January 10, 2024
When I met Terry Bisson, I had thought he was already dead.
I had just moved to the Bay, and someone told me about the monthly event with Tachyon Publications that he emceed: SF in SF. I was a brand-new writer, trying to make the scene. And when I walked in, there he was.
After the event, I got in line to shake his hand and speak to him. I was so shocked he was still around, still working. He had this unshakeable Kentucky accent and a firm grip.
“Your story changed my life,” I said, earnest as anything. “It made me want to become a writer.”
“Which story?” he asked, as any writer would.
“‘They’re Made of Meat’,” I answered without hesitation.
I had read his most most famous work of fiction when I was a freshman in high school. I remember (ironically) that it made me feel as though I had left my body. A story about how human life is brief and tragic and rooted always in the utterly ridiculous concept of intelligent meat hit me dead center and aligned me on my own mortality, the importance of the body in fiction, and the kind of irony a good writer can apply to tragedy without coming off as jaded or aloof.
Terry laughed. “It’s always that one,” he said.