In January or February 1999 you were passing through Champaign-Urbana and graciously assented to talk to a group of students and staff at the University of Illinois. You spoke at night in Follinger Auditorium for 45 minutes, wherein you related to us your personal experience in working with John Huston, who challenged you by expecting you to produce a script overnight. Later in the lecture, you in turn challenged us by expecting us to listen to ourselves. At one particular pause, you looked at us with a perceptive glance, saying "Don't spend your time learning more and more about things you don't like... if you don't like computers, don't do it ... listen to what you want to create."
I was doing incessant, insistent programming at that time, which was draining the animus in me (it is not in my nature to program); your declaration was directed to me. Worldlines converged from events from far away both in time and place through me, as gravitational field lines must pass through a neutron star. Nourished by this focused nexus, I began to shake off the bonds of computer programming and to write with more purpose. I still must support myself by programming (as Zelazny did by being a tax preparer) so the journey to self-expression is slow, but the encouragement in your single statement has underpinned my progress.
I'm writing my first story about a conscious being, manufactured in the near future when the science of artificial intelligence does not yet have the capability to produce beings who can fully create things. It (he) knows what creativity is in a dictionary sense but cannot create; the story consists of his tortured attempts to acquire insight about how to create something. I hope to have it done fairly soon.
You have given me a great gift, on top of those intersticed in your books. (Making Grandma follow a recipe in Dandelion Wine is one of my favorite given memories.) And thus I say with gratitude: Peace to you; I look forward to the remake of Fahrenheit 451, which led me into a lifelong passion with speculative fiction at the age of twelve.
With love, Robin Shealy
Poem dedicated to Ray ... it happens to me this way; is this the way?
The birth of a story comes about
When I begin to listen to my dreams
Both in day and in night
They are the rough fabric woven from the yarns of Metaphor
(on endless shelves around me, all possible stories that could ever be)
A most twisting colorful set of strands
That I reweave into a tapestry with no recurrent pattern,
Warp or weft, producing a structure of great beauty and delicate in nature,
Supporting itself as a spiderweb
With connections that counteract and cancel the forces from within and without.
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