Guest Post: Laura J. Mixon on Jack Williamson’s Memorial Service

front_jack_williamson.jpgSteve and I went to Jack Williamson’s memorial in Portales yesterday. There are supposed to be two Locus issues coming that will be devoted to remembrances of him, and there have been tributes in the NY Times, LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. Letters have flooded in from all over the world. In addition to his influence and vision, which molded the field of SF, he was just an amazingly kind, decent, modest, and loving man. He touched so many lives, including mine.

I’ve always thought it was so cool that he was a native New Mexican, too (Well, he moved here when he was eight or so, but given that he’s still got almost twice as many years here as I do, I figure he more than qualifies…) In the booklet prepared for his memorial, they printed some words of his, including what it felt like to grow up in a small New Mexican town. I could see my own childhood in his words, and in the slide show they gave, of him and his family and friends, who stood on front porches a lot like my own.

He grew up in Portales. I spent the first couple years of my life only a stone’s throw away in Roswell, and the rest in Albuquerque, a few hours to the west. Like me, he ran barefoot in summer among honeysuckle blossoms, goatheads, ants, and desert brush. At night, he too watched the meteors (and in more recent years, the satellites) track across the huge starry sky. Like me, he could always look across the hilly desert plains at the mountains on the horizon, with their thunderstorms and their verga, or he could lie back in the grass and stare up into that startling indigo-blue sky. Like me, he lived near space and military research centers and ancient Indian villages, with green chili stew and Hispanic music and churches — amid teachers and shop owners and artists and ranchers and other people eeking out a living in a poor state.

Our childhoods were separated in time, but not so very far in space, and he fell in love with the vast array of possibilities that science and technology promised, too. Not a blind love — he was concerned about its abuses — but he also saw its potential.

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