Notice that I mentioned Waldrop and Le Guin first after Lafferty in that second sentence.
In a way Lafferty is a great unifier. His fans span the literary gamut from those of us who possess remarkably little talent but love to read to those who are Literary Giants. And yet, we all enjoy sharing our love of Lafferty, without acknowledging any kind of hierarchy.
The other day, some months ago, I asked Lawrence Person if he could contact Howard Waldrop on my behalf asking permission to reprint "Willow Beeman," a deliberately Lafferty-esque collaboration by Steven Utley and Howard Waldrop. He gave me Howard's phone number.
Understand, I have loved Howard Waldrop's writing for decades, ever since encountering "The Ugly Chickens" in a copy of Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year: Tenth Annual Collection in the UNM Library sometime around 1984 or '85. He is very high up in my pantheon of literary gods. So it was with some trepidation that I called him the next morning. I was afraid I would be too much a smitten fan boy to sound like a professional editor. Yet when I started talking to Howard, he is such a genuinely kind person he immediately put me at ease. He was happy to spend an hour on the phone chatting about what Lafferty had meant to him, how Lafferty's writing had inspired him, telling me stories about Lafferty at conventions, and telling me the story of how he and Steven Utley had decided to write their Lafferty story. I have since had numerous phone conversations with him. He is always gracious, kind, and excited about helping preserve R. A. Lafferty's place in the literature of Science Fiction. And yes, we did publish "Willow Beeman" in Feast of Laughter #2 this spring.
On another day a couple of weeks ago, I sent an impassioned rambling letter to Ursula K. Le Guin professing my love of her work and asking her to contribute something to Feast of Laughter. While this contact didn't work out anywhere near as amazingly as did my contact with Howard Waldrop, I did receive in the mail last night a very gracious hand written letter from her saying she was honored by our request and that she applauds our efforts to preserve Lafferty's writing. She doubts she will be able to write anything for us, but will keep it in mind. If you are going to turn someone down, that is the way to do it--with kindness, graciousness, and class.
That Lafferty's writing can unite so many talented, intelligent people shows the power of literature to eliminate barriers and bring us all together.