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Send us your letters! Locus Online has more room than the magazine for letters. They can be about Locus or the SF field in general.

May 1999

Jim Turner: An Appreciation by Michael Bishop

     When Ellen Datlow notified me by e-mail that Jim had died, I hoped that she had passed along an unconfirmed rumor. I really did not want to believe the truth of her report, which she herself had from Gardner Dozois. When no one else approached me with this same word (nor did I seek to confirm it on my own), I convinced myself that the news, like an early mistaken obituary for Mark Twain, was "greatly exaggerated." I know that I wanted to believe as much. When the May Locus arrived with Jim's photograph and appreciations by Michael Swanwick, James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel, and Bob Eggleton, however, I had to assimilate the truth that Jim had indeed died.
     Like each of the others who wrote of him last month, I will always recall Jim Turner as a dictionary's-worth-of-words-in-less-than-a-minute telephone voice. But I will cherish even more the fact that he wanted to do a collection of my stories fairly in my career, when I had enormous doubts about both my abilities and the likelihood of my ever attaining an audience; indeed, he went ahead with the project simply because he believed in it. And then, may God bless his generous soul, he contracted for a second collection and a quirky anti-horror novel that nobody else in the publishing business here in the States knew what to do with. (Later, this otherwise homeless novel received a notice in a book by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman cataloguing the 100 Best Horror Novels.)
     Without Jim Turner, my then agent Virginia Kidd, and another fine editor, David Hartwell, I might well have packed it in and taken a time-consuming day job teaching. Along with these other folks, Jim made me feel like a writer and a good one to boot. The books that he made from materials that I bemusedly but gratefully submitted to him will long outlast both of us. Whatever their literary merit, as artifacts they are exemplary.
     Jim paid attention to detail and design. He sought to match writers with artists who resonated to the writers' imaginations and who translated those resonances into powerful and evocative images. Without Jim, I would never have had the pleasure and privilege of finding my work illustrated by artists as different yet authentic as GlennRay Tutor, Raymond Bayless, Andrew Smith, and J. K. Potter, whose photographic montages set a high standard for the entire field. I even got to meet Smith and Potter, although far too briefly.
     Jim and I also met face to face far too seldom and far too briefly. Once in Nashville at a World Fantasy Convention, once in Atlanta, and once in Austin, Texas. We always talked of getting together either more often or for longer periods, but I don't think either of us really believed that it would happen, or expected it to, or perhaps even wanted it to. We had three books to cement our relationship and, for a long time, those unpredictable, unscheduled hour-long telephone conversations -- Jim jabbering like sixty -- to maintain it.
     I feel proprietary toward Jim, but realize now that I have no right to. He shared his intensity and his joy with many others, despite significant health problems, including a kidney transplant, and lived bravely with the illness that occasioned the transplant. Nothing got him down for long. He battled, pugnaciously, and sometimes got on people's nerves for so doing, but for a long time he was my most outspoken champion, and I am deeply sorry that he has left us. It shames me to admit that I did not even know he had cancer, so much time had lapsed since our last marathon talk. Forgive me, Jim. I still half-believe you're only a phone call away.

Michael Bishop
21 May 1999
(posted Mon 24 Apr 1999)

April Letters page 1 Robert Reed and John Kessel remember Jim Turner

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