Hey everyone. Tuesday again. I'm battling a nasty infection, which got to be so nasty because I've been ignoring the symptoms for nearly a month, hoping it would go away, asking myself 'Who else is going to look after my dad?' Yeah, don't try that one at home boys and girls. Turns out that determination and denial don't actually work like antibiotics. Frankly that, on top of this new sweaty, dog-breath weather, was already making me wish that I'd never been born.
And then I woke up this morning and learned that Margaret Mahy, the author of The Changeover, and The Door in the Air, and The Great Chewing Gum Rescue, and so many other books that expanded and informed my imagination as a child, has passed away at the age of just seventy-six (she should have had at least another ten or fifteen years in her). And I cried.
The fact that I already feel terrible might have made the tears a bit more violent than they would otherwise have been. But maybe not. I was only writing about Margaret Mahy recently as part of the FrostFire Blog Tour - listing her as a fantasy writer who had inspired me and explaining why. Which means thoughts about how truly important she was to me are still fresh in my mind. All my reading life her books have been there. Knowing that she is gone, and that there will be no more books, ever, feels like losing a part of myself, my own identity as a reader. It feels like an earthquake in the landscape of my imagination.
In the last couple of years so many of the authors that I relied on as a child - that I still love as an adult - have been slipping away. The most notable for me up until now was the legendary Diana Wynne Jones. When Diana Wynne Jones died many writers blogged tributes to her, and it was wonderful to see the astonishing, inimitable impact she had on the world. But I couldn't bring myself to write about it. I had never met her, but I had always hoped that I would be lucky enough to one day. That possible one day was suddenly gone. I would never now get the chance to tell her how much she and her stories had meant to me.
It's such a strange thing to regret, because even if I had been able to meet her, I would never have been any more than yet another devoted reader to her (and she had thousands), telling her the same old things about the books she had written. She might have been happy to hear it, or tired and bored and thinking about her lunch. It would have been a huge moment for me, but not for her. Her life was not lessened by not having met me, even if mine was lessened by never meeting her.
I wish I could have said those words anyway. I wish that I had written her a letter telling her, even if it would only have been one of dozens. Her loss was sharp enough that I fell into a melancholy that lasted a week or more, and I can still feel the echoes of that grief now whenever I remember that she is gone. No more Diana Wynne Jones in the world. The world seemed a less bright, less brilliant, less surprising place.
Now Margaret Mahy is gone too, and the world seems dimmer and duller and more predictable still.
I hope that their books will continue to be on bookshelves and library shelves for many, many years to come. I hope that children still whisper their words out loud while hiding under the covers a hundred years from now. And I hope that there are other, younger, newer writers out there who can do for generations of children growing up now what these two writers did for me. I hope that one day the world will glow bright and brilliant and surprising again.
In the meantime, Dear Readers? If there is an author who has moved you, transported you, transformed you? An author who you feel, deep in your heart of hearts, is special? An author who you secretly wish to meet one day? Write to them now. Or arrange to actually meet them if you can. Do it while you have the chance. That towering figure who cast their shade over your childhood isn't immortal, even if it seems that the sheer power of their genius must be. One day you will hear that they have gone, and you will realise time slipped away from you and it's too late. And you will feel sad. No matter what, you will feel sad. Don't add the sadness of never having said what you always intended to say to that as well.