Tag Archives: obituaries

R.I.P. Jim Bouton

I read in the Washington Post this morning that Jim Bouton had died at age 80. He pitched for the Yankees in the 1960s, but was perhaps most famous for his groundbreaking book, Ball Four. It is a fantastic look inside baseball in the late 1960s. If you are a fan of the game and haven’t read the book, you should. I think it is #3 on Sport Illustrated list of best sports books of all time.

My kids knew of Jim Bouton as well. As I took them to camp this morning, I mentioned that he had died. The Little Miss said, “Who is Jim Bouton?” and the Little Man replied almost at once. “He’s the inventor of Big League Chew.”

In an eerie coincidence, last night, I was reading For the Love of the Game, Bud Selig’s new memoir about his life in baseball, and there was some mention of Bouton and his book. Then I saw his name and face in the paper this morning.

Ray Bradbury: The Rocket Man (1920-2012)

The science fiction world, and much of the world at large is weeping today because we lost a giant. I can’t recall when I first heard the name “Ray Bradbury” but in my limited memory, it seems as if I was born with the name, that there was never a time I didn’t know who he was. I’m sure I read some of his stories when I was a kid, checking a book out of the public library, or coming across a story in one of my reading books for school. But the first time I decided to read Bradbury as an adult, with the appreciation of a science fiction fan was in October 1996. I read Something Wicked This Way Comes and I felt like suddenly, my eyes were open. The adventures of Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway kept me breathless. I think I read the book in a single, remarkable sitting, virtually memorizing parts of it as I went. (Whenever someone mentions October, regardless of the context, wild horses can’t keep me from quoting, “First of all it was October, a rare month for boys,” often to strange looks.) Something Wicked This Way Comes became and remains one of my all-time favorite books.

I went on to read other books by Bradbury. I read Fahrenheit 451, and the dreamy and remarkable Martian Chronicles with its echoes of Sherwood Anderson. I read The Illustrated Man which contains one of only two stories that have ever truly frightened me: “The Veldt.” The book also contains what I to believe just about the most perfect short story ever constructed, “The Rocket Man,” which I re-read just a little while ago. Each time I read it, I worry that it will lose some of its magic, and each time, I am both relieved and surprised that the story seems even more remarkable than before. I read other books. I read From the Dust Returned, which I didn’t like so much, but no one is perfect. I read Let’s All Kill Constance, which I found to be wonderfully strange. I read Dandelion Wine and various story collection. Ray’s stories: each one was amazing in its own way. There was a nostalgia in them, sure, but the words came alive. You felt what he wrote.

As a writer, I’ve tried to emulate the style of many writers I’ve admired, but never Bradbury. I knew I just didn’t have it in me, like a young pitcher who can throw a pretty good fastball, but who knows he’ll never hit 90; knows his ball just doesn’t have “stuff.” Bradbury said he wrote every day. Writing every day for seven or eight decades gives someone plenty of practice, but if I wrote for seven or eight decades, I could not do what Ray Bradbury did.

I learned more about Bradbury over the years. I read Sam Weller’s biography of the man. I read Bradbury’s various essays. I read every recent story collection he put out. It was a bit of a thrill for me to find his name, address and phone number listed in the Science Fiction Writers of American’s member directory when I first joined. But I never wrote to him or called him.

I did meet him, however, once at Dangerous Visions bookshop in Sherman Oaks, California, not far from where I lived.

Continue reading Ray Bradbury: The Rocket Man (1920-2012)

RIP Robert Hegyes (Epstein)

I remember watching the show as a kid living in New Jersey. And doing poor impersonations of some of the characters. RIP Robert Hegyes.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVS3WNt7yRU&w=400]

R.I.P. Anne McCaffrey

I first saw the news of Anne McCaffrey’s passing last night via a Rob Sawyer tweet and it kind of stunned me. I was never a big reader of Anne McCaffrey‘s, not because I didn’t like her work, but mostly because I hadn’t gotten around to reading the bulk of it. What I have read of her work (in particular, “Weyr Search” in the October 1967 Analog) I enjoyed. I think I was stunned because for me, there are some names in science fiction that have always been around, that I think of as alive and well even if they are long dead, and it is a jolt to the system when you realize that they are finally gone. Anne McCaffrey is one of those names.

When I really started getting into science fiction as something more than just a passing interest, I joined the Science Fiction Book club. I was allowed to choose a certain number of books at the beginning and pay only a few cents for those first half dozen books or so. Among the books I selected was an omnibus edition of the first three Pern novels by Anne McCaffrey and that book still sits proudly on my shelf along with half a dozen other McCaffrey books (some in collaboration with others). She was to have a story, “The Bones Do Lie” appear in the infamous The Last Dangerous Visions, a volume which never ended up appearing. The story ultimately appeared in The Girl Who Heard Dragons.

Anne McCaffrey has been part of science fiction for my entire life and that it is why it is such a jolt that she is gone. I have heard many good stories about her but never had the chance to meet her in person. I wish I had.

RIP: J.D. Salinger

I suppose that reports of his death were greatly exaggerated–until today.  It has been reported that J.D. Salinger has died at his home New Hampshire.  He was 91 years old.

I loved the voice in The Catcher In the Rye.  The book itself is a triumph of American literature.  I also loved Salinger’s cameo appearance in W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe.  Unlike the film Field of Dreams based upon Kinsella’s novel, the hermit "kidnapped"  in the story was none other than J.D. Salinger. 

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RIP: Michael Crichton

Buried among the news of Barack Obama presidential victory comes word that Michael Crichton has died.  He was most famous, perhaps, for Jurassic Park.  That book was the only of his books I ever read, and I very much enjoyed it.  I read the book well before the movie was ever made and though I enjoyed the movie, too, I thought the book was much better and it remains fondly in my memory.

RIP: Randy Pausch, 1960-2008

It was announced this morning that Randy Pausch, author of the best-selling The Last Lecture, had died. I watched the YouTube version of the lecture, as well as his time management lecture, and I read his book. Brilliant guy, tragic loss.

Thomas M. Disch

It was reported over the weekend that Thomas M. Disch committed suicide over the holiday weekend. I read only one of his books, Camp Concentration way back in October 2000, while sitting in a jury pool in a Hollywood courthouse. I was never called to server that day. According to my list, I wasn’t that impressed with the book (I gave it 2-stars) but that is probably a reflection of my taste and not Disch’s ability as a writer, which is well-known within the genre as being top-notch.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke: the last of the Big Three

I just read the sad news that Arthur C. Clarke has died at the age of 90.  He was the last surviving member of the Big Three of science fiction writers, Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov being the other two, both of whom died more than a decade ago.  I’m not sure I can quite express my sorrow to hear that Clarke has passed.  It markes the end of an era in science fiction.  I’ve read 7 of his books, my favorite being 3001: Final Odyssey.  I very much enjoyed his short science fiction, in particular his classics such as “The Star”, “The Nine Billion Names of God”, and “The Longest Science Fiction Story Ever Told”.

Back in December, Clarke posted a Happy Birthday video on YouTube that I interpreted to be his “farewell” to his fans.  I guess that was, in fact, the case.

He was, perhaps, most famous for his collaboration with Stanley Kubrick on the 1969 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.  He was also the first to write a serious scientific paper on the use of communication satellites, something he wrote about more than 10 years before the Russians launched Sputnik.  His science fiction, like Isaac Asimov’s focused on science and ideas.  In fact, Asimov and Clarke maintained the Treaty of Central Park for years:  By this treated, Isaac Asimov was required to say that Clarke was the best science fiction writer in the world, but that he was breathing down his neck.  Clarke was required to say that Isaac Asimov was the best science writer in the world.  Their witty banter at conventions is the stuff of legend.

Although he has passed, he will still have something new to say to the world of science fiction.  In December 2008, according to Locus, a new novel, The Last Theorem by Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl (another old-timer from the Golden Age) is due to be released in hardcover by Del Rey books.  And of course, he will live on in the memory of science fiction writers, fans, and scientists for generations to come.

Goodbye, Arthur

Gary Gygax

As several others have already reported, Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, died today. For a brief time in my life, say from about age 10-14, I played quite a bit of D&D. I stopped playing at about the time I started reading more, and noticing girls, but during the time that I did play, I always had a great time. Though I remember few details now, I can recall some of the modules I played fondly, “Keep on the Borderland”, and of course, my favorite, “Castle Amberville(?)”.

Productive!

I had a fairly productive work day today and that felt good. Tomorrow, I’ll be in meetings for much of my work day.

I ran over to the bookstore today to see if they had the August issue of Locus in yet, but they didn’t. While there, I did a bit of browsing and added two more books to my list of books to read: (1) Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and The Reagan Diaries. This last deserves a brief explanation. Those who know me know that I am not a fan of Ronald Reagan’s politics. But I have a fascination with diaries that seems to get the best of me. I skimmed the book and it does look interesting. I think that when (some) diaries are kept, there is a questions as to who (if anyone) will ever read them. (I’m sure there’s no question when it comes to my own diaries–unless you consider this blog.) Even so, it is a place that reveals the non-public, non-persona thoughts of public figures. After they are dead, the information revealed, while perhaps not flattering, takes on a new light. So eventually, I’ll get a hold of that book and end up reading it. At any event, it’s on the list.

TiVo recorded the 2-hour Dustin Hoffman episode of Inside the Actor’s Studio from 2006. I’d never seen it before but it was a great episode. One of the better ones that I have seen.

I wrote about 1,000 words this evening, still feeling pretty good about it. At this point, I’m just trying to finish the story and decide whether or not to end it the way I originally intended, or to alter the ending somewhat. I’ll wait and see how the rest of the story goes.

I’m about 140 pages through Spook Country and I’m enjoying it.

Zeke appears to be doing well and that is a relief, although I still get anxious every time I see him go into the litter box. But he appears to be urinating without difficulty or discomfort.

As Doug pointed out in an earlier comment, Yankee great Phil Rizzuto has died. Growing up, I remember him best for the commercials he did for The Money Store.

I was watching the Yanks lose to Baltimore a little while ago. Their offense is hot enough that there is plenty of time for them to have a chance to come back, but I’m calling it an early night tonight. We have our last softball game of the year and it may mean the difference between first and second place. I want to get a good night’s rest.