I didn't know Mark Bourne personally. All I really knew about him was what he wrote. I was a fan of his writing and his insights and constantly wished I could write like that. I envied everything about his career. I knew our tastes had a lot in common, especially in comedy, and especially in our appreciation of such gems as The President's Analyst -- my favorite film of all time, and I first started reading his stuff because I discovered his essay on it -- or The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. I was planning on working my way through the career of Peter Sellers with Mark's essays as a guide. Before he died I didn't know Mark's age, or what he looked like, or where he lived, or much about his background other than what he mentioned online. But his death feels like I've lost a friend.
I have a draft of an e-mail I was about to send Mark -- nothing big, just something I'd come across that I thought he'd enjoy, an anecdote about Robert Heinlein trying unsuccessfully to collaborate with Fritz Lang on a space travel film years before Destination Moon was made by George Pal. One of Mark's specialties was alternate history cinema, films that never were but could have been made. The prospect of Heinlein and Lang teaming up seemed like his sort of thing. Now I'll never get to send that message to him and find out what he thought of the idea, or whether he'd read Bill Patterson's biography of Heinlein and had already been pondering the topic.
As I say, the full extent of our acquaintance was online, and mainly in the comments section of his blog. That's why I'm startled at how real his death is, how much it feels like a loss beyond the purely selfish disappointment of not getting to read his insights on film or some amazing visual he'd found of space exploration or some planetary phenomenon. I always wanted to keep reading new stuff from him…but mainly I wanted to feel that someone so intelligent and articulate and just plain cool was part of my world. There are so many other things I'd have liked to say here, but I'll leave it at this:
Thanks for all the great things you introduced me to, Mark, and thanks for being a person who loved those things and wanted to share how great they were with everyone else. Thank you for your many kind responses to my overeager comments. They meant more than you could have realized. I would have liked to know you someday, but damn it, now I never will.