Mike Resnick, RIP

Photo of Mike Resnick and me at Chicon 7 the 2012 Worldcon, taken from the MidAmeriCon photo archive. Click on the photo to be taken to the original.

Laura Resnick has posted that her father Mike Resnick has died, which means that it’s a very sad day for his friends and fans in the science fiction community. Give the length of his remarkable career, and the honors that were given to him (including five Hugo Awards as well as a Nebula and a Locus Award, and being the Guest of Honor at Chicon 7, the 2012 Worldcon), this is indeed a considerable percentage of that large and fractious community.

The picture above, of me stroking Mike’s leg, is from that Worldcon; I was the toastmaster of the Worldcon and the opening ceremonies of that convention were in the form of a talk show, for which I was the host. Mike came out for his interview segment and told a story about being on the same stage for an earlier Worldcon:

Mike (pointing up): I remember those lights from 1991. I was toastmaster of the masquerade, and I had notes and I couldn’t read them. I had a guy in the front row who was going to give me hand signals on whether to go faster or slower based on what was happening backstage, and I couldn’t see him with those lights. And I was standing with my back to a curtain, and somebody reached out from under the curtain and began stroking my leg. I decided that meant either he was in love with me, or I should go faster. And then he went like that (makes a hand sign that looks like clutching a leg), and I assumed that meant go slower. We did that for an hour and a half. (Points up again) And they haven’t changed those bulbs!

Me (getting up from behind the desk, going over to Mike, stroking his leg): Go on.

You can see that particular moment (and the rest of his interview) in this video of the opening ceremony, taken by Lisa Hayes; our conversation starts at the 20:20 mark in the video.

Mike was a very fine writer and a gregarious person, but what I think you will see most in the tributes that will be coming out about in the next few days is the fact he was a teacher and mentor to a great number of writers in the science fiction community, sharing advice about writing and the writing life over decades. There are working writers today who unironically think of themselves as “Mike’s children,” which is a testament to his influence. And of course Mike’s actual daughter Laura is a very fine writer as well. This is an excellent legacy to have, and Mike should be proud of it.

My own relationship with Mike had its ups and downs, the most notable down involving a blow-up about the SFWA magazine while I was president, where a column he wrote with Barry Malzberg incited controversy. I took responsibility for its publication as the publisher; I had been asleep at the wheel and let something get through that I’m sure if I had noted to Mike (or more accurately noted it to the editor at the time, who would then note it to Mike), he as a consummate professional would have found another way to make his point. I did appreciate that aspect of his, and I think he appreciated that I appreciated it. In these later years we saw each other at occasional conventions and chatted along agreeably on Facebook about life and business. Stay in a community long enough and there’s always water under the bridge.

Laura noted that Mike passed due to lymphoma that had come on unusually aggressively, and his doctors decided last month there was not much else to be done and recommended hospice. He passed quietly in his sleep. The family has a GoFundMe up to help Carol Resnick, Mike’s widow, manage the medical costs they’ve accrued over the course of his treatment. If you were a fan or friend of Mike’s over the years, I hope you’ll consider contributing.

My condolences to Carol, and to Laura, and to all those who were friends to Mike or considered him a teacher and mentor. A very grand presence is gone. And while the lights Mike was pointing to on that Chicago stage might still be there, they’ll never have the honor of illuminating him again. Their loss, and ours.