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A "Thank You" Note to Ann Crispin

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This is not an obituary. And I’m trying very hard not to make it sound like one. I’ve debated on when to publish it. But I’m putting this out there now on the off-chance that it will serve as my “thank you” letter to A.C. Crispin.

Ann Crispin has posted on her Facebook page that her fight with cancer is finally coming to an end, and she very likely won’t be with us much longer.

I’ve been hesitant to make this post, but it’s time. I want to thank you all for your good wishes and prayers. I fear my condition is deteriorating. I am doing the best I can to be positive but I probably don’t have an awful lot of time left. I want you all to know that I am receiving excellent care and am surrounded by family and friends.

I wish all aspiring writers the will to finish and a good contract. Please continue to monitor Writer Beware and be careful who you sign with. Victoria Strauss and Richard White are there to help.

I’ve asked Michael to collect and read me your messages. As I don’t know how things will proceed, I don’t know if I’ll have the strength to post on Facebook again.

Coming on the heels of Frederik Pohl’s death, this is another blow to the science fiction community. And I don’t know if it feels worse because Ann’s still with us, or because of my own personal feelings about her.

For many of us, our first encounter with A.C. Crispin was reading Yesterday’s Son, the eleventh Star Trek novel published by Pocket Books, and the first book to serve as a sequel to events depicted in an original episode. In this case, it was Spock’s encounter with Zarabeth during “All Our Yesterdays”, when he and Dr. McCoy were sent back five thousand years to the last ice age of the planet Sarpeidon. There, while learning that Zarabeth could never return to the present, Spock reverted back to an emotional being very much like Vulcans of that time.

It was a random day in November 1976 when an employee of the U.S. Census Bureau said, “What if?” and began to type: “Doctor McCoy picked up his rook and plunked it down again, taking one of his opponent’s pawns.” The rest, as they say, is history. Yesterday’s Son was published in 1983, and quickly became one of the hits of that time in the history of Trek novels. Tor editor Greg Cox recalls (correctly) that it was the first to make the New York Times bestseller list (outside the movie adaptations).

I don’t know about anyone else, but Yesterday’s Son was — for me — the Fourth Doctor of Star Trek novels, setting a tone that many novels matched. It was the first Star Trek novel that felt like the original series. Ann has a musician’s ear for dialogue, and she captures speech patterns almost flawlessly, no matter what universe she visits. In her introduction to Time for Yesterday, she writes, “It’s a siren lure… wanting to put words in the mouths of characters we know and love so well.” And she’s done it very well.

Reading Yesterday’s Son and its sequel, Time for Yesterday, I could tell Ann was a fan first. She managed to capture the voices of our favorite Starfleet crew, and when she announced the beginnings of the StarBridge series, I was excited for more than one reason. Not only had a fan been allowed to write in a beloved story universe, but she also had success that led to a publisher taking a chance on original work.

As a fledgling writer myself, I took solace in this, encouraged that my own efforts might someday lead down the same path. And while it hasn’t, I still can look back on these novels as a moment in my life when I said to myself, “Why not me, too?” A.C. Crispin was an inspiration.

Not only has she been a popular writer — with her Han Solo trilogy and V adaptations all bestsellers — but she also has served as a mentor to young and new writers. Along with author Victoria Strauss, Ann co-founded the Writer Beware service for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Writer Beware has been a trusted staple of the industry, providing insights into the publishing world, warnings about scams and shady agencies, and providing tips for new writers just dipping their toes into the shallow end of the universe.

In May 2012, Ann announced that she was battling cancer, and over the past year she’s been posting the occasional update on her blog and Facebook page to let fans know how things were going. For a while, it seemed like she was winning. Until we heard from her today (Sept 3).

I had the privilege of interviewing Ann when Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom was published. It was the first original novel in that world, and Ann had been selected because of her work on the Han Solo trilogy, telling the story of a young smuggler who ended up becoming one of the most famous scoundrels in the galaxy. She was given the opportunity to do that same thing with Jack Sparrow, relatively new scoundrel, but likable all the same.

Most recently, Ann was designated a Grandmaster by the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers, a long-deserved accolade.

I had always hoped to meet Ann one day at a convention, and thank her in person for taking the plunge as a writer all those years ago. But I will have to accede that this will be my one opportunity to share my gratitude.

So. Thank you, Ann Crispin. Thank you for sharing your window into the future. Thank you for being a fan. Thank you for inspiring and watching over untold would-be writers. May the wind be at your back. May the road rise up to meet your feet. And may you find peace and rest as you near the end of your journey here on Earth.

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