I was deeply saddened this week to read of the death of Mike Resnick, one of the true giants of contemporary science fiction. Mike has been battling serious illness for some time, so the news did not come as a complete surprise… but it came too soon, too soon, and our field and our community will be the poorer for his absence.
I don’t recall when I first met Mike, but it was a long, long time ago, back in the 1970s when both of us were still living in Chicago. I was a young writer and he was a somewhat older, somewhat more established writer. There were a lot of young writers in the Chicago area in those days, along with three more seasoned pros, Gene Wolfe, Algis Budrys, and Mike. What impressed me at the time… and still impresses me, all these years later… was how willing all three of them were to offer their advice, encouragements, and help to aspiring neo-pros like me. Each of them in his own way epitomized what this genre and this community were all about back then. Paying forward, in Heinlein’s phrase.
And no one paid it forward more than Mike Resnick.
He was fine writer, and a prolific one, as all his Hugo and Nebula nods will testify. After they started giving out those little rocket pins for Hugo nominations, Resnick would wear them on his shirt like medals: pointed up for a story that won, down for a story that lost. That always charmed me. Mike won the Hugo five times; once for novella, once for novelette, thrice for short story (like me, he never won the big one, Best Novel). He lost a lot more (we had that in common as well). He took that in stride, with a shrug and a smile, in the true spirit of a Hugo Loser.
He never won for Best Editor either, and as best I recall he was nominated only once, under unfortunate circumstances. That was a pity. He deserved more recognition for his editing. He edited something like forty anthologies, I believe, and he always made a point to fill them with a lot of young aspiring writers, new names and no-names making their first or second or fifth professional sale. I can’t say how many careers he helped launch, but it was a lot. In modern times, only Gardner Dozois was more assiduous in searching out new talent. Mike called his discoveries his “writer babies” and they called him their “writer daddy,” and many a time I would see him in the lobby of a con hotel, with a dozen of his literary children sitting around his feet as he shared his wisdom with them… along with a funny story and ribald anecdote or two.
His last great act as an editor was the founding of GALAXY’S EDGE, a new SF magazine that he launched… in an act of madness that was all Mike… at the time when the old magazines were struggling to survive. GALAXY’S EDGE always featured a lot of new writers too, and Mike paid them decent rates… a feat he accomplished by twisting the arms of old coots like me to give him reprints for pennies, to free up more money for the newcomers. (Lots of us old coots were glad to do it. Like Mike, we believe in paying forward). I hope and trust that GALAXY’S EDGE will keep going strong, as a lasting testament to his legacy.
These days, all too often, I meet writers who come to conventions only to promote themselves and their books. They do their panels, and you bump into them at the SFWA Suite, but nowhere else. Not Mike. Mike Resnick was fannish to the bone. You’d find him at publisher’s parties and the SFWA suite, sure, but he’d also pop up at bid parties, in the bar, in the con suite. He made more than one Hugo Loser party, both before and after the days I was running it. You’d see him in the dealer’s room, at the art show, at the masquerade… his Chun the Unavoidable costume, from Jack Vance’s DYING EARTH, was a classic. When he appeared on panels, he was funny, sharp, irascible, irreverent, always entertaining… and he would do entire panels without once plugging his own new book, a trick more program participants should learn. The place you’d find him most often at worldcon was the CFG suite, the redoubt of the Cincinnati Fan Group. He was the professional’s professional, sure, but Mike was also the fan’s fan. For some writers conventions are for selling, selling, selling… for Mike, they were more about giving, giving, giving. And having fun. That too. Mike always seemed to be smiling or laughing. He loved science fiction, fantasy, fandom, writing, reading, cons… and he shared his passion with everyone around him.
Science fiction has lost a fine writer, a unique voice, a magnificent mentor… and a profoundly good and decent man.
Current Mood: melancholy