Meeting The Robinsons

A long, long time ago, while I was living in California, a roommate loaned me a copy of one of Spider Robinson’s books. I’ve long since lost touch with the roommate, but I still have that book; I don’t recall if he gave it to me or eventually gave up trying to pry it out of my hands. Probably the latter. . . .

What would you think if I sang out of tune,
Would you stand up and walk out on me.
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song,
And I’ll try not to sing out of key.

I had never encountered writing like Spider’s before. Although his style is reminiscient of Heinlein at times, Spider pulls in puns by the bucketload and spares no punchlines; I fell in love with his work right away and over the following years sought out, one by one, everything he wrote. A couple years back, when I saw his name on the guest of honor list at a nearby convention, I moved heaven, earth, and credit card balances around to attend that convention; I wanted to see if he was as cool as his books.

Oh I get by with a little help from my friends,
I get high with a little help from my friends,
I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends

I was not in the least disappointed. I was, however, astounded — but not by Spider: who, in person, is very much like his books. In fact, I’m fairly sure Jake Stonebender is a direct translation of Spider into a fictional character. Unlike most authors I’d seen at conventions, he spent less time talking about his books than he did connecting with the fans. He pulled out a guitar and sang Beatles songs as though that were the most important thing he had to do that day; he answered oddball questions and told funny stories and signed books and was, in short, the most magnificent guest author I’d ever met.  

Do you need anybody?
I need somebody to love.
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love.

But that wasn’t the astounding part. The part that — I know this is a trite phrase, but I have to use it; there’s just nothing else that serves — that blew me away — was his wife, Jeanne. Now, I’m accustomed to meeting couples where I like one but not the other; it’s rare for me to be comfortable with both sides of a partnership. I see many people unconsciously pick partners they can shadowbox with, meaning that not only are they almost polar opposites, they’re surrounded by a constant, subtle tension, like a stinky cloud.

What do I do when my love is away.
(Does it worry you to be alone)
How do I feel by the end of the day
(Are you sad because you’re on your own)

Jeanne and Spider . . . they ain’t shadowboxing, folks. They are the most “in tune” couple I have ever met. When they looked at each other, whether in the middle of a song, a book signing, or while Spider read a chapter from his latest novel — even just a quick glance — they connected. Every damn time. I was on the verge of tears, watching them; the energy in that room was just freakin’ incredible.

Would you believe in a love at first sight?
Yes I’m certain that it happens all the time.
What do you see when you turn out the light?
I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine.

I didn’t know writing like Spider’s was possible until I read his books; I didn’t know love like theirs was possible until I saw them together.

I couldn’t resist stepping over, rather shyly, to speak to Jeanne for a moment at one point; she greeted me like I was an old friend, not some awestruck stranger.  I’ve met spiritualists and Buddhists, reiki masters and priests, rabbis and devout folk of many faiths, paths, and experience levels. I have only met one other person in my entire life — an anonymous healer at a qigong seminar I attended a while back — who could project the sincerity, integrity, and above all universe-sized love that Jeanne Robinson showed every single person who spoke to her that day.

If that isn’t enough to mark her out as singular, Jeanne is a writer herself, and a damn good one; her stories revolve around dance and space — in fact, she combines them into space-dance, and has been working on a movie, called the Stardance Project, which combines CGI and scenes shot in actual zero-G . . . which, as you can imagine, isn’t cheap.

Hell, life isn’t cheap.

Neither is dying.

And now we come to the point of this post: Jeanne Robinson has been diagnosed with a rare and horrible form of biliary cancer. Spider has canceled multiple conventions and appearances this year to stay with her; money’s getting tight. Even Canada’s health system, which so many people are holding up as a model in the current health care debate, and which has done very well indeed by the Robinsons, isn’t enough any more; Jeanne needs more than any insurance covers. The income of any writer or artist depends on writing or painting or creating something; do you think either one is getting a whole lot of salable work done right now? Probably not. And cutting back promotions means cutting back on sales and thus on income.

Life is expensive. Laughter is free, but priceless; love, even more so.

The Robinsons have had to put out a request for help. If you’re a fan, a friend, or just someone who appreciates the really, truly good people in this world, please consider sending in whatever you can. Details on how to donate can be found here:

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, gonna try with a little help from my friends
Yes I get by with a little help from my friends,
with a little help from my friends . . .


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