This is another memorial post, one I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to write. Hector Diaz died a little more than a week ago, and I’m still not sure what I want to say. Hector was another really good person, an artist, a writer, the man who founded the local SF and comic book store, Jumpgate, and somebody I was proud to call a friend. He died of colon cancer. His diagnosis put our (very fledgling!) book group on indefinite hold, mostly because we couldn't imagine going on without his input. When Lisa was diagnosed with breast cancer (and the book group went into permanent retirement), Hector and Sharon were among the first people to step forward with help, advice, and support. Hearing from Hector what chemo had been like — unvarnished, but never unhopeful — was incredibly helpful to Lisa, particularly the little, practical things, like the suggestion that she put lavender or some other strong scent on a handkerchief to help override the hospital smells that made her gag. Because we were all going through hard times, I fell out of touch, surfacing now and then to send an email, half afraid to find out what was happening — but I will never forget Sharon showing up (in an incipient blizzard, too!) right before Lisa had to go to Dartmouth for yet another radiosurgery, to bring us soup and chili for when we got back. We almost overlapped at Dartmouth the last time, too, when Hector was admitted for a new treatment protocol, but our schedules got shifted, and we didn’t see him.
The thing everyone talked about at the memorial service was how Hector was a teacher. He worked with kids, he worked with adults, he worked with anybody who was willing to take the chance of being creative. He ran a writers’ night at the bookstore (and one of my most serious regrets is that I worked Wednesday nights for so long and couldn’t participate). And about 5 years ago, he asked me if I’d like to try writing a comic script, which he would illustrate; it would have to have something to do with a “jumpgate,” and the resulting comic would be sold through, and for, the store. I said sure, I’d be interested, but I had no idea where to start. So Hector showed me. He loaned me comics, showed me scripts, talked about how they connected; we bounced ideas around, and I went home to write. I gave him an outline, and he did some sketches, and then it was time to try a script. I read some more comics, and some more scripts, tried and failed and tried again to get my mind around what I was doing. I knew I needed to give Hector room to draw, but I also had to tell him what was in my mind in the important scenes, and at least give him something to jump off from.... And finally, I got it — it was almost literally a lightbulb going off, or a switch being thrown. I started writing, and it worked. I finished the script, and Hector said he could work with it. Oh, there were the usual revisions, and I’d given him a real challenge by making the main characters masked Censors who dressed in near-identical robes, but he said he liked it, and could work with it. Seeing the first few pages fleshed out, laid out in proper comic book style, was one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened to me. I’d gotten it, gotten the technique down well enough to communicate the story. He’d gotten it, taken my words and turned them into something I’d only partially imagined: it’s a kind of collaboration I’d never experienced before.
And then the cancer. And then Lisa got cancer. And somehow the comic never got finished. But when I think of Hector, all my memories will be illuminated by that glorious golden “wow” — the moment when I saw my words and his drawings merged into one story and realized I’d learned a new language.
You’ll be much missed, man.,