Monday, June 23, 2014

A Flower For Daniel Keyes


There are times when this blog feels like a morgue.  The only satisfaction I can offer you is that I hate it even more than you do.

Daniel Keyes died a week ago, and I put off writing anything about the man for the reason I've just stated.  I never met Keyes, though I was present when SFWA gave him its Writer Emeritus award.  As the award was presented, I saw one of the giants of science fiction clench his fists in fury and a look of absolute hatred cross his face.

No, I won't tell you who.  But I mention this fact to remind you that it is not an author who has died but a human being.  One who lived, loved, dreamed, aspired-- and made enemies.

The relevant thing to remember about him is that his fame as a science fiction writer and indeed as a writer at all is based on a single work:  Flowers for Algernon.

Go ahead.  Name another work of science fiction he wrote.  If you can, you are and should be justly proud of your mastery of science fiction trivia.

This fact, that one need only write a single work of genius to be a great writer, is what keeps so many of us going.  Yes, the odds are against it happening to any individual.  But it approaches certainty that there is a writer today known for competent entertainment who will someday between now and the grave make her or his mark upon eternity.

For which reason, you should treat all honest writers with respect.  One of them may someday become the next Daniel Keyes.  All of them are doing their damnedest.



Dario said...

Very well said indeed, Michael. Morever, Keyes should be praised for having written a major crossover work which made millions of people who would never read SF at least temporarily think about the world in an SFnal way. Amen, and RIP Mr. Keyes.


Laurie Mann said...

I'm a little surprised to hear that anyone was sad by Daniel Keyes winning the Author Emeritus award back in 2000. I was also at that ceremony and thought it was very deserved.

Robert Davis said...

It should be noted that, as he said in his speech, he was only well-known in the US for Flowers for Algernon, but had a much stronger following abroad (specifically Japan).