Phyllis Gotlieb, R.I.P.
My friend and inspiration Phyllis Gotlieb, the only Canadian to be in SFWA at its founding, the mother of Canadian science fiction, passed away yesterday at the age of 83 from complications related to a ruptured appendix.
Phyllis was proof of concept that you could live in Toronto and still be a science-fiction writer for major American publishing houses; if I hadn't had her as a role model, I'm not sure I ever would have embarked on the career path I took.
We'd been friends for 30 years -- I met her in 1979 when my high-school science-fiction club had her as guest of honour at a little convention we put on at Northview Heights Secondary School. She was feisty and opinionated and passionate then, and she was still all those things the last time I saw her, not that long ago. One of my greatest professional thrills was getting to publish her final novel, Birthstones, in 2007, under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint for Markham's Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
From a profile of Phyllis by Brian Bethune in Maclean's in 2002:
"That's when she became the grandmother of us all," says Robert Sawyer, the most prominent author in a now-flourishing national scene. "She was the one -- till the '80s, the only one -- who proved you could sit in Toronto and write major science fiction and sell it to major American publishers." Sunburst, which has given its name to an award for the best Canadian sci-fi book of the year, marked a final change of course for Gotlieb, who eventually no longer had "poem-shaped ideas." (Since then, she says, "my aliens write poetry.")