Friday, February 09, 2018

STRANGE VIEW FROM A SKEWED ORBIT



STRANGE VIEW FROM
A SKEWED ORBIT
(An Oddball Memoir)
By Ardath Mayhar
Borgo Press
159 pgs

Dear Readers, this certainly will not be one of my regular reviews. You see the subject matter is much too personal for me and we need to share much more than a few declarative paragraphs concerning this wonderful little book. So time for some history. In the early 80s, pre-PC and internet time, I had joined a group via snail-mail correspondence called SPWAO; the Small Press Writers & Artists Organization. We were made of up both amateur and professional creators all working in one fashion or another with small press. Among that group was Texas based professional sci-fi and fantasy writer Ardath Mayhar. If you’ll allow me to name drop here, the group also included among its ranks Charles Saunders, Richard & Wendy Pini and Kevin Anderson; all of which I’m sure you readily recognized.

We had officers, collected dues and published a monthly newsletter. At one point I was elected the President and responsible for putting out that newsletter. It was along this time that I began a friendly correspondence with Ardath not realizing it would soon become a life-saver for me. Note, members of SPWAO were set on achieving professionalism in various genres, from books to comics. Most of my energies directed towards the latter without much thought at all to novel writing.

Then came my divorce and my world turned upside down. Having three small children unable to comprehend exactly why their father was leaving caused me months of pain and anguish. At one point I let some of this out in a letter to Ardath, this kindly grandmother writer from Texas, as a way of maybe dispelling a little of the hurt I was dealing with. Her response was a rapid reply in which she suggested, “Why don’t we write a book together. It might help take your mind off the sadness.”  She even let me devise the subject matter and plot and we went at it. Six months later her agent sold “Trail of the Seahawks” to TSR’s new Windwalker paperback line and I was a published author. 

And of course, as Ardath was well aware, the rest of my life did settle out. My weekly visitations with my wonderful children eventually proved to them my continued love and devotion and within the next few years some kind of normalcy returned to all of us. Oh, and Ardath and me went on to write two more books together, “Monkey Station” and “Witchfire.” I would have loved to have done more, but she was then in her late 70s and let me know I was good enough to fly on my own, whereas she still had too many of her own tales to tell in whatever time she had left.

That’s the personal stuff.  Now here’s the clinical.  Ardath Mayhar Feb 20 – 1930 to Feb 1st 2012 (aged 81) began writing professionally in 1979. She was nominated for the Mark Twain Award and won the Balrog Award for a horror narrative poem in Masques 1. In 2008 she was honored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as an Author Emeritus. She wrote over sixty books ranging from sci-fi to horror to young adult to historical to westerns; with some work under the pseudonym Frank Cannon, Frances Hurst, and John Killdeer. Mrs. Mayhar also shared her knowledge and skills of writing with many people through the Writer’s Digest correspondence courses.

Recently I learned that in 1996 Ardath compiled a rambling, intimate memoir of her life after having been pestered by friends to do so. That book is “Strange View From a Skewed Orbit.”  It is a truly wonderful glimpse into the heart and mind of a remarkable woman who was descended of pioneer stock. It is a glimpse of both the rugged landscape of East Texas but also of a culture that prides individualism and old fashion grit. In the book’s final few essays, Ardath lambast the wishy-washy nonsense that is today’s feminism, decrying pampered women who have swallowed the entire hogwash philosophy of victimhood. In her own words, “It is not the function of government to make life easy for anyone, rich or poor, male or female, black white, yellow or red. That is a sure route to dependency. We are our own motivators, and if we do not use our strength, our intelligence, and our determination to achieve what we are capable of doing, the fault lies with us, not some anonymous “white male establishment.””

It is one of my life’s major disappointments that we never actually got to meet in this world. But believe me, that is a meeting that will certainly take place in the next. Till then, every time I sit down to write, I know I’ve a friend looking down from on high.
God bless you, Ardath, and thanks.

3 comments:

Tom Johnson said...

A nice write-up and tribute, Ron. Thanks for sharing.

Ron Fortier said...

Thank you for stopping by and reading it, Tom. Much appreciate. Ardath was truly a remarkable woman.

Rollerball said...

Very nice. I recognize her from my first subscription to Galaxy magazine back in '75. very nice tribute, Ron.