The speculative fiction world already lost at least three well known members this year, and we still have many months to go. First Ursula Le Guin went. Then Gardner Dozois. Most recently Harlan Ellison passed. For those with a morbid curiosity, there have been other genre author passings this year, and Locus maintains an obituaries page.
Some of these you may know, some maybe not. Everyone probably knew of Le Guin. I own The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dipossessed. The psychological depth to these books astounds me to this day.
Let’s also not forget her Earthsea series, most of which I own. The world she created there was so rich and interesting I think it rivaled that created by Tolkien and George R.R. Martin. She could have played in that sandbox for decades with no trouble finding stories to tell. I was sad that she didn’t. I long term goal of mine is to create a world that interesting.
I also knew of Harlan Ellison. His short story, “‘Repent Harlequin,’ said the Ticktock Man,” is a classic. I own it as well.
I was not familiar with Dozois, but his bio reads like I expect mine too if I ever become a better writer. He primarily wrote short stories, with only a couple books spread over a decades long carrier. He spent the end of his carrier as an anthology editor. While I don’t expect I’ll head down that road ever, it makes sense for a short story author to move on to editing collections of short stories. Mike Resnick, the editor of Galaxy’s Edge, has a nice tribute to Dozois in issue 34 (September/October 2018).
So whose next? Mike Resnick noted in one of his recent The Editor’s Word columns for Galaxy’s Edge Magazine how many sci-fi greats are of advanced age, e.g in their 70s or 80s. He calls out Robert Silverberg, who’s 83, as one example. Names I pulled out of a hat include Joe Haldeman, who is 75, Piers Anthony, who is 84, and Alan Dean Foster, who is 72. Resnick himself is 76. Statistically, we could lose any one of these at any moment.
These are major contributors to sci-fi literature, and they will be missed. In the past, when titans of the genre passed, others emerged. Who will emerge now?
They probably already have emerged, and I don’t know it. I don’t have time to read the Nebula and Hugo winners every year, though I assume that’s a good place to start. I really wish I did, since I’d like to win one or both of those.
The only sci-fi author that blew me away in recent years was Dan Simmons with his Hyperion series. Those four books were phenomenal. And he’s primarily a horror writer! The last in that series came out in 1996, and he’s also 70. So neither are very new.
If you know of a more recent sci-fi author I must read, let me know in the comments. I’m looking for those future legends who will fill the void when our current ones depart for the great supermassive black hole in the sky.
Photo credit: PiotrWompel via Pixabay