This post may be a little incoherent, for which I apologise in advance…
I heard this morning that the extraordinary writer Paul Haines passed away yesterday, after a very long and public fight with cancer.
Actually, “fight” doesn’t do it justice. He raged against it. He and the cancer were like a mongoose and a cobra wrapped together, each taking chunks out of the other, hissing and snarling and never, never, NEVER giving in. I’ve lost friends and family to cancer in the past, but I’ve never seen anyone fight like that, ever, in any context. I’ve known and been friendly with Paul online for many years, but only met him in person in more recent times. Nonetheless, I consider him a good friend. He has that ability, to make everyone feel like his friend, like they’ve known him forever.
Yes, I speak in the present tense. You got a problem with that?
Last year at Swancon in Perth, Paul cornered me and demanded to know when my collection was coming out, said he “dug” my short stories. I have to laugh at that, every time I think about it. He dug my short stories? In my opinion, the best stories in the world, in any medium, have to have the Wizard of Oz holy trinity in order to be truly successful; brains, heart and courage. Paul’s writing has all three, consistently. I love Paul’s work, and wish I could write one tenth, hell, one hundredth as well as him. It was because of that that I even asked if he’d write the foreword for my collection, primarily as an excuse to send him an advance unedited galley of it. He agreed, as sick as he was, but later had to drop out, he was simply too ill. I still feel bad for even asking, but he seemed so damned enthusiastic when I did.
I still got a blurb from him for the book, though. “It’ll freak people out”, he assured me.
No it won’t, you daft fucker. It’ll make them smile, and maybe even cry a little. But mainly smile. I don’t think he really knew how loved he was, despite all our efforts to convince him. I wish he could see the outpouring that’s happening right now, across the community. One of the previously-unpublished stories in my collection, “Birthday Suit”, is inspired by and dedicated to him. I don’t even know if I can go back and read it now.
I’ve been trying to think of a word to sum up Paul, and the best I can find is “courageous”. It encapsulates how he lived his life, how he wrote his amazing stories, how he battled his illness. And courage isn’t about being fearless, it’s about doing what has to be done despite being afraid. I’m so proud to have known him. The world is a poorer place for having lost him. We’re poorer for having lost him. But richer for having had him in the first place.