Mary Gray was an early editor/proofreader of A Distant Soil, and a major reason I didn’t give up on the project early when circumstances made it seem as if going on would not be worthwhile.
She worked very briefly as an assistant editor at The Donning Company publishers, where, when the executive editor was let go, Donning passed her over and hired someone else to take the job I was sure she deserved. Mary did not like the pressure of the regular gig, and decided to leave the company. I asked Donning to keep her on a freelance basis as she asked, but Donning refused.
She did most of the editing/proofreading on the first A Distant Soil story arc, and when I moved into self publishing in 1991, I hired her. I don’t believe she did any other work in publishing. When last we spoke, I recall she was working as a temp. As A Distant Soil began coming out more and more sporadically, I began to lose touch with her, and deeply regret gradually losing contact.
You always think there’ll be another day to dig up that phone number.
Mary was far more talented than people gave her credit for, because she was shy and didn’t have the ability to promote herself, which is essential in publishing. She just could not push, but that was one of the things that made her so wonderful to be around. She was calm and gentle.
I was gun shy about editors for a long time, and it was Mary who went over my work with her feather-light touch, made careful notes on a separate sheet of paper, and presented her suggestions. Prior to her, editing usually meant turning in a manuscript, never seeing it again, and getting something back completely rewritten that you barely recognized. And getting yelled at a lot, and told you were stupid, and your work was shit.
I literally did not know, until Mary, that there was another way to edit.
Mary was, despite her gentle nature, also quite brave. She stood up for people when someone did them wrong. Quietly, as always. But she practiced do-right.
After self publishing, I kept her on for most of my time at Image Comics. For the last couple of issues, I moved on, and decided to go with someone else who promised to be a one-stop design, proofing-shop, and archivist. I ended up getting none of those, which was a lesson to me about moving from the true path I’m still flagellating myself over.
Mary was the real deal. Earthy, grounded, quiet, humble, capable. And she was easy to overshadow. She was no-drama, no-stress.
She was reliable, true, decent, rock-solid. So unassuming, she was eclipsed by many who were far less capable. With A Distant Soil back in the pipeline after six year’s hiatus, I was just thinking: I should have Mary proof it again. Where’s that phone number? I even went rooting around on the net for her.
I truly believe I would have given up on A Distant Soil many years ago had I not had a kind word from Mary at the right time.
Mary was also kind to me in my early days in fandom. She was one of the first people I met at a science fiction convention when I was just fifteen-years-old, and later in the local science fiction club. She encouraged me in every way, was always helpful, and always sincere.
I am not writing empty flattery to the dead. I am writing this because every word of praise to the inherent goodness of this woman is absolutely true.
She had some very hard times. Life was not nearly as good to her as she deserved. She had a brilliant mind, and never got to use it to its potential. She was the wallflower; few would ever know how beautifully she could dance.
After a sudden collapse about 24 hours ago, she was pronounced brain dead, and her devoted husband Terry faced the hard choice to remove her from life support. She passed away, quietly, this afternoon.
Mary Gray was the soul of kindness.
I will never forget her.