A friend of mine went on line on Tuesday to let people know that she has been ill and that she is probably close to the end. I knew she was sick, since she called to tell me what she had been going through about 18 months ago. I was not totally unprepared for the news, but it is still hard to accept. Let me tell you about her now.
My friend is the writer A.C. Crispin, one of many authors whose work I knew before they themselves became a part of my life. I met Ann when Barbara Hambly (another writer and subsequently good friend) was a guest at her home in Maryland just prior to the 1988 local science fiction convention for the D.C. area. I had begun the photographic project which has been displayed in more world cities than I've been to, and I wanted to photograph Barbara for the exhibit. (At the time, I thought it would be a one-time thing in Boston in 1989. I was wrong.) In the two birds with one stone thing, I figured I would photograph Ann as well.
It turned out that Ann and I had some things in common besides living in the greater D.C. area. First off, we both used our initials for our professional work, and we were probably both influenced by D.C. Fontana to do it. Her son was a year or so older than mine, with some similar issues. She was toward the end of a bad marriage and I had been divorced for a few years. She like to cook and she liked good food. She owned horses. I loved horses. She had a hearty laugh. Everyone knew Ann because she was already deeply involved in work for the Science Fiction Writers of America. This would have a significant effect on my life. Ann and I quickly became good friends.
She even tried to teach me to ride a horse.
Ann owned two horses then, a mare named Buttons and her son Scooter. Ann had another writer friend named Paula, who lived not far from me but did not own a car. So, on a regular basis, I would pick up Paula and drive out to the country to have dinner with Ann. One day she got both of us up on the horses for a little work. I had ridden the very reliable Buttons in the past, but that day I got Scooter. It started out alright, although I know now I had no real control over the poor boy. We were moving along at a slow trot, I think, when a horse fly the size of a raven came down and bit Scooter on the croup. Canter depart. He took off for Virginia. I stayed on. Ann stopped him. At least, that's what I remember from the adrenaline rush when my heart finally went back into my chest.
Ann said he took three strides.
It was 10 years before I decided to give riding another try.
Ann had worked for the Census Bureau before becoming a best-selling novelist, and one of my favorite stories she told was of knocking on doors to collect information. In an exchange that belongs in a Chris Rock routine, she would relate the tale of the woman who named her daughter "Placenta" because when she was coming out of the twilight sleep of anesthesia, it was the most beautiful word the woman had ever heard.
When Ann and her then husband were thinking about taking a vacation to a dude ranch, I pointed her in the direction of one that was run by my mother's good friend in the Catskills. The trip was a huge success, with Ann schooling some of the string horses over the course of the week. That's Ann, always pitching in to help.
When Ann lent me a copy of Yesterday's Son, her very successful Star Trek tie-in, in audio form, I think it was the first time my son Michael realized that real people wrote books (he was six at the time.) The narrator read "written by A.C. Crispin" and Michael nearly jumped out of his seat belt. "A.C. Crispin! That's Jason's mom!" He was very impressed. At that point, Ann told me, Jason was in the "why can't you be a secretary like a normal mom" stage.
Ann and I wound up hanging out at several conventions over the first year I knew her, in addition to the time we spent at each others' houses. We had a particularly good girls' weekend away at the World Science Fiction Convention in New Orleans, and she was my ticket to things like publishers' parties. More importantly, she introduced me to many of the authors I wanted to meet to photograph for the exhibit. She introduced me to George R.R. Martin, long before he was GEORGE R.R. MARTIN. She introduced me to Robert Silverberg, who declined to be photographed (but who was much subdued a year later when he saw the work and his photograph was not included; he did get added.) At every party, she made introductions and talked up the project. In many ways, Ann really built the momentum on the Portrait Project until it became something people felt needed to include them.
When I left D.C. to go to law school in Cleveland, Ann bought my freezer. She would occasionally send updates on the thing until it finally died. I think she got far more use out of it than I did. It certainly seemed to give her a lot of pleasure.
I had only been out of law school for a few years when Ann and the Science Fiction Writers of America came to ask me if I would consider taking over as general counsel. I had been a creative rights activist for a number of years, which was what prompted my decision to go to law school, and my interest was in practicing law to protect creators.
Turned out, it was actually more like herding cats. No one comes away unscathed.
Nevertheless, Ann was on the board of directors of SFWA and she was already involved with the then President of SFWA, Michael Capobianco, who has been her husband for more than a dozen years. They, along with GRRM, convinced the rest of the board I was a great choice to replace their previous general counsel. It was a great fit while Michael was president and I think we did a lot of good work together.
Ann's big cause for more than the past twenty years has been Writer Beware, a way to warn new or want-to-be writers about the dangers of scams and scammers. Ann really put herself on the line, and was threatened often and sued on more than one occasion for naming names. I don't think she ever had a judgment against her, showing that the truth can be a perfect defense. Publishing scams became huge because of the Internet and Ann was there fighting back every day, trying to save people from broken dreams, broken hearts, and broken bank accounts.
I haven't seen Ann in several years, since we don't go to as many conventions as we once did. I saw her in San Francisco in 2009, when Michael Capobianco and I were part of a committee trying to rewrite the SFWA bylaws and plan a reincorporation of the organization. Ann spent part of the days with my husband and the wives of some of the other committee members, enjoying the sights of San Francisco. She did not make it to L.A. for the Nebula Awards I chaired that spring, but we did stay in touch by phone and e-mail.
I had hoped to see her this summer at Comic-con, when she was named a Grandmaster of writing tie-in fiction, but the state of her health did not permit her to attend the ceremony. I am sorry I am not likely to see her again.
I am convinced that Ann is leaving the world a better place than it would have been without her. What better can anyone do with a life? She has improved the lives of the people who knew her and countless others who never had the good fortune to make her acquaintance.
Vale, Ann, ad astra. I have been and always shall be your friend.
September 6, 2013. Ann passed away this morning. Our thoughts go out to Michael Capobianco and her son Jason.
Lunch with the Barefoot Contessa
6 months ago