Bob Weinberg's life will be celebrated this afternoon in Chicago (if you're around there you can find the details here). Bob died aged 70 on 25 September. I had known him for something like 50 years, although we only met twice (or maybe three times, we couldn't be sure). Bob spent an unusually long time on kidney dialysis and last summer he posted a note about his will to live, and his dream of Mars, which I reposted; it was only the third guest post in the years I've been writing this blog. You ought to read his short essay before you continue: you can link to it here.
I admired the way Bob approached his illness, and the vitality with which he kept in touch with his world. Rereading his post, and thinking again of what linked us across the years and the distance, the phrase 'sense of wonder' came to mind; I'm amazed I hadn't used it when I published his essay. It's the feeling that brings youngsters to fictions, especially sf, and which drives what some people derisively call fandom: the ability to retain that sense of wonder as life throws up the kind of reality checks life is inclined to throw up. This is nothing to do with a retreat into fantasy: Bob was hardly one to retreat: the sf world became his livelihood as a dealer in books and art, as an editor, and as a writer. He didn't retreat from illness either.
What a sense of wonder is is the ability to see beyond the cluttered surface of our life, and remain open to the joys hidden beneath, to the wonder of life itself, and the very special wonder of imagination. Because all the best fiction reveals to us the depths which life contains: imagination is our magnifying glass, our microscope, our telescope, our prism through which this fascinating world appears. I mentioned Bob and his tomato crops: I saw the same sense of wonder in the way nature grows, nourishes, sustains, and celebrates our existence.
Bob reminded me one last time of that sense of wonder. I'm grateful that he kept it alive for so long, not just for himself but for those like me whose lives he touched. Man has not yet conquered Mars, and Bob did not live to see that. But in my heart I know that wherever Bob Weinberg is now, he has found his Mars.