I think it was 1986 that I met Duane Wilkins. If so, I was touring for The Darkest Road, but it might have been earlier, for The Wandering Fire. A long way back, in either case. I was in Vancouver, signing for Jill Sanagan and Walter Sinclair of White Dwarf Books.
After I read, and after the signing lineup had dwindled away, Jill introduced me to a tall ( a really tall, an absurdly tall) bookseller who, she said, had driven the 3-4 hours up from Seattle to get copies of my books personalized for his customers and have stock signed for his store. His store was the enormous University of Washington bookstore, and Duane was already emerging as one of the most genre-savvy booksellers in America.
He was really tall (I may have mentioned that) and he spoke incredibly softly, and he was a gentleman geek from toe to crown. He knew my books – he knew everyone’s books – and he had a lot of copies for me to sign. (Remember, this is right at the outset of my career.)
He came back north every time I was in Vancouver on tour, waited patiently till all attendees at a reading had their books signed, and then came forward with his boxes.
Eventually my tours started to lead me to Seattle (and will again this year, we just confirmed that). I signed for Duane at his own store, had dinners or coffees with him. He helped me buy a Waterman signing pen once, when I’d lost mine somewhere on the road. Always a gentleman, never started speaking louder, never got any shorter that I could tell. Became, through the years, one of the best-known bookselling figures in science fiction and fantasy.
I learned, very recently, from Shawn Speakman, an author who also runs ‘The Signed Page’ (a clever way to get books personalized for yourself from any author touring to Seattle), that Duane has just had some serious health issues and was in hospital for an intense stay. He’s recovering, he seems to be fine, but in the predictable American way (not going to get too political here) his insurance did not cover all the urgently required hospital fees and treatment. He went into debt because he got sick.
Shawn, who has dealt with even more acute health concerns, and was assisted by the always-generous sf/fantasy community, has started a pay-it-forward website at his Grim Oak Press site, whereby established authors will make special copies of books, ARCs, maps etc available for auction to raise money for members of the community who have endured financial reversals because of medical crises.
Duane Wilkins is the first beneficiary. I have offered a signed and personalized ARC of River of Stars, to be shipped to the auction winner immediately (in other words well ahead of publication date). If the winner also wants the signature of Martin Springett, the artist/musician who did the map for the book, Martin has graciously agreed to sign as well.
The auction begins today, and runs till next Friday, the 15th. My hope is that people find this ARC enough of a collectible (or are keen to get it early) to bid it up to a level where we help make a dent in the medical bills for a genuinely good person and a figure of longstanding importance in the genre. Here’s the site:
and you can click on ‘Auctions’ at the top, or this link