...I read "Berserker" by Fred Saberhagen when I was about 12 years old. It had a cool Boris Vallejo cover with spaceships blasting away-- a sure sign of quality as far as I was concerned-- so I figured it was going to be a great book; and it was! It was a collection of short stories about robots that seek to destroy all life, wherever they find it-- at least that's my 12-year-old self's quick and dirty summary.
...How could you go wrong with that? More Berserker collections and novels began to appear after I made my way through the first book-- most of them with Vallejo covers! I ate 'em up. Killer robots and Boris!
...While in the midst of my Berserker frenzy, I found Saberhagen's "The Empire of the East," a sci-fi-fantasy story that absolutely blew me away-- I read it several times during high school. I bought anything with Saberhagen's name on it. The assorted sci-fi novels, his Dracula series, the first Swords trilogy; he has been favorite of mine all of my life.
...I haven't bought any of his books since the early '90s-- not for any reason other than I haven't done much recreational reading at all since then. Even so, Saberhagen's work has remained vivid in memory, and I often think about his stories, especially when I'm doodling robots. His work has been a cornerstone in my imagination for about thirty years.
...I checked in on his website for the first time in a long time and I see that he passed away on June 29th. Bummer.
...I wrote an email to him last year, the only time I've tried to communicate with a celebrity-- I'm too bashful for that sort of thing and it was out of character for me. I'd been inspired to do it because I had recently opened a box and found my stashed-away Saberhagen collection; I hadn't realized how many there were! On the shelf it's a stretch of paperbacks longer that my arm. Looking at the covers and flipping through them took me to a time when I really enjoyed reading for pleasure and there were no pleasures that were as satisfying to the imagination as reading.
...I wrote and thanked him for the great books, confessing that I hadn't been keeping up, but that I was re-visiting the old work and looking forward to what I'd missed. He said:
Hello, Jeff --
Glad you like the books. And, thanks for dropping a note.
Hope you enjoy reading the later books.
...Neat. Made my day and I'm glad I did it.
...So, here's a berserker. I had been thinking of him as "Hawkbot," uncertain of his character or his intent. After reading of Saberhagen's passing I have decided that he is a relentless destroyer of men and would squash you or I if given the chance. Dedicated to Mr. Saberhagen.