Part of this is that I have found very few other authors that feed my addiction to puns, riddles and music as much as Spider Robinson does. Any author who does filk music has my loyalty forever.
I am not as fond of everything he writes as I was of, say, The Man with the Eyes or the first novella version of Stardancer. Some of his weaker stories result from his willingness to try something new, and I like that. Some of his weaker stories result from his efforts to give the addicted fans like me more of what we clamor for, and I don't think he's the person we should criticize when our fix disappoints us. But whatever the successes or failures of individual stories, a common note that runs through them has struck a chord in large numbers of people. I think that it is a marvelous thing to create an institution that grows far beyond you and lives on after you -- as Gene Roddenbery did with Star Trek, Steven Spielberg with Star Wars, Marion Zimmer Bradley with Darkover, as other fantasists have done when they call up an archetype that stirs us all.
Shared pain is lessened.
Shared joy is increased.
Simple words, but they have become a folk-saying and very near to a scriptural quotation in a large and growing community that hangs out in such places as alt.callahans, #callahans, and all-night rap sessions with or without beer in apartments all over the globe.
Here in Seattle, we are beginning a book-discussion group for homeless patrons at the public library. In our first session, we read The Man with the Eyes. It was excellent for touching off a discussion about the need for community, and how to build community.
Maybe that is what so many people are responding to in Robinson's books. One of the authors he acknowledges as a mentor, Theodore Sturgeon, was considered to be the "expert on love". In Robinson's books he is not exploring individual love so much as he is exploring building community -- without all the lingo that creeps in when the social workers and the activists discuss that. Someday, Spider Robinson may be regarded as the "expert on community."
And we do need that.
Spider Robinson's Home Page has a complete book list, reviews, itinerary, news, and a variety of essays -- including his toast to alt.callahans.
I am not fond of newsgroups nor of chatrooms. I get 600+ email messages a day, maintain twenty-plus websites, am involved with eight local activist groups and occasionally sleep. I don't want to get fond of newsgroups and chatrooms. One of the few places that can tempt me onto Usenet is alt.callahans. It is a newsgroup worth checking out for yourself. If you have difficulty accessing the group (because your own server doesn't subscribe to it), try Google Groups.
The Official All-Callahanian Web Page is an example of the community built up around Spider Robinson's stories.