I have put off writing this essay to the very last minute. Not because I don’t want to talk about Mike Resnick, and not because I have too little to say.
I have put it off, because each time I write one of these memorials to Mike, his death becomes a little more real.
I’ve been able to pretend Mike is still around, for the most part, because we have never lived in the same town. We emailed or exchanged fun barbs on Facebook when we weren’t at a convention. We were in touch a lot, except during this past year, when, it turns out, very few people were in touch with him.
But it wasn’t face-to-face in touch. When we saw each other at conventions or on trips, it was as if we hadn’t been apart at all, when sometimes it had been years.
And because of that personal distance, because we didn’t see each other regularly, I could pretend that I just hadn’t gotten an email from Mike for a while. I could pretend that he’s fine and writing his marvelous stories and having a good time at a convention I couldn’t attend.
I could pretend he’s still here.
Every time I write one of these memorials, though, I realize yet again that he’s gone. It’s rather hard to comprehend that this big bluster of a man, who could be gruff and warm and difficult in turns, is no longer with us.
Some people loom large. Sometimes they loom large in our individual lives and mean very little to others. And sometimes they loom large in any room they enter.
Mike loomed large worldwide. Every room I went into with him, people noticed him first. They talked to him. They fought with him. They enjoyed being with him.
No matter what was happening, no one could ignore Mike.
I don’t remember when I first met Mike or even when I first saw him. It feels like I’ve always known him. I’m sure I first met him at a convention, sometime in the late 1980s, but I don’t know for sure.
I learned quickly, though, that Mike was the go-to guy for any fannish questions. What was the best hotel to stay in at this year’s Worldcon? Well, ask Mike. Mike would know.
Who do we contact about a problem at that local convention? Well, ask Mike. Mike would know.
Mike knew a lot of things. So many that it feels odd not to have him as a resource anymore.
He knew a lot about fandom because he got his start in fandom, and he always, always, always respected his fans. He always had time for them too. He knew that a writer might win a million awards, but that writer wasn’t worth anything if he didn’t have a lot of readers.
Mike had a lot of readers. Worldwide.
One of my first international trips as a professional writer came because of Mike. He was invited—again—to a French convention that he had attended before, and they asked him who he wanted to join him on this trip.
He gave the convention organizers a list of several names, and we all ended up at the convention. We were a small horde of science fiction writers, led by Mike and his wife Carol, who had ex-pat Paris in the palm of their hands. To get to know the Paris of the French, well, for that we needed Mike’s daughter Laura, who had lived in France. She got us around and through, but Mike got us there in the first place—in the right hotel, of course, with the right people so that we could enjoy our sf travel experience.
I’m not the only person Mike brought on some interesting trip throughout the years. In addition to Laura, he brought Gardner Dozois, and Eric Flint, and Ginjer Buchanan, and so many others. Those are the writers that I know who traveled with him (well, three of dozens). Then there were the Big Name fans who were always at Mike’s side. These folks had been his friends since he first found his way to an sf convention, and he remained friends with them to the end.
I find it fascinating that, as I write these memorials, I write about Mike Resnick, the man. His kindness and his generosity to me, a writer he didn’t have to talk to at all, had a major impact on my life, not just on my career. Sure, he invited me into anthologies (especially when he edited so many in the 1990s), and made sure I had stories in Galaxy and even got me this gig here, back when the column originated at Baen’s Universe.
But it’s the laughter I think about, and the stories he’s been telling (and oh, crap, I just wrote that in present tense, and then I realized that he won’t tell them again—all those travel stories and the water buffalo and the lame jokes . . . and I’m sitting in a public place blinking back tears, thank you very much). I think about Carol, who now has to go on without Mike, and that seems odd to me, because they were such a team. And Laura, who is as strong a personality as her dad was, in her own right.
They suffered the deep personal never-ending loss of a close loved one, and I think of them daily. Because I think they knew the end was coming, but they also knew that Mike’s optimism counted for a lot. And he thought he was going to get through his last illness.
When he died, thousands of stories died with him. He had them planned. He was going to write more, get back to producing award-winning stories and delightful novels. When I edited The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Mike used to call me and tell me that he was going to write such-n-so novella, and would I like to see it first?
By the way, when one of your magazine’s main writers, an award-winning writer at that, calls with that pitch, there’s only one answer to give. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
And here’s the thing. When I did say that (each and every time), not a week later, I’d get a novella. This was long enough ago that I’d often get it by mail and in my later editing years, by email. I’d read the novella—you have to: even good writers go off the rails sometimes—and invariably, I would purchase said novella the very next day.
I learned a lot of writer-editor tricks from Mike, but the one I don’t have enough guts to do is that one—call the editor and say, I have something grand. You want it? With Mike, those requests sounded natural. Me, I’d stammer through them, if I even did it.
What did I learn from Mike the writer? Put it all in your fiction. Believe in your work. Demand to be paid fairly for your work. Fight for your work. And value your work.
He once told me that if he wasn’t earning $500 per day (in 1990s dollars), he wasn’t making enough money. It was a passing comment—Mike made a lot of those on the way to something else—and I always learned something. I applied that attitude toward my own writing business, and it instantly prioritized things. Is this furthering my career? Is it actually making me money?
My favorite thing about Mike, though, is that he didn’t suffer fools at all. I don’t either, but I often walk away from them. Mike would wrangle. And sometimes I felt like he was wrangling in proxy for me. Taking on that fight that I probably should have fought, but simply walked away from.
He alienated some people with his tough verbal stances. And he angered others with some of his attitudes. But he also knew how to get along with people who disagreed with him. Mike and I only discussed politics once, for example, long ago in a previous century, before the very word “politics” became fraught.
We realized that while we agreed about many things, current affairs were not one of them, and so we didn’t discuss them. There were too many other things to discuss.
There are still too many other things to discuss. And now the conversations have ended. Because Mike was unpredictable. So I can’t, with any accuracy, imagine what he would tell me in a complex conversation.
Although I know what he would say about this piece. Not much. He liked receiving awards and recognition in a formal setting (like the Hugo ceremony), but in an informal setting, he would walk away from praise, shake it off, or make a very inappropriate joke about it.
I get it. I don’t like that touchy-feely stuff either. And I’m not sure if I actually ever told Mike that I loved him.
I’d like to say that I’m sure he knew, but I’m not sure of that. I’m sure that it would have surprised him, because in the world of our friendship, we didn’t say things like that.
He probably would’ve joked that Carol and the Golf Geek, as he called my husband, wouldn’t want to hear that, and then he would have changed the subject.
To something interesting. Something that we both wanted to have an animated discussion about.
I miss him.
I think that’s the bottom line. Even though his stories remain and his novels remain and his editing remains, he doesn’t remain. They’re wonderful, but they’re finite now, instead of infinite. And on a deep level, that pisses me off.
And I don’t want to think about it. So, I can change the subject, or I can go back to pretending that I just haven’t heard from Mike for a while, and that I’ll see him at the next convention, and we’ll finish the previous conversation, whatever it was, and move onto the next, whatever it will be.
Because I find a world with Mike Resnick more comfortable than a world without him.
And that’s all I’m going to say.