This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, July 22, 1992

July 22, 1992 - Doomsday Book

I'd like to brag a little about "Doomsday Book," the recently published offering by science fiction author Connie Willis (who happens to live in Greeley, Colorado).

Right there on the page headed "Acknowledgements," she writes, "My special thanks to Head Librarian Jamie LaRue and the rest of the staff of the Greeley Public Library for their endless and invaluable assistance."

I met Connie shortly after I took my first library director job in Greeley five years ago. But I already knew who she was. Years before, I had read one of her first science fiction stories, called "Fire Watch"--a haunting time travel piece, set in war-time England.

But in 1987, Connie was hard at work on "Doomsday Book," her second full length novel. This was the story of Kivrin, a young historian from the year 2054, with an interest in traveling back to the Middle Ages.

Kivrin gets her wish--but instead of landing (through time travel technology) outside the Oxford, England of the year 1320, she discovers that she has been deposited at the beginning of one of the most horrible periods in history, the days of "the Black Death."

Instants after her arrival, she falls ill--precisely as, back in 2054, a new super-disease springs up, perhaps through the time "drop."

Even if you're not a science fiction fan, this is a hard book to put down--my wife read it straight through my birthday, pausing only for an occasional cup of coffee.

I have an unusual perspective on, and interest in, this book, in large part because I watched Connie write it. She did all of her writing right there in the Greeley Public Library--and an impressive amount of research to boot.

As she wrote, Connie posed some hard-to-answer questions: "How do I describe the speech of the people of the Middle Ages?" That took her into the field of linguistics. "How do I describe the interior of a middle ages house?" That took her into archaeology. "How do I describe the spread of the plague?" That took her into all kinds of historical documents. All in all, it gave our library quite a work-out.

In the five years it took Connie to write the book, she did more research on the Middle Ages than, I'm sure, many post-graduate students do while writing their doctoral theses.

But how did I rate the acknowledgement? Well, (this is the bragging part), I personally provided even greater assistance than just tracking down old church liturgies and historical data.

Every time I saw her, I asked, "Is it done yet?" I feel this helped to keep her on track, much as a persistent, "Are we there yet?" from the back of the car brings a kind of focus and intensity to a long drive.

And one day--I'll never forget this--I gave her a brownie, right there in the library. Shucks, I knew she was working hard. Of course, this isn't the kind of thing they teach you in library school. Sometimes, you just have to go with your gut instinct: break a rule, reach out to the writer, provide a little encouragement.

And then, one day just before last Christmas, I heard a heavy thump at my door, and a quick ring of the doorbell. It was UPS, and to my delight, they had dropped off the freshly typed, completed manuscript of Doomsday Book. I raced through it, then called Connie to congratulate her.

The book is now available, in paperback, from your local library, and all the better bookstores. I even have mine personally inscribed by the author. Connie wrote, "Yes, it's done, damn it! One lousy brownie and a lot of kibitzing..."

Hey, it's all part of the service.

No comments:

Post a Comment