A few days ago, I was doing what one does when pet ferrets are bouncing around in the house: I was cleaning up a mess. In this case, it was a leaky bottle of mentholated rub designed to eliminate mustelid breathing disorders. The amber liquid had pooled on the dining room table, then extended pseudopds in a few directions. One of those trails led to a number of business cards which had been nearby, rendering them unsalvagable due to oil absorption. I wasn’t bothered to have to throw out a card to a book dealer who had since closed shop, but I was a little disappointed to have to toss my Dr. Demento business card…
And then I stopped. While the bottom cards in the pile had been destroyed, the ones above it were still fine. The bottommost one to have survived read:
Horror / Dark Fantasy Author
Current Projects: -Sarah Sweete- supernatural suspense -Sparrow Lake- traditional horror/suspense
The Tolltaker : “Buy it New, Now!” Horror-Web “Highly Recommended” David Niall Wilson
I looked at the card for a few moments, and felt depressed. Maybe a little guilty. You see, I hadn’t even thought of the man for… it must be at least a year. And he didn’t die all that long ago.
For those who don’t know, Sneddon was a friendly, frenetic young horror author who attended many of the conventions at the same time as most of the current crop of post-90s authors. He had great responses to his first novel, which was placed with Five Star. He died suddenly, and Brian Keene stepped in to try to get some help for Sneddon’s family. Sneddon, who along with Keene at that time was a frequent poster at the Shocklines web site, was very well liked, and there was a lot of discussion and tongue clucking and sad, regretful comments about his passing. I donated what I could afford, and sent an ARC of The Tolltaker to Brian… either for him to keep as another memorial of a fallen friend, or to auction off to make a little more cash for the family, if needed.
Flash forward three years. I’ve watched as a number of other authors have died, some of whom I knew fairly well and some with whom I never had any contact. Bob Asprin died recently. James “Robert Jordan” Rigney, who was so excited to get some foreign edition Conans. Tom Disch, who falls into the “never met” category, but whose “Mankind Under the Leash” I enjoyed all the way back in high school. Algis Budrys, who Disch was pleased to have outlived. Wilson Tucker. Arthur C. Clarke. James Kisner. The list goes on and on….
The difference there is that I think of those people all the time. I spend an inordinate amount of time in bookstores… either my own library/stock area, or in the stores of others. And when I look over the titles, or breeze through the listings in an anthology, I can’t help but recall them. Maybe memories of interactions good or bad, or of comments and stories others have told about them, or just of the work they left behind. Sneddon? A guy I’d actually met and had a chance to share a drink with? A guy I posted back and forth with for months on end? Nothing, for more than a year.
At most of the wakes and funerals I’ve attended, I’ve heard people talking about how the departed will live in the hearts and minds of those they left behind. I’m a big believer in that, but it only works if people occasionally spend the time to remember the past instead of staring into the future. I’ve taken Sneddon’s business card off the dining room table and put it up near the computer. Not to remind me of a dear friend, or of a giant now passed, but rather to remind me to spend some time on occasion to try to remember the other people, the ones on the periphery of my life who earned a little recognition.
As far as writers and artists go, however…
James has a legacy. He left behind a published novel. Decades from now, someone will discover one of the surviving copies of that novel and read it, possibly to enjoy it and possibly not, and they’ll hear his voice talking to them through the years, telling them a story. That’s a pretty good legacy… better than any I expect to leave.