“Self-Portrait with Flowers” by Jamie Bishop
He sits across from me with his lovely wife. Among the dozen or so around us at the large restaurant table, he and she are the only ones close to my age. The second night of the very first Trinoc*con, September 2000, and I’ve managed to insinuate myself into dinner at a seafood place in downtown Durham with Hugo and Nebula winners. It is because I am so reticent around the others at the restaurant, writers whose work I admire and idolize, that he pushes his glasses back up his nose and introduces himself.
“Hi, I’m Jamie,” he says. He points a thumb at Michael Bishop next to him: “I’m this guy’s son.”
I give my name and shake his hand and the hand of his wife Steffi. He asks if I’m a writer, and though unpublished at that point, I say yes.
“See, I admire you for that. I barely have enough energy at the end of the day to sit and stare at the television.”
“But I’ve seen your stuff in the Art Show,” I say, remembering now why his name is familiar. “I imagine that took time and energy to produce.”
He dismisses this with a wave of his hand. “That’s just noodling, nothing serious. The skill that it takes to create a story out of nothing, that’s something special.”
No matter how much I try to convince him otherwise, that I could never do what he can do, that his digital collages show ingenuity and originality, he insists that his artwork is no big deal. We continue to discuss art, writing, science fiction, movies, and books, and soon I forget about the other luminaries at the table, the author guests in whose presence until very recently I’d been intimidated into silence.
We will continue this amazing and fulfilling friendship over the next seven years, getting together to watch movies, converse about our passions and our lives, and collaborate on literary projects (my words and his illustrations, our humble version of the Gaiman/McKean dynamic). He will advise me on the merits of graduate school, and the twisty roads of marriage that must be navigated with care. We will support each other in our artistic endeavors (which will later be found at memory39.com and jasonlundberg.net respectively).
Jamie will lose his life at the hands of a crazed gunman while teaching a German class in April 2007, and the news will devastate me half a world away in Singapore. His absence will leave such a hole in my heart that I will worry it can never be mended. I will fervently wish for time travel technology, so that I can go back and warn him.
But all of that, the wonderful shared times and the eventual heartbreaking loss, is in the future. Tonight, at that seafood restaurant in Durham, I discover a kindred spirit, a brother-in-arms, a generous friend. And it makes me undeniably happy.
“Anamnesis for the Artist” is © 2007 by Jason Erik Lundberg
This remembrance was written for the Trinoc*con 8 Program Book.
More formal tributes can be found below: