Thursday, October 22, 2015

It Always Snows on Robert Sheckley's Grave

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Last Sunday, I was in the Hudson Valley, visiting family, so I made a pilgrimage to Robert Sheckley's grave in the Artists Cemetery in Woodstock. Sheckley was one of the giants of science fiction in his day, largely forgotten in his own land, but still revered in Russia.

This was not my first attempt to visit the grave. A year ago last March, I went there but could not locate the grave because it was covered in snow.  Here's what I wrote then:

Eight years ago, on a dark and bitterly cold day I drove from Philadelphia to Kingston, NY, to attend Sheckley's funeral.  It was an extraordinary event.  Three of his ex-wives were in attendance and a fourth sent her regrets that she was unable to make the trip.  His daughter, noted writer Alisa Kwitney gave a loving and moving memorial that began with the words "Robert Sheckley was a terrible father."  Barry Malzberg made an extempore speech that was one of the best things I've ever heard, a genuine work of literary art.
I got up then and said a few words on behalf of the Russian people.  This may seem a little cheeky of me, but I knew his readers there would want to be represented.  Sheckley -- and his clear-eyed, razor-edged satiric humor -- were big as big in that part of the world.  When he collapsed in Kiev, months before his death, it was front-page news in Pravda.

Some years before -- and I was lucky enough to be able to tell the man this in person -- I was guest of honor at Aelita, Russia's oldest SF convention, in Ekaterinburg.  This was a year after Robert Sheckley was goh.  During the press conference, organizer Boris Dolingo was asked how the attendance numbers compared to the previous year's.  Looking directly into the television cameras, he said, "Swanwick is a writer.  Sheckley is a god." 
Bob liked hearing that.  And at his funeral, his family were glad as well.

It was snowing when Marianne and I found Sheckley's grave. In my experience, it's always snowing when you go to visit Robert Sheckley's grave. I had no flowers, so I drew a heart on a leaf and left it on the stone
And...

I apologize for being a day late with Wednesday's post. I've got a lot on my to-do list these days.


Above: Marianne placing a pebble on Robert Sheckley's grave.

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3 comments:

Marian Meg Phillips said...

Robert Sheckley introduced a whole different sf world to me in my teens. I confess I haven't read much of the most recent pieces. I remember his early short story collections, Citizen in Space and Pilgrimage to Earth in particular. My old copies are boxed up somewhere... I basically read through the entire sf collection at the local library. Thanks for going to his funeral... and your most recent visit.

Michael Swanwick said...

I remember how much you liked his work.

Monte Davis said...

We shared brief tenures at OMNI -- a few lunches and drinks, really, as neither of us was in the editorial offices full-time. Kind, funny, endlessly curious.