There is a saying that you should never meet your heroes. The golden god may have feet of clay, and all that. I don’t agree.
Now, I adore my wife. Let me make that plain up front, so there are no misunderstandings. But there is another woman in my life – my goddess of writing, Tanith Lee.
Tanith Lee is the reason I’m a writer today. She inspired me in a way that nothing and no one else did or could. I’ve always hoped that if I worked hard enough and long enough I might one day be a tenth as good a writer as she was. I don’t know that I am, but I’m working on it. Drake is nothing like a Tanith Lee book, but I like to think that at the heart of it there is a little of her voice.
Tanith passed away last year and it my greatest professional regret that I never got to meet her and just tell her “thank you.” But then how many people get to meet their deity?
This Easter weekend though I did get to meet her husband, John Kaiine.
John is an absolutely lovely man and a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. We were at EasterCon in Manchester, UK, and John was there to speak on a panel held in tribute to Tanith. Hosted by Storm Constantine, the panel consisted of John and the Night’s Nieces – Kari Sperring, Sarah Singleton, Freda Warrington and Liz Williams, all writers who Tanith had inspired and mentored. John and the others spoke beautifully about Tanith and her work. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room by the end of the hour.
John happened to be staying in the same hotel as us and the next morning I bumped into him outside. I found the nerve to say hello, to shake his hand and thank him for doing the panel the previous day. I realise that it was an incredibly emotional thing for him to do and I have the greatest of respect for him for how well he carried the discussion. I couldn’t have done it.
John invited me to a kaffeeklatsch later in the day, to be hosted by the lovely Freda Warrington, which he was going to be at. I must admit I immediately dumped the other panel I was supposed to be at and signed up for it.
At the kaffeeklatsch John read us Tanith’s short story “God and the Pig.” He reads beautifully and I could feel the emotion and the love he had for Tanith in every word.
I must confess I teared up when he did, and in this small, intimate setting of half a dozen people the power of the story was simply astonishing. We chatted afterwards, and to my delight John gave me the manuscript complete with original handwritten annotations.
This may seem like a small thing but it meant the world to me, and I shall treasure those photocopied pages covered in green and red ink scribbles for the rest of my life.
So no, I don’t think you should avoid meeting your heroes, if you ever have the chance.
We all have feet of clay, after all.
Peter McLean was born near London in 1972, the son of a bank manager and an English teacher. He went to school in the shadow of Norwich Cathedral where he spent most of his time making up stories. By the time he left school this was probably the thing he was best at, alongside the Taoist kung fu he had begun studying since the age of 13. He grew up in the Norwich alternative scene, alternating dingy nightclubs with studying martial arts and practical magic.
He has since grown up a bit, if not a lot, and now works in corporate datacentre outsourcing for a major American multinational company. He is married to Diane and is still making up stories.
His last article for us was Why We Shouldn’t Hunt The Trope To Extinction.