It’s been a bad few days. First the news that someone I admire is critically (probably terminally) ill, then the death of Jim Herbert and now, just today, I heard from Glenn Chadbourne that my good friend and New England frightmeister Rick Hautala died yesterday (Thursday 21 March).

The last I heard from Rick was a few weeks back when he asked if I'd consider blurbing a new venture for him: Star Road . . . a collaborative SF novel with Matt Costello. Boy, what a joy it was reading that baby! The publisher took a pithy sentence from what I said about the book—not sure when it'll be out—and that was that.

And now this.

He was out walking with his wife, Holly and complained of not feeling well so she told him to go home and she finished the walk. Rick never made it back to the house: he collapsed in a neighbor's driveway and that was it. This kind of stuff pulls you up short: he was a forty-niner, like myself . . . just four months older than me. If you haven't checked out his stuff, go treat yourself.

In light of this, it seems kind of fitting that the whole Crowther quote should now see the light of day.

You know, the future isn't what it used to be. I'm talking here about the way the great SF writers of yesteryear imagined we'd turn out some five or six decades--or even an entire century--on. I grew up on those folks . . . writers like Verne and Wells, Clarke and Asimov, Heinlein and, of course, Bradbury--there are many many more, and all of 'em doing marvelous stuff. But, for my money, the best of the lot was Gardner Fox, who wrote probably hundreds of comicbook stories for DC Comics' Strange Adventures and Mystery In Space titles back in the 1950s. Okay, Gardner may not have known what spaceships would really be like or how it would really be to live in the 21st Century, but he sure as heck knew what it should be like. And he knew how to tell a story that'd have your mouth hang open for a full half-hour. Alas, since those magical days, SF has gotten a little dry . . . like a slice of peanut butter where the blueberry jelly is spread so thin you can barely taste it. Oh, the thrills are there--usually--and the Bigness (usually SFX) but something, while not entirely missing, is in pretty short supply. And that is the two-headed beast of Awe and Wonder. Well, the good news is that, thanks to another two-headed beast--and one not usually associated with this particular branch of our glorious field--there's Awe and Wonder aplenty. Yes, Matthew Costello and Rick Hautala have teamed up to create in STAR ROAD a near-on mythical mixture of thrills and spills in a galaxy-spanning tale of interplanetary excitement and derring do. Shoot, I never thought we'd see its like again. God bless you, fellas--you've given us back the future we always wanted. Mmm, taste that jelly!

Yep, and a double 'God bless you, fella' to Rick. He was a fine writer, a truly lovely guy, a formidable darts player (NeCon will never be the same again) and a great friend to Nicky and me. We're devastated and our thoughts are with Holly. Happy trails, Rick. Be seeing ya!