Bill Patterson
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Author:  PeterScott [ Sat Apr 26, 2014 6:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bill Patterson

I first met Bill in the late '90s when he was on a Heinlein panel at a LosCon. I subscribed to the Journal on the spot and a few more meetings later, joined the Society. We continued to meet at cons for a few years until I conceived the idea of the Centennial in 2001, after which we met - virtually - at board meetings as well.

Bill was a raconteur, an intellectual, a scholar, and yes, a gentleman in demeanor, comportment, dress, and eloquence. He was larger than life, a character among characters. What he did for elevating the stature of Heinlein studies was titanic and groundbreaking. He shouldered a completely full schedule of sessions at the Centennial with grace and aplomb; he was in his element.

He belonged to a world of chivalry and dignity that has largely vanished, and which is all but evaporated with his passing. A matter of days before his death he finished the second and final volume of the biography, a work unlike any other and destined to become a landmark standard in the narrative of science fiction that others can only hope of matching. His final posting on Facebook, hours before his death: "Reaching some kind of transition -- too little o2 in brain to function" almost suggests the kind of conscious release that you would expect of an awakened Heinlein Hero.

Oh Bill, why did you have to leave so soon. I hope you're getting your remaining biographical questions answered in person now.

Author:  JamesGifford [ Sat Apr 26, 2014 1:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bill Patterson

I've honestly lost track of when I first encountered Bill - it would have been online, probably in AFH and by no later than about 1995 or 6. I think I first met him in person at ChiCon in 2000, but I seem to recall another meeting in California before then. We didn't live too far apart when he was in SF/Santa Rosa and I recall a couple of visits down there that might be earlier than 2000.

Bill stayed with us a couple of times, cooking an outstanding meal each time, and we found a way to put him on our company payroll for about three years, which gave him full medical coverage he could not then otherwise afford.

I like to think that at one time I was the #1 living expert on Heinlein and his works, and that may have been true in the short time between my getting serious about the subject and the renewal of Heinlein studies that Bill both fostered and rode into his prominent roles with Virginia Heinlein, the Trust and the UCSC Archives. It was only with pleasure that I watched Bill pass my level, headed for the stratosphere, followed by a few others including Robert James. I suppose I still have some place on the slope, but there's no question that Bill reached a pinnacle of expertise on Heinlein's life, work and milieu that will never be equaled. Others may come along - and RJ is already here - but no one again will have the access to now-deceased people and a personal memory of events during Heinlein's later life. The bar he set will forever remain an unattainable goal for successors.

Most of us know the story of the biography - that for one reason and another, it was cut and cut and shrunk and shrunk until it might be a commercially viable property, but it's nowhere near Bill's original vision. The working assembly of material was almost six million words. The first complete draft was nearly one million. The first reasonable cut was well over 600,000 words. The Tor edition, both volumes, is less than half that and cut according to... rather arbitrary editorial standards.

The other versions exist; the megaword version, with some editorial polish, could someday still see print (or, more likely e-print, which Bill hated).

I last saw Bill when we passed through LA in 2009. Our professional association, which led through the creation and publication of my book and then his and Andy Thornton's, and then through the Centennial, and then through the Nexus and into the recovery of the Heinlein Society, tapered off for a couple of reasons. One was that I moved on from Heinlein to other topics and had less and less interest in the tiny increments of change - I was a pick and shovel and bulldozer man, and the field now (properly) belongs to the camels-hair brush and tweezer folks.

The other is that Bill, who could be one of the most phenomenally irritating people I've ever known, sparked a rather vicious outburst from me that, while perhaps true in its facts, was untrue to what was then a 15-year friendship and professional association. We got over it and had a civil, even friendly relationship afterwards, but the division was always there and I never found a way to apologize appropriately. Perhaps if we'd met again - I was lucky enough to get a chance to apologize in person and in public to Bob Eggleton, and would have done so with Bill had the chance come along.

Anyone who dealt with Bill for very long learned just how stubborn, inflexible, demanding and irritating he could be... but it was those qualities coupled with a gifted and insightful mind that brought us everything from the Heinlein Society to the million or so words of the Heinlein Journal to MARTIAN to the biography (with more to come), and a good part of the shape of the 2007 Centennial event. Maybe there are no truly great men without some touch of abrasiveness and even madness - and before anyone jumps on me, I'm not sure the same is true about great women.

In any case, at the end of the run, the times I wanted to shriek at the ceiling and told mutual colleagues, "If I ever get involved in another project with him, kill me," and ended up holding some bag Bill managed to deftly leave in my hands... those times are absolutely dwarfed by the times of discovery, of putting together the puzzle that is Robert Heinlein, of arguing the most esoteric and subtle points of the man's life and work, and just enjoying the hell out of the game.

And that's how I will remember Bill Patterson, once this emotional cloud settles and I can lay so much of it to rest once and for all, never to be disturbed by new memories - good or bad. He was a scholar of the first water, on a difficult and obscure subject that far too few of us prize, and he persisted through financial and medical hardship to forge a multi-faceted legacy that is irretrievably wedded to that of the man we all came together to admire.

I am proud to have known him; I am prouder still to have worked alongside him in this field; I will miss him greatly.

Author:  PeterScott [ Sat Apr 26, 2014 7:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bill Patterson

You raise a very good point that I have often wondered about with respect to other geniuses. I don't know that anyone else would have wanted to write six million words about a man who is not, let's face it, a household name today. I don't know that anyone else would have wanted to perform research so painstaking it forced a life of monastic frugality. It's churlish and ungrateful, perhaps, to speculate that this could not have been achieved by anyone who didn't have a cog loose somewhere in their psyche, but it does put Bill in the very good company of various legendary tortured artists... which is the only point I was trying to make: That often, exceptionally great works have been created by people who were known to have had inner demons... and perhaps the demons are required.

Bill drove me nuts on many occasions also... but a conversation with him could be such a joyous exploration, as he was a true polymath and bon vivant.

Author:  Dominic [ Sun Apr 27, 2014 3:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bill Patterson

Logged in today for the first time in weeks, perhaps months; partly to see how Bill was going with publication of volume 2 of the Biography.

I couldn't have hoped for a less pleasant surprise.

I was not acquainted with him except through these pages, volume 1 of the bio, and his own website.

I offer my condolences to his family and friends, and to those of you here who knew him.

With you I mourn the passing of not just one of our small community, but one of its leading lights.

Author:  DanHenderson [ Mon Apr 28, 2014 9:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bill Patterson

Would someone be willing to share with us some medical information about what might have done him in? He mentioned too little O2 in his Facebook post; was it COPD? Does anyone know whether he tried to get insurance through the California version of Obamacare? I gathered he had none leading up to his death.

Any information on a memorial service or funeral?

Author:  RobertPearson [ Mon Apr 28, 2014 4:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bill Patterson

I saw a previous post from Bill that he had tremendous pain for a week from a hiatal hernia. I believe one of his family wrote "heart attack" on his Facebook page.

Author:  sakeneko [ Tue Apr 29, 2014 12:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bill Patterson

"Heart attack" is what one of Patterson's relatives told a friend of mine who knows the family. Whether that was what the doctor said, let alone what really happened, I have no idea.

Author:  BillMullins [ Tue Apr 29, 2014 5:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bill Patterson

beamjockey wrote:
I valued Bill Patterson's friendship-- though we didn't know one another well-- and was grateful for the warm encouragement he gave to my own research. In addition, he was always generous in sharing his hard-earned knowledge.

That is a good summary of my friendship with Bill. We never met in person, but corresponded often over email (nearly always related to Heinlein.) Maybe 8-9 years ago, after reading some of his posts on AFH, I (out of the blue) asked him if the name Elinor Curry meant anything to him (I had found the announcement of the upcoming wedding between RAH and Curry in the LA Times). He was sort of surprised, since (a). I was a complete unknown in Heinlein and SF fandom, and (b). at that time only a few people even knew that Heinlein had been married before Leslyn, much less knew her name. That started a relationship in which I'd find out some bit of little-known trivia re: Heinlein, and he'd proceed to amplify it, correct it, put it into context, and encourage me to find more. Some of those exchanges played out here on the Forum, others in email traffic.

I hope Vol 2 comes out soon. I saw a draft of it a year or so back, and know how good it will be. It's frustrating to realize that what ended up on paper is only the tip of the iceberg. Maybe we'll someday get to see the whole manuscript.

[And to the poster above who took the occasion to bemoan our country's health care system -- perhaps another time, or at least another thread, would be more appropriate? Bill has fought diabetes and its complications for years. He was not a healthy man.]

Author:  BillMullins [ Tue Apr 29, 2014 6:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bill Patterson

And has it been mentioned here that David Silver recently passed? I didn't know until a few minutes ago.

Author:  beamjockey [ Tue Apr 29, 2014 6:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bill Patterson

BillMullins wrote:
I hope Vol 2 comes out soon. I saw a draft of it a year or so back, and know how good it will be.

Bill, Amazon stands ready to take your money.

The cover looks like the cover of Volume 1, but it's a different color.

Allegedly available 3 June 2014. $24.91 hardcover, $14.44 Kindle.

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