Another letter

(Gary Farber)

I only read very sporadically; months may go by without my looking at it. It is not, it is fair to say, one of my favorite newsgroups, though I favor it enough, perversely, that I do keep returning to look at it again, eventually.

And when I've looked at it, in the last two years or so, one of the only posters I might ever feel moved to do an "author search" for, in hopes of finding a post of some interest and skill and wit, rather than just glancing about checking for some confluence of subject header and skill resulting in a post worth reading, has been Cronan Thompson, last seen by me posting as "nanorc."

I'd first noticed the kid a few years ago, on sf tv newsgroups. He was very much a kid and could be incredibly annoying, but I've never lost track of the fact that I was frequently as annoying at that age, and that I still, from rare time to time, manage to be so today.

What shone through to my eye was that, uh, peeping out all over from under the thin surface of adolescence was intelligence, care for use of language, care for good thinking, and a passion for the focus of his attention. He was brash, and he could be callow, but he was smart, and he paid attention, and he cared, and he focused.

And so from time to time, I would drop him an e-mail, and in return I'd find him, from time to time, dropping me an e-mail, and we engaged in a desultory but always pleasurable drawn-out correspondence, which seemed to me to be tinged with mutual respect.

I'd occasionally chide Cronan when I thought his enjoyment of the cheap shot had gotten just a tad out of hand, or that by going for the cheap reply, he'd missed the point of a truly thoughtful post, and if he felt I was condescending to him, he never let on, but either let it pass, or responded with some jibe that indicated that he wasn't dismissing what I'd said, either.

On other occasions, I'd drop Cronan a smart-ass private reply of my own, and we might ping-pong back and forth on those for a time in e-mail.

I never saw either the original post, or any subsequent discussion, about Cronan suffering lymphoma, though only now do I know why he sent that e-mail a while back about his being offline for quite some time, and why he returned. I saw him posting with increasing frequency to rec.arts.sf.written, and his deep interest in good sf burned brightly there.

The rapidity of Cronan's growth in maturity was clear, and although he remained always yet capable of churning out shallow mockery along with insight and genuine wit, the amount and frequency of the latter grew rapidly in proportion to the former. One could see his growth taking place in mere months, as he added to his repetoire of critical tools and perceptions. The incredibly annoying adolescent of a mere two years ago was growing into someone who surely would be advancing into professional work of his own in short years, should he so desire.

Now I look at again for the first time in many weeks, and I see eulogies for young Cronan Thompson, dead of cancer at age 19. And I see how much he meant to so many friends, and I think that the universe can be cruel, but that the kid did good, a lot of good.

I read one post of his which so made me laugh and admire its elegance that I began a note of nearly fulsome praise. I was interrupted, and never finished and sent that note, but Cronan, in whatever fashion you've left Usenet, whether you've pulled one of the better death hoaxes ever seen in the sf field, which has seen many, or whether you've had your access cut to our universe: I'd like to have your baby, and sign you to this contract in hand to be your agent for your writing for the next twenty years, for a mere 15% of the gross.

Now get back here and sign.

Return to Online Tribute to Cronan Thompson.