LeGuin’s Hainish Cycle is one of the places my imagination sparked in what felt like a story way for the first time. I’ll never forget them, nor The Lathe of Heaven, The Left Hand of Darkness, and “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” is forever in me. Here’s Margaret Atwood, bidding her farewell:
And here’s LeGuin herself, laying it down back in 1987:
And now, today, Jack Ketchum/Dallas Mayr. Used to, The Crying of Lot 49 and VALIS were always the two books I’d read the most. Two or three weeks ago, for a horror writing workshop I was leading up at the Stanley Hotel, I read The Girl Next Door for the thirteenth time. Whenever I start feeling like I might be a horror writer, that I might be doing something verging on dark, I reread some Ketchum, and have to face the facts once more: I’m just writing about rainbows and flowers, compared to what he was doing.
Back in . . . man, 2010 or so, I guess it was, I had this novel, The Least of My Scars, that I’d written after rereading The Girl Next Door. In it, I’d tried to go as far as I could. So it seemed fitting to send it to Jack Ketchum for a blurb. I remember mailing it, even: I was in some little New England town, and had just, at a con, bought a fancy skull ring that I was so in love with. But, right before I taped up that manuscript standing at that counter, I slipped that ring in there. Then, a month or two later, Ketchum came back with some actual kind words for that novel.
It meant the world.
I’ll miss Jack Ketchum skulking around the horror cons. I’ll miss seeing him on panels. One of our main horror pillars is gone, yeah. But the house still stands, largely because of all the people Jack Ketchm ushered in.
And, lest we forget, the dude could stage a killer author photo. We should all take things about this seriously: