It’s an odd yet common occurrence, isn’t it, that something is never truly appreciated until it’s gone. Hearing of your passing, I realized I hadn’t read anything by you for a number of years, decades even.

You were the second writer I got into in my tween-years, when my reading habits became less than casual.

Why the hell wasn’t I your first? you would probably ask me, if you were here. I would counter with an answer I know you would find acceptable: Issac Asimov, a friend and colleague you regarded highly, was my first.

Okay, then. Continue.

I’ve always thought that the science fiction and fantasy genres were a great place for young readers to begin their journey into books and literature. Sure, I read Oliver Twist and Les Miserables early on, but it was the stories of Asimov, you, and Poe (he being my third obsession) that sustained and nurtured my love of reading – and eventually, writing. No other genre stimulates imagination and feeds intellect more than science fiction.

I’m not a “science fiction” writer, goddammit! Drop that modifier! I’m a writer. Just writer!

Yes, that was one of your professional battles, wasn’t it? You were always going head-to-head (sometimes fist-to-head) with publishers, producers, and critics, fighting for just a modicum of recognition. Being a writer is a great irony. In that vast wasteland of creativity known as Hollywood, the writer is the only beacon of original thought. But, writers are looked to only to the point where their ideas can be butchered, squashed, and ground into whatever flavor-of-the-month is currently popular. Because, as I noted in Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One, originality doesn’t sell.

Fellow writer, Charles Beaumont, once noted, “Achieving success in Hollywood is like climbing an enormous mountain of cow shit so that you can pluck that one perfect rose from the top. And you find after you’ve made that hideous ascent, you’ve lost the sense of smell.”

One of the marketing strategies for independent authors today is the “giveaway,” offering free copies of your books in exchange for reviews and, hopefully, word-of-mouth publicity. And, god forbid, you charge more than $2.99 for a digital version of the novel you slaved over for years!

Pay the writer!

That was one of your adages, wasn’t it? But, I don’t think it was always about money.

Yes it was.

You once wrote, “…never let money be an influence. A good writer can always make money, even if he or she has to drive a truck or lay brick or work in the steno pool. Money is never a reason to sell out to the holy chore.” That’s why I think “pay the writer” was more about respect.

Great stories begin and end with the writer. No matter how others may try to taint and manipulate our ideas with their own, it all starts with the writer. And yet, we seem to get so little appreciation and respect. Especially you. I know I haven’t appreciated your work enough of late. I’m sorry for that.

You damned-well better be!

I know, I know. Even after you’ve always been there for me, in spirit, as I struggle in my own writing life.

Oh, so now it’s about you.

Of course, it’s my blog! Now let me finish.

Hah!

As I toil against the tides of modern-day publishing, adrift in a sea of genres, endless serials, and trite story-telling under the guise of whatever’s marketable, I survive by imagining what you might say to me if you were here to ask:

Don’t give readers what they’ve been brainwashed to want. Be true to yourself and give them what you think they should be reading. First and foremost, respect yourself and respect your work. Success (whatever the f— that is), in time, will follow.

I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

Actually, you just did.

Well, yes. What I mean is, and what the point of this posting is, that whatever success I may achieve as a writer I will owe in great part to you, Mr. Ellison. Thank you.

Don’t mention it. Now get your ass back to the holy chore!

Right.

Gordon Gravley