Walter M. Miller, Jr. is a personal favorite author of mine who has been largely overlooked and forgotten in today’s fiction. Despite the fact that his only published book, A Canticle for Liebowitz, is often considered on of the best-crafted pieces of science fiction ever, few have heard of him. Nonetheless, his storytelling and vision are nothing short of remarkable. All too often, writers get lost in the cool science they have invented. Miller introduces no science in many stories, and when there is science it is generally believable and real. Hopeful writers of science fiction should look to Miller as a model of character-driven science fiction to rival Herbert. Non-genre writers should look to Miller to learn how to listen to their characters. Best of all, much of his work is in public domain:
DEATH OF A SPACEMAN
by WALTER M. MILLER, JR.
The manner in which a man has lived is often the key to the way he will die. Take old man Donegal, for example. Most of his adult life was spent in digging a hole through space to learn what was on the other side. Would he go out the same way?
Old Donegal was dying. They had all known it was coming, and they watched it come—his haggard wife, his daughter, and now his grandson, home on emergency leave from the pre-astronautics academy. Old Donegal knew it too, and had known it from the beginning, when he had begun to lose control of his legs and was forced to walk with a cane. But most of the time, he pretended to let them keep the secret they shared with the doctors—that the operations had all been failures, and that the cancer that fed at his spine would gnaw its way brainward until the paralysis engulfed vital organs, and then Old Donegal would cease to be. It would be cruel to let them know that he knew. Once, weeks ago, he had joked about the approaching shadows.