I met Greg Bear thirty years ago, in early 1992, when I was a clerk at Half Price Books in Seattle’s University District. I’d been a fan since high school, and when he handed me the credit card for his purchase, I froze with my heart slamming in my ears. “You’re not the science fiction author Greg Bear, are you?”
He smiled. “Well, yes I am!” he said in that booming voice of his. Greg always cherrypicked the best books in the store, and had impeccable taste. A collector had sold us the mammoth multi-volume set of C.G. Jung’s collected works, and I regretted that even with my big discount, no way could I afford it at the time. When Greg snapped it up, I was at least glad it was going to someone who could really appreciate it.
That summer, A.P. McQuiddy and (the late, great) Randy Byers asked if I wanted to crash the Clarion West party at Greg and Astrid’s. They needed a driver. I was reluctant, but Greg knew who I was by this point. There was an uncomfortable moment during the party when I was visiting with Greg on the second-floor balcony of his house overlooking the lake, and he asked, “So what year did you attend Clarion West, Bob?”
I didn’t lie, but he took it in stride. A few years later I was back legitimately as a Clarion West student, and once or twice after that.
Greg liked to hold court at science fiction conventions and parties; he always had interesting things to say, and was always warm and gracious. He brought Poul Anderson, his father-in-law, by the bookstore once and introduced me, which was another heart-thumping moment. Poul Anderson, Frank Herbert, and Jack Vance comprised a trio of similarly talented demigods of twentieth-century SF who happened to be good friends. And Greg Bear was among the best of their successors. (I never got to meet Herbert, but I’ll never forget the outing to Jack Vance’s place, and being present as Astrid and Jack reflected on old times.)
Greg made a weekly pilgrimage to the bookstore, and it was several months before I could take his presence in stride, I was that starstruck. I count myself very lucky to have shared his company at parties, the store, and his home, and all my memories of him are fond. He was a great talent, and good person, and I’m very sorry that I will only be meeting him again through his work.
Just now, I’ve taken down my first-edition copy of Tangents that features the gorgeous Jim Burns cover art, the original of which I noticed in Greg and Astrid’s home. Inside my book, I find this: “For Bob! Hello from GREG BEAR. Half-Price Books, Mar 1992.” Hello and goodbye, Greg.
Bob Kruger is a writer, editor, and former publisher. Bob shared this post on Facebook November 19, 2022 after Greg Bear passed peacefully.