By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
Portales and Eastern New Mexico University lost a favorite son, true pioneer and a genuinely nice person with the passing of Jack Williamson on Friday.
I was humbled by the responsibility of writing about the death of such a prolific writer and great mind in the Portales News-Tribune. The PNT was his hometown newspaper though, and while I’m pretty sure he would have probably thought we’ve made too much of his life, I hope that his family and friends feel what we have done has been appropriate.
Jack’s mind and his imagination where without a doubt the two tools that propelled him to the top of his profession and left his contemporaries and associates worldwide in awe. But after interviewing family and friends of Jack Williamson I know that it was his kindness, patience and tenacity that made him such a special person locally.
I didn’t know the man personally but everyone in this town knew of him. I grew up in Portales hearing about the famous science fiction writer Jack Williamson, who grew up on a homestead near Pep, but the extent of his importance to the world of science fiction never sank in for me.
I first met him when I was a teenager, in the offices of the PNT. He was good friends with long-time PNT editor Gordon King Greaves and frequently stopped by. In the early 1970s the circulation department and the ranks of the newspaper carriers at the PNT were full of science fiction geeks. It was a big deal for lots of the young folks to meet Jack and learn just how friendly and personable he was. GKG knew that and I think that’s why he frequently brought Jack through to the backshop.
I must confess that I was never an avid science fiction reader, though I have read some of the genre and even some of Williamson’s work. Mystery and history was more my style.
I was heartened when Jack’s close associate at ENMU, Patrice Caldwell, told me that Jack never expected his friends to read his novels. It shows that he didn’t take himself or his work more seriously than friendship.I made a mental note to myself that it would be a good lesson to take from the old master and apply to my own writing and relationships.
When I think about what it must have been like for Jack, with over 78 years of published writing, it’s hard to fathom how the quality of the words and the ideas they expressed could remain so clear, for so long. For me writing has always been easy for the most part. The struggle has been in making that writing clear and meaningful.
From some of the interviews and published information I’ve read about Jack since his death the same must have been true in his writing. Maybe it’s true of most people who take up the pen professionally. All writers occasionally struggle in coming up with fresh ideas and new subjects but for those who really love it, the telling of the story is easy.
According to the interviews I’ve read, so it was with Jack. Telling the story was the fun part for him — making it accurate and plausible was the important part. He did both better than most.
It’s sad to know that Jack’s pen has run dry on this Earth. But it’s heartening to learn this week how many lives his has touched both in this community and across the world.
No doubt, his work and his ideas will go forward and provide the flame to ignite young imaginations of future generations.