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The year's almost done, and many of us will not be sorry to see it go. We've lost too many this year; the friends, the famous, the icons of our youth. For me that includes someone who fell under all three headings. I have tried for months to write this entry. I am supposed to be a writer, and yet the words slip through my fingers as I try to type.

One of the things about science fiction fandom is that there are friends you only ever see at cons, who you may not even communicate with outside cons, who are yet good and dear friends you fall upon with cries of joy and take up the conversation with as if it had not been months since you last spoke. For me Gareth Thomas was not just one of these friends, but the one I'd known longest. Nearly twenty-one years ago I decided that it was time to go to one of these cons I'd been hearing about in books and magazines over the years, and when I checked the con listings in the small ads in one of those magazines, I found there would be one only an hour's drive away, with one of my favourite actors from one of my favourite shows on the guest list.
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As with so many other fans I know, Terry wasn't just an author whose books I loved; Terry was someone I *knew*, even if it was only a slight acquaintance. It hurts that he is gone; it hurts that I am grateful that he is finally free of The Embuggerance. He was and always will be an important part of my life, and even the 70+ books he left us don't quite make up for the ones we didn't get.

There are so many stories about him on the net today, of how he touched lives. Little pieces of Terry that will live on alongside his books. This is mine.

The first Discworld con was only the second ever con I went to. I went because it was the Discworld con, because Terry's books had lightened my heart at a time when I was sorely in need of it. I met a lot of wonderful people, including Terry himself.

A few months later, I bought my first modem. That was long enough ago that I selected Demon as my ISP because they offered both flavours of 56k connection. I knew about usenet, and promptly set up my feed for two groups: demon.service, the gripes group for my ISP, and alt.fan.pratchett - and found that Terry was a poster in both. At the time he was posting pretty much every day in afp, and actively involved in conversations, many of which had nothing whatsoever to do with his work, but were just about things of interest to geeks. Because Terry was a geek too, and there were a good many conversations where the Alpha Geek simply happened to be the most shoplifted author in the UK. The online world was smaller then, and such a thing was possible.

I was seconded to the Netherlands for a few months. I still had an online social life to stop me getting too lonely. And not just online. There were friends there to take me out to the pub at a CloggieMeet one weekend, because of afp.

I moved to the US. I still bought the UK editions of the books, via the esteemed ppint, guerrilla bookseller of Interstellar Master Traders. ppint knew that I'm not that interested in autographs just to have the autograph, that it's more about the memory of *getting* the autograph; and accordingly was somewhat surprised the first time I ordered my copy of the latest hardback complete with personalised signature from the signing session Terry did for IMT. "This is different. Terry will probably know who's asking, even if I'm not there to ask in person." He did. And an "it's in the post" email from ppint for one of my orders included a message passed on from Terry that he was glad to hear I'd been successful in getting published. That meant a great deal to me.

Yes. About that. I'm not the only afper who managed to get a book finished and submitted to a publisher in part because of the advice and encouragement Terry freely handed out on afp. There are a number of established writers I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to, but first and foremost is Terry. Best advice I ever heard on not being intimidated by the amount of work in writing a novel: You don't write a novel. You write 300 words a day, and at the end of a year that's 100,000 words, and that's a novel. Thanks, Terry. I don't always manage the 300 words, but that one helped me more than once, especially when I was trying to write again a couple of years ago after a long bout of illness.

Terry eventually quietly withdrew from afp, and the group went on without him. In the end many of the rest of us gradually drifted away in the general Death Of Usenet, but some of the links remained; on irc, on LiveJournal, at meets, at cons. In the friendships and marriages that happened because of afp, and in the children that happened because of afp. And Terry always made it to the UK cons, almost to the very end.

I didn't get to most of the later cons, what with one thing or another. I almost didn't get to 2014, but someone kindly passed on her membership when she couldn't go. When Terry had to withdraw a few weeks before the con, I knew I would never see him again, that most of us wouldn't. In some ways the con became an advance wake -- sharing stories and remembering. And even though he couldn't be with us in person, he was still with us. We had videos of him, and his assistant Rob took video of us to send back to The Boss. He sent us a gift, in the form of a beautiful little folio book he'd had specially printed for the con members when he knew he wouldn't be able to come; one time only limited edition, only 888 numbered copies, ever. We sent him one back, in the form of a Con-inna-Box; a replica Luggage where con members could leave things that represented their memories of the con, and messages written on sheets to be bound into a book. I'll never have to think, "I wish I'd told him how much he meant to me", because I did.

I still haven't managed to read that folio all the way through in one sitting, because I don't want to get tear stains on it. It's probably going to be a while before I do.
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The actor is not the character, but both were good people. Nichelle Nichols talked in her autobiography of Nimoy's role in fighting the studio's attempts to force a black actress out of the cast. He wrote an open letter of support to a mixed race teenager who had found the mixed race character of Spock a lifeline. There are other tales of how he tried to leave the world a better place than he found it. And he inspired so many young scientists and engineers, both in character and out.

He was 83, and while it will never be enough, I celebrate his life as well as mourn its ending. Nimoy lived long and prospered, and while he may be gone now, the character he gave us will live on.
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Jay's gone. http://www.jlake.com/2014/06/01/cancer-the-end-has-come/

I didn't really know him, as such. I just remember a big, amiable man I saw around Baycon and Worldcon, and bought a couple of books from. I liked him a lot, even so. Liked him, and admired him these last few years for his grace and courage in the face of cancer. He undertook experimental treatment in the last stages, treatment that he knew was last ditch and which ultimately did nothing for him. But his participation in the trial will help others in the future; his last kick back at the disease that killed him, an achievement that will long outlive his body.

Fuck cancer. And if Jay's got anything to do with it, it'll be with a novelty condom.
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Ann Crispin died earlier today, at the far too young age of 63. She was one of the founding members of Writer Beware, a small group of sf writers who spent a lot of time teaching new (and not so new) writers how to avoid traps such as scams aimed at parting authors from their money. I first encountered her on the Rumor Mill forum at the Speculations website, back when I was just getting started. She was gracious, encouraging and helpful. I learnt a lot from her, as did many other novice writers. She will be greatly missed, both by her fellow writers and by fans of her excellent books -- two groups which overlap. Thank you, Ann, and may you rest in peace, if much too soon.
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Fred Pohl's writing has been there all of my life. Right up until this morning, the date of his last blog post. He wrote until the end, and it was always worth reading. Goodbye, Fred, and thank you for the entertainment you've given me over the years.
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Iain Banks died earlier today. He was only 59. I don't have the words for this. We all knew it was coming, that it would be soon -- but not this soon. Two months to get used to the idea, but it's not enough. Nothing would have been enough.

I'm sitting here typing through tears, and I didn't even know the man. But I know his books, both with and without the M. Angry, humane, a mirror held up to ourselves, with a message engraved therein that we can and should do better. They are part of my life, have been for over twenty years, and always will be.

The world is a better place because he was in it.
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Just seen the news reports that Neil Armstrong has died. Another little piece of living history has just slipped away.

It's 43 years since he first stepped out onto the lunar surface, one small step for a man. He was 82. There isn't that sense of regret there was a few weeks ago, when Sally Ride died far too young. But it's still another hero gone, another link broken.

He's gone, but his footprints will outlast all of us. Now there's a memorial for one man who represented all mankind.
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One of my heroes has gone, at the far too young age of 61. I'm feeling the generation gap this morning -- I think it will be hard to explain to my younger colleagues how it felt for me as a teenager, watching the news footage of her shuttle taking off from Kennedy Space Centre 28 years ago.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-18963939

James Nicoll linked to a fuller biography:
https://www.sallyridescience.com/sallyride/bio
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I was very sorry to hear of the death of Janet Lees Price on 22 May 2012 (currently at the top of the news page at http://www.avon-paul-darrow.co.uk/news.htm ). I never had the opportunity to meet her, but I know from friends how much she gave to Blake's 7 fandom.

Kalypso_v has a nice tribute to her.
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Just seen on the Guardian website that Reginald Hill has died. I love the Dalziel and Pascoe books -- excellent crime books, with a very *fannish* sensibility about playing games with the reader. There's a good obituary on the Guardian website here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/13/reginald-hill
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My flist today is full of the news of the death of Anne McCaffrey. It was a shock when I saw the first post this morning -- somehow I had not thought of her as being in her eighties, even though her Hugo came in 1968.

I haven't read any of her new work in over a decade. Somewhere in there it became too predictable, with too much retconning, and I also found myself less tolerant of those things which I didn't like in her work. But in my teens and twenties I couldn't get enough, and not just because I was younger in those days. The world-building, the characters, the sheer imagination of some of her stories, these fed my own imagination. Not just Pern, but other universes as well. Of them all, I think my favourite is still Killashandra Ree, crystal singer. Now there was a female character who wasn't just a bad conduct prize for the male hero.

Here is the review I posted last year of the short story in which Killashandra first appeared:

Anne McCaffrey - Prelude to a Crystal Song
This is the first segment of what later became the novel The Crystal Singer, although MacCaffrey re-wrote large chunks of the anthology series material, in particular giving it a different ending. I always loved this short story and the novel that grew from it, in part because the heroine really isn't always likeable - and the author knew it. But in spite of Killashandra having, as McCaffrey says, a generous portion of the conceit and ego needed for her chosen profession of opera singer, she also has courage, the self-understanding to recognise her self-pity for what it is, and the maturity to indulge herself just a little with self-pity after a crushing disappointment at the end of her time as a music student and then move on to practical consideration of what else she might do with her life. Fate hands her the opportunity to take her inborn talent and hard-won skill to another profession, one where the rewards - and the risks - are a worthy challenge.


Rest in peace, and thank you for the dragons, for the shellpeople, and most of all for the crystal singers.
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I awoke this morning to the news that Steve Jobs had died, far too young. It was no surprise -- the man had visibly been living on borrowed time for months if not years. It still made me sad.

I'm no Apple fangirl. The last time I used an Apple product was playing games on a friend's Apple IIe. There are plenty of criticisms I can and indeed have made of Apple and of Jobs. But even though I've never owned an Apple product, Steve Jobs made my life better. He saw useful technology around him, and how it could be used more widely, and found a way to enthuse other people. He didn't create the original Apple -- that was Steve Wozniak. He didn't invent the mouse, or the GUI -- that was the Xerox PARC team. But he sold those ideas to the public at large, and the machine I'm typing this on is a direct result of that, even if it's a Wintel machine. This was his gift, to see what ordinary people might do with information technology, and show them his vision.

Steve Jobs changed the world. We are the poorer for his passing.
julesjones: remembrance poppy (poppy)
Next year no-one will march there at all.

Claude Choles, last known combat veteran of the Great War, has died. There is one remaining veteran, but Choles was the last of those who saw combat.

When I was a teenager, I watched those old men of Eric Bogle's song. Anzac Day parades, with the veterans of too many wars, but the old men who'd lived through the horror of the First World War had pride of place. They would have been mostly in their seventies and eighties then, many of them still fit enough to march, fit enough to snap a sharp salute as they passed the memorial. As I got older, they got older, and fewer. And finally there were only a very few very old men in wheelchairs, most of them still bright and alert but terribly terribly frail. And now there are none.

Yesterday the Great War was still living memory. Today it is history. Alas, there is still a supply of men, old and young, to march in next year's Anzac Day parade.
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Damn it. I'm seeing stuff all over about Elisabeth Sladen having died. Still only headlines, but it looks to have been confirmed on BBC News 24. She was only 63. :-(

Oh - just shown up on the BBC website:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-13137674
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As with so many of my friends list, I salute the passing of Nick Courtney, forever known to fandom as Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart in the Whoniverse, appearing intermittently as that character on the tv show from from 1968 to 2008, and in a number of the audio adventures.

I never had the chance to meet him, but by all accounts he was a gentle and lovely man. I will remember him, and the pleasure his acting brought me. He will live in on the hearts of my generation of Who fandom, and perhaps in the new generation too.
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Alex Higgins has died, at the age of 61, and in a pitiable state. He was by all accounts mad, bad, and dangerous to know. Like that other renowned sportsman from the back streets of Belfast, George Best, he was ill-equipped to handle the fame and fortune his great talent brought him. He was a volatile, violent drunk who burnt through his winnings and died penniless. At his worst, he famously threatened to have his teammate Dennis Taylor shot during the World Team Cup.

None of which takes away the fact that it was indeed a rare and great talent, and one that through television brought joy to millions. The Hurricane was the living embodiment of the phrase "poetry in motion", and I regret that I never had the chance to see him play live. Snooker was his life and his death, and when he came to the table at the top of his form, what you were given was art at its finest. For all the shambles and emotional damage he inflicted upon himself and others, I think the world is a little better for his art having been in it these last forty odd years.

Rest in peace, Alex. You had little enough of it in life.
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On one of my email lists when I got home this evening:

I don't know who she wanted to email, but I am sorry to inform that my
mother, Barbara Karmazin, has passed away today. I know she will miss you
all because writing, friends and family were her life and passion. Goodbye
from Carlos in behalf of my mother.


***

I hadn't had any contact with Barbara for a year or so, because I'd had to drop off most of the romance loops and a lot of sf fora with pressure of work at the day job. But I knew her from early days at Loose Id, particularly with our common interest in writing cross-genre sf&f/romance. A nice woman, a good writer, and I'm sorry to hear this news.
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Ladies and gentlemen, please raise your glasses in a toast to the life and works of Martin Gardner. He died yesterday, after a long and fruitful life during which he showed many, many people that mathematics could be *fun* -- and in doing so, helped a little to shape the world as we know it.

I spent many happy hours in my high school library browsing the back copies of Scientific American, mostly to read his Mathematical Games columns. As a teenager I nigh on wore out their copies of his books, and as an adult have three of them in my personal library -- and more recreational mathematics books by other authors about concepts I first met in his column.

I haven't made a flexagon for years. Time to remedy that...

Wikipedia biography, with the usual Wikipedia caveats:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Gardner

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