This is one of my saddest moments. Some time ago Ann Crispin announced she was sick, but I heard nothing after and hoped no news meant good news. Today, I read this.
It stopped me dead in my tracks.
I didn’t know Ann Crispin very well, but she impacted my life long before I knew who she was. She’s well celebrated, but her good works are personal for me. As a young man, hers were the Star Trek books I loved most at an age where author names meant nothing to me. They took my favorite characters down incredible journeys and fired my imagination.
Years later I attended a DragonCon writing panel taught by someone named A. C. Crispin. I was shocked when I looked up the name to find books on my shelf like Sarek and Yesterday’s Son with her name on it. I attended the class with awe, eager to show off my first novel which was without a doubt going to be one of the great fantasy saga’s of all time. I submitted the excerpt for her critique, but through a series of misadventures or perhaps in hindsight a desire on Ann’s part not to crush my hopes, the critique kept getting pushed off.
She invited me to attend her advanced workshop too as a last minute entry though it was full and I gratefully borrowed some money to learn more from her while I awaited my critique. That Sunday in 2003, she took me up to a guest suite with complimentary foods and drinks, impressing an awed kid in a thirty-something’s body even more.
There, Ann Crispin eviscerated my first novel, painting the walls in blood and ichor. It was just that bad. It hurt, like hell. I held my expression with all my strength and thanked her for her knife work. After I left her, I sat in a hallway for the rest of the day in shock. My first novel, my premiere series, the books that would redefine fantasy for decades was overly ambitious, filled with cardboard and clichés, sounded like a D&D campaign gone wrong and was an atrocious pile of dreck. She told me to keep trying, that thirties was young and I had plenty of time.
She was right on all counts.
I cleaned the blood from my barely thick enough skin and took her advice. I put my baby on a crucifix and moved on. By time I saw her once more many years later I’d written several new novels – still dreck but better. I took my boyhood copy of Yesterday’s Son for a signature, swallowing my pride and awe to face her again.
She remembered me on sight.
Ann Crispin, this great author, turned to her personal onlookers and told them that I’d taken the worst critique she’d ever had to give, taken it well and was back, still writing. You might think being remembered for such a notorious critique should be horrible, but it’s been a badge of honor ever since.
I’ve written eleven complete novels since that critique. Each one gets better, in part because Ann Crispin challenged me to forge on, strive and never give up on making miracles happen. She’s got more friends and fans than I can imagine, and will probably never see this, but I want anyone who does to know what a wonderful woman she is.
You challenged me to chase miracles – preferably while not driving a horse like a car. I hope you get a miracle, whatever miracle is perfect for you. I’m indebted to you forever.
With love and best wishes,
Michael, eviscerated newbie and dedicated novelist