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15 August 2010 @ 02:49
 
Susan Garrett was what we used to call a SMOF--Secret Master of Fandom. She knew everyone, knew the rules and when to break them. Knew the secrets and the stories and the jokes and always always where to find the nearest bathroom. She comes from a long line of people chased out of the Old Country possibly for being unnatural (there was a great-uncle in there someplace I believe who had his head chopped off after he died, JUST IN CASE). She wrote a TV tie-in novel that had one of the most amazing sell-through rates of tie-ins at Berekely in part because she--all on her own--went on a signing tour around the country which was half Forever Knight geeking, half "Here are things you never knew you never knew about vampires" and she was personable and hilarious and brilliant and clever.

She would write novels in the amount of time most of us would be able to maybe manage a haiku, and smut (typing VERY quickly with just two fingers) if you gave her Amaretto.

I first met her online in 1992, on FORKNI-L where she wrote amazing stories. I think we met in person at the first Dead of Winter FK con in Boston in 1994, and ever since then every few months I'd pick up the phone and two to four hours of conversation that wandered all over our lives, fandom, and television later we'd hang up and it would have been as if we'd never spent a minute apart.

I never got to actually see Susan as much as I wish I could have. Usually I could manage at least a few years in a row every few years as our convention-going fannish paths intersected. Whenever I was at MediaWest Con, first thing I'd do was head to her and Ann's room to hang out and help staple anything that needed stapling. One year in New Orleans, we attacked her with make-up and a fancy dress and used her as a life-size Barbie. She and Mary GT Webber and I drank really, really, REALLY good whiskey, and then we wandered off into the Quarter despite the hurricane warnings (this was I think 1995).

Since getting back into Who fandom in 2005, she let me kidnap her to Gallifrey One in Los Angeles every February. She'd take a week off work, happily and gleefully shuttle me and Lizzy and Rob around Los Angeles, take us to Disney where magically we never seemed to have to queue for anything longer than 15 minutes. I'd never been to Disneyland before. She bought me an Emergency Disney Hoodie so I didn't freeze to death--which came in particularly handy when A Certain Someone insisted of course I wouldn't get soaked on Splash Mountain.

(The part where I don't always recognise irony makes Lizzy laugh. It made Susan laugh too, but she'd always just pat me on the head like a terrier.)

She'd been living in LA for years, but never lost her NY roots. She truly believed that Fish Tacos are an Abomination, and their existence proved that there was Something Wrong With The Universe. She laughed and laughed when I played her The Brendan Hines' song "I Miss New York" and even drove me out to Hollywood to hear him perform live a few years back. She'd take me and friends out for post-con sushi, and trips to Disney or Warner Bros. or anyplace they'd like to go because she had a car and was local, and had a POS GPS called a Garvin that almost always took the most roundabout way anyplace. But it was always an adventure.

She introduced me to the concept of "Story Dice" (stock plots for action-adventure series that always show up eventually and are always entertaining, like 'handcuffed together', 'the suburban episode' and 'temporary amnesia', etc.). There was the year where she had three inches of bright magenta roots, from a bad experience touching up her hair (she wore her Laura Holt hat a LOT that week-end). She was as comfortable geeking out with Moffat about Sherlock Holmes as she was 1980s TV with fangirls. She adored meeting new people, and brought a giant bucket of Disney pins to trade with our friend Heather and Ed's daughter Haley just to make sure Haley had a great con.

She was an awesome con roommate. She bought popsicles for Lizzy when she woke in the middle of the night ill from food poisoning. She would stay up til all hours in the lobby, magically producing bottles of booze when needed. She loved television madly as a storytelling form, but she also loved film and pulps, and had made sure her niece was schooled before the age of 4 in the Universal monster movies (possibly to the dismay or delight of the rest of her family. I'm a bit fuzzy on that part).

She was there for the dinner where I believe Paul Cornell, Javier Grillo-Marxuach and (former Boy Editor) Mark Waid LOUDLY proclaimed their love for Giant Size Man-Thing to a crowded Champions, and was always checking on me to make sure I had eaten and was properly hydrated. She would show up at panels with coffee, and the odd banana or hard-boiled egg, just as I (or someone else) needed it to keep from keeling over. She had to bow out of Gally early this year due to feeling poorly. I felt terrible that I'd missed her, but kept thinking the phonecalls and visits would go on and everything would be fine. I got to give her a copy of the book, and promised to sign it for her the next time I saw her.

The last email I had from her she begged me to "Please remember to eat and hydrate", which I always found charming because it harkened back to the 20-something fangirl who stayed up all night drinking and talking and foregoing sleep I always remained in Susan's mind despite the fact that that mantle had passed on to other fangirls who shall (mostly) remain nameless. And I could never have hoped to have a better mentor than Susan. She didn't just teach me about fanzines and writing and cons. She taught me about the shape of stories and our appetites for them, the joy of friendship and the importance of being good to people. Not just because you never know who might be there for you when you need a hand up someday, but just for the sake of being a good person in a "thus we refute entropy" sort of way.

Susan passed away peacefully in her sleep today, a few days after her 49th birthday, after a brief battle with cancer. She was surrounded by people who loved her, and made sure she knew it. None of us were ready to say good-bye. We never are.

If there is a Callahan's Crosstime Saloon out there somewhere in the ether, there's a hell of a wake going on right about now. I'll say that much.
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One Whose Honesty is Stronger Than Her Fear: griefamilyn on 15th August 2010 16:31 (UTC)
This was such a beautiful eulogy, and so perfectly Susan. Thank you. I will always remember the Fantastically Fundamental Guide to Fandom with Ann and Susan's fingerprints all over the cover. I will remember Susan getting a pork chop and giving me bites of it when I wasn't eating, to get me to have something. I will remember stuffing Susan's till while watching her table because she would always charge less than cost, never keep accounting, and always LOSE money to make sure she wasn't cheating anyone.

But "Story Dice" as a term...I think that's one of the best things ever, and had forgotten that she was Patient Zero for our interaction with it.

We are so enriched to have known her.
scientific integrity and blah blah blah: blossoms in a misty rainsilveraspen on 15th August 2010 16:46 (UTC)
She sounds like a wonderful person, and I'm sorry I never knew her -- what a lovely eulogy.

I'm so, so sorry for your loss.
Thistlethornthistlethorn on 15th August 2010 18:43 (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much for this, Tara! *hugs*
La Femme Crayola: Keep Calm by myth_moondancerannlarimer on 15th August 2010 19:26 (UTC)
The best and wisest woman I have ever known.
Cheesehead in Paradise: Sadnessfinabair on 15th August 2010 21:05 (UTC)
*hug* Thank you for even more good memories of Susan. My couch is getting decidedly damp but it's so wonderful to remember.
robshearmanrobshearman on 16th August 2010 01:37 (UTC)
The thing about Susan - when I first met her, and being the sort of grumpy Englishman I am, and deeply deeply poisoned by cynicism and grouch - is that I spent a good few days trying to figure her out. As she took time off work just to ferry me around Disneyland, and share in all the excitement of watching me behave like a big squealing kid, *and* holding my bags as I went on the rides. And I kept thinking, *no one* can be this nice. There has to be another side.

And I was wrong. And, also, I was right.

I was wrong, because in all the time I knew her, in all the times after conventions where we'd hang out together just the two of us, all over Hollywood, in tons of bookshops - I never heard her be unkind or spiteful or malicious. Now, I'm not above a bit of bitching, and I won't pretend that Susan was some righteous do-gooder who'd frown disapprovingly at me if I went off on one. Because she wasn't. It's just in her company I felt I could be a kinder person and didn't need to bitch so much.

And I was right, because *niceness* wasn't Susan at all. She could be wickedly, hilariously funny. She was the very first person who took me out for a sushi dinner, and partly because she knew I was utterly terrified of raw fish and would squirm through the entire thing. And partly too because she knew that once I got into it I'd never stop eating the things. (Some of my favourite photographs are taken by Susan, as she sees me pull brave faces at the sushi in front of me. And some of my other favourites are taken by me, capturing Susan as she pokes fun.)

She could be smart and wise, and full of insight about the TV industry, and how stories worked. (We'd chat about such things a lot as we drove to Anaheim. Oh yes.) She could be terribly silly, pointing out to me in the Disney shop the canonicity (or not) of Hannah Montana. She could be terribly patient with me. ...Actually, she was *always* terribly patient with me. And that wasn't niceness either, God forbid. She was patient because she cared.

I never kept in contact with Susan all that well from year to year between Gallifrey conventions (though I would try). That's my loss. But I know that one of the reasons I looked forward so much to going to those cons was because Susan would be there, and we could renew our friendship so easily as if those twelve months in the middle separating us hadn't happened at all.

I'm going to miss her enormously.
ljctaraljc on 16th August 2010 02:11 (UTC)
*hugs you tight*

Shaun posted a lovely message on the Gallifrey One website. I am still not dealing. There's been a lot of alcohol and chocolate and bouts of crying and rage. I am so glad that the two of you were able to spend so much time together. She was so incredibly fond of you from day one, and you were such a good friend to her as well.
batdina on 16th August 2010 03:17 (UTC)
thanks for the reminders of how she lived. I really need them right now.
jennifer3dtdjennifer3dtd on 16th August 2010 08:56 (UTC)
Susan sounds like an amazing, amazing, and lovely person. She had the most gorgeous smile in the pictures you posted of her.

I'm so sorry she passed away.

*big hugs*
Calapinecalapine on 16th August 2010 11:01 (UTC)
Thank you for this, Tara. I've never lost a friend before, and I keep trying to type something, and it keeps sounding horrid and awkward, so here are some things I remember:

My first Gally and the first time I went on bloody Splash Mountain, I got completely soak while everyone else was lightly sprinkled. I was Mildly Outraged. Susan laughed, and also disappeared for two minutes to acquire a towel to plonk over me.

When confined to bed with horrid food poisoning, she went to the kitchen and got them to cut up a giant plate of assorted fruits for me cause I hadn't eaten for about a day and probably that wasn't helping.

I know absolutely nothng about what she thought about Doctor Who; I know loads about what she thought of Disney. She introduced to me to the joys of Disney pin-trading. (And enabled me ridiculously, "Here have a handful of badges, now go trade," "They'll let me swap one of these badges I am unfond of for something pretty?" "Yes!") And she knew I loved the Alice badges and presented me with an Alice bag and a whacking great pile of Alice pin badges last Gally and mocked my perfectly normal probably noise of glee.

She was very good at the feeding of less responsible humans who forgot maybe food was a good thing that stopped you feeling faint and other useful things.

I'm so very glad that I knew her (that you introduced us!). It was very difficult not to be cheered when she was around. She was generous and kind and clever and funny and I shall miss her terribly.
Dualbunnydualbunny on 16th August 2010 15:16 (UTC)
I'm so sorry she's gone. This is an amazing tribute to her.
Jana: marilyn pensivejanabanana74 on 16th August 2010 15:46 (UTC)
Thank you for this, Tara. I'm really at a loss for words about Susan, but your words are perfect.

*hugs*
celli on 16th August 2010 17:43 (UTC)
*hugs*
MechTurtlemechturtle on 16th August 2010 19:07 (UTC)
This is lovely. I knew of Susan through MW*C and later through SAJV; her enthusiasm and fannish efforts were always amazing. Thanks for sharing more of her fantastic-ness, and I'm sorry she's gone.
Amy R.: Hugbrightknightie on 16th August 2010 19:47 (UTC)
Thank you very much for sharing these memories and reflections of Susan. (I followed a link over here today.) Like so many people, I looked up to Susan as a model of graciousness and generosity, and am a better person as well as fan than I would otherwise have been for having been blessed with just a little of her in my life.
eee1313 on 16th August 2010 20:08 (UTC)
Oh, hon, I'm so sorry to hear about your friend's passing. I'm glad you have good memories of her, and may they keep you happy during this time of sadness.