On the Wing

By John Hertz: I’ve learned, as you have, that Adrienne Martine-Barnes (1942-2015) left our stage, a woman I loved. Platonically. She was a philosopher and had been a queen.

Her powers were substantial. She had a Hispanic heart — she had been Adrienne Zinah Martinez — which was only sometimes on her sleeve. She did not always have calm, peace, or quiet. She was a Master-class costumer, published twelve novels and nine shorter stories, co-generated Regency mania, and did paper sculpture.

She started selling stories around the time of Chicon IV. During its Masquerade I stood at the back of the hall, my favored place when I’m not judging (and when I am, if I persuade the Masquerade Director). Her entry was “Lilith”. She threw off her cloak in a single gesture I’ve never forgotten. She could be superb.

She was a Patroness of Almack’s Society for Heyer Criticism, in honor of which I’ll probably keep rhyming Georgette Heyer’s name with fire until I’m introduced to some member of the family and have to rhyme it with sayer. Their Heyer Tea at L.A.Con had, among others, Judy Blish, Charles N. Brown, Suford & Tony Lewis, Anne McCaffrey, Fuzzy Pink & Larry Niven, Bruce Pelz, Robert Silverberg, Bjo & John Trimble, Leslie Turek.

One New Year’s Eve at the Nivens’ in Los Angeles, when we had all been drinking Fuzzy Pink’s eggnog, we decided to hold a Heyer convention, in San Francisco where Adrienne then lived. I volunteered, or was volunteered, to research and teach English Regency ballroom dancing. Fuzzy Pink doesn’t make that eggnog anymore.

I remember why I was in Chicago, but not why Adrienne was, when we met one afternoon at the Hyatt Regency for SMORFing. SMOF is Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke, part of the joke being that there’s never been any secret, part of the nonjoke being that someone has to sow the wheat and harvest and thresh and grind and bake before everyone can show up for a share of the cake. This was Regency fandom. Over four hours in that wonderful atrium she had eight whiskies. As to her focus, insight, and judgment they might have been water.

Three of her novels were about Fionn mac Cumhal — I knew a woman who spelled it McCool — with Diana Paxson, and three about Darkover, with Marion Zimmer Bradley. That was hardly all. I sometimes had her confidence, or some of it. She sometimes had some of mine.

Here’s a dinner with her in 2001. It’s in my first collection West of the Moon.


When stars seek the clouds,
Who will light the lonely sky?
Waiting April night.

Adrienne Martine-Barnes, in town for the Nebula Awards, played hooky for dinner with me at Valentino, wonderfully a few doors away from McCabe’s Guitar Shop, seared tuna with morels, Muscovy duck with pears and greens balsamico, 1989 Schlumberger Gewürztraminer Cuvée Christine; oraza filet with fennel, sautéed quail alla diablo, 1998 Aldo Conterno Chardonnay Printanie; hazelnut crème brûlée, caramelized pear tart, 1995 Royal Tokaji, Guatemala Antigua.

The balsamic vinegar was indeed a problem, but the morels were glorified by the Gewürztraminer, rich, still young, with the dark taste I associate with Schlumberger. The Conterno proved, as wine writer Hugh Johnson says, that Italians have quit scanting their whites, a princely drink and a glad accident since at the same place, in 1992 for the 500th year of Columbus, Sean Smith and I with a mundane friend drank a kingly red 1961 Barolo by Giacomo Conterno.

Martine-Barnes fretted at the groaning by some science fiction writers how the field is being rolled up by fantasy. Their first remedy is of course to write better. One hears argued that feeble science fiction is superior to feeble fantasy since, by definition a literature of the possible, it at least bears the torch of achievement; our plunge into fantasy is driven by a vicious distortion of doubt, which we smugly brandish but which amounts to a craven and indeed dangerous fear. Thus the prevalence of women fantasy writers is very troubling to a feminist.

But I think a worse trouble is this fixing upon topics. Why should any published art be feeble? Any fantasist can, I suppose, speak to the wishes, great or idle, that seem, by any theory you please, resonant, perhaps universally, perhaps culturally, in human nature; who does no more is a weak artist, but some will applaud: a science-fictionist must imagine a means, and at once must either be deedy enough to get over the bog of explanation, or end with a thing which if any praise it will still be no art. As a reader, between the worst of each, in the wallowing of one and other, I find little to choose; in the best of each I rejoice.


At Adrienne’s death Naomi Fisher said “The world is far more boring for her absence.” Greg Benford said “She was a fine lady, an expert writer.” Her health had gone. Sue Stone Shaffer said “You are free and you are missed.”

Ascending at last.
My friend, do not regret that
Both of us could touch.

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2 thoughts on “On the Wing

  1. So well done a tribute, John; thank you indeed. She was less herself when I last saw her with Larry Niven, when we were in Portland for a book signing. But she was still afire and lit the room with her presence.

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