Phyllis Gotlieb, the legendary Canadian science fiction writer, died yesterday. Phyllis was very old but very sharp — I last saw her at an Ad Astra convention in Toronto a few years ago, and I followed her on a mailing list for Canadian sf writers, where she was a smart and funny poster. Phyllis wrote well into her old age, continuing her very long career in the field.
I first met Phyllis at Ad Astra, the Toronto area science fiction convention. She and I were co-panelists on the very first panel I ever sat on. I was 17 and I'd just sold my first story. Phyllis was well into her senior years. She was delightful. I don't remember what the subject of the panel was, but I remember the warmth and wit with which Phyllis engaged with little pipsqueak me, the welcome she made me feel as a freshman writer. I have never, ever forgotten that — the author of O Master Caliban! deigning to notice me, much less treat me as a colleague.
Phyllis and her husband Kelly were palpably, achingly in love (Kelly once had my father in his university physics class, a class he never forgot). We had dinner together in 2007 at Ad Astra, and the two of them were the epitome of sweet old married coupledom, finishing each others' sentences, helping each other in a million tiny and affectionate ways.
By my reckoning, Phyllis was 82 when she died (I don't know the details of the death). I can only hope that when I'm 80, I'll be as sharp, productive and good-spirited as Phyllis was when I last saw her. Science fiction has lost one of its greats today, and Canada, too. My sincerest condolences to her family. You are missed, Phyllis.
(Image: Sunburst Awards)