Douglas Lathrop, RIP

Back in the wild and wolly days of the World Wide Web, I hung around on a newsgroup called alt.society.generation-x, where I made a number of online friends, some of whom became real world friends, with whom I kept in contact, sporadically, over the years. One of those was Douglas Lathrop, a fellow writer who very recently sold a novel, not his first written (very few “first” novels are first novels), but the first to be picked up by a publisher.

Not too long ago Doug fell and ended up in the hospital, and in part because of other long-term factors relating to his health, he didn’t recover. He passed away today.

And I’m kicking myself because a couple of weeks ago I was in San Diego, during Comic-Con, and as I was crossing the street, he was crossing the street, too, going the other way. And we were in the middle of a cross walk and there were probably a couple hundred other people and we moved past each other too quickly, and I thought to myself, huh, I’ll have to tell Doug I saw him in the cross walk, and then I walked off to whatever it was I was doing next, which I can’t remember now.

I wish I would have taken that moment in the cross walk to say hello. It was the last time I’ll see my friend in this world. I should have said hello. I didn’t. I’m going to regret that forever now.

Take the time, people. Let your friends know you see them and are glad to see them, even if you’re just passing by in a cross walk. It’s important.

That’s all.

30 thoughts on “Douglas Lathrop, RIP

  1. Not that I have any kind of a relationship with you other than audience/writer, but… Hello, John. I enjoy your writing very much and am very happy that you share it with me.

  2. My condolences on your loss.

    In December of 2007, I flew to New York to see my mother, who was at the time recently out of the hospital and residing in an assisted living center. I had very little time and even less money to spare at that time, but since I did have a few hours to spare, I made an appointment to visit my old friend and mentor—the writing professor who had supported my early work in college all those years ago.

    We’d stayed in touch over the three decades since those college days. He was 99 and about to become 100 years old, and he’d just published two new books that year as well as had a play he’d written 40 years before produced for the first time.

    It was a wonderful reunion, seeing him again for the first time in a decade more or less. His memory was still pretty good, with some lapses, and we joked about our classes all those years before and how I’d beguiled him into allowing me to take the senior writing seminar as a mere sophomore. He still remembered the novella length piece I wrote for his class (and which I received an annual option check for, for almost a decade, until it was dropped and never re-sold…).

    It was an unforgettable moment to spend time with him, something I’ll always cherish in my memory. He suddenly took ill a day or two later and passed away just 13 days after I’d visited. I only regret that I didn’t remember to take a photo of him while I visited.

    I did manage to take that photo of my mother, who also passed away just a scant month later.

    Yes, take the time. ALWAYS take the time, whenever you can, to stay in touch and spend time with those you love, those you are friends with. You never know if you’ll ever be able to do it again.

    “The only things worth having can only be given away. They cannot be bought, or sold, or held—only given. And in the giving, the full richness of the universe falls into your heart.”

  3. I think, as a corollary, I will stop being so shy and the next time I have a chance to meet you, I will actually try to do so. (Very excited for the upcoming book, esp after a discussion with a mutual friend, a singer-songwriter.)

  4. JS: I’m really sorry; all of the people I loved the most died unexpectedly. I had no chance to tell them how much I loved them, or to say goodbye, and it still hurts.

    So, everyone, if your preferences run to the classical, then ‘Carpe Diem’, or if that’s not to your taste then there’s Teryy Pratchett’s ‘This is not a Dress Rehearsal’ which expresses it pretty well…

  5. I’m sorry to hear you lost another friend, John. It’s always sad, and because of the stupid way humans are designed, it seems to happen more frequently as we get older. I’d complain to the manufacturer, but I can’t seem to find a customer service department.

    May I suggest, as someone who’s lost both children, that you don’t regret TOO hard. I had to be reminded of that; life really IS too short. (I suspect Krissy would snap you back to your senses, though, if you got carried away with it. ;-) )

    But I’d learned that other lesson — take the time, tell people you love them. The day before my daughter died, we had a wonderful conversion. I’d told her how very proud I was of her. The last thing I ever said to her was, “I love you.” I’m okay with that.

    You’ve been an inspiration to me. I’ll just leave it at that. I’m very much looking forward to meeting you on your book tour!

  6. Ugh. You didnt ask…..but, i was meeting a friend to go fishing. I came upon an accident on the way. It was my friend coming to pick me up…..because i was late. He took his three last breaths in my presence. You have no reason to believe me, or any interest in the matter whatsoever, but i hear what you said just the same. And the small tidbits you drop here are golden. I read your books sometimes like i would a letter from a friend.

  7. It’s because of Doug that I joined asg-x back in the day. That led me to you and your site. Your site led me to your forum, which led me to many cherished friends. But that’s not the only way changed my life. Just knowing him improved it immeasurably. His intelligence, humor, snark, compassion & absolute honesty pulled me up into being a better version of myself. I will be forever grateful to him. And I will always miss him.

    Sympathy to you, John, and to all whose lives he has touched.

  8. Somewhere, Doug is having a tingle with Leslie, Peter and Amanda, exchanging kitsch and heckling us from the big Muppet Opera Box in the sky.

    In Heaven, no one pats you on the head without permission.

  9. Wait, Amanda? Koogle Amanda?

    Well, this is a horrible way to delurk. I interacted with Doug more through other newsgroups, but I dare say it’s been over fifteen years since even that. Life set down a relative need to be quiet.

    Should probably be less quiet.

  10. So sorry for your loss. And thanks for a good post – had me in tears. I’m at WorldCon and I’m glad I’ve already made a point of saying ‘hi’ to friends and (briefly) fangirling over one artist I admire … Even if I did end up embarrassing myself! It’s good to say thanks as well as hi :).

  11. I met my wife through asg-x, and tingled in Atlanta with Doug and lots of others for New Years in ’96–97. Doug was a lot of fun, and he will be missed by everyone who knew him. I wasn’t as close to him as I was to others in the group, but I liked Doug and what he wrote.

  12. Another asg-xer who is thinking about the fragility of things this morning. And who, three of your books down (finished Last Colony just two days ago) is kicking himself for noting the author’s name, but thinking, hmm, what a coincidence…I used to know a John Scalzi on asg-x, a million years ago.

    As I find out what’s become of some of us, it’s a mixture of amusement, and amazement, and a little sadness about that time and having been young.

    Cheers, thanks, and thinking about Doug.
    Todd Sandrock

  13. I’m sad that Doug is no longer in this world. I was never close to him but enjoyed his writing and the times I hung around with him.

    -paul

  14. Thank you for your writing and my sympathy for your loss.

    I’m now off to phone a friend to say hello.

  15. Ten years ago I had brain surgery. The surgeons at UCSF said my chances of survival were not good (they were happily wrong!). Needless to say I contacted the important folks in my life to let them know how much they meant to me and to my great surprise I found out how much they loved me back. It was very helpful to my mental state going into surgery as well as the recovery process.
    Thanks for the reminder; I’m looking forward to meeting you in September on your tour.
    Namaste.

  16. I met Doug through alt.tv.mst3k and finally in person at the 1994 ConventioCon. It’s been an interesting 20+ years and in every one of them Doug has been the best sort of friend. I still can’t quite process that he’s gone.

  17. John,

    Thank you very much for your posts on Doug and a.s.g-x.

    Doug was the one person on a.s.g-x who I’d managed to stay in closest touch with over 18 years, from 1994 to 2012 (when I finally moved away from SoCal). I knew about his intermittent medical issues and had advance copies of his novels. But I had no idea he had actually managed to sell a novel! Right before his 50th birthday and his death. Gah.

  18. Another ASGXer here. John, I’ve seen your books in the collections of friends of mine and have always either been too shy or too uncertain to tell them that I used to hang in an IRC channel with you. So I wanted to let you know that *other* people I know also love your writing.

  19. Thank you for your words about our friend. I have known Doug since 1990. We met at an Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation national conference. We became friends immediately and have remained close through these many years. I have posted a picture of the two of us on his wall. It was taken the middle of July 2014 a few nights before I left SD. He was so much more than a guy in a wheelchair. Beth Tatman

  20. This is weird. I randomly clicked on a link to your site on Balloon Juice, started reading, and thought, “Oh, cool. A science fiction/writing blog!” So I was reading from top to bottom and was stunned to run across your mention of Doug.

    I knew Doug as a member of our UU church here in Hillcrest in San Diego (we elected him as a member of our board of trustees in June, and we are very grieved to have lost him, and his voice in our community). I met him at a Firefly party we had there a few years ago, and in 2012, I cast him as the lawyer David Boies in our production of “8”, a play about the the Prop 8 trial. Of course he did a fantastic job in the part, being a very sensitive reader.

    My stab of regret is that after he had the accident which first put him in the hospital, he joked (of course, he *had* to make a joke), “That’s what I get for wearing a t-shirt with a quote from Wash last night.” And I had to joke back, “Wait, you just got a huge spear through the chest!?” It’s probably dumb to regret that flippancy, because Doug thrived on that kind of back and forth. But dang.

    Anyway, yes. When you see a friend, connect, even if it’s only smiling into their eyes. It might be the last time.

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