When I began working at Del Rey Books, I remember being absolutely stunned that I had now become the publicist for two of my childhood idols: Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke.
As a child, in second and third grade, I used to sneak their books home under my school uniform, stolen out of the library of St. Phillip the Apostle School. We were only allowed to read books that were deemed appropriate for our age level, but by the second grade I was reading on a high-school senior level and the paucity of books available for second graders frustrated me. Until I learned that I could climb just high enough to reach the eighth graders' books. At least, I could reach as high as the science fiction shelf. Asimov. Bradbury. Clarke. It was an interesting way to learn the alphabet. I'd tuck a few under my blouse, take them home, read them, and then return them. I don't know that any of the nuns ever caught on.
I still laugh when I remember Ellie Lang's instructions to me when I took over for her at Del Rey: "Remember, Colleen. It's always 'Sir Arthur' when you talk to him."
Although I only ever spoke with Sir Arthur once by telephone, we began a fairly frequent email correspondence, one in which he regularly regaled my publicity department with tales of the late great Pepsi, his one-eyed Chihuahua. I remember also thinking what a tough old bastard he must have been to insist on continuing to scuba-dive even after being confined to a wheelchair with post-polio syndrome.
Late on the morning of September 11, 2001 - just after the second tower had collapsed and all the phones had already stopped working - the very first communication we received at the office was an email from Sir Arthur, asking if everyone at Del Rey was okay, sending his best wishes and, in typical Sir Arthur fashion, quoting Winston Churchill's famous speech:
Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.Somewhere I think I still have the print-out of that email.
Ad astra, Sir Arthur. It was an honor working with you.