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Imagine the sound of a bullfrog whispering.
That’s what Lander’s voice reminded the staff of, whenever he’d manage to make them hear him say, “Take me away, please…”
He didn’t manage that often. Not any more.
It wasn’t anything wrong with his throat that was the problem, although people hearing him lately for the first time tended to assume he was another victim of too many cigarettes.
Truth: the deep gravel voice was natural – he’d never been much of a smoker, other than a brief flirtation with a pipe in the mid-Sixties when he’d first been recognized as A Writer.
Scott William Lander. Creator of the Morton the Lunatic series of novels. The eponymous Morton was a teleporting hero who operated from a base on the moon, hence the ‘Lunatic’ tag. Scott couldn’t resist a pun.
He was never quite a darling of the critics, especially in his early career. He was dismissed as a bit too populist, perhaps, at a time when science fiction was meant to be intellectual, deep and meaningful. Lander’s work had seemed almost a throwback to the pulp fiction heroes of the Thirties, like Tarzan and Doc Savage.
But Scott and his hero were made of sterner stuff than the critics realised. When Armstrong and Aldrin kicked up the moon dust in ’69, some thought that would end Morton’s adventures. After all, anyone with a television now knew what the moon looked like. Nobody could really live there. NASA or the Russians would know if there was any sort of base there, wouldn’t they?
Lander saw it as an opportunity, though. In his next book, What The Eye Doesn’t See, he referred to how Morton used his own advanced technology to keep his base from the prying eyes of the space programs. It raised gentle questions about how trustworthy those agencies might really be, long before any conspiracy theorists proposed that the whole Apollo XI landing was an expensive hoax.
Scott had smiled in quiet delight when he read a magazine article headlined “DID ‘LUNAR’ LANDER GET IT RIGHT?”
That had all been a long time ago. Although his book appearances had become fewer and further between Morton had learned to overcome time as well as space. Alas, the same could not be said of his creator.
Scott Lander had fallen prey to Alzheimer’s Disease. It was insidious – slow and progressive. That had been the most distressing aspect of all for both Scott and his son William – both of them knew what was happening to the older man, and neither could do anything to prevent it.
After his diagnosis Scott had broken the news to Will, also an aspiring author, in a discussion about writing.
“Writers never retire,” Scott had observed. “We go in and out of fashion, and in and out of passion with our muse, but writing isn’t a job you can retire from. It’s a compulsion.”
“A need,” said Will, nodding.
“Like a driving force,” agreed his father, who then sighed deeply. “But I’ve realized I can’t steer. Then I forgot and kept trying. And kept on realizing, and forgetting, and realizing again. I spoke to the doctor about it, he did some tests, and now he’s told me why. It’s only going to get worse.”