Jim Baen (October 22, 1943 – June 28, 2006)

Jim Baen has died. David Drake has written a tribute.

I’ve written about Jim’s work before. David Drake is my favorite author, and you can’t talk about Drake without talking about Baen. With Acidman dying a few days ago, I’ve got two more people to remember as Damned Fine Americans this 4th of July.

When Jim called me on June 11, he told me he was dying. I thought he was simply having a bad interaction among prescription drugs. Though the stroke that killed him occurred the next day in hospital, Jim was right and I was wrong–again.

After that opening, Jim said, “I’m just going to say it: we’ve known each other all these years and you seem to like me. Why?”

That’s a hell of a thing to be hit with out of the blue. Jim had always known that he was socially awkward and that he not infrequently rubbed people the wrong way, but it wasn’t something we discussed. (And it’s obviously not a subject on which I could be of much help.)

If I’d been a different person, I’d have started out by listing the things he did right: for example, that I’d never met a more loving father than Jim was to his two children (Jessica Baen, 29, Jim’s daughter with Madeline Gleich, and Katherine Baen, 14, Jim’s daughter with Toni Weisskopf). Being me, I instead answered the question a number of us ask ourselves: “How can you like a person who’s behaved the way you know I have?” I said that his flaws were childish ones, tantrums and sulking; not, never in my experience, studied cruelty. He agreed with that.

And then I thought further and said that when I was sure my career was tanking–

“You thought that? When was that?”

In the mid ’90s, I explained, when Military SF was going down the tubes with the downsizing of the military. But when I was at my lowest point, which was very low, I thought, “I can write two books a year. And Jim will pay me $20K apiece for them–“

“I’d have paid a lot more than that!”

And I explained that this wasn’t about reality: this was me in the irrational depths of real depression. And even when I was most depressed and most irrational, I knew in my heart that Jim Baen would pay me enough to keep me alive, because he was that sort of person. He’d done that for Keith Laumer whom he disliked, because Laumer had been an author Jim looked for when he was starting to read SF.

I could not get so crazy and depressed that I didn’t trust Jim Baen to stand by me if I needed him. I don’t know a better statement than that to sum up what was important about Jim, as a man and as a friend.

A good writing by Jim himself is here.

One Comment

  1. wench says:

    I didn’t know that.

    I’ve loved the books he published all my life.