Tag Archives: deaths

Farewell, Donald J. Sobol

Some kids want to be firefighters or ballet dancers or teachers or astronauts. When I was six years old, I wanted to be a detective. Mysteries were my first genre fiction addiction*; I didn’t turn to SF/F until I’d read through the school library’s Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Cam Jansen, and Agatha Christie collections, followed by my mother’s treasure trove of books by Donald Westlake, Lawrence Block, Dick Francis, and Mickey Spillane. Donald J. Sobol and Encyclopedia Brown started it all. To this day, I think of those books when I remember not to file my nails after taking a bath, or turn off a light so I can see out the window at night, or pause and pretend to think before giving someone an answer I know off the top of my head, or know which parts of a goose are dark meat. (That last one is in The Encyclopedia Brown Cookbook, which is even more awesome than you are imagining right now.) Some of Sobol’s work felt dated even when I was a kid, but the facts that earned Encyclopedia his quarters are timeless.

* Followed quickly by thrillers. I recall Elmore Leonard being rather startled that the nine-year-old had dragged her mother to his signing rather than the other way around, and I treasure my copy of Freaky Deaky inscribed “To my youngest fan”.

I think the world needs an Encyclopedia Brown movie, as long as it’s understood that Sally is a lesbian and Encyclopedia is African-American. Seriously, when’s the last time you met a white kid named Leroy Brown?

Link Roundup

I get a cold, you get links:

A Bright Light No Longer Shines

I am tremendously grieved to learn of the death of Leslie Esdaile Banks, better known to her legions of fans as L.A. Banks. She was an utterly vibrant, tremendous woman and I can’t even describe how bewildering it is to refer to her in the past tense.

I only met Leslie once or twice, so I suppose it wouldn’t be quite accurate to say that we were friends, except in the sense that she instantly befriended everyone she met. She was always reaching out: as a writer, a presenter, an activist, a colleague. Her books inspired a generation of writers and readers to diversify the overwhelmingly white landscapes of urban fantasy and paranormal romance. She introduced Barack Obama at a healthcare reform event (video and transcript here), which reminds me to note that this Saturday’s fundraiser in Philadelphia is still on and will benefit Leslie’s daughter, who has a stack of hospital bills to contend with on top of her grief. Blogs all over the web are filling up with posts from writers and readers about how Leslie changed their lives or simply showed them a little kindness and good humor when it mattered. She will be greatly, greatly missed.

Via RT Book Reviews, Beverly Jenkins provided info on the memorial service:

When: 11:00 A.M. Saturday, August 13, 2011
Where: Holy Apostles and The Mediator Episcopal Church
206 South 51st St.
Philadelphia, PA 19139
(215) 472-3000

Leslie requested that donations be made to UNCF in lieu of flowers. Expect the service to be crowded; I think everyone who ever met Leslie loved her and will want to be there to honor her memory.

RIP Martin H. Greenberg, Editor Fantastic

I am very sad to see that SFSite reports the death of Martin H. Greenberg.

The anthologies I read as a kid are the reason I grew up wanting to be an editor. Greenberg’s name is on so many of those anthologies that I have a separate bookshelf for them. He was immensely prolific and very rarely recognized for his editorial talent, perhaps because his books were mass market originals and unabashedly commercial. I’m sure I’m not the only editor he inspired, and he collaborated with many notables as well as up-and-comers. He will be missed.

RIP Joanna Russ

Multiple sources are reporting that Joanna Russ has died following a series of strokes. She was 74.

I don’t even know how to talk about her: her influence on writing, on writers, on the direction of the genre, on generations of readers, and especially on other women in all areas of the field. She was tremendous. I read The Female Man when I was in college, and was awed. I read “When It Changed” some time later, I think when it was first reprinted on SciFi.com (for which I am very grateful to Ellen Datlow, the site’s fiction editor, who ran a phenomenal series of reprints there), and I read it again today when Graham Sleight posted a link to it. It is just as powerful as I remember. Do yourself a favor and read or reread it now; it isn’t long, and is well worth the little time and effort it requires. I always expect it to end differently, or maybe I want it to end differently: the simple ending, the brute force ending. But that wasn’t Russ’s way; she always went for the complex ending, the realistic ending, the ending that is not really an ending because human stories don’t end in that neat and tidy way.

Her story also has not ended, as long as we remember her–which I hope will be for a very, very long time.

In Memoriam: Melissa Mia Hall, 1954-2011

When I came in to work yesterday, my colleague Peter Cannon shared some sad news: author, editor, and PW reviewer Melissa Mia Hall died of a heart attack on January 28th. Melissa had been reviewing for PW as long as I have, almost nine years now, and was a quick reader and prolific writer who contributed extensively to our fiction sections and was always happy to read in any genre and meet a tight deadline. Readers who keep an eye on our contributor lists will notice that Melissa’s name appeared in nearly every issue. We’re all quite stunned and saddened that she’s gone.

The memorial service will take place on Saturday Feb. 12, 11am at St John’s Episcopal in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Peter wrote a moving eulogy for Melissa, and has graciously given me permission to post it on Genreville.

I never met Melissa Mia Hall, and I spoke to her only once or twice on the phone, but I feel as if I knew her as well as any friend. She began reviewing for PW in 2002, referred to me by a mutual New York friend, horror writer Ted Klein, who published her first story when he was the editor of Twilight Zone magazine. Melissa contributed hundreds of reviews to PW, in all different genres, as well as dozens of Q&As. In recent years, ever reliable and diligent, she was reviewing three books a week for me, mostly light, cozy mysteries.

Melissa started the new year on a hopeful note. Early in January, she e-mailed that she had a funeral to attend, but a wedding soon after. Her birthday was coming up. The mild Texas weather cheered her. She needed to go over one of her novels before shipping it to a U.K. editor for a read. She still had no word from the agent who had her funny mystery, but she was already plotting a sequel just in case. She had another agent waiting if the first one wasn’t interested. She was excited about a new blog she’d launched devoted to author interviews.

The last week of January, Melissa reported that she’d thrown out her back trying to lift her dog, Daisy. Poor Daisy could not get onto her bed at night unassisted, so Melissa had to make a bed for the animal on the floor. Daisy was upset, but the cat of course was gloating because she had no problems jumping up on the bed.

At various times over the years Melissa mentioned how she would like to visit Ted and me in New York, but money was always tight and that trip never happened. I envy those who knew her in person. Still, it was my privilege to have been one of her editors. I will miss her. —Peter Cannon

Miscellany

Here, have three differently nifty links I’ve been saving up.

Author and PW reviewer Sherwood Smith has posted a wonderful reminiscence of Glen GoodKnight, the recently deceased founder of the Mythopoeic Society.

For just $1 (or as many multiples of $1 as you like), you can enter a drawing for one of five e-readers—two Nooks, two Kobos, one Alex—that come pre-loaded with “books, short stories, poems and essays by writers of color from the speculative fiction field. Some of the writers include N. K. Jemisin, Nisi Shawl, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Terence Taylor, Ted Chiang, Shweta Narayan, Chesya Burke, Moondancer Drake, Saladin Ahmed, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, and there will be many more.” All proceeds benefit the Carl Brandon Society’s Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship, which helps writers of color attend the Clarion writing workshops.

Small Peculiar asks, “What happens to urban fantasy heroines when they turn thirty?”

Sad News

Genreville notes with sadness the passing of Benoît Mandelbrot.  Both Rose and I were fortunate enough to have met him in person at the Ig Nobel Awards.  For those not in the know, Mandelbrot was best known for his work in the mathematics of fractal geometry.  He formulated the classic fractal formula for what became known as the “Mandelbrot Set“.

Mandelbrot’s influence on genre fiction is huge, ranging from Piers Anthony’s whimsical Fractal Mode to Connie Willis’ arguably hard SF novel Bellwether.

He will be missed.

F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre, Reportedly Dead by His Own Hand

Several sources are reporting that SF author F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre appears to have committed suicide last week by setting his apartment on fire. Fortunately no one else seems to have been seriously hurt, though a neighbor was treated for smoke inhalation.

This is the flip side of the romanticized ideal of the brilliantly insane or dramatically miserable writer. In reality, depression isn’t glamorous and suicide isn’t glorious. They plague our community and steal our friends and colleagues. I have known many writers who are truly and genuinely afraid that treating their mental illness will destroy their creativity. Since they would rather be dead than unable to write, they take the risk and suffer the sorrows, and tragedies like this one play out over and over again.

I also know many writers who have gotten treatment for depression and found that they become more creative because the illness isn’t sapping their energy and willpower. It can take a long time to find the right treatment, and no treatment is guaranteed to work, but success is very possible, and so is a long productive creative happy life.

If you’re worried about yourself or someone else being a suicide risk, call a suicide hotline and talk to someone who can help you get the support you need. Take a chance on kicking that stereotype of the gloomy, isolated, hard-drinking (self-medicating) writer and finding something better. If not for yourself, do it for your friends and colleagues… and your neighbors.

Sad News: Artist Frank Frazetta has Died

Galleycat blog reports that artist Frank Frazetta has died.  Frazetta’s iconic images of Conan the Barbarian, other mighty heroes, various monsters, scantily clad (or totally unclad) buxom women, and other fantastic themes shaped the idea of fantasy art for a generation.  This comes soon after a legal wrangling between his children was worked out and theft charges were dropped against his oldest son for breaking into the Frazetta museum and stealing a large amount of his artwork.

He will be missed.