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Passing The Torch

Today did not start well. Until December of ‘08 I’d been without internet service for many years, all because of economics. Where I lived required satellite service which required a small fortune to set up. So, like many of the invisible people, I went without.

When I returned to the ether zone, it was to find a world that surpassed anything I’d known previously regarding using the internet. Protocols had shifted, techniques had blossomed into a field of wildflowers that I simply didn’t recognize. It’s taken this long to become remotely comfortable with the entire world of ether surfing.

I give this as background to lay the foundation for what happened this morning. For more years than I care to remember, one of my favorite authors had been awol from the publishing world for no reason that I could find. I had her books. I read and reread them each year. I loved them. I still do.

This morning I couldn’t stand it any longer, so I googled her to find out her status. That’s when I wept, for my worst fears had been realized. Janet Kagan had died in March, 2008. Something in the back of my head had told me that an author like Janet couldn’t stop writing without a very good reason. She had one–COPD that finally took her life.

If you’re never read her books, please do so. My personal favorites are Hellspark and Mirabile (a collection of short fiction surrounding continuing characters). You’ll never be disappointed.

Janet had a brilliant writing style filled with humor and that niggling little knife that gets you right where you live–that let’s you see your species as ones from elsewhere would. But always in a gentle way of poking your ego-bubble.

Her first novel–okay, her only novel–Hellspark, is a classic that combines linguistics, sociology, psychology, and mystery into a neat package and serves it up in such a way that will never really let you go.

The collection of short stories, Mirabile, will have you laughing from beginning to end and have you wanting to join the colonists on the next ship out. It’s astoundingly marvelous.

Uhura’s Song, of Star Trek fame, is quintessential SF with a dash of biography thrown in that gives the reader a backstory that few others could have managed.

I don’t have words for the story, The Nutcracker Coup. You’ll just have to read it for yourself.

This lady of words taught as easily as she stunned readers. Her many students continue to miss and revere her generous spirit and loving heart.

And I, this lonely writer, know how deprived my life is that I can never speak with her, never have the chance to learn a jewel of wisdom from her experience. Though I suspected that she’d gone on to other worlds beyond our sphere, learning the reality of her departure slapped me in the face with finality.

I can only hope to approach some semblance of writing competency compared to Kagan’s. Wherever she might be, I hope she gets a giggle or two out of my offerings.

With the internet as it is now, access as easily gained to writers, teachers, and the like, please do yourself a favor. Find those favorites of yours–the author who taught you how to grow as a person, the teacher who showed you that potential is what you make of it, the person who influenced your future. Find them and tell them. Not for their benefit, but for your own, so that you don’t have sit where I am today and regret that you didn’t take the time to make contact before it was too late.

That’s all for now. A bientot,


  1. June 26, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    A very poignant post, Clauds. And it did make me stop and think.Thefirst person who influenced me in writing was a creative writing professor. This was when I went back to college to finish my education at the ripe old age of 35. When he sent my final grade to me, he sent a personal note wherein he told me that he had been teaching for more than 30 years, and I was the best natural talent he had ever had in his classes. I was so thrilled and inspired by him, his own writings, and what I had learned from him. But sadly, before I could even respond to that note, he died suddenly from a heart attack.

    The second person is my daughter, who, 4years ago, sent me 5 books at Christmas on writing for children along with a letter which basically told me to get off my butt and start writing…I enrolled in ICL in July of the next year ( 2006). Other than these two people, the only person who has ever had faith in me is of course R. To this day, however, I wish that other person had stuck around long enough for me to share some of my work with him. I believe he would be pleased. And somehow, I still think that he is looking down, smiling, and at times, when I get a little too flowery, saying “Down, Harrington, down.”

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