SOL Rising

Number 20, January 1998
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Tributes (cont'd)

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Élisabeth Vonarburg

When I was a little girl, the first stories I read were myths, folktales, and legends from all over the world. And I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: I wanted to be a hero.

But then again, I also knew I was not a boy. Things being what they were, I may have regretted it now and then, but somehow I managed to survive-almost all little girls do. It was only a little harder then. We became teenagers, and then women, who read stories written mainly by men about men, and somehow managed to get our fix of heroism by identifying with the male heroes. Of course, that does not go without some rampant identity problems down the line, but at the time I did not think much of it. It was during the Fifties, in the French countryside, not exactly at the cutting edge of social revolution.

At the beginning of the Sixties, however, I was beginning to feel uneasy. I was being told, in school and out of it, that the universe is a well-known, well-understood, nice, cozy, and limited place. Things are what they are, they said, it is like this, it has always been like this, it will always be like this. But somehow, it didn't feel quite right. Oh, please, it couldn't be right?

It was the mid-Sixties now; something was blowing in the wind. That was when I discovered science fiction. Not as a woman, but (I thought) as a more or less unsexed, ungendered spirit yearning for freedom, for new, unknown, dangerous, exciting things. That was when I began feeling that, I might, after all, be able to realize my childhood's dream. There was definitely a possibility for heroism in science fiction, the old-fashioned way, the best: finding treasures and wisdom, saving universes, fighting dragons-and, even better, making friends with them.

That was when I first met Judith Merril. Actually, I met a story-"That Only a Mother." There were other stories, other women-Leigh Brackett, Andre Norton, Catherine Moore, Katherine MacLean, Margaret St. Clair, the first of our elders... but this one story is the first I remember. It felt different from everything I'd read before—even Ted Sturgeon's stories, which I loved the best. There were no fancy space adventures, no disguised knight in shining astronaut's suit, and the dragon was almost as metaphorical as they come. There was a mother, a father, a daughter and nuclear energy. It could have been here and then. But it was different, I didn't know why, or how. Somehow, even though it was taking place in a world so like our own, it opened other spaces in my mind. Somehow it had… a different voice. And I began to listen for that voice in other SF stories, first without knowing what I was looking for, then with a heightened awareness-not so much as I came upon Judy's other stories (very, very few translated in French at the time), but when I read some of the stories she'd helped get into print.

By then I had a very definite idea of who Judith Merril was. She was one of the very few women I could look up to in science fiction, as a female reader and as a fledgling female writer. At that time science fiction was very much a Man's Land—still is, although thanks to Judy and others, we don't feel as lonely there as we used to. But Judy was there in the beginning, for me. I was proud of her—even though I didn't know much about her: like all American SF writers, she was a quasi-mythological being for me. Somehow, she was even more mythological than the other, male American SF writers: she was a woman who wrote and published and criticized science fiction!

You see, by that time, after intensive reading of all the science fiction I could find (and there was a lot of it in France, even then), I was beginning to feel uneasy again, caged again: all those male voices, all those male stories… More than uneasy: I was feeling betrayed. To me, science fiction was the literature which was not afraid to ask questions, all the questions in the world (and in other worlds!)—but as far as women were concerned, science fiction only seemed to have a lot of answers, the ones I had heard over and over again in my books—and in my life. It was like it was, like it had always been, like it would always be.


Except for women writers' stories, of course. I was beginning to understand what it was that I heard in Judy's stories, and in the stories of other women who were writing science fiction. Science fiction is about the Other, mostly-and there was no shortage of that in all those male stories, doubly so! And meeting with the Other is fine, but too much of it can be overwhelming, especially when you begin to feel that there are different sorts of Others, and that you are one of them! Judy's voice, and the other women's voices, were the voices of this other Other, the Other that looked like me—and I desperately needed to hear them.

Then I left France and Europe, to come to Canada-which my imagination, bred on Jack London and Fenimore Cooper, saw as the land of adventure, the land of opportunities. Somehow, indeed, a lot of things seemed possible here. When I heard that the fabled Judith Menil was living in Toronto (my God, she was real!), and since I was organizing an SF convention, I rashly invited her.

And she came.

And we met, face to face.

And that's it. Almost. I never dared say we were friends: we did not know each other personally that well. I knew her writing, she came to know some of mine. She chose one of my stories for the first Tesseracts anthology-thus opening the English SF world for me-and I was dumbfounded, kind of a Burning Bush experience... but apart from that, as I see it, not much. It was late in her life and in mine when we met in person, and we lived far apart, and I am not the roaming kind. Each time I would see an announcement of some activity taking place in Toronto, I would sigh nostalgically, thinking of the lucky people who got to be with her more often. We met mostly at SF conventions, not the ideal place to be with someone, really. We exchanged a few letters, a few phone calls. In the end, a bit of e-mail. She was busy, had more important things to do; I did not want to bother her. The usual crap. And now the usual useless regrets. Although I got to tell her twice, and very publicly, what she meant to me. And once again not long ago, very privately. And I can say it again, for that kind of legacy does not pass away.

That first time in Chicoutimi, in 1982, when I saw Judith, when I heard her beautiful, echoing voice, when I saw her smile, and dance, and opinionate all over the place, I knew I wanted to grow up to be like her. What Judy taught me, more than any other female SF writer I have met, and perhaps more than any woman I know, period, is that you can be the heroine of your own life. When I say heroine, especially in relation to Judith, I am not talking about some sweet pale blond helpless thing wringing her hands at the top of some tower. But I will not say female hero. Be a heroine. All you can be, yes, and in order to know what that is, always ask questions. Always be open, but never surrender. Never stop growing—in every direction, in as many different worlds as possible. And never stop giving, even, especially, if it is hell.

And this for you, Judy, for being that unwavering, demanding, generous beacon for my spirit and for my heart, as for so many others.

Élisabeth Vonarburg has written science fiction novels and short stories. From 1983 to 1985, she was the editor of Solaris, one of Quebec's major speculative fiction magazines. She lives in Chicoutimi.

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Reg Hartt

The Judy I knew was a woman who had her eye open every second for the opportunity many let pass. I did not know it when I first met her, but she had chosen a life style founded on poverty that was guaranteed to keep all of her senses operating at full gear.

Much as I might have scared the spit out of her, when she found out I had prints of great films like Fritz Lang's Metropolis, The Battleship Potemkin, and many more, she wanted me to screen the films in Rochdale.

Thus I grew to know her because I had value for her. Judy had the rare gift of not wasting her time on those who had no value for her.

Judy's friendship was a rare and valuable pearl.

I was passing her house one day. I was in a very confused state. I decided to stop in. "What is the matter with you?" she asked, adding, "You are usually pretty cheerful."

I told her I was in a very confused state of mind.

"There are times in our lives when we experience torrents of ideas," she told me. "It is important not to block them but to let them all pass through. Make notes of the ones you like," she added.

Judy had given me a great gift. With her words she had given me a handle on my "problem." She had shown me that what I saw as an obstacle was really an opportunity.

I looked for a way to return the gift she had given me.

One day, passing Beverly Street, I stopped in to find Judy confused, distressed and perplexed, a thing I had never imagined possible. "What is the matter?" I asked, dreading the answer.

"I have company coming up from the States for the weekend. I asked the people who live here with me to help me clean the house today. They all took off."

"Well, I have the afternoon at my disposal. What can I do to help?" I replied, relieved that the issue was such an easy one to correct. She asked me to clean the room I was in, and the kitchen.

Everything was easy until I got to the stove. It looked like it had not been touched since Eve decided to teach Adam a lesson. "Whoa.." I thought to myself. "Do you really want to tackle that?"

Well... I had told her I would clean the place.

Judy came downstairs. She inspected the room first. She looked everywhere. Then she went into the kitchen. When she was done there, she returned to the main room, sat down and began to cry. "What have I done wrong?" I asked.

"Wrong? Wrong? You have done nothing wrong. I got so tired of cleaning up that stove after the people I share this house with I decided to leave it alone until one of them finally got so fed up that they cleaned it. Then you walk in here off the street, you don't even live here, and you clean the place spotless."

I guess that was when we became friends.

Reg Hartt is a devotee of film and organizes showings of classic film and animation which are open to the public.

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Frederik Pohl

When World War II had finally run its course and I was back in New York as a civilian, I was hungry for the company of people who spoke my language-that is, people who knew what science fiction was all about.

There were plenty of them in the city at that time. Some were old friends who, like me, had just returned from wartime service; others were people I had never met. Theodore Sturgeon was there, already establishing his claim to being one of the finest science fiction writers ever to have lived. So was L. Jerome Stanton, John Campbell's assistant editor on science fiction's premier magazine, Astounding. So was Philip Klass (better known under his pen-name of William Tenn), and so was a dark, energetic young woman named Judith Merril.

We all got together occasionally at parties at one person's home or another-we were all very big on parties in those days. When the annual science-fiction world conventions resumed after being interrupted by the war, the first one was held on the East coast in Philadelphia, in 1947; we were all there and enjoyed it so much that we decided occasional parties weren't good enough. So a month later, Judy, Lester del Rey and I, with half a dozen other like-minded people, got together in my apartment on Grove Street in Greenwich village and created the Hydra Club.

The Hydra Club wasn't exactly a fan club. It wasn't a writers' circle, either, and at its meetings it hardly ever transacted any kind of business. In fact, it didn't exactly have meetings—just get-togethers, where up to fifty of us, joined by nothing more than our mutual interest in science fiction, but joined solidly all the same, spent a few hours enjoying each other's company.

The original nine grew quickly as we were joined by George 0. Smith, Fletcher and Inga Pratt, Horace Gold (just tooling up to start his magazine, Galaxy), Harry Harrison (drawing comics for a living and not yet prepared to launch his writing career) with his young wife, Evelyn, Fredric and Beth Brown, Arthur Clarke when he was in town, Thrilling Wonder's editor, Sam Merwin, Basil Davenport of the Book-of-the-Month Club-all these were regulars, along with a couple of dozen others. For a couple of years in the late 1940s, the Hydra Club defined the world Judy and I lived in.

Judy was in her twenties at the time. She wasn't pretty in any conventional sense—never had been, never would be—but she was a striking young woman with a gentle voice and an expressive face; my friend Jacques Lacroix, then director of Paris's leading portrait salon, Studio Harcourt, whispered to me on meeting her, "But she has the capacity for great beauty!" Both she and I had recently been divorced; and in the fall of 1948 we were married.

We lived at first in Judy's basement apartment on East 4th Street-half a dozen huge rooms, intended by the builders to be occupied by the building's superintendent; but the super's wife didn't like living underground, so they moved to an upper flat and rented the basement out cheaply enough for us to afford. It was a nearly totally Jewish neighbourhood-the finest kosher delicatessens and the leading Jewish theatres (where Judy's father had been a celebrity before his death) only a block or two away-and the largely orthodox inhabitants of our building severely disapproved of our annual Christmas tree. (But they had to tolerate us, because I was the only shabbas goy around to unlock their doors for them on the high holidays.)

Judy had published her first short story, "That Only a Mother," shortly before we were married. It was a remarkable piece; it caused a stir of excitement among the fans when it appeared in Astounding, and had made a different sort of stir when her agent, thinking it too good for the pulps, tried it on the big women's magazines (causing one editor to get on the phone to the agent and demand that he send someone over to pick it up at once, because it made her feel too creepy to keep it in the office).

For a time Judy worked as an editor for Ian Ballantine's brand-new paperback publishing company, Bantam Books. There she published her first anthology, Shot in the Dark. The contents were all science-fiction stories, but the book was given an ambiguous title and cover because Bantam's then editor-in-chief, Arnold Hano, thought there wasn't enough of a market for science fiction to justify publishing it as what it was. What he hoped was that the stratagem would lure a few mystery fans to buy the book. Working in the lively ferment of the new Bantam books was a good job, and Judy enjoyed it, but left after a year or so to concentrate on her writing.

One way and another, we had prospered enough to treat ourselves to the rental of a huge summer home in the hills overlooking the Ashokan Reservoir. There Judy began her most famous novel, Shadow on the Hearth, retreating to a rented motel room on weekends to work on it without distraction. It turned out to be a good book, well received and ultimately made into a TV movie. When my old collaborator Cyril Kornbluth came to visit us from his home in Chicago, the two of them began to work together. They produced two additional novels under the joint pen-name of Cyril Judd, Mars Child (in various editions also known as Outpost Mars and Sin in Space) and Gunner Cade.

It was a productive and rewarding time for both of us, but it came to an end. Shortly after our daughter, Ann, was born we faced up to the fact that we had some fundamental differences on life style, which we saw no way to resolve. We separated reasonably amicably, but that didn't last, either. When we came to getting an actual divorce the process became a bitter one because we could not agree on the custody of Annie. For a couple of years we talked to each other only through lawyers, and then for another few years as little as possible.

Fortunately, that situation didn't last, either. Time-and distance-blurred the angers that had divided us and gave us a chance to remember the things we had treasured in each other. For a time we saw each other rarely while Judy was roaming the world, living in England for a time, then in Japan, but by the time she had returned to make her home in Canada we had become good friends again. And remained so, for more than a quarter of a century, until Judy's death.

The last time I saw Judy was a few months before that. The two of us had retreated to the porch of Ann's home in Toronto so that we could indulge our unwelcome habit of smoking cigarettes without bringing down on us the wrath of our nonsmoking family. We talked, among other things, about dying; I had just had a fairly close call of my own and Judy was well aware that her body was rapidly wearing out.

It was not a morbid conversation. Judy had accomplished most of the things she had wanted to do in her life, and when she spoke of the likeliness of its approaching end she was good-humored and sensible about it… just as I remember her throughout her life.

Frederik Pohl, well-known author and editor, was married to Judith Merril from 1949 to 1952.

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Michael Skeet

Greatness in a writer is measured by more than just sales figures, or even by critical approval. That obvious point was never more vividly illustrated than in the case of Judith Merril. Judy's greatness is best measured by the influence she has on every community into which she placed herself.

Speaking specifically of the science fiction community, Judy influenced an incredible number of writers, most of whom never met her, and many of whom might never even have heard of her. Whether they are aware of her or not, though, every writer who has ever been involved in a peer-run workshop owes a debt to Judy. It was she who popularized this form of workshop, starting in Milford, Pennsylvania in the 1950s and continuing through the rest of her life.

I'm a member of one of those workshops. Back in 1986-87 when Judy was the writer-in-residence at the library that now bears her name, she came into contact with many aspiring writers. In September of 1987, she invited those she considered the most promising to meet with her. On Tuesday, September 8, 1987, ten of us joined Judy in a small office above a travel agency at the comer of Spadina and College in downtown Toronto.

What happened at that meeting was entirely typical of Judy. She explained in exhaustive detail how the Milford-style workshop functioned. She told us that the room in which we were meeting had been borrowed for that evening only, and it was up to us to find a regular site. She informed us that the type of workshop we were about to set up worked effectively only if all members were treated with equal respect-and equal firmness. "No leaders," she told us. Then she said that this was the last time we'd see her at a workshop meeting, and left us. We were, she said, on our own.

That was typical of Judy: establish a situation, galvanize people to action, then step back. Some have suggested that this attitude demonstrates that Judy was easily bored, or that people didn't live up to her expectations. I don't agree. (I know for a fact that, while Judy seldom talked to us directly about the workshop in the decade after its founding, she was interested in our progress. And I know that she was pleased [and maybe even a bit astonished] at the way the Canadian SF community grew during that decade.)

I'm convinced that Judy stepped back from every workshop she created because she wanted the writers she inspired to grow to be as incredibly self-sufficient as she was. (I derive no small amusement from the fact that Judy grew up believing in a collectivist ideology while being without a doubt the most aggressively individual person I've ever met.)

And while I can't say whether or not we lived up to her expectations, I do know that we fascinated her, in a weird way. Judy was always astonished that workshops like ours worked: brutal honesty is the only way to be, she always said; and to her (as she told me more than once), "You Canadians are too fucking polite."

Michael Skeet is the author of numerous short science fiction stories, and, together with Lorna Toolis, co-edited Tesseracts 4.

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Barry Wellman

from the Memorial Service, September 20, 1997, Performing Arts Lodge, Toronto

Judy and I first met soon after she came up here. I went on a pilgrimage to the Spaced Out Library's early home on Palmerston Avenue to meet the woman who had dominated my boyhood reading. We clicked immediately as fellow pushy Bronxites trying to cope with a town where people say "Sorry" when you push them. Indeed, our common ancestral homeland forms the organizing framework for my thoughts now.

The Judy I knew was a member of one of Canada's most useful and least recognized minorities: New York Canadians. Although Judy had definitively left New York behind when she came up-she hated to go back-she had also brought New York with her. What are the ethnic characteristics of Judy, the New York Canadian?

Because Judy was a Utopian idealist, she was-like most New Yorkers-demanding in the best sense. A realistic Utopian, she dealt with the world as it is and demanded that it become as it should be. She was a demander of perfection both as an editor red-penning manuscripts and as a force for righteous behaviour in everyday private and public life. She fearlessly pointed out the moral and practical difficulties of insisting that writers only give "voice" to people of their own kind. "Who will speak for the aliens?"

Judy was a truth teller. New Yorkers always believe that knowledge and truth will make you free and be good for you. Judy told the truth in her daily life, as an editor and as a force for righteous civic life. Although some genteel folks thought this made her a pain in the ass, her goal was to prod folks to live more righteous lives.

Judy cared about nearly everything, just as New Yorkers have always been active supporters of causes. A decade ago, she put on her witch's outfit, travelled to Ottawa and put the hex on Parliament for supporting the destabilizing American nuclear cruise missile initiative. But she didn't only focus on the big stuff; she also worked to help individuals, such as getting deserving folks into the Performing Arts Lodge and making PAL work.

Judy worked hard at life. Like more extroverted New Yorkers, she talked to strangers-a custom that strikes Torontonians with horror-and she went everywhere she could. She was quick with a quip and a comeback, and she never let inhibitions get in the way of action. Even when Judy had to use an electric scooter, she got the hotrod model: "Six klicks an hour," she told me.

Judy worked hard at her craft. She spent hours commenting on my stuff and giving free workshops on how to edit. She was constantly revising her memoirs. I worked a bit with her on this, although it was certainly much easier to be edited by Judy than to edit her. Judy liked to say about herself (attributing the insight to an ex-husband): "I'm a bitch when I don't work, and a bitch when I do work, but at least there's some excuse when I write." But she wasn't a bitch; she just cared intensely-about everything.

Judy was a democrat and a snob, like most New Yorkers. She didn't respect status, but she did respect hard work, style and integrity. She talked to everybody, be they Ali in his College St. Shwarama shop or Pierre Berton at the Writers' Union. Once, when she was Writer-in-Residence for a year at the University of Toronto, she told me about all the incompetent writers who came to her for help. "Why do you deal with them?" I innocently asked. "I'd rather work for the people than the princes," she replied. "Serious writers usually have to get money from the public purse somehow, and I would rather do it working with ordinary people than, as in the Middle Ages, for some nobleman's ass."

Judy was lusty, a most unToronto trait. She'd solved the mind-body problem. The last thing she said to me-when I went to get her advice about my sociological study of a Wired Suburb-was, "Go develop cybersex! Maybe that will solve the problem that 70-year-old women have. We want lovers, but do they want us?" Judy danced all day at Caribana; she loved going to Jamaica where folks accepted their bodies rather than repressing them. She was a lover of jazz and jazz musicians-years later they would give us the best seats in the house for their gigs.

Judy was fussy, because like all New Yorkers she would not settle for second best. She didn't believe in Free Love: she was quite picky. And she took responsibility for her love: writing her memoirs was delayed by her insistence on getting clearances from her lovers before writing about them. She loved to dress for effect-we spent many hours choosing her costume for her Harbourfront gala. But it wasn't all showmanship; she was an informed, warily respectful consumer of medical care and a fierce opponent of the medical system, who won all the rounds except for the last one. And even then, she battled to a near-draw, going out on her own terms.

Some thought Judy rude, but they confuse the pseudo-form of surface politeness with its deep substance. The Judy I knew had New York substance and not Toronto surface. She was extraordinarily polite in the true sense of the term. She cared about you as a person, went to the core of problems, and tried to solve them effectively.

Being a demanding, truth-telling, lusty idealist made Judy Merril seem aggressive to some. But this is a New York praise word-not that wimpy Toronto word, "assertive." If you want to make a better world, then you speak truth and you take action until you get it. You give a damn about the society you live in, and about the individuals you encounter in your daily life. Anything else would be an insult to humanity.

I've always puffed with pride when I've told people, "Judy Merril is my friend." Her memorial stone should simply say, "Judy Merril gave a shit!"-about competency, individuals, and the worlds she lived in and looked forward to.

Barry Wellman teaches sociology at the University of Toronto.

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Jon Lomberg

originally published in Aloud, for the Tribute to Judith Merril held at Harbourfront, October, 1992

Judy Merril was almost the first person I met in Toronto when I first visited the city in 1971. 1 had come here to see a friend from University who was in graduate school at the University of Toronto. He lived on Markham Street, and the first place he wanted to show me, after Honest Ed's, was The Spaced Out Library, which at that time was located in an old house on Palmerston Ave. My friend asked if I had ever heard of Judith Merril, the woman whose donation of books to the city had founded the library. Judy's name is, of course, one of the great names of science fiction. I had read her stories and the many anthologies she has edited during the dreamy, humid Philadelphia summers of my adolescence. I was eager to meet her.

Judy was tolerant of a walk-in fan and quickly demoted herself from any pedestal on which I wanted to place her. We discussed SF and SF artists, and she invited me to return to Toronto later that year to display my artwork at the Secondary Universe conference she was helping to organize at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. I did attend that conference and met the sparkling collection of writers, thinkers and artists that Judy had assembled, many of whom were Toronto residents. I was also moved by her persuasive description of Toronto as the city where the future was already happening. This visit had a lot to do with my own decision to move there later that year.

Toronto was, in the early 1970s, in its full cultural flowering as "the only livable city in North America," as Jane Jacobs had put it. Judy was perhaps not as well known as Jane, but I believe her influence was equally important in creating the city's ambiance of avant-garde cosmopolitan excitement. She seemed to move easily among the worlds of Toronto: from Rochdale College to the Japanese community to the halls of the CBC to Tiger's Cafe in Kensington Market.

Her interests and appetites for new ideas knew no bounds. In 1974 she enlisted me to assist her in a radio documentary she was making for the CBC program "Ideas." The series was called "The Limits of Knowledge." She had proposed a program called, characteristically, "What Limits?" Judy has little patience with limits of any kind, and her influence on a young artist was to show that limits are, finally, only self-imposed. I am a painter, but she persuaded me that I could also make radio shows and I spent part of the next 15 years doing that. I credit her with planting the seed.

I often had reason to go to the Spaced Out Library and would look forward to sitting in Judy's office talking about politics, space and the future. The Library was not only a good place to hang out, it was also a great resource for someone like me, working on projects where science fiction imagery could be used in books and television.

Judy is still on my short list of Toronto's most interesting people. She has the rare gift of never being boring. She's a great friend provided you have a medium-to-high tolerance for surprises. Once she wanted to throw, on very short notice, a birthday party for her friend Stafford Beer, a cyberneticist/philosopher/guru who she had been instrumental in bringing to Toronto on various occasions. Her flat, however, was too small for a party. Her solution was to call me up and ask me if she could hold a party at my house. About one hour later Judy, Stafford and a throng of people arrived. Except for Judy, I didn't know anybody. Some people would feel slightly inhibited about doing this but not Judy, for whom being unconventional is almost an act of faith.

What impresses me most about her is how she has resisted all attempts to be seen as an eminence of authority. Judy doesn't like authority. She has always held strong beliefs about social issues. Her keen-eyed radicalism suffers no fools or sell-outs. She lives the kind of life that young artists dream about romantically but that few have the ability to really endure.

Toronto has changed a lot since I first met Judy on Palmerston Ave. Toronto seemed then a "city of the future." Now it is, in her own phrase, a city where "the future is on hold." One symbol of this is the name of the science fiction library that she gave to the city. She called it "The Spaced Out Library," a brash name that challenged pretension and unashamedly appropriated a term from the 1960s to convey a melding of inner and outer space. Recently, the library staff successfully lobbied for a name change, feeling that the new Toronto for the '90s, more staid and prosaic to match the decade, couldn't quite accept a name that so affronted Canadian sensibilities. It is appropriate, but somehow ironic, that the new name is the Merril Collection.

Judy has left her mark on the city in many ways and founding one of the world's best libraries of SF is one. But for a woman who always preferred defying authority, it must not be easy to become one. She has her office in the Merril Collection, and I am sure she would understand Northrop Frye's remark that when he sat in his office in Northrop Frye Hall he felt something like "a chicken omelette." But becoming a "Respected Elder," with the authority due the rank and office, may be something she just has to suffer. But if part of her sits regally in the Merril Collection, some other part of her will be in the cafés or on the street ready to throw, if not a rock, at least a barbed comment sharpened to puncture whatever pomposity she sees inflating within.

Jon Lomberg is an artist best known for his work portraying astronomical subjects. He was the Chief Artist for Carl Sagan's Cosmos series, and the Designer of NASA's Voyager Interstellar Record. He has also made many radio programs for the CBC series "Ideas."

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John Clute

Originally published in Ansible 123, October 1997

Fom the moment she arrived in Canada in 1969, until she died in September, Judith Merril lived in the heart of Toronto. This was something of a miracle, as the heart of Toronto-though intensely urban and much loved by those who lived inside its invisible walls-is not very large.

It had taken Judith Clute and myself years to find it. The apartment block we eventually moved into, 160 Huron Street, was dark, dismal, festooned with balconies like a New Orleans slum, as stinky as New York in August. I doubt there was another place like it in the city. We loved it, and mourned departing it when we left the country in 1968. Neither of us knew Judith Merril at all, or spoke or wrote to her about where to live in Toronto when she came; but in 1970, like a mongoose scooting into its lair, Judith Merril found 160 Huron, and went inside. And stayed a long while.

Here she was close to the University of Toronto, and to the public library where, very soon, she deposited her SF collection which formed the core of the archive known first as the Spaced Out Library, eventually as the Merril Collection. By 1977, when Judith Clute and I returned to Toronto for a while, she had become the central voice of SF for the metropolis, a function she only slowly relinquished as her body began to fail her, and as the Canadian SF community began to exfoliate a jangle or three of new voices.

In 1977 she was domineering, raunchy, funny, bad-tempered; and bore a scolding gravitas; and was locked into the very famous writer's block that lasted the rest of her life, with remissions. She had a mongoose eye, and a grin. She certainly frightened me quite a bit, though I loved being around her.

As the years passed, and she resolutely failed to live wisely, she became solider and wider, pressing heavily on the ground (or later into the motorized wheelchair she used with an ill grace when her heart was paining her). She gossiped, with an exhilarating viciousness, about the past; she longed for new stuff.

In June this year, she came to Ad Astra, a convention held at Toronto Airport. Physically she had continued to melt into the humiliating soft girdle of age. She hated it volubly; she hated dying. There, and in her new apartment a mile or so from Huron Street, we talked a bit, gossip mainly; though she had a sharp longing to hear about anything new: new books, new careers.

It was not an old person's apartment-it was full of new books, and gadgets, and it smelled good. The gossip also smelled like good clean dirt.

I loved her. I can hear her voice now, inside the head, shaping the pasts of so many personages of SF into tales more human than perhaps they dream for themselves.

John Clute co-edited The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) and The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1977). His essays and reviews have been collected in Strokes (1988) and Look at the Evidence (1996).

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Phyllis Gotlieb

Originally published in Locus 442, November 1997

The life's work of Judith Merril first caught my eye in the early fifties with her story "That Only a Mother." I remember the horrid chill it gave me, and reading it over just this moment, I still feel an extra flick of anguish at recalling life as a young mother in those boring old Leave-It-To-Beaver fifties that I spent terrified of atomic war. The story is still for me an emblem of those times. Later on I learned to respect Judy as not only an innovative writer but also a first-rate editor and anthologist and a champion of exciting experiments in science fiction. The several series of anthologies that she edited in the fifties and sixties are still models of the range and variety that science fiction ought to encompass. In those times Judy lived the history of science fiction and was one of its invaluable record-keepers.

But it was not until 1968 when she moved to Toronto that I realized the real scope of her talents and the selflessness of her generosity to the causes of science fiction.

The Canada of 1967 did not have many SF pioneers. When Science Fiction Writers of America was founded in 1965 by Damon Knight, there were two Canadian members: William Bankier of Montreal, and I. Bankier left soon after to write detective stories and I was the only native-born Canadian I knew of living and writing science fiction in Canada, a community of one. Judith Merril changed that.

She brought to Canada not only her personal collection of five thousand SF books but the energy and organizational ability that have given us the makings of a Canadian science fiction establishment. Her books have become the basis of the Merril Collection, a steadily growing library of science fiction and the critical studies that have clustered around it, and any number of writers' societies, as well as a new interest in writing and publishing science fiction in Canada.

Personally, I admired Judy not only for all of the above, but even more for the courage she showed in making a choice that others might tremble at, to live as an individualist in complete independence, earning her living in the profession of her choice-a profession still and probably always precarious-and owing nothing to anyone, least of all her freedom. I admit it's the kind of choice I respect rather than envy. What I did envy was the energy she brought to everything she did. Life was not easy for Judy, particularly in delivering hard blows in the form of dangerous illnesses that would knock an ordinary mortal down for good.

But Judy was not an ordinary mortal: she was an extraordinarily tough scrapper who knew how to pick herself up and get on wit it. That's why I believed she'd go on forever. She was the only SF writer of my generation here in Canada, and I miss her already.

Phyllis Gotlieb writes science fiction and poetry. Her latest novel, Flesh and Gold, will be released in February 1998.

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