Diana Wynne Jones died in March last year. The funeral was a private, family affair, but it was obvious that something should be done for the many friends and fans from all over the world that Diana had acquired over her career. That something happened in Bristol today, and I was lucky enough to be there.
The event was held in St. George’s concert hall, the same former church that housed the Peter Straub event last year. A lot of people, including Farah and Edward, arrived from London on the 11:55, and there was a local train due in just before then so I was able to be there to meet them. We headed off to the Wetherspoon’s at the top of Park Street for lunch, where our party grew steadily in size. Greer Gilman and Cathy Butler joined us, as did Jo and Roz from BristolCon, and long-time UK fans such as Chris Bell and Caroline Mullan.
When it came to head down to St.George’s the heavens opened. I gather from Twitter that we got off lightly as hail stones the size of small asteroids were falling in other parts of the city. If I believed in life after death I would suspect Diana of having arranged that as a prank.
As is only fitting, books were on sale in the foyer. I finally managed to pick up a copy of Fire & Hemlock, which I have been wanting to read for some time. I also got the new non-fiction collection, Reflections, which contains much of Diana’s writing about the craft of writing. There’s a foreward by Neil Gaiman in which he waxes lyrical about just how well Diana understood her craft. Someone had built a tower out of foreign language editions of Diana’s books — I suspect that each one is different — and it was much photographed. Here’s mine.
Something that was very clear from the various speeches is that Diana’s whole family is extremely talented. There were contributions from her sisters, Ursula and Isobel; from her sons, Richard, Michael and Colin; and from her nephew, Tom. They all spoke well, and with ready wit. One of the highlights of the event was a reading of the first few paragraphs of the book Diana was writing when she died. It concerns a young girl who appears to be a trainee in some sort of goddess cult who has just been through her initiation and thinks she has flunked it but very clearly hasn’t. Ursula did the reading, and was extremely good.
Whether that book ever appears is currently uncertain. I guess someone would have to finish it, and the family may not want that. But there is, apparently, a finished adult novel called Incubus that Diana wrote years ago and which may see print soon.
Other speakers included Diana’s agent, Laura Cecil; her UK editor, Stella Paskins; her US editor, Sharyn November; and her Israeli translator, Gili Bar-Hillel. Greer Gilman, Robin McKinley and David Devereaux all spoke movingly, and Sharyn read a message from Neil Gaiman, who was unable to attend and will have been desperately disappointed not to be there.
I have been asked whether the event was recorded. I didn’t see any signs of it, but the audio could easily have been run through a recorder so it could have happened. Isobel’s contribution is available online here (PDF). Reflections contains the orations that Richard and Colin wrote for the funeral, and I know that Richard gave the same speech today as he said so at the start. Other material may appear online later.
All in all, it was a lovely day. I’m very glad to have been a part of it.