An Appreciation of Bruce Taylor, aka Mr. Magic Realism

It may seem odd to interrupt the posting of a lengthy three-part book review for an essay on another subject, but I have just received the disheartening news that my friend Bruce Taylor died a few days ago, and this situation has priority.

Bruce Taylor was a science fiction and fantasy writer who became known by the nickname Mr. Magic Realism because he specialized in the magic realism genre. One of his collections was even called Mr. Magic Realism, and I have reviewed it in this blog. His stories were generally light, fun, and fascinating.

I met Bruce at a summer party held for Clarion West students and graduates, and I also ran into him fairly frequently at other parties and science fiction conventions. He usually attended these events dressed in the costume in the photo on the back cover of Mr. Magic Realism: white shoes, white pants, white shirt, white jacket, and white top hat. Along with his white hair and white beard, the effect was perfect.

As we kept meeting by chance, Bruce and I would spend longer and longer periods of time sipping beers and talking together. It turned out that career-wise we had a lot in common. He attended Clarion West in 1972, and I attended in 1973. Both of us had published numerous books as well as short stories in magazines and anthologies, and both were frustrated that despite our efforts we were not better known. However, we also both had the conviction that despite our anonymity compared to other writers in the field, there was nothing better for us to be doing in this great and grand universe than writing. It was always a lot of fun to run into each other and share our most recent accomplishments. It seemed that the two of us always had new publications going and found great joy in the ongoing creative process.

A few years ago I decided not to wait until the next possible meeting at a party or other gathering. I wrote Bruce an email and suggested that we should get together somewhere for a drink and a talk. He enthusiastically agreed, and so I took a bus to Seattle’s Central District not far from Bruce’s condo and we met at a bar over big mugs of craft beer. We talked for a long time, Bruce and I, mainly about science fiction and fantasy, writing, publishing, and other things that were going on in our lives.

It was the last time I ever saw Bruce.

You see, shortly after that meeting the COVID storm broke and everyone went into isolation. Clarion West classes and gatherings and science fiction conventions were abruptly canceled. Bruce had to be especially careful because of his health issues, and because of my age I was considered highly vulnerable to the virus as well. We continued to communicate about our publications and our general situations. Bruce moved around a bit because mold and other concerns were giving him problems at the condo. Eventually he found a new home in a small town north of Seattle called La Connor. After he made the move, he invited me to come out and visit him there, and I had that visit on my radar. However, I do not own a car, so I was waiting for the right opportunity to take him up on the offer. It was always in the back of my mind, though. Alas; I waited too long. Now it is too late.

At least we managed that last meeting at the bar. The thing is: I think I felt closer to Bruce than to any of the other Clarion West instructors and students I met. We bonded over our similar instructional backgrounds, love of writing, and efforts to achieve greater recognition. Losing him is like losing my two closest Clarion West classmates, Paul Bond and Russell Bates. Paul died a long time ago; his health was poor and when he attended Clarion West he’d already had open heart surgery. He showed us the scars. Russell, a Kiowa Native American who wrote an Emmy-winning episode for the animated Star Trek series, died a few years back. I came across his obituary while looking for an address to get back in touch with him.

And now Bruce. I’m losing my people, one by one. It’s a lonely feeling to think of good friends and then to realize that we can never phone, email, or raise a glass together again.

Rest in peace, Bruce my friend. May we meet someday in those magical lands we have written about!

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