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April 1999

Letters on this page:

  • Robert Reed remembers Jim Turner (16 Apr)
  • John Kessel remembers Jim Turner (14 Apr)
  • Algis Budrys assures us his site is alive and well (14 Apr)


    Dear Locus,
         I knew he was ill. I just didn't realize things were so lousy. Late last year, Jim mentioned being scheduled for surgery. Nothing to worry about, he claimed. But if I didn't hear from him after a couple weeks, I should contact his brother. Thankfully, I didn't have to. Jim called me as soon as he escaped from the hospital. That's when he admitted that he was undergoing chemo, and he was finding himself becoming very tired. And that was the last time he ever mentioned anything about his cancer.
         All of last year, we worked on a collection of my short fiction. Which means that Jim did most of the hard and the tedious. He began by reading virtually every story that I'd ever published. (An odd journey, that must have been.) He picked what he saw as my best seventeen. From that list, I selected ten stories. According to my word count, we'd reached his absolute ceiling. Our book couldn't be any fatter. But Jim had a real fondness for ''To Church With Mr. Multhiford'', and he decided to shoehorn it in -- a decision that left us with eleven stories, and no room for so much as a cursory introduction.
         Jim tried his best to teach me about the business. Reviewers appreciate introductions, he warned. They like it when things are put in handy frameworks. Or as he complained on several occasions, ''They want someone to do their job for them.''
         Jim threw a useful, good-hearted anger at the world. A phone call that began with some point of grammar drifted into opinions about the home run race and Di's death, and in particular, the fate of science fiction. He was smart enough to intimidate me when he wanted to, and he could be endlessly entertaining, spitting out sharp questions and sharp jokes when he wasn't raging about how tough it was to be a little publisher in this day and age.
         At the end of ''Multhiford'', my title character -- an independent, self-assured Midwesterner -- speaks about corn, and Death, and how a life is something that will always exist, forever rooted in one piece of Time.
         Maybe there was some resonance with Jim's beliefs. Or he liked crusty old Mr. Multhiford. Either way, I'm glad that he thought enough of the story to include it. I was sorry that with our book finished, we didn't talk as often anymore. And now I'm sick that he's dead, and I can only hope that he's at peace. But no matter how philosophical my vantage point, some things will always and forever just plain stink.

    Robert Reed
    16 April 1999
    (posted Fri 16 Apr 1999)

    Dear Locus,
         I just wanted to say a word or two about Jim Turner. A generation of sf writers would never have seen their short fiction permanently in print if it werenít for him. He produced well made, well-thought-out volumes of cutting edge SF, at a publisher whose fans did not always like such fiction, and in a time when the industry said you could not make a profit on individual author short story collections -- and he made it work.
         I will always remember his opinionated, occasionally abrasive, logorrheic, eccentric all-hours-of-the-day phone calls (I canít exactly call them conversations, as much of the time Jim seemed to have read-only memory). He loved good writing, and he loved our genre. He wrote abominable jacket copy. But he was a funny guy, an astute reader, a creative publisher and the most meticulous editor I have ever worked with. Iím proud to have had him publish a story collection of mine, and will miss his manic voice and strangely shy presence. Though he loved gossip too much and argued too readily to be any kind of angel, I will remember him as one of natureís innocents. Goodbye, Jim.

    John Kessel
    14 April 1999
    (posted Thu 15 Apr 1999)

    Dear Locus,
         I have a message from a subscriber that Locus reports that this site [tomorrowsf] is closed down. I must have missed that. In any case, it's not true. I'm not buying fiction, but I am buying and running a science column, book and film reviews, poetry, and cartoons.

    Bests,

    Algis Budrys
    9 April 1999
    (posted Thu 15 Apr 1999)

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