A couple of days ago I learned on Twitter that an old friend of mine from SF fandom, Lucy Zinkiewicz, had died of cancer. She was several years younger than me, so it feels weird. She was not a famous writer or musician or actress, but within SF fandom in Australia she was known and respected for other things. In her day job as a university academic, she was a well known psychologist with a PhD, articles and books in her name.
I first met Lucy at the home of a mutual friend. She was in her teens then. I was already a teacher. We all used to hang out, eat stuff and watch Blake’s 7, a British science fiction TV series of the 1970s and 80s. Lucy particularly hung out with her friend Adina, who was about her age and equally bright. I’m not sure what happened to Adina, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear they kept up communication.
The years went by. She moved around, eventually getting a PhD and a job as a member of the faculty of Psychology at Deakin University in Geelong. I live in Melbourne, so I rarely saw her, except at the occasional science fiction convention or an event run by the Melbourne Science Fiction Club, of which she was a member.
Then - we found ourselves hanging out again, on line. We both joined the Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine co-op. I was art director and answered inquiries while Lucy took on the much more challenging job of slush wrangler.
If you want some idea of how challenging the job is, it involved receiving thousands of submissions a year - I do mean thousands! - and sending them out to slush readers, including myself. Then she received our responses and it was her melancholy job to give people the bad news when they had been rejected, copying and pasting our comments into the email. No “printed slips” for ASIM! I did get some of the angry replies through the inquiries email, but I have no doubt she got far more than I did - and handled them with courtesy and grace. I can only imagine what she had to put up with from disgruntled authors., judging by some of the emails I had. I could probably do a whole post about those, but at this stage I’ll just mention those that I received complaining that they had been waiting a whole 24 hours for a reply or a tracking number, was there something wrong with the “Slush O Matic”? I had to reply on those occasions that there was no mechanical device, only a university academic called Lucy, who, like the rest of us, had a day job and was not being paid for this, and asked them to be patient.
Sometimes, she had the happy job of letting authors know their stories had gone on to the second round or the slushpool, which is where the stories good enough to be published went for editors to choose stories for their issues. However, both of those had extra work. Stories going to the second round, where two readers would decide whether they were good enough for the slushpool, had to be sent out to the readers again, then another response to the authors, whether good news or bad. If it was good news involving the slushpool, she had to insert the story and post to the co-op to let them know there were new stories up and what was being dropped after two months. (More work, including emailing the authors again!)
She was doing all this while lecturing, preparing classes, supervising student theses, writing books and publishing articles.
But she had yet another task, which I discovered when I finally edited an issue of ASIM. That was to send me stories that might suit my needs. I was still slushing, but the stories I received now were all “refined”, ie second round. She responded promptly to my requests for the different genres needed for my issue. “Can you find me a horror story, please?” That meant she at least had to check out the beginning of the story or people’s comments. By the time I had chosen my stories, either from Lucy’s emails or the slushpool, I felt that she could almost be considered a joint editor.
She was kind, patient and helpful. And she never, ever complained on list about the exhausting job, though she would have had sympathy, which probably made her the only one of us who didn’t grumble.
If there is an afterlife, I hope she is curled up on a comfy chair catching up with all the best science fiction she missed out on while looking after new writers - and us.