Judith Merril -- author, editor, activist -- was one of the most important people in my life, and I'm not alone. She founded the science fiction reference library in Toronto that bears her name, started the Cecil Street Writer's Workshop (where I critiqued and was critiqued for more than a decade), and founded the Writer's Workshop at SEED Alternative School, my alma mater. I met her when I was twelve, and even then she encouraged me to pursue writing.
For years and years, Judy worked on her memoirs. I heard her read from them more than a decade ago at a literary event, and they were fantastic, really racy and funny and thoughtful. She died before she'd completed them, and her grandaughter Emily (a pal of mine and another genre writer) completed them from Judy's notes, conversations, tapes and files.
Finally, Judy's memoirs, "Better to Have Loved," are in print and available. I've just finished reading Emily's intro and the sample chapter that are posted on Emily's site, and they're wonderful. I'm slavering for the book.
Here's Spider Robinson on Judy's contribution to the field:
"She is far more than merely a national treasure. She is a planetary treasure. The one common writer's ailment she has apparently never suffered is carpal tunnel vision. So long as she is loose in the world with a typewriter and a telephone, no bullshit anywhere is safe. And her typewriter has recently been upgraded with seats and an airbag.
"Without Judith Merril, neither science fiction nor Canadian science fiction nor Canadian literature nor the world at large would exist in their present form. Whatever we may make in future of the start she gave us, we who care about Canadian fantasy and science fiction may take some small comfort in being able to say that it is, at least to an extent, all her fault."
And here's some genre history from Judy herself:
My editor was a man named Anthony Boucher. That wasn't his birth name. Like me, he had different names at different times in different spaces. In the world of speculative fiction he was Tony Boucher, author, critic and editor, co-founder of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the first - and for many years the only - literary magazine in the field. His other enthusiasms included detective fiction, opera, religion, mathematics, martinis and logical debate. He was the only person I ever knew who made me wonder - briefly, but seriously - if the Christian concepts of the soul and survival in heaven might possibly contain some validity, simply because I had never known him to be wrong in an argument. He was one of the first true loves to leave me by dying - almost 25 years ago - and because he did somehow manage to believe in Heaven, I can still occasionally imagine I am addressing him when I write. Tony liked to describe science fiction as "the literature of the disciplined imagination".
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