The ones I’ll be mourning

June 6, 2012 at 6:03 pm (Articles / Interviews) (, , , , , , )

Ray Bradbury is dead. Because ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ and ‘The Halloween Tree’ are a firm part of my childhood, I mourn. His death has me thinking about all those other writers, artists, whatevers, we admire from afar – people whose works we grow up with, or at least grow older with.

moundshroud 2

When they die, we mourn. It’s not like they’re family, or friends. If you’re really lucky, you got to meet them once or twice. Maybe you got to shake their hand at a convention, or they replied to your fan mail. Maybe you got to interview them for an article, or work on their movie set, or act out their play. You may or may not ever get to tell them just how much their work has affected you, and how much their creations are part of the background of your personal psychological landscape. But when they die, you mourn.

And because everyone dies sooner or later, I end up thinking of those writers, artists, whatevers, who I will surely cry for when I hear they’ve died. I hope their deaths don’t come in a long, long, long time (when I’m optimistic I’ll imagine that in the near future, we’ll come up with a pill that grants a person immortality, or at least increased healthy longevity, and these pills will magically be distributed to the writers, artists, whatevers we love the most). But when they do go the way of Ray Bradbury (or Tony de Zuniga, or Maurice Sendak, or Moebius, or Satoshi Kon), I will be spending a goodly amount of time remembering them, and how their works have made my life better.

Off the top of my head I think of Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki’s one of those people I wish would live forever, but he’s gotten old, and he knows it. He retired from directing animated films for a while, but even though he un-retired, I’m still anxious to hear what Studio Ghibli’s cooking up next, and what capacity he’ll be involved in the project. Because as long as new films come, he’ll keep trucking right?

When he dies, the world will remember him for Totoro, and Porco Rosso, and Nausicaa. Personally, I will remember him for the feeling I got when I first saw Spirited Away some years back – like he had reached into my mind and articulated all my pre-pubescent nightmares (not exactly my parents turning into pigs and indentured servitude in a demon bath house, but close enough), but given me the means, through the main character Chihiro, to travel through the nightmare safely.

Right alongside Miyazaki is Christopher Lee. Maybe because Lee’s also acutely aware he probably doesn’t have long left in the world (two or three years maybe, he said in an interview). I have less of an emotional reaction to Lee’s works than Miyazaki’s, but it’s just. Christopher Lee is awesome. I first got to know him as Saruman, and worked my way back (Count Dooku, Lord of Summerisle, Scaramanga, etc). Nowadays, I get happy seeing him appear in random Tim Burton films.

Lee’s autobiography is a fat tome with the awesome title ‘Lord of Misrule’. It recounts how Lee is distantly related to the ancient king Charlemagne, and how Lee wanted to be a pilot during World War II, and how he got to hang out with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, and how long he got to spend in the make-up chair during the pre-motion capture era, to transform into Fu Manchu and Frankenstein and Dracula. He’s lived an awesome life. That may soften the blow for his fans, when time comes for the blow to fall.

But when I think of an artist’s death dealing a substantial blow, I wind up thinking of Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is way younger than Miyazaki and Lee, and with any luck, he’ll truck along for another three hundred years, but unless something really interesting happens, I know that the day will come when I’ll go online (or be patched into the web directly by our robot overlords) and find that Gaiman’s kicked the bucket.

I am allotting a seven-day mourning period for myself, but it’ll probably last longer for some of his fans (he gets some crazy loyal fans). It’s not just because Gaiman has written some pretty awesome shit, it’s also because he makes himself, and a certain level of his day-to-day life, accessible to the fans through his blog, tumblr and Twitter. We get to read about how his collection of bee hives fared during the winter, or how his wife made a million dollars on kickstarter, or how his youngest daughter has graduated from high school. I can tell any random person who asks that Gaiman had sushi for dinner, and that his dog got sick but now it’s better, and that he recorded “the man who forgot Ray Bradbury” the day before Bradbury died.

He’s not in my circle of family and friends, but when Gaiman dies, I’ll be feeling the sudden void in what I assume will until then be part of my everyday social media trawling. Get used to seeing someone everyday, even if you never really interact with that person, and the day they disappear is the day the world changes.

One interesting thing that may happen when Gaiman passes away is I, and anyone who’s ever read Sandman, will finally legitimately get to wonder if Gaiman’s met Death of the Endless. Besides that, seven-day mourning period.

death can wait 2

There’s a lot of other people I’ll be sad over when they die. George R.R. Martin, especially if A Song of Ice and Fire hasn’t been completed yet. The surviving founders of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Haruki Murakami. Until such time, they’ve got writing to be written, and art to be art-ed, and whatevers to be whatever-ed. Dying can wait.

* * *

Images belong to their respective copyright owners.

Moundshroud image is from Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Halloween Tree’ as illustrated by Joseph Mugnaini (published by Earthlight).

Death was created by Neil Gaiman, and I guess belongs to DC Comics. Image is by Craig Russell for ‘Death in Venice’, part of ‘Endless Nights’.


1 Comment

  1. A few words about Halloween « In the Grayworld said,

    […] I miss Ray Bradbury. […]

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