I don’t know if many of you know who Karl Edward Wagner was. He died in October of 1994. He was an extraordinary writer, and a wonderful editor who helped many a younger writer. He wrote both fantasy and horror, and I enjoyed both, although I will remember him best for his fantasy tales of Kane, swordsman and sorcerer. I happened to be looking through some old stuff today and found a comment about Karl’s death that I’d written to the REHupa group. It’s a dreary day here, and I’m feeling a bit melancholy anyway. It seemed like the right time to share it.
Karl Edward Wagner (Final Note): Written Tuesday, October 18, 1994, about midnight.
I got a call earlier this night from Morgan Holmes to let me know that Karl Wagner had died on Saturday past. I understand that he was in his mid-forties and that's way too young for anyone to go. But I also understand that he rode hard all the way through and did some things to his body that weren't exactly healthy. It was his choice. I believe that. Despite all my training in the psychologies of environmental and biological determinism, I believe that most adult human beings have the brain power to make choices. Maybe I just have to believe that.
I talked to Karl Wagner twice in person, both times at the New Orleans Science Fiction and Fantasy convention. I wrote him a couple of times and got one longish letter back. I asked him when he'd be coming out with another Kane collection, which was surely one of the more common questions he got asked. Now I guess I have my answer.
Kane was a unique character in heroic fantasy. I thought he was the most original conception in heroic fantasy, ever. And Karl's prose was the closest that I've seen to Robert E. Howard's in its ability to create feelings of passion and glory, and to give the impression of myth. I wish Karl had written more, but then I always wish that of any writer I like. He had his own needs. And it wasn't my life to live. Now it isn't his either. But I won't forget, and I know many others who feel the same way. Goodbye Karl.