On the Wikipedia page for English author E. Nesbit, you’ll find a photograph of her gravesite, and a fellow crouching, stalker-like, beside the stone.
If F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre is to be believed — and I believed everything he ever told me, which was rather a lot, considering we never actually met — the croucher is MacIntyre himself.
Or, technically, was:
The F also stood for Froggy. That’s what fans in the rabid science-fiction world on the Internet called him: a witty and eloquent man prone to using obscure words and coining new ones, who published numerous books, articles and short stories to great acclaim and spun fantastic tales about his travels.
Both were vaporized June 25. In a dramatic farewell that could have come from Froggy’s pen, Mr. MacIntyre, according to fire officials, methodically set ablaze the contents of the apartment in Bensonhurst where he had lived for a quarter-century. First the flames consumed a lifetime of possessions; then they feasted on his weary flesh, ending his painful 59-year earthly existence. Born in Scotland, raised in Australia — or so he said, in his impeccable British regional accent — he now lies unclaimed in a Brooklyn morgue.
My first encounter with MacIntyre was by way of his 1995 proto-steampunk novel The Woman Between the Worlds, in which a woman identified as Vanessa Steele, though that could not be her real name, shows up at the office of a London tattoo artist. Or, rather, doesn’t show up: she can’t be seen in our, um, dimension, and she has a problem with that. I commented that it was “utterly unfilmable,” an opinion with which MacIntyre was happy to take exception.
We corresponded for a few years after that on various topics: American politics, the Grand Illusion stuff put on by magicians, and, yes, E. Nesbit. “I’d read E. Nesbit’s novels at a young impressionable age,” he said, “and found them enchanting.” But there was occasionally some subtle subtext:
In [The Story of the Amulet, 1906], the children make one time-trip into the future, but — in a high point (or, rather, a low point) of authorial wishful thinking — the future they visit is a Fabian socialist utopia, where HG Wells is the workers’ hero, and men no longer wear trousers.
Nesbit, of course, was a founder of the Fabian Society.
MacIntyre, in some ways, was what I might have aspired to be: he seemed to know everything. I was startled to find his byline on an IMDb article about 1960s cartoon rock duo the Beagles, whose “What More Can I Do?” is an enduring favorite of mine. Eventually we fell out of touch; I had no idea that he’d come to such a horrible end, and wouldn’t find out until Roberta X touched upon the subject a couple of months after his demise.
But he knew this Web site very well:
“I haven’t the faintest notion as to what Dustbury is; and even less notion as to what functional purpose Dustbury serves. The words ‘Dustbury’ and ‘psychopathia’ seem invariably conjoined.”
Now how can you argue with something like that?