Garth Mindfeather Hill
You are dead.
I, on the unfortunate 'other extreme,' am in pain and so, to my own feeble way of thinking, remain alive. This despite my best efforts. Largely I'm afraid that, in the vernacular of my geographical region, I am basically 'chickenshit.' In other words, largely, I am afraid. Period. Afraid of stepping out across the limb to Limbo and communicating with you directly, though, as you must know, I am aware of the various rites I might perform to accomplish such an act. The knife in the gut; the poison. Despite the laws here, I own no handguns.
And so this letter.
I can no longer clearly remember when I first discovered you, though it must have been in the last three years or so.
Listen to me! 'Discovered YOU!' Of course I 'discovered you' in much the same way as Columbus 'discovered' America. That is, many others had done the same before me. Natives, who knew you personally in a way I remain unable to fathom.
But, again like old Christopher, I am somehow able to delude myself, despite the logical evidence, into believing that I do know you.
Dark Gods curse my timing; by the time I had discovered you, you were already long dead. And so, your famous generosity aside, I never even received so much as a postcard from you.
There is an agony there.
Did you know I collect postcards? Yours would have been the crown of my empire. They plaster my apartment walls from floor to ceiling, and, in places, snake out here and there across the ceiling, too. Cards of miniaturized paintings by Salvador Dali, Magritte, Giger. Publicity shots of actresses, musicians, poets. Advertisements for movies, Hindu gods and goddesses, devils, tribesmen of the African continent, photographs of bat swarms by sunset. Representations in black and white of tattoos, masks, and architecture. Ancient ruins on the Yucatan peninsula and modern ruins of shrines in Tibet. Clockwork machinery. Graveyards.
Your postcard, had I received it, would have been worthy of a frame, I'm sure, with its signature red ink, it's postal stamp of Lon Chaney, it's image (but what image?), and your signature.
Your signature. Though I am now roughly of the age your mentor was when he began referring to himself as "Grandpa," I wonder what it must have been like for you, a young teenager, when you first saw his scrawled finale upon a letter addressed to you.
I bet you wet your pants.
Like you had done years before -- the night you saw a forty-foot tall Chaney unmask himself to delirious organ piping. An homage, as you've said.
It's alright. I'm not poking fun. If I'd received that postcard from you, I'd have paid tribute as well.
No, I don't know you, Dark Gods curse it, though I've read your words many times, in many places. You're an old friend to me now. It's a heresy to some, I'm sure, but it's not your fiction I treasure most -- though here and there you've, I admit it, thrilled me. Among the dozens, some stars include: "The Learning Maze," "The Creative Urge," "The Closer of the Way." That last is still my absolute favorite, and reveals clearly my bias toward your writing. It's your tongue-in-cheek autobiographical work that I love best. Your punningly titled autobiography, the addendum to it that has been compiled in the Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series Vol. 28, the introductions to books (yours and others), the memoirs to fallen friends -- these writings show off most brilliantly your real genius for our shared language.
There's a fantastic wealth of such personal musings from you, and scores of memoirs friends of yours wrote when you fell.
I guess that's why I feel like I know you, though you were long gone by the time I'd even discovered your name.
You're making a comeback, did you know? A devoted fan has recently erected a website in your honor. Not merely a fannish site, a scholarly one. You'd be proud, I'm sure. And more and more readers are discovering for the first time your tribute to your own mentor -- for in the year 2000 the mythos is booming. Though no one called it 'the mythos' back then when you wrote "The Shambler From the Stars."
There is an agony there, too.
How I ache for the missed opportunity of you writing a sequel to this, even if 'only a postcard!'
But I had to let you know. The debt I owe you has been weighing on my mind for some time now. Every time I read a story or piece of yours for the first time, second time, or fifth time -- I'm so often left gasping. Sometimes it's laughter, other times terror, but most of all it's sheer amazement at your tightrope dance of words while you juggle the fire of ideas above my head.
And the dark ritual I might have used to find another way to tell you these things -- well . . . 'chickenshit,' as I told you. Besides, without going too deeply into physics or metaphysics, all things being basically energy, as they say, I thought the best way to reach you would be to post this letter on the Internet. I know you didn't like to use computers, but there's a lot of energy out here. So maybe this'll get to you faster than if I put a "Year 2000 Chinese Dragon" stamp on it and snail-mailed it to the Dead Letter Office, U.S.A. Plus, I've unfinished business.
What unfinished business? Well, for eight months now I've been working on a real tribute to you, a short story. Your preferred art. Mine's called "Codex." Started writing it a few days before Halloween, last year. I guess its two-thirds finished. The length of it has gotten out of hand. It's kind of what Jorge Luis Borges might have done if he had written a story about Ludvig Prinn. If I could write even a twentieth as well as Borges.
Despite your death, you've a huge corpse of writing still buried in books and pulps I've not yet unearthed. I mean, even six years gone you're prolific as hell. New anthologies erupt from their graves each year, old material shakes off its pulpy dust shroud. You did your groundbreaking throughout sixty-odd years of authorship; my picking at words has barely started. I've a lot of work to do yet. And a lot of fun ahead of me too. Tonight it's the demonologist in the final Psycho that I'm concerned with. (What's with that twitchy eye?)
You know -- I nearly forgot to mention: your signature arrived in the mail the other day. My first one from you. Guy in Shingletown, California, sent it out to me. Sure, for a fee. You'd have laughed at the price. But it was worth it to me, and I made a new friend too. I nearly died when I saw it. I guess I was expecting something more; but it's not the size of the book, it's the way you use the words that's important. And you use words oh so well.
It's the limited hardback of "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper." I got number eighty.
Garth MindFeather Hill
Created: August 14, 2001; Current Update: August 9, 2004