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remembering barbara mertz

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Happy Birthday Dear Barbara

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Today would have been Barbara’s 88th birthday …. not quite the triple-digit 111th birthday that Bilbo reached, but a double-digit worth commemorating nonetheless.  In honor of the occasion, we’re posting some pictures from Barbara’s 80th birthday, which she celebrated at her beloved Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.  As you can see, she was enjoying herself immensely!

Her friends brought out copies of her MA and PhD theses …. and no one will be surprised to learn that her dissertation dealt with some of the notable women in ancient Egypt.  AND there was chocolate cake. (We won’t apologize for repeating the picture of the cake, as we share Barbara’s philosophy that one can never have too much of a good thing like chocolate….)

Happy birthday to someone we’re missing — but who would tell us to keep going in style!

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More “bookshelf battles” …. Sci-fi and fantasy….

Inspired by, but on a slightly different note than, Bookshelf Q. Battler’s pics, we bring you some “naturally occuring” battles and detentes among some of Barbara’s favorite fantasy-sci fi characters — as found on her bookshelves …. (Dobby looks worried about Scene It, while Leia and Obiwan seem to be mulling their answers over…??  Barbara admitted to crying when Dobby died …)

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… an avid sci-fi and fantasy-genre fan, Barbara started reading science fiction at a young age; she and her father would frequently entertain the family at dinner with debates and musings on their latest sci-fi readings.  Her shelves were lined with Heinlein, Asimov, Edgar Rice Burroughs (not the Tarzan ones!), H. Rider Haggard, and other favorites — along with so many others that followed (Terry Pratchett and Connie Willis, to name just a few).  Readers of Amelia and other EP books will recognize the affectionately mocking send-off she often gave in her writings to some of those early authors — and of course always with a feminist undertone (take that, Indy J.!)

As soon as the first Star Wars movie came out, she lugged all friends and family members she could find to it.  At one point she was overheard planning a letter to George Lucas, explaining the schedule he’d have to stick to in order to get all 9 (yes, nine NINE, remember????) films out before she died.  It’s probably just as well she never knew that the new one was planned, as it would’ve irked her no end.  Early Star Trek was a staple for her (as a cat lover she would’ve loved to have one of those purring tribbles!!).   She read all the Harry Potter books as soon as they came out, and got to all the movies.   Long before Tolkien was “in,” she was re-reading the trilogy every December — a habit she imparted to several family members.  The last film she saw was the first of the recent Hobbit movies, into which she stomped with a portable oxygen tank and a large bin of popcorn.  Friends and family could always call her to try out their favorite theories on any of hundreds of sci-fi or fantasy series that she followed — she would amicably and energetically debate each point for hours.

As these pictures attest, Barbara couldn’t resist getting many kits for making various scenes from her favorite series….  which was why kids of all ages loved visiting with her.  This hobby wound up providing welcome amusement on bad days as she dealt with illness in her last years; she was working on Jabba the Hutt in the summer of 2013.  And of course anything with an Egyptian theme was pounced upon with joy.

However, our very favorite “bookshelf scene” is not from one of Barbara’s shelves, but from the shelf of a friend of hers — used here with permission.     Clearly, what Gollum always needed was some time under one of those sunlamps they use for Seasonal Affective Disorder!   (Right??)  (bottom right pic)

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MPM: Mertz, Peters, Michaels

MPM Manor, Inc. was started by Barbara Mertz, to help in running her business as a writer.  Taking the first letters of Mertz, Peters, and Michaels, it draws on her alternate identities as the writers Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels.  The “manor” is an indirect reference to her beloved home in rural Maryland.  There she wrote, entertained, and developed her many hobbies, including gardening.  We’ll be trying to share some of the delight she took from all of this in upcoming posts.

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