On the Shoulders of Giants: SF/Fantasy Luminaries Who Died in 2009
There’s something reassuring about knowing that one of your favorite authors is still alive – even if he or she hasn’t published anything in years, or decades in some cases. The potential is still there for an unexpected masterwork, a new world, another glorious adventure... That unique narrative voice is, somewhere, still present in the world. Hearing news that a beloved author has passed away always hits me hard for that very reason – but it makes me cherish the works that they’ve written even more…
In 2009, science fiction and fantasy lost some real giants of the genre – David Eddings, Philip José Farmer, Louise Cooper, Tom Deitz, and Robert Paul Holdstock – as well as numerous notable figures – writers Christopher Anvil and Lino Aldani, publisher Donald M. Grant, etc.
So, as we begin a new year, I’d like to take a moment to pay my respects to all of the authors who have passed in ’09 and spotlight some of their most popular and critically acclaimed works…
David Eddings (July 7, 1931 – June 2, 2009) – arguably the most significant fantasy writer of the ‘80s. His historic Belgariad (Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, et. al.) and Malloreon (Guardians of the West, King of the Murgos, et. al.) sagas were the gateway series that turned literally millions of readers into lifelong fantasy fanatics.
Philip José Farmer (January 26, 1918 – February 25, 2009) – simply put, a legend in the genre. Beginning with his controversial 1952 novella “The Lovers,” he went on to write dozens of genre standards, including the Hugo Award wining To Your Scattered Bodies Go, The Maker of Universes, The Gates of Creation and the short-form masterwork “Riders of the Purple Wage,” which appeared in the transcendent anthology Dangerous Visions in 1967 and won the Hugo for Best Novella in 1968.
Louise Cooper (May 29, 1952 – October 21, 2009) – a wildly prolific British fantasy author who published more than 80 novels for children, young adults and adults. Among her most popular works were the Time Master novels (The Initiate, The Outcast, The Master, etc.) and the Mermaid Curse Quartet, which she released in 2008.
Tom Deitz (January 17, 1952 – April 27, 2009) – American writer who penned several noteworthy epic fantasy sagas including A Tale of Eron (Bloodwinter, Springwar, Summerblood, and Warautumn) and the Soulsmith trilogy.
Robert Paul Holdstock (August 2, 1948 – November 29, 2009) – much under-appreciated here in the States, this British writer was the author of dozens of fantasy novels, most notably the Ryhope Woods saga: Mythago Wood, Lavondyss, The Hollowing, etc. He received three British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards and won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel for Mythago Wood in 1985.
But although these brilliantly talented writers have sadly passed away, their works have not – and will not for a very long time to come. Science fiction/fantasy fans looking for “the good stuff” should consider paying homage to these great writers by rereading any one of their hundreds of classic stories, be it Eddings’ the Belgariad saga or Farmer’s “Riders of the Purple Wage” or Holdstock’s Mythago Wood. Genre historians, especially, know the profound significance of these writers’ collective work – without them, the genre today would be dramatically different. Today’s writers truly are standing on the shoulders of giants….