“And be careful you don’t let go of it till after you’re dead.”
‐‐Ghost in the Corn Crib
This particular illustration for RA Lafferty's story Ghost in the Corn Crib had some rough starts for me. After several aborted tries, I ended up using a tiny 1-inch sketch scanned at high resolution and worked out the details in the computer.
It's the first illustration I would not send my grandmother. My mother, always proud to show off my work, raised a few eyebrows with it at her workplace.
But I'll stand by it, as the physics in the picture work the same as they do in the story (intimidating ghost and all).
This illustration, at some point, had text on the wall behind the character that read "Dare to Know Your Heroes." It was to be an exclamatory charge into battle against preconceived expectations, and my answer to the old adage to the opposite.
"Never meet your heroes" is a good warning for avoiding disappointment. But it recommends we hide in our sunny, honeysuckle worlds and that our heroes be larger than life. It is not a path to acceptance or any other real understanding of an individual. Perhaps I expect less of my heroes than others. Perhaps I expect they be like me, human and working against their flaws.
Just as I finished the illustration, a discussion spilled into the Lafferty Facebook group with some expressing concern that Ray's drunken exploits at conventions would stain, overshadow, or otherwise take away from his literary works.
I understand their concern but disagree. In fact, with convention tales as eccentric as any of his short stories, I think it only makes reading Lafferty more interesting, endearing, and complex.
Nevertheless, I struck the text from the illustration. Partly because I was still introducing myself to the group. But mostly because the lettering itself started to feel too heavy handed.