During the 80’s, we lived within walking distance of each other, and often got together for dinner. I sensed a deep loneliness in Octavia, but also humor, vast intelligence, and a level of investment in her craft that was simply phenomenal. For years Samuel Delaney, Octavia and I were the only black SF writers. “Chip” Delaney hasn’t been in the field for years. Octavia continued to soar. Other black writers entered the field…almost all of them fantasists, not SF writers. Why? I could only offer theories. Now, Octavia is gone, and I feel a sense of loss so incredibly deep that I have no words.
What does it take to be a writer of such depth and courage? I say, the capacity to dig into your own wounds, to fold yourself, concentrate yourself so purely into the work that your own life is eclipsed in comparison. To live in the penumbra of your own work. There are costs to this…costs that I encourage my students to avoid. But those who suggest that great artists must suffer have valid arguments to present. Dying at 58, in my mind, is just too young. There was so much more for her to do. And yet, she had done so much already…
What is right? Ultimately, we have to live by our own standards, according to our own values. I can only hope that at the end of the day, in the depths of her dying heart, Octavia felt that this is what she had done. I can pray that that is true.
She was one of the best. Thank God that the world recognized it while she was could still hear the applause.
Monday, February 27, 2006
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:44 AM