Monday, June 14, 2010

In Jeanne's Name

Questions have come up a few times about donations to honor Jeanne.

We are suggesting donations go to Green Gulch, Jeanne's zen center in California. A place that has meant so much to her for many years. If you wish, you can donate (and learn more) here.

Or you can simply memorialize and honor Jeanne by helping to bring peace to the world, and yourself. Thank you all for your kind wishes.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Buchi Eihei In pacem

(from Spider)

Jeanne Robinson left this life at about 4:45 Sunday afternoon, a gentle smile on her face. Her departure was quite peaceful and she was in no pain at all.

Because her Palliative Care doctor, Paul Sugar, was able to forecast her passing almost to the hour, her daughter Terri, son-in-law Heron and granddaughter Marisa flew back from NYC just in time, and were with me at her side when Jeanne died; and her mother Dorothy and sister Laurie arrived from Massachusetts only a couple of hours later, after Terri had had time to expertly make Jeanne look better than she had for days. Zen priests Michael and Kate Newton were also present per Jeanne’s wishes, as were our oldest friends in this part of the world, Greg McKinnon, Anya Coveney-Hughes and Stevie McDowell. Over the next few hours more sangha buddies arrived, and chanting of the Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra was done. Her body was then bathed and dressed in her hand-sewn rakasu as per Zen tradition.

In accordance with her wishes she will be cremated. Half her ashes will be scattered off this coast, and half will be taken back to her childhood home, Cape Cod, so that her East Coast family will have a place to go and visit her.

Only moments after Jeanne had passed, Terri put little Marisa down on Jeanne’s breast and told her to give Nana a hug. Marisa did, one of the boneless-sprawl, cheek-rubbing, no-hurry hugs we’ve all come to know means she really loves and trusts whoever she’s hugging. And then she raised herself up on one arm, looked at Jeanne’s face....I swear this is true.....and waved bye-bye. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck.

If you’re in the Vancouver/North Vancouver area, you should receive a second message later, as soon as I know when her services will be held, at Cates Hill Chapel here on Bowen Island. At this point I don’t even know when or where she’ll be cremated: her social-worker sister Laurie O’Neil is, with characteristic kindness, fielding such practical matters for me and Terri.

One thing I can report: Jeanne, a lay-ordained Soto Zen monk, always yearned to become a full Buddhist priest.....but the five-year-period of intensive practice and fulltime study in the monastery required was logistically difficult for us, among other things, and we kept putting it off. In a recent farewell phone conversation, she told her personal teacher Tenshin Reb Anderson Zenki that her biggest regret was that she had never been able to find a way to study to become a priest. Reb (who gave her both her Dharma name, Buchi Eihei—”dancing wisdom; eternal peace”—and her nickname in the Zen community, “Wired Buddha”) immediately told her he would come to her funeral, and ordain her a priest on the spot. That brought her deep joy—and will, I have no doubt, assist her greatly in her travels through the bardos.

The only dying wish she missed was to be driven down to Seattle in a few weeks, to see/hear Crosby, Stills and Nash. I should probably go myself...but I doubt I’ll have the heart, that soon.

I cannot praise highly enough Dr. Paul Sugar and the entire staff of the Palliative Care Wing of North Vancouver’s Lion’s Gate Hospital. All nurses and nursing aides are heros, but those who work exclusively with the dying are a breed apart. (as are those who work Burn Units.) These boddhisattvas—over a dozen of them in the course of a week—were without exception willing to accede to absolutely any reasonable request by a family member, and any unreasonable request by a heavily drugged patient—with infinite patience, competence and compassion. They ignored regulations that were unreasonable, and enforced the important ones with firm kindness. Visiting hours are 24-7. They actively encourage the playing of instruments and singing, raucous laughter, and the sound of crying babies. They are not stingy with the dilaudid. When your loved one enters endgame, they offer you blankets, pillows and a special chair which can effortlessly become a startlingly comfortable bed, so you can stay at the bedside all night, for as many nights as necessary. If you’d rather get a nearby hotel or B&B, they’ll find one for you and get you a rate.

Maybe this will shorthand it. One of the nurses assigned to Jeanne got chatting with her as she worked, learned a bit of Jeanne’s story. Then, completely on her own initiative, she went to one of the computers in the nurse’s station, Googled up both our websites, found and printed out the best photos of Jeanne dancing, solo and with her company, and also driving across America in a red, white and blue VW microbus with her first husband Daniel Corrigan, and winning a Hugo Award in Phoenix with me—and then she taped them all those photos up to the closet door beside Jeanne’s bed. As James Taylor sang, “Whatcha gonna do with folks like that?”

I have lost my best friend, teacher, partner, lover and co-grandparent—seemingly forever as I understand that word. But by chance, on this same day, two different people emailed me links to a letter written by Robert A. Heinlein to Forrest J. Ackerman near the end of World War Two, consoling Forry on the loss of his brother in combat. In the middle of it, he suddenly wrote, “Forry, I have not a belief, not a conviction, but personal knowledge of survival after death. You will see your brother again.”

If that’s true—and who am I to doubt Robert Heinlein on a matter so important?—then all I have to do is find her again. I’ll simply track her across the universes and through the dimensions like Kimball Kinnison and his Clarissa, or Alexander Hergensheimer chasing his Margrethe to Hell itself, if I have to. Shit, for a minute there, I thought I had a problem. Merely a tedious delay. Have a lot to tell her about when we finally do find each other. Try to spend the downtime becoming a better, kinder man.

I believe the Tibetan Buddhist tradition says a dead person’s soul takes 49 days to get its act together and fully depart this plane of existence. So please keep an eye out for Jeanne, and continue to toss out an occasional prayer or good thought for her—at least until July 16 or so.

Thank you for being her friend and mine. I must sleep now, if that is possible.


Jeanne Robinson March 30th 1948 - May 30th 2010

I met Jeanne very briefly in 2003 at TorCon in Toronto. I got to shake her and Spider's hand, get a picture with them, and that was it.

In July of 2007 I attend Robert Heinlein's 100th birthday party, otherwise known as the Heinlein Centennial, in Kansas City. There we met again, after she made a presentation about her plan and hope to create a short film featuring a zero-gravity dance. I asked her if I could help. I was looking for a new project and wanted to explore making a version of Stardance into an IMAX film. We hit it off and started working together on the project.

I won't recount the last three years for you - you can read through this blog from the beginning to get the gist. I'll just tell you that in the last three years Jeanne and I became very close friends. The last time I saw her in person was in January of 2009, just before she was diagnosed with Cancer – and just when we decided to forget IMAX and develop Stardance into a feature screenplay.

We had been working long distance, via skype and phone since then, making and postponing plans to get together as Jeanne rode the roller-coaster of treatment and recovery, relapse and more treatment. Our progress on the screenplay suffered as well, partially due to my loss of a collaborator much of the time as well as having painted ourselves into a corner adapting such a sprawling work into a filmable form. A few months ago we brought in author and screenwriter David Gerrold to ply his expertise to the project. Two weeks ago, David and I presented Jeanne with a new version of the story, and the first pages of the new version of the screenplay.

This was her response...

Dear David and James,

I’ve read the treatment, and I’m in awe. Applause, applause! It works on so many levels. You’ve distilled our over-sized opus into a manageable work of art that reads like a dream. It makes sense. It flows. It’s a page-turner. It’s fresh (even though the idea has been floating around for decades). What more can I say -- except deep bows of gratitude and love. Words can’t reach it. I’m just so happy to be sitting here -- overflowing with hope at this challenging moment in time. All thanks to you.

As you all know by now, Jeanne passed away Sunday afternoon (May 30th) at 4:45 PM Pacific Time. She is dancing free of this earth, free from the confines of body and gravity, and I am sure she is watching over all of us. David and I will finish the screenplay in her honor - and do our damnedest to get the thing made.

We love you , Jeanne.

Here are some moments I was privileged to share with Jeanne.

Jeanne, Spider, Me and Kathleen the night before the Zero-G flight.

Jeanne and I the day of the flight.

Jeanne at our at our booth during NewSpace promoting our project to potential sponsors .

Jeanne and I start the feature version of
the Stardance screenplay.

Spider sings to Jeanne in their home on Bowen Island. (The song he wrote to woo her shortly after they met.)

Spider, Jeanne and I waiting for the water taxi to Vancouver.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A New Auction

Podcast Sci Fi Saturday Night is helping to raise funds on behalf of
author Spider Robinson's wife Jeanne, who is battling cancer and needs
assistance with her medical costs. On Saturday May 8th, Sci Fi
Saturday Night will have a special benefit episode starting at 8pm
eastern time featuring Spider Robinson, during which several pieces of
original artwork will be auctioned off on eBay. Among the many
artists donating to the auction are Mike Mignola, Sergio Aragones, Joe
Michael Linsner, Ben Templesmith, Mike Lilly, Bob Almond and Frankie
B. Washington; several more have contributed original artwork, signed
prints, and limited-edition comics.

Currently, donations for Jeanne Robinson can be made at Please visit to see scans of the auction
items. Help Jeanne Robinson with her battle against cancer!

Brian Belanger "Illustrator X"

Sci Fi Saturday Night is New England's premiere science fiction podcast,
with new episodes airing live every Saturday night at 8pm eastern time at Sci Fi Saturday Night is the official podcast
of both the Boston Comic Con and

Monday, April 5, 2010

Update on Jeanne

From Spider (relayed through Jim.)

Dear friends,

This will be hard to read; it is certainly hard to write.

Jeanne’s doctors have ended her chemotherapy. There’s nothing more chemistry can do for/to her. Radiation was never an option. She is therefore now in Palliative Care Phase. We asked roughly how long this stage might last—repeatedly—and the only answer we got was, “somewhere between a month and a year—more or less.”

Some good news: the Palliative Care doctor she’s been assigned is considered one of the world’s best. His name, I swear, is Dr. Sugar. Dr. Paul Sugar. Jeanne and I both liked him on sight. Her best friend Anya has been a patient of his for many years, and gives him top marks. So do all his patient-reviewers online.

Jeanne has been in Lion’s Gate Hospital for the past week with digestive troubles, and may be there for as long as another week. She is extremely weak and tired, but not in pain. She is being well cared for. And today they finally diagnosed her problem, which should be easily fixable. It is hoped she will soon return home, and rally, now that the chemo is no longer battering at her system. We all know her strength and determination. Our pharmacist tells us she has many customers who’ve been in palliative stage for more than four years and are feeling fine.

Right now Jeanne welcomes prayers, good thoughts, short emails of love and support that don’t require an answer, flowers, letters, or cards. (NO FLOWERS, PLEASE!) Address the latter to Jeanne Robinson, Palliative Care Section, 7th floor, Lion’s Gate Hospital, 231 15th Street East, North Vancouver, BC V7L 2L7; her email is

But please: NO VISITORS. NONE. THIS MEANS YOU. I’m serious: don’t even “pop in for a quick second.” She has blood family with her every day: me, her sister Laurie, her daughter and son-in-law and little 10-month-old Marisa. Her mom and her sister Dori is on the way. That’s all the fun she (or her immune system, or the nursing staff) can stand, at the moment.

And please, DON’T PHONE HER UNLESS/UNTIL YOU HEAR FROM ME THAT SHE’S BACK HOME AGAIN AND READY TO YAK. Right now talking on the phone exhausts her, especially with concerned friends. And no matter when you phone, you’re liable to wake her up. She needs to nap. Thanks for understanding; I know it’s frustrating.

Paypal donations for Jeanne and Spider are still being gratefully accepted at you'll find a hotlink halfway down that page.

I hope I’ll have better news to report next time. Meanwhile your loving thoughts are much appreciated.


Monday, January 4, 2010

And now there are three - Writing with David.

As most of you know, Jeanne and I are now working with David Gerrold on the Stardance adaptation. How's it going, you say? Take three strong and passionate personalities and put them in a room together (or, actually, since I'm in Memphis, David is in L.A. and Jeanne is in BC...put them on a conference call together.) No, we haven't come to blows - but we're all learning to hear and be heard by each other, and making real progress. My wife tends to leave the house during these calls as my voice slowly gets louder and louder as our meetings progress and I begin shouting out run-on sentences that start out "What if we do this?" Jeanne is somewhat more reserved, but stern, David is...diplomatic.

David is quite direct, though he couches his directness in a cushion of tact and praise. He will stop us and throw a hand-grenade suggestion into our midsts, and while Jeanne or I might initially rail against the suggestion, we talk out the implications and see how this radical change in our thinking can send us in a direction that often makes the story come together.

While adapting a literary piece for the screen, one’s original intention is to be as true to the source as possible. That intention can become a fool’s errand in the screenwriting world. The things that bring the reader deep into a piece like Stardance, the sharing of the narrator's thoughts, are much harder to show cinematically. Even with the many adjustments that Jeanne and I have made in our adaptation, we have found ourselves lost in the caverns of some of our previous choices not knowing how to extract ourselves.

David is blasting us out. Spider is throwing us flares now and again, helping to light our way as well. I have the line belayed...I'm running out of metaphor. I better save it for the cows.

(Q: What's a metaphor? A: To keep cows in.)