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Sunday, November 20, 2022

Greg Bear, RIP: Three Ways In Which He Bettered My Life

                          Greg Bear -- File 770

Greg Bear, author of more than 50 science fiction books, left us yesterday at the too-young age of 71.  I'll leave it to others to detail the superb, riveting stories he told us in those books, and tell you instead about three significant ways he had a personal impact on my life.  I was always happy to run into him at a science fiction convention, but these three encounters were more than that.

1.  I wrote a review somewhere of the Foundation prequel trilogy Gregory Benford (Foundation's Fear), Greg Bear (Foundation and Chaos), and David Brin (Foundation's Triumph) -- or maybe it was just a comment on some board -- at the end of the 1990s, a few years after Isaac Asimov's death.   I said that I enjoyed all three novels, but, surprisingly, Greg Bear's was the best.  (I guess I was surprised because I expected that all three would be so good it wouldn't be so easy to rank them.) Greg and I had already been in occasional touch -- he had been President of the Science Fiction Writers of America from 1988-1990, and I was President of SFWA from 1998-2001 -- and I got a genial email response from Greg almost immediately after my review/comment was published.  "Why are you surprised?"

There was something refreshing and reassuring about those four words that immediately struck me.  I was already egotistical -- most writers are -- but Greg's response, in addition to making me laugh, showed me how right and important it was to stand up for yourself when circumstances called for that.  Modesty isn't all it's cracked up to be.

2. In February 2002, I received a package in the mail.  It contained a videotape made by Jay Kensinger, of a short movie he had made of my 1995 novelette, "The Chronology Protection Case," first published in Analog Magazine, already reprinted then in several places, and a finalist for the Nebula and Sturgeon Awards.  Jay apologized in the letter for not letting me know he was making this movie, not seeing if he needed some contract with me, etc.  He included his phone number, and when I called him, eager to talk to this guy who had made a movie from my story, he again profusely apologized and told me he had walked up to Greg Bear at a book signing, said how worried he was that I was going to be upset that he had made the movie without my permission, but he wanted to contact me and what did Greg think he should do?  He told me Greg gave him a big smiled and assured him, "I know Paul Levinson and he'll be nothing but thrilled."  Greg knew me well.  (And he knew himself  -- he had the heart and soul of a writer.)   You can watch the movie here, on Amazon Prime Video.

3. As I mentioned, Greg and I first got to know each other when I was President of SFWA, 1998-2001, and I sought his advice on a variety of issues, as a former President.  Greg and I agreed on just about everything, including that it was no fun at all being president of a writer's organization -- certainly a small fraction of the fun of being a writer.  I learned then a lesson that I learned once again when I was Chair of my Department of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University shortly after, from 2002-2008.   Don't do it.  Administration doesn't combine well with the creative process.

There are few people in my life from whom I learned so much, and was so fortunate to have known, than Greg Bear.  Rest in peace, my friend.

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