recently as five years ago, Mike did the same thing encouraging me to write/start a series that I was very scared of doing because “people will hate it” because he KNEW I really wanted to do it and would never forgive myself if I didn’t. (No, I haven’t yet. Some of you know it as “WWI dragons series.” It will come. The health means a lot of things got shelved, and even at an insane pace, I can only write so much. Even now that I’m writing. Don’t worry. I have a schedule.)
Anyway, I’d of course read Mike. In fact he had a whole shelf of our sf book case. He was one of those writers Dan found, then passed to me. I knew he was brilliant writer.
Which is why it came as a surprise, in the list we were at, to hear him speaking frankly on such things as “make a fortune first, then work at your field. Not only can’t you really make a living from writing at least at first, but it will give you the security to write whatever you want.”
Honestly, if I didn’t have the kids and there weren’t some issues with the only means by which I could make enough money to be “rich” — scientific translation — that was at the time only really available in certain areas of the country, for instance, I SHOULD have taken his advice.
But when we break in, of course at the back of our brains, no matter how unacknowledged, we know we’re going to hit science fiction like a freight train and everyone will bow down to our brilliance, and we’ll be sleeping on a bed of gold.
Without really ever smacking my young and impudent nose, Mike made sure I — and other beginners — knew through his stories that there were accommodations that needed to be made to be a professional sf/f writer. He was frank about at one time having written uh…. salacious stuff (yeah, I’m totally a prude. Actually I don’t want to go into details) and being paid by the line. He also made it clear that the lot of even the best seller in our weird niche field was to spend his or her time “running scared.” Because you never knew whether the next book would sell, or even if this amazing thing in your head would interest any editors enough to be published.
He was kind, unstinting with advice, and treated the raw newby I was as a seasoned professional.
What stands out to me is a dimly remembered conversation in which someone asked if he’d made his fortune before writing, why writing? and why SF?
And the answer was because he loved it. Because he needed to.
He hasn’t been dead very long. I still feel a little shocked. I’d have written this earlier, except that stomach flu made it hard to write coherently.
In my favorite Don Camillo books by Giovanni Guareschi one of the… devices? is that when the priest is going to hear something particularly distressing or enraging, G-d in his mercy strikes him down with a fever, so he can’t process things, and once he emerges the feelings are muted.
I might have emerged too early. The same insane harpies who had to smear Mike Resnick while he was alive — mostly because they wanted control of the SFWA bulletin and organization — were out and spreading their scat on the man’s reputation yesterday. I won’t name them, since their foremost quality is to be entirely forgettable, even in villainy.
They won’t harm Mike. He’s now in the same company as Heinlein, whom they’ve been vilifying in vain for years. Heck, he’s in the same company with Tolkien, whom they’re also trying (poor fools) to cut down to size.
Their problem, you see, is what I said above. We all come into the field thinking we’re the bestest thing since sliced break with the bestest butter. And slowly we learn the limits of our talent and our ability, and our will power that keeps nose to grindstone.
I had some idea, to be fair, because I’d read a lot in the field. My rational mind knew I’d never be one of the giants, but that’s okay because I knew giants existed.
I think these younger people come into the field without reading much of it, and lacking mentors like Mike to teach them that “rapid enrichment” cannot be your measure of success. Sure, it happens to a precious few, but for most of us, when it happens is after 20 or more years of slogging.
And it can’t be immediate acclaim. That too has to earned.
So, the children who know no better corrupt institutions to gain “power” and “recognition” and police everyone’s language and thought to ensure they have “respect.” As in the case of most people who demand respect they don’t even understand what it is or where it comes from. And their takeovers are always an instance of confusing the wrapping for the gift.
Mike…. was the real thing. The wrapping doesn’t matter. And no matter how much they try to cut him down at the knees, he will loom to generations of science fiction readers as a giant whose shadow cannot be avoided.
Yes, I know it is my age, but it also perhaps the “diminishing” of the field in character and personality. I feel as though all the stars are going out, and all that’s left are we, poor candles, insufficiently pushing back the darkness.
I won’t say we will not see his kind again. After the great technological upheaval our field will settle in new patterns and there will mentoring, mentored, and people who worked so hard to break in that they love the field as much as Mike did.
But that won’t be for a long while. And none of them will ever replace his memory as writer, editor and mentor. His example remains something we’ll all have to measure up against.
Those who step up have a chance of growing in stature, to the limit of their ability. Those who, by reviling him, think they’re making him smaller, will in the end only succeed in defeating themselves.
Farewell, Mike. I’m glad I got to know you and benefit from your wisdom and advice and your reminiscences of the field. They were particularly precious for someone like me who grew up in a completely different culture and came into the field with no real attachments or contacts.
If there’s an ever after and such things are allowed, I’ll procure a belly dancing outfit. Or whatever it is on that side. Perhaps it is showing you some new and startling world that I really want to help create but I’m afraid to. Who knows? (I just don’t believe the capacity to create will be utterly snuffed out. Or that Himself would want such an outcome.)
Meanwhile, while on this side, I’ll try to remember how you encouraged me and draw courage from it. And I’ll try to live up to your example of dedication and love for the field.
It’s a promise.