Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Remembering Robyn Herrington

by Rob - May 3rd, 2024.
Filed under: Uncategorized.

Robyn Meta Herrington, active member of both SFWA and SF Canada, passed away twenty years ago today, on Monday morning, May 3, 2004, in Calgary, Alberta, at just 43 years of age after a courageous multi-year battle with cancer.

Robyn’s short fiction appeared in such places as On Spec, Talebones, Adventures of Sword and Sorcery, Parsec, and in Mike Resnick’s DAW Anthologies Return of the Dinosaurs (her first sale), Women Writing Science Fiction as Men, and New Voices in Science Fiction; one of her stories was produced by CBC Radio as part of its Alberta Anthology series. Her genre poetry appeared in Tesseracts 6 and Chiaroscuro, and she was working on a novel.

Robyn was an acquisitions editor for EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy, and was instrumental in bringing Australian writer K.A. Bedford’s first novel, Orbital Burn, to market.

Robyn was a beloved mainstay of Calgary’s SF&F workshop, the Imaginative Fiction Writers Association (IFWA), where she was known for insightful, compassionately presented critiques. She was also a frequent member of the committee for Con-Version, Calgary’s erstwhile annual SF convention (including in 2002, when Con-Version was the CanVention-the Canadian National Science Fiction Convention), and was often involved with the con’s writers’ workshop and annual short-story contest.

Robyn was born in Melbourne in 1961, and grew up in Elizabeth Fields, South Australia; she moved to Calgary 45 years ago. She was employed as a graphics designer by the University of Calgary (and edited the publication New Currents In Teaching Technology there). She was also an accomplished glass blower and an inveterate traveler.

The Calgary writers conference When Words Collide holds the annual In Places Between: The Robyn Herrington Memorial Short Story Competition in her honour.

Robyn is survived by her husband Bruce Herrington, universally known in Calgary as “the wonder spouse,” her parents, and sister Sandy Van Damme.

Robyn had time to draft her own eulogy before passing, to be read at her funeral, at her request, by her friend and mentor, Robert J. Sawyer (who dedicated his 2007 novel Rollback to her). Here’s the eulogy Robyn wrote:


Wow. A Eulogy. A moment when we pause and reflect—and a moment when those gathered aren’t allowed to get up and leave—it’s an awesome responsibility. What do I say? What is it that I really want you all to know? The long printed version has the really important stuff (pick one up @ the door)—but what about now?

I need to tell you that my parents, brother and sister and their families are amazing people. John and Gisela Brown will give you the shirts off their backs if you asked them to—but don’t try it now because it’s probably more than a little inappropriate. They have always been there to give me whatever I needed and would still do. IFWA—if you need a place for the annual barbeque maybe that could be my legacy, hey mum and dad?

Michael & Sandy are more than a brother and sister. They’ve been my friends. We actually LIKE each other. Not too many kids make it to adulthood and can say that. OK sure, maybe we didn’t have to run Sandra into the wall *quite* so many times when she was learning to crawl, but it doesn’t seem to have left any permanent damage. And Michael? YOU dropped the orange juice all over the lounge in South Australia.

Speaking of which, this is the standard eulogy info: Robyn was born in Melbourne, Australia, on March 28th, 1961—a good day by any standards. She moved to South Australia in Elizabeth Fields, when she was four. At 17, her family made the move to Calgary. While she never regretted the move—how could she, it’s where she met Bruce—she did regret the -40 weather.

She never went to University, other than to work there. She believed in and advocated life-long learning. Don’t be so foolish as to think the only way you can learn though is through someone telling you what to think. Think for yourself. Get out there. Just do it.

Robyn met Bruce pretty much right away upon arriving here in Canada. She met him at lunch one day after church. When no-one was available to drive her home, Bruce did. Robyn ran upstairs to her bedroom and scrawled Bruce’s number across her bedroom door.

Epic phone calls ensued. Two hours was average; six was the record. Six hours very nearly lead her father to remove the phone from Robyn’s room. In retrospect, six hours is kind of insane, but it *did* get her married off and out of the house—so you be the judge.

Robyn sincerely hopes that by this time she has NOT been pre-deceased by her older brother Noel. If so-that really sucks. If not—Ha Ha I win. I got sick first so it wouldn’t have been fair if you’d beaten me. (In fact he won—by a mere six weeks.)

Back to Bruce. I have said it on many occasions he is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful and deep thinking people I know. His family has had their own hard moments in 2003-2004 and they have proved that they are stronger than their grief.

Robyn loves Bruce deeply—and notice how I—Robyn—said that in third person so it doesn’t sound like I—Rob—is deeply in love with Bruce. Not the he isn’t worthy, but he’s mine.

What else do I want you to know?

Try surf-fishing, or fishing off a pier. It’s peaceful, exciting, a time to sit quietly or to talk—but either catch and release or make sure you have someone else to gut the fish.

Stop and smell the flowers. Honestly. DO IT! Take the time to look around you because it can all go too fast.

Learn two songs by heart & really well. You never know when you might be stuck in a karaoke situation.

Never, ever, ever eat Durian. Ever. Yuck.

Always try food that you have never have. What’s the worst that can happen? You might find something you like. But it won’t EVER be Durian, or thousand-year-old eggs. Yuck Phooey.

I want you to learn to not hold grudges. They are a waste of time, and no good can come of it for either party. Be the bigger person. Be nice. And in if all your attempts fail—then, unfortunately, you’re spending your time on someone who doesn’t deserve you. Move on, guilt-free, knowing you’ve done all you can.

Which brings me to friends. You’ve made me dance—at the Boogie Emporium. You’ve made me laugh too many times and *every* time we were together. Sing? Of course. How do Lottie, Chick and Babe pass those long trips to the cabin? My writing group—IFWA—too valuable to put a price on all of it; the good, the bad and the ugly—it was, and is all good. My smaller group, 7 of 40—what a stunningly remarkable group. Astute, each of a different mind, each complimenting the strengths of the other.

My husband, my family, my friends—my golden trinity, and the reasons I loved life so much.

Finally, find your faith or hold on to your faith.

Why did this happen? I don’t know—I could say it was for the sole purpose of getting to meet me—but I’m kind of hoping it’s for more than that. For whatever reason, it has happened. It’s sad, horrible, devastating . . . or maybe I’m just overstating my importance . . . You know I love you all. You know that I’ll be watching you all.

I once heard, on some TV movie, an old man say that his friends would remember he was alive as long as they could feel the wind on their faces. I kind of like that idea. So when you feel the wind in your face that’ll be me—

right there—

In your face.

See ya ’round.

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