In 9th grade I found myself cut off from everyone and everything I relied upon. The reasons were complex, both internal teenage angst coupled with other external reasons. That’s when I got my first book from a science fiction book club. It was The Heroes. It is a collection of the works of Joel Rosenberg. Inside, I found stories that touched me to my core. Only after finishing it twice did I take a break, and that was to find the rest of the series. I don’t remember what else I got from that club. All I can remember is Joel Rosenberg.
As I grew older and began to be published myself, I never forgot what I was taught by those stories. In fact I think the most powerful lessons were those I never remembered, and never realized. I’m really not the fanboy-gushy-send-you-10-emails-a-day type. Maybe that’s why it took me so long to do a google search for Joel Rosenberg. I found Ellegon.com, and read what would become known as a ‘blog’ in a few years. I bought each of the guardian of the flame novels, then D’Shai. Then, something changed. He stopped updating his site. I was heartbroken, and figured I would never play with the friends I had made in his fantasy world.
Many years later, on a lark, I checked out his site again, and instead of the Guardians of the Flame, I found a website devoted to freedom, the second amendment, and concealed weapon training. I’d like to think I landed in a similar job because of the influence of one, upright man. His words had spun out across the miles and years to implant the seeds around which my love of liberty would grow. But it went even further: Joel was involved in pushing legislation, firearms instruction, and even civil disobedience. He was never one to shy away from a fight, and I have to respect that.
I had contact with him on several occasions, one of which was quite unexpected. I was giving an interview to a website after Key to Damocles came out, and I was asked which giant in the writing industry I would like to have lunch with. I chose Joel Rosenberg. He found it on the internet and instead of ignoring me, or spiting an obvious fanboy, he extended an open invitation to lunch. It was the single kindest thing one of my heroes has ever done for me.
I hope I was able to pay him back in some, small part. A few months ago, he ran afoul of a law and a lawman in a situation that cries out for a response of powdered wigs and tricorner hats. I made a plea on his behalf for funds for his defense. I sent some myself. His response indicated he was moved.
I wanted to send him some of my books, but authors generally hate receiving written works, for fear of being branded plagiarists years down the road. As badly as I wanted to share my work with him, get his approval – which I have always craved – but I respected his privacy, his time, and did not wish to impress upon him because of my own needs. Maybe I should have. He would have been brave enough to do it, I am sure. Now, it is too late.
On Wednesday afternoon, June 1, 2011, Joel had a respiratory depression that caused a heart attack, anoxic brain damage and major organ failure. Despite the very best efforts of the paramedics and the team at Hennepin County Medical Center, Joel was pronounced brain dead at around 5:37pm Thursday June 2nd, In accordance with his wishes, he shared the gift of life through organ and tissue donation.
He is survived by his daughters, Judith Eleanor and Rachel Hannah, and his wife, Felicia Herman. Today, June 3rd would have been his 32nd wedding anniversary.
I want to say that I am devastated, but I think that would only indicate that I have no concept of the loss felt by his wife and family. I feel silly for saying I miss him. Honestly, though, it’s true. I have to admit the world is a little darker knowing it no longer contains him.
As Mr. Rosenberg himself once said: ‘In Memoriam, dammit.’
And there, I have to stop. I have to comfort myself with the idea that I was changed in my youth by words that were already years old when they were published, and are older still now. Yet, as I trace back across his career in words, I can still feel their power. They have outlived him, and will live on forever. They will continue to change minds and influence the youth. Though his light may have gone out, he has started a sea of candles that we can hope will one day become a bonfire, an eternal beacon for liberty.
We all… I certainly, owe a debt to this man that I cannot ever repay. Except, maybe, by carrying on. By being careful what spells my pen casts on paper. By never settling in my quest to put my own taper to minds down through the age.
Soon I’m going to get my chance.
I will be speaking at the Main Library in La Grange on Wednesday June 8 at 6:30 p.m. I adore La Grange, a charming town in possession of one of the nicest libraries I have ever seen. I am astounded that The Friends of the Oldham County Public Libraries have sponsored this event, and thought I am worthy of the attention. I will do my best, and have already received emails from hopefuls who want to talk about being published, writing technicalities, and so on. If you are in the area, I would love to see you.
For more information on these events, call Discover Downtown LaGrange at 502-269-0126.
A quick update: a free sample of I Know Not is now available.