I was very saddened to hear about Daniel Keyes' passing yesterday. He was 86 years old.
One of the most satisfying things I did as President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (1998-2001), was to choose and honor Daniel Keyes as our "Author Emeritus" at our Nebula Awards ceremony in New York City in 2000. The night after the ceremony, my wife, two kids, and I had a wonderful, quiet dinner with Keyes and his wife.
All four us in my family had read Keyes' masterwork, "Flowers for Algernon" - I in the 1950s, my wife in the 1960s, and our kids in the 1990s, when the story had become required reading in many a school. All of us loved the story.
Sometimes all it takes is one. Many writers work over a lifetime, producing an encyclopedia full of novels and short stories, but all of them put together don't have the impact of another author's single shorter work. Keyes wrote more than "Flowers for Algernon," but, if he hadn't, that haunting, sage story would have established his place not only in the history of science fiction, but in writing itself, putting him right up there in the pantheon with O'Henry and de Maupassant.
To get to talk and dine with such an author, after reading his masterwork as a kid and being moved out of my mind was also a pleasure unique in this world. Daniel, thank you for the story and your generous conversation. Your story will be read for millennia to come.