RIP Ann Crispin

I won't pretend we were close friends. I may have been on a panel with her once, but I unfortunately don't have the honor of having been close to her.

But I'd be lying if I said her passing left me untouched. Ann C. Crispin didn't have the fame of other popular science fiction authors, or presumably the vast riches poured onto the mega-bestsellers. What she had was the respect of nearly everyone in speculative fiction, not only for her own work, but her tireless efforts to improve the genre and the publishing business.

I encountered Crispin's work as a young girl, a freshly-minted Trekkie eagerly seeking books about this vast new world that had fascinated me. Her Star Trek tie-in novels were excellent, entry drugs into other science fiction. She wrote the Han Solo trilogy for Star Wars, novelizations for movies like V, Alien Resurrection and the backstory for Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as her original Starbridge series.

But she also founded "Writer Beware," an immensely valuable service providing free advice and warnings about scams and charlatans preying on beginning writers. I've always thought that people trying to scam writers are one of the lowest forms of scum; if you're going to scam someone, scam someone who actually has money. It became the go-to spot for writers to check the bona fides of their potential publisher or agent, and has saved countless writers from devastating and costly mistakes.

When I was in Atlanta last week, I carried with me a copy of Crispin's novel Sarek. Jimmy had received it as a gift and was greatly enjoying it. He also knew of Crispin from her presence on Absolute Write, the writers' online hangout where he used to practice his craft before he wrote his first novel. It says something about her, I think, that she was willing to offer her advice and free time to anonymous beginners, a generosity not often seen in or out of the genre.

Unfortunately, Crispin was not at Dragon Con. It startled me, because as long as I can remember, she coordinated the two-day intensive writing workshop. I've had several friends go through the workshop, which they described as intense, life-changing and immensely valuable. I always wanted to do it myself, if I could get free of panels, but never managed.

But it turns out Crispin wasn't just taking a year off. She said her goodbyes to her fans a few days later, having struggled for years with cancer. And this morning she left us, hopefully surrounded by her family and friends, as well as her husband, Michael Capobianco. Cancer takes the best of us, dammit, and my anger toward this disease grows every time this happens.

I wish I could think of the endless hours she put in at SFWA, or the writing workshops, or the immense impact of Writer Beware, or even of Mr. Capobianco and his crushing loss. But I keep thinking of a twelve-year-old girl sitting up late in her twin bed next to her handmade model of the starship Enterprise, reading the adventures of Kirk and Spock. Ann Crispin was part of my entry drug into science fiction, which led to most of my career. That's a debt I can't repay, not to her or any of the others that led me into this shiny new world.

We are all a little poorer today for the loss of Ms. Crispin. Rest in peace among the stars, dear lady.