Last Tuesday, one of my favorite authors passed away suddenly. Louise Cooper was a marvelous fantasist, and her Time Master trilogy is one of the most excellent stories I have ever read, even now all these years later. I had always hoped to meet her, and tell her about the worlds she opened up for me with those books. Before I read them, I’d seen fantasy as magical talking animals and questing farm boys searching for some shining McGuffin or other. Not that there’s anything wrong with that style, of course; I just didn’t know that fantasy could be anything else. Instead of the struggle between good and evil, Cooper focused on the constant conflict of order against chaos. The folks on the side of order weren’t particularly good people, driven as they were by their own desires and goals. Daring to be different from the status quo was risking death. Magic came with a price. Not everyone in the story lived happily ever after, even some that might have deserved to. Her books woke something in me that I didn’t even know was sleeping. She and Tim Powers between them showed me a face of fantasy I hadn’t guessed at, and made me want to write it the way they did. I never had the chance to meet her, although I had always hoped to.
The thing is, she was young. In her fifties, I believe. And her death was completely unexpected. What if she had put off writing, as so many people do? What if she’d said to herself, “Oh, when the children are grown, I’ll write?” What if she just couldn’t write anywhere but the little coffee shop that suddenly closed last spring? What if she’d decided she needed a cabin in the mountains to find her muse? Nonsense, right? Yet so many of us do exactly that. We insist we can’t write until certain conditions are met, or only on one kind of medium, or only in one place. And suddenly we’re looking age in the face and realizing we never got around to writing that book that’s aching to get out.
If Ms Cooper had given in to those whims, I’d never have known her world. I’m so lucky she wrote, even for the short time she was around. But with her passing, I’m feeling my own mortality, and all the books I want to write are pushing at the edges of my awareness. I can’t guess what might happen tomorrow, so I need to remember to do it today. I’m going to put my own butt back in the chair and keep doing what she inspired me to do. What are y’all waiting for?