The other day I thought to go onto the blog of one of my all-time favourite authors, Robin McKinley, and see what’s been up in her world. And when I did, I was devastated to find out that her husband, another all-time wonderful author, Peter Dickinson, had passed away in December last year.
My heart goes out to Robin McKinley. I’ve been keeping tabs through her blog on Peter’s illness but I had not realised the end was so close. I guess no one really knows unless they’re actually there, dealing with it, on a day-to-day basis, do they? And even then it’s so hard to know… there are the good days and the bad days, days where you just don’t want to accept what is really going on…and also, as some of you may know (or have guessed), my heart goes out to Robin because I’ve been dealing with the same thing for the past year and a half, and am struggling to cope with the same grief too. It is a hard thing, something I’m still not able to talk about publicly which is why I haven’t made much reference to it, and I’m currently mentally channeling love and comfort and great big fluffy warm rose-scented hugs to Robin and Peter’s family and their friends.
Grief is a hard thing and just whenever you think you could sort of get used to it or at least learnt to live half-numb with the pain, it rears up and smacks you on the head with a massive sucker punch and leaves you reeling and gasping and feeling as if you’re drowning in an ocean or clinging onto the edge of a crumbling cliff and realising there is still a long, long, long way to go.
Urgh. Grief. I hate you.
When I was little, I watched the cartoon movie The Flight of Dragons on TV with my family. And someone had recorded it on a videotape (I don’t know who, but I am so happy and grateful to whoever it was) so that I and my sister could then watch it again and again and again. I loved The Flight of Dragons so much; it had everything one could ask for – adventure! Magic! Sorcerers! Dragons! More dragons! Beautiful maidens! And a beautiful maiden who was an expert archer and had gorgeous flowing red hair! (Personally I thought she was kinda wasted on Sir Orrin. He’s nice and honourable and all that…. but Danielle of the Woodlands had so much more to offer.) The Flight of Dragons and The Last Unicorn were two cartoon movies/fantasy tales which really shaped my childhood and writing self, with heavy influences that last until today. (In fact, one of the characters in my current work-in-progress bears certain resemblances to a certain character in The Last Unicorn!) And what a big coincidence is it that both movies were based on books written by authors named Peter? (Though I guess I should not be surprise, as Peter is a fairly common name, like John! But both authors and their books were certainly uncommon. Or, should I say – unique, quirky, amazing, wonderful, and magical.)
The movie The Flight of Dragons is actually only loosely based on Dickinson’s book of the same name. The book is actually a speculative nature history book, presenting a hypothesis of what a dragon’s anatomy would be like. It’s a pretty gorgeous book and I have been meaning for a long time to get my hands on a hard copy of it. While much of the actual plot from the movie is actually based on The Dragon and the George, I will never forget the scene in which Smrgol teaches Gorbash/Peter about the way dragons’ bodies worked, which is based on Dickinson’s hypothesis of dragons. And if that isn’t an illustration of Gorbash on the front cover of Dickinson’s book, I’ll… I’ll eat my dragon hoodie hat.
Peter Dickinson, the world is far poorer for your loss. You have influenced my childhood and imagination, and the childhood and the imagination of so many others (And I’m not at all ashamed to admit that I totally fangirled when I found out you were married to one of my other favourite authors, Robin McKinley – a real true blue fantasy author power couple!). Rest in peace, Mr Dickinson, and may your memory and your dreams live on in your stories and the readers who love and cherish them.