Dear Mr. Death
Dear Mr. Death,
I understand that you have a job to do. I don’t like it, any more than I like the job done by the taxman. I guess both are necessary evils. We all have an appointment with you, sir, though I do regret that engagement. I am trying to accept the inevitability. Yet I feel that you have been working overtime too much of late.
You’ve taken famous people we’ve known all of our lives. Friends, family members. Your given duty, I realize, but perhaps you could take a holiday. An extended one.
We’ve lost so many in the past couple of years. The losses have been acute and painful. I’ve seen callous individuals have disparaging things to say about people mourning over celebrity deaths, but that kind of grief is as valid as any. When someone like Robin Williams or David Bowie – people whose work we have loved for decades – passes away, it is a significant loss.
Then there are acquaintances. People we know almost vicariously through interaction on message boards and other social media. These are genuine losses as well.
Just today we all felt shock and extreme sadness when we learned that Mark Justice had suddenly passed away. He had announced on Facebook that had had suffered a minor heart attack. There was concern, obviously, but I at least hoped that it was a warning sign. Time to change some habits, Mister Justice, and enjoy a long life ahead.
As I said, we have had more than our share of losses of late, but few are as painful as the death of Mark Justice.
You would be hard pressed to find anyone as sweet, funny, kind, well-read, and intelligent as Mark. Sure, we say nice things about people who’ve died, but it’s definitely true in this instance. I lost my brother nearly a decade ago, and I still hurt over it. Yet I would not describe Rick in the terms I did for Mark Justice. Rick was exasperating and often infuriating. I absolutely loved and continue to love my brother, but I am well aware of his shortcomings.
In the years I’ve been involved in message boards at places like Gorezone, Shocklines, and Horror Drive-In, I have met and had discussions with hundreds of people. Perhaps more. Except for a very few genuine rotten eggs, most of us are decent people. We’re mostly good, but we can be cranky, childish, clueless, and cantankerous. It’s part of our humanity. Mark Justice? I’ve never known him to be anything but a warm, funny, jovial person. Never.
From the outpouring of love and mourning I’ve seen today, many people felt very close to Mark. Just as I did. I like to think he and I had a special relationship. We both loved Doc Savage. This is a bond that is, in some cases, stronger than blood.
I picture Mark Justice as a boy. The latest Bantam Doc Savage novel in hand, completely enraptured in it. Utterly consumed with awe and wonder. That kind of passion never quite leaves you. It’s not hard for me to picture him that way, because I was that same boy. Close enough, anyway.
Mark Justice never outgrew his “childish” love of monsters and the macabre. You could see it in his eyes. That playful glint. Smiling eyes. He was always either laughing or on the verge of it.
God, what a funny man. I am far from the only one who will miss his Stupid Joke of the Day which greeted us every morning on Facebook. Many of the jokes were shameless groaners. Others were not stupid at all, but very sharp and hilarious.
Mark Justice was a writer. I’m going to be honest here, and there is no reason why I should not be so. While I thought Mark was a funny and smart guy, his work as a fiction writer wasn’t for me. It’s okay for me to say that, I think. There is absolutely no reason I could like and respect the man and yet not be a fan of his writing. I never told Mark that, but my guess is he’d laugh and clap me on the back had I done so.
Disc jockey, writer, humorist, reader, Doc Savage devotee (perhaps most important of all), friend. All that and a million miles more.
Yeah, Mr. Death, you’ve been active. Filling your quota, I assume. Don’t expect any thanks from me. You took a good, man, a giver and not a taker, The Voice of Horror Fiction in fact. Took him much too soon. Please give us a good long break now.
Mark Sieber learned to love horror with Universal, Hammer, and AIP movies, a Scholastic edition of Poe’s Eight Tales of Terror, Sir Graves Ghastly Presents, The Twilight Zone, Shirley Jackson’s The Daemon Lover, The Night Stalker, and a hundred other dark influences. He came into his own in the great horror boom of the 1980’s, reading Charles L. Grant, F. Paul Wilson, Ray Russell, Skipp and Spector, David J. Schow, Stephen King, and countless others. Meanwhile he spent as many hours as possible at drive-in theaters, watching slasher sequels, horror comedies, monster movies, and every other imaginable type of exploitation movie. When the VHS revolution hit, he discovered the joys of Italian and other international horror gems. Trends come and go, but he still enjoys having the living crap scared out of him. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and at www.horrordrive-in.com.