I was saddened to hear of the passing of Charles R. Saunders, best known in the sf/f community as the creator of the Imaro series. This was back when Sword & Sorcery was the hottest ticket in fantasy town, and Saunders’ series was unique at the time for having a black hero as the star. He was a pioneer.
For my own part I never met him, the closest I ever came to that was being a fellow contributor to Gene Day’s old print fanzine Dark Fantasy, but I do owe Saunders a special debt, which I would like to here and now acknowledge–he was responsible for the second novel I ever wrote (hubris alone was the cause of the first). At the time he was editing a small-press project called Dragonbane that I had submitted a story to. Or at least in my naivete I thought it was a story. Saunders wrote me a very polite rejection stating what was obvious to him and less so to me: it wasn’t a story at all.
It was the opening chapter of a novel.
It did take me a while to realize he was right. When I say “a while” I mean it literally took me five years to write the book he already knew was there. Now, to be fair and accurate, it was not a book which will ever see the light of day (and that was on me, not him) but it was indeed a book. One that needed to be written so I could learn from it and move on. I still remember it fondly and my only regrets are I couldn’t do right by it, and that I didn’t listen to Charles’ advice sooner.
P.S. I had to take a look back through some submission records that had miraculously survived a few moves to find the name of the project. A list full of stories now lost and magazines that no longer exist, but fun memories all the same. Now, forward.
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