The Passing of Jim Baen

Jim Baen passed away at five o’clock last evening. Before I heard about his coma, even.

I know a lot of folks who read things here aren’t big science fiction fans. But I assure you that in this field, the editors are still a big deal. Editors shaped the field traditionally, and they still do. Probably no modern editor has had quite as much power to do as he wished, though, as Jim Baen of Baen Books. His empire was small, quirky, outspoken, cheerfully political, occasionally tacky; but shrewd, hospitable to differing views, open to new writers, and unafraid to experiment. The reason for all of that was mostly Jim Baen.

His life was a very good thing for the field, but he did not die without preparing his little empire to go on without him. (He was always one of the field’s more prescient members.) His care for his legacy alone would mark him as great.

He will be missed.

His full obituary, written by David Drake, is on david-drake.com. (Mr. Baen requested this the day before his stroke. See, I told you he was prescient.) But there is also a tribute up on Baen.com‘s front page which you should go see.

Here’s a few words that aren’t mine, but which seem fitting. They really should be decorated with bright yellow and orange lettering, a lady in space armor with a big laser gun, several dragons, and an exploding spaceship. And Prudentius himself, in his toga or his soldiering uniform, of course. And St. Michael, with a side order of Belisarius.

Fountain of life, supernal Fire,
Who didst unite in wondrous wise
The soul that lives, the clay that dies,
And mad’st them Man: eternal Sire,

Both elements Thy will obey,
Thine is the bond that joins the twain,
And, while united they remain,
Spirit and body own Thy sway.

Yet they must one day disunite,
Sunder in death this mortal frame;
Dust to the dust from whence it came,
The spirit to its heavenward flight.

For all created things must wane,
And age must break the bond at last;
The diverse web that Life held fast
Death’s fingers shall unweave again
.

Yet, gracious God, Thou dost devise
The death of Death for all Thine own;
The path of safety Thou hast shown
Whereby the doomèd limbs may rise:

So that, while fragile bonds of earth
Man’s noblest essence still enfold,
That part may yet the sceptre hold
Which from pure aether hath its birth.

For if the earthy will hold sway,
By gross desires and aims possessed,
The soul, too, by the weight oppressed,
Follows the body’s downward way.

But if she scorn the guilt that mars–
Still mindful of her fiery sphere
She bears the flesh, her comrade here,
Back to her home beyond the stars.

The lifeless body we restore
To earth, must slumber free from pain
A little while, that it may gain
The spirit’s fellowship once more.

The years will pass with rapid pace
Till through these limbs the life shall flow,
And the long-parted spirit go
To seek her olden dwelling-place.

Then shall the body, that hath lain
And turned to dust in slow decay,
On airy wings be borne away
And join its ancient soul again.

…Yet till Thou dost build up again
This mortal structure by Thy hand,
In what far world wilt Thou command
The soul to rest, now free from stain?

— from “Hymn for the Burial of the Dead” by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius

(translated by R. Martin Pope)

1 Comment

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One response to “The Passing of Jim Baen

  1. Joy

    Good choice of poem!

  2. Pingback: Maria Lectrix » Blog Archive » #287: “Hymn for the Burial of the Dead” by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius

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