It is with a heavy heart that I stand in front of my book ladder and realise so many of the greats have gone. Not all of them, but too many. And of course I’m not talking about Tolkien. He’s been gone since ’73. But many of the others: those who seemed to have defined the genres of fantasy and sci-fi.
In the world of sci-fi, the first of many was Gene Roddenberry. Though not primarily famous for writing, he was the creator of the biggest sci-fi franchise ever, and among my collection is a number of books of that franchise. But the world lost him 24 October 1991. In fact, most of those who were part of the first Roddenberrian endeavour have gone. HIs wife, Majel Barrett, James Doohan, DeForest Kelly and Leonard Nimoy.
Shortly after, another of the greats I see on my ladder died: Isaac Asimov on 6 April 1992. He was the writer famous for the laws of robotics and the books movies such as Bicentennial Man and I, Robot were based on.
On 2 June 2009 we lost David Eddings. His wife, Leigh, died two years earlier. They had been one of the greatest light fantasy writing-duo ever. They actually created a series of books that causes a complete loop. The Malloreon follows on The Belgariad, but the companion books, Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress, start exactly where the last book in The Malloreon ends, but ends where the first book of The Belgariad begins. It is fantastic!
16 September 2007 we lost Robert Jordan, leaving The Wheel of Time series unfinished.
Anne McCaffrey died 12 November 2011. She was mostly famous for the Dragons of Pern series, but she also wrote a great many other books. She was a master world-builder and some of my favourites are The Catenni series, The Tower and the Hive series and The Petaybe series. Yet, thugh I love her work, not even I am a big enough fan to get past the first few pages of Decision at Doona. I think only real die-hard do that.
Perhaps one of our greatest losses is only a year old: Terry Pratchett. Also a master world-builder, his work was rich with detail and really unforgettable characters, as well as some of the best quotes imaginable.
But there are also some names of writers still going good and some new ones, such as Terry Goodkind and Brandon Sanderson. Though they are – and will continue to – keeping the flame of sci-fi and fantasy burning, I still feel a part of this world is poorer for their loss. Perhaps that is the most any writer can ask: that one day someone will stand in front of a bookcase and wish there had been just one more book; just one more story.