Monday, February 27, 2006

Don't Know What You Got...

The deaths of two different people recently have elicited the same response from me: sadness that they're gone, and an admiration for them even though I was not as familiar with them as others were. The two are actor Don Knotts and author Octavia Butler.

I'm not a fan of The Andy Griffith Show and I've probably only watched an episode or two. However, I've always known who Don Knotts was. He had those big, poppy eyes and a voice that was instantly recognizable. He was always welcome whenever he made an appearance on things I watched whether it was as a random guest star or in a small (but pivotal) role in the movie Pleasantville. He was pretty funny and always seemed like a nice, genuine person.

On the other end of the spectrum is noted sci-fi author Octavia Butler. I was surprised to see that she had passed, especially since she was not very old. When I was younger, I heard some people talk about how they loved her books but I really had no clue who she was until I took a class on African-American Speculative Fiction in college. We only read one book by her in that class, Wild Seed, but I did like what I read. I never got the chance to check out some of her other work (apart from some stuff that was in the collection Dark Matter, another book I bought for that class). However, there are relatively few black science-fiction writers and to lose one of the most well known is a big loss indeed.

It's a little odd whenever someone known (but not someone you know very well) passes away, especially if you find that you may have really enjoyed the things they did. The very first real short story I wrote back in high school was sci-fi. I have not written anything sci-fi since but I wonder how my writing would be different if I had really known about Octavia Butler around that time in my life. I wonder why I never took the time to read another book from her. I also wonder whether or not I really missed something by not watching The Andy Griffith Show or Three's Company.

Ultimately, everyone will have the "didn't-realize-it-until-it's too late" feeling about some celebrity, artist, etc. who passes away. The single thing that eases that feeling is the realization that these people have left something that you and others can look back on. The Andy Griffith Show will be on TV somewhere for years to come. Octavia Butler's books will probably stay in print long after her passing. Even though we may not have realized someone's talents when they were living, we can always still discover them.

No comments:

Post a Comment