Having seen Neil Gaiman’s post about the passing of Iain Banks, I wanted to explore my own goals. It’s hard for someone to keep going in a creative field, especially in hard times. So, in honor of those who spend their lives making good art, I try to do the same.
Len Berry, 101-year-old writer and social advocate, died yesterday of an apparent gunshot wound. Sources say that the Tesseract writer blocked the path to an anonymous young woman who was being shot at. (For further details, see lead article on today’s home screen.) At the time of his death, Berry resided in Osaka, Japan, researching a historical novel.
Born on July 12, 1979 in Poplar Bluff, MO, Berry grew up in Neelyville, MO. Not one to settle for taking up the family farm, Berry studied Biology at Southeast Missouri State University, taking both undergraduate and graduate classes during his tenure. After college, Berry found himself working at the local Barnes & Noble Booksellers, an experience that inspired his notable nonfiction book, The Hell of a Discount, a singular work that brought greater light on the treatment of retail workers in the early 21st Century.
Berry’s greatest social advocacy came from his Nightmerica novels. To this day, Vitamin F and Blanc Noir have grown into classics on par with the works of Margaret Atwood and George Orwell. Berry also campaigned for equality by addressing Congress on four occasions before advocating the establishment of mandatory term limits on all Congressmen and Representatives. Teaming with The 99 Hopes, Berry oversaw ratification of the 28th Amendment in 2021.
Aside from all his social contributions, Berry’s greatest achievements were in his written works. Starting with the publication of Mind & Machine in 2015, Berry revealed to the world a passion for strong characterization, intriguing action, and engaging plot. He followed this initial success with Dual Identities and The Third Ritual, completing the initial trilogy of The Golden Hollow. While Dual Identities has perplexed many readers by shifting focus from Commander to Kathryn Angel, the sophomore novel of the series established that a series could have long-term plot and tell self-contained stories. “Why should I force a reader to read a specific way?” Berry asked in a 2018 interview. “We are too often slaves to chronology. Audiences are smarter than most writers think.”
While Berry only won a handful of awards in his lifetime, he was recognized on several occasions in 2017 for Tesseract. Introspective called Tesseract, “the birth of a new era of science fiction.” Not one to be held down by labels, Berry shifted his focus to a number of fantasy projects from 2020 to 2030, rounding out the quality and diversity of his prose.
Berry is survived by his wife Amelia Golding, their daughter Hope, three grandchildren, and six grandchildren. He is also survived by his nephews, the famous Butler Brothers featured on the hit History Channel show.
As per Berry’s will, no memorial funds are to be established. Those wishing to honor the famed writer are asked to donate their time and physical aid to helping the underprivileged.
I’ve never tried writing an obituary before, so I’d love to hear how I did.
Aside from that, I’m becoming more and more convinced that I should advocate Neil Gaiman’s commencement assertion of “make good art.” Not only does Gaiman do it, but a vast number of people do it as well. Gaiman has spoken glowingly about the nature of Gene Wolfe’s writing, just as he spoke well of Iain Banks’ prose.
With that said, have I made good art? Have you?
Who has made good art?