Obit post: Speedlime November 14, 2021 1:44 PM   Subscribe

NPR Books editor Petra Mayer, who had a toe in the MeFi waters as speedlime, died suddenly yesterday after a night in the hospital. She was 47.

Petra loved public radio; she went from DJing at her Amherst college station ("You're listening to WAMH, where there is no alternative to alternative") to an apprentice engineer job at an NPR station in Boston to two years in Prague working for Radio Free Europe to finally landing the job she wanted at Weekend All Things Considered, where she worked for some years before transferring to NPR Books as an editor.

She used her position to increase coverage of marginalised genres such as science fiction, romance and comics. The yearly NPR Book Concierge was her work. She was also a frequent guest on the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. She was a damn good writer with a clear voice, and a damn good editor with a clear eye.

As speedlime, she was an occasional poster here, but she did pop into a recent NPR FPP to answer questions. Some users here will remember her from MonkeyFilter in the early 2000s (same username).

Petra and I were friends since the ages of 8 and 10. She was an amazing artist with an Art Nouveau flair, and a huge nerd who loved going to conventions and running around in costume. She was devoted to her cats, Doctor Who, and Bake Off. (Also a defender of the Oxford comma.) She had a good voice and an ear for harmony, and loved singing along loudly to whatever was playing in the car.
"">Speedlime has a much more benign origin-- it was the name of my first car, my beloved red shitmagnet 1994 Neon. Years before I ever owned a car, I'd been out cruising with a friend in my parents' Honda when she saw a speed limit sign that'd been partially obscured by a tree. She turned to me with a confused expression and asked what a "speed lime" was. And I thought that was such an awesome word combination that I promised her that in the unlikely event I ever got a car of my own, it'd be named Speedlime."
She was on Twitter as @petramatic. Some remembrances from there:

Thread from Glen Weldon:
.@petramatic died suddenly today. She was ferociously intelligent, sardonically funny and made your day better by merely existing. She was a passionate voice for genre content that NPR will miss like an ache. She was also my friend, and I’m fucking angry.

She was the best and rarest species of nerd, whose enthusiasm was eager and sincere and open and inviting. She wanted you to love the stuff she loved, and supplied you hard incontrovertible evidence to support her thesis. Jesus, she was the best of us. Fuck.
[there are more lovely comments about her in that thread]

Your friends say nice things about you. This is what friends do. It’s to be expected & thus dismissed

When Petra said nice things about my work, I was so grateful, because I knew she was incapable of bullshitting, and because I knew she was discerning and clear-eyed. It mattered.

Thread from Barrie Hardymon:
Absolutely gutted to hear I’ve lost my friend @petramatic. She was just an utter original, fearless and sharp and loyal. She championed her beloved books and cats and shows baking and nail polish and my god, she loved her people too. She was just an utter original.

Thread from Linda Holmes:
Sitting here laughing about how when I talked to Petra about books, it always seemed like there was a good chance she would be like, “Okay, it’s an eight-book series about two sisters but one of them is a horse,” and somehow the way she would describe it, I’d be like “I AM IN.”

I always knew she was talking about *worlds* of books I didn’t know. “The detective is a vampire cartographer!” “Two lions fall in love and one becomes a human!” And I would feel myself scratch my head, but she always got across that no: it’s all just books to be loved.

Annalee Newitz:
I'm so sorry. She was the kind of person who could run around at Comic-con like a fangirl by night and discuss books like a mad professor by day. I will miss her.

John Scalzi:
Absolutely in shock and have a heart full of grief. @petramatic was a cheerleader, not only of my work, but of the entire science fiction and fantasy field. And such a lovely person. Condolences and love to everyone who knew her. A huge loss for us all.

Trey Graham:
Petra made me feel like a square older brother — we liked many of the same things, but I’d have killed to be as swaggery and fun and fearless as she was. It’s impossible to think of her not being.
posted by Pallas Athena to MetaFilter-Related at 1:44 PM (81 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

I am so sorry. I loved her appearances on Pop Culture Happy Hour, and had such a sense from afar of her energy, drive, humor, and talent.
posted by theatro at 1:54 PM on November 14 [2 favorites]


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posted by riruro at 1:57 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


(oh damn, I just realised she was 46, not 47. Her birthday's in a couple of weeks. She had a plane ticket and was going to come here, and we were going to actually see each other and hang out for the first time since the plague. We had plans, dammit. Hey Death, fuck you)
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:04 PM on November 14 [60 favorites]


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posted by needlegrrl at 2:11 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


You have my condolences as well.
posted by y2karl at 2:17 PM on November 14 [2 favorites]


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And condolences, PA.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:28 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


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posted by schmod at 3:21 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


I'm so sorry. I loved how much joy she brought to the book episodes of PCHH.

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posted by minsies at 3:24 PM on November 14 [3 favorites]


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posted by leslies at 3:33 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


She was a bright, shining light, and I was honoured that she tolerated me as a friend. I only got to meet her once in person, but our online connections from the MoFi days onwards made that inconsequential — thirty seconds of RL awkwardness, and we carried right on. I knew only the barest details of her actual life, but that too is no matter. Speedy’s friendship with me cemented the idea that online communities are real communities, and that for all the shittiness of the internets, sometimes it can grace us with a connection we would never have made just going about our world.

I am heartbroken by the snuffing of this light. I am angry with the injustice of it. I feel for her, for Pallas, for their friendship. I loved Petra, just as we all did. How could anyone not?

Knowing her, she’s already in that Great Beyond, pressing Buster Keaton with questions of clarification. She’s unstoppable. Not even Death.

See you around, Speedy.
posted by Capt. Renault at 3:37 PM on November 14 [18 favorites]


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posted by zamboni at 5:47 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


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fuck you pulmonary embolism.
posted by lalochezia at 5:53 PM on November 14 [2 favorites]


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too young too young, God bless her.
posted by fleacircus at 6:07 PM on November 14 [3 favorites]


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posted by Dip Flash at 6:49 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


I loved her work and the clarity of her voice. One of her many legacies will doubtless be the many other voices and visions she uplifted and shared with millions— what a generous and brave act.
posted by SandCounty at 6:51 PM on November 14 [2 favorites]


Awww this sucks and I am sorry to those who knew her. I saw the tributes and the articles about her life earlier today and thought "Oh hey I should write a Wikipedia article for her" but by the time I checked back this evening, I saw that someone (a few people) already had. Big hugs to those who knew her, she seemed like a treasure.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:02 PM on November 14 [6 favorites]


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posted by maryrussell at 7:39 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


I'm so sorry to hear this. Much love to all who knew her, and all who only felt like they knew her.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:18 PM on November 14 [3 favorites]


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posted by apartment dweller at 8:54 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


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Just shocking to see this news. She was so good.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:01 PM on November 14 [3 favorites]


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posted by praemunire at 9:09 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


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I’m so sorry. She was much too young.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:17 PM on November 14 [2 favorites]


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posted by bryon at 10:45 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


Aw, shit, I am so sorry, PA. I loved hearing her on Pop Culture Happy Hour and look forward to the Book Concierge project every year. Much love to you and everyone else who knew her.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:58 PM on November 14 [2 favorites]


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posted by iamkimiam at 12:31 AM on November 15 [1 favorite]


Deepest condolences to you and all who knew her.

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posted by Faint of Butt at 6:39 AM on November 15 [1 favorite]


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posted by FishBike at 6:48 AM on November 15 [1 favorite]


I lived with Petra briefly in 2014 when I was an NPR intern. She was a great mentor and frien. So sad to hear this news.
posted by randomquestion at 7:15 AM on November 15 [9 favorites]


I knew Petra from Amherst and (not enough, now never enough) after. Grateful I got to see her in person one more time a few years ago. Thank you for this lovely obit.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:17 AM on November 15 [4 favorites]


her cats, Doctor Who, and Bake Off. (Also a defender of the Oxford comma.)

I did not know Petra and was not familiar with her at all, but in honor of this lovely, most editorly of tributes, I will be naming my next two cats Doctor Who and Bake Off.

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posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:42 AM on November 15 [17 favorites]


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posted by martin q blank at 8:24 AM on November 15 [1 favorite]


I'm so sorry for your loss, Pallas Athena. she sounds like she was an amazing and inspiring friend. tragically young.

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posted by introp at 10:52 AM on November 15 [1 favorite]


I'm very sorry for the loss of your dear friend, dear hearts. A great person whose many admirers here in this thread are singing her a beautiful chorus of their true and smart and profound love.

Thank you all for sharing your voices on speedlime. I applaud her and you, and boo her tragic loss with you too - and hope that you are all as well as possible right now.

And a salute and a wave and a teardrop, and a comma from oxfordshire, for our goddess of wisdom, and my captain - and anyone who wants the same.

Take love and take care, dear hearts ...
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:15 AM on November 15 [16 favorites]


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,,.
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posted by jquinby at 12:26 PM on November 15 [1 favorite]


I'm touched that someone made an FPP. I'm glad so many people in the wider world got to hear Petra's voice and know how amazing she was.

link back to the FPP for posterity.

On a sadder note, the Facebook post I made at her family's request (which was, by necessity, public) is now getting comments from antivaxxer trolls. It started with an author on Twitter who shared Petra's obit and said "vaccine injury? I guess we'll never know [sadface emoji]." And some wackadoo has written a very nasty blog post about her saying she died from the vaccine.

I've been delete/blocking without response, but it is absolutely fucking rage inducing.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:19 PM on November 15 [17 favorites]


Pallas Athena, I’m so sorry for all of this.

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posted by mochapickle at 3:42 PM on November 15 [3 favorites]


Anti-vaxxers jumped on the Globe and Mail’s obit, together with one stick in the mud who questioned why reporters needed to cover ComiCon. And it’s like, this is not about you. Can we let Petra have this moment? Thanks.
posted by Capt. Renault at 4:24 PM on November 15 [2 favorites]


Aaaand now she’s the subject of conspiracy videos on YouTube, of the ‘just asking questions’ variety (not gonna link). Two things:
1. Fuck off. Fuck all the way off. When you get there, fuck off some more.
2. Petra gets to determine her own legacy, not you yomyocks.
3. There’s some part of her, I’m sure, that would be tickled to have voicebot conspiracy videos starring her, but mostly she’d be pissed off at your shitty journalism, and tell you to fuck off.

OK, three things.
posted by Capt. Renault at 4:54 PM on November 15 [11 favorites]


This now explains some very weird twitter comments I was having trouble parsing about her in-between the huge outpouring of grief and sadness this week. I am so sorry everyone.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:59 PM on November 15 [7 favorites]


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posted by carmicha at 5:17 PM on November 15 [2 favorites]


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posted by Stanczyk at 5:47 PM on November 15 [1 favorite]


Also, DVT almost took me out at 46. It's a fuck of a malady. Before I got it I ran 20 miles a week. It took a year to recover and I still can't run. I can barely do anything strenuous. It fucked up my heart and my lungs. I had no idea what was happening and it's so sudden that it's often misdiagnosed. I got it long before COVID or my vaccines so fuck those guys. It doesn't work that way. It's just one of those illnesses that can sneak up on healthy people and its cause isn't really well understood. It almost took Serena Williams too. I survived after a week of misdiagnosis and then a week in the ICU. My doctor told me I really should be dead.

I really loved Petra. I'm really sorry she's gone. She was one of the best things to happen in the world of books in decades. The book world will surely feel her loss.
posted by Stanczyk at 5:56 PM on November 15 [10 favorites]


I've been delete/blocking without response, but it is absolutely fucking rage inducing.

That is just disgusting that people are doing that. I am so sorry you are having to deal with that on top of the loss.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:21 PM on November 15 [6 favorites]


There are no words.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:20 PM on November 15 [4 favorites]


I remember her from the old MonkeyFilter days...what a unique community that was, and speedlime was a big part of the fun and the quirkiness and the geekiness of it all.
Terribly sad. Hugs all round.
posted by rocket88 at 7:40 PM on November 15 [3 favorites]


The phenomenon of people discovering a tragic thing that happens on the regular just in time for it to confirm their existing worldview - also applies recently to crowd crush incidents - is not one of my favorite things.
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posted by Lawn Beaver at 7:54 AM on November 16 [1 favorite]


So sorry to hear the news, Pallas Athena and everyone: she sounds like she was even better in real life than she was in the media.

A . indeed.
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posted by Alterscape at 4:54 PM on November 16 [1 favorite]


Obit in the Washington Post. It's a good one.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:59 PM on November 16 [4 favorites]


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posted by Lynsey at 6:37 PM on November 16 [1 favorite]


Readable photo of the Washington Post obituary, in case of paywall issues
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