In loving memory of our friend, Ioana Visan
October 29, 2016
By Mireille Geurts & Magdalena Osborne
Photos courtesy of the Visan Family
One of the great things about figure skating and the internet is that you get to know people from all over the world. We hooked up with Ioana on a figure skating mailing list around the time of the 2002 Olympics. Back then she already took an interest in writing and was also working on her diploma in Computer Science. Much interaction about personal favorites and current competitions followed. We exchanged ideas about a lot of things and became really good friends in the process. A process that eventually lead up to the birth of Absolute Skating.
I (Mireille) just lurked on the mailing list for a long time. Ioana however was posting a fan fiction story, which I started reading. Since the format on the list was so annoying and I missed the beginning, I emailed her and asked if I could get the segments in a Word format to print for reading. She had no problem with that, and diligently emailed me everything and every time she wrote a new chapter. I responded, of course, also telling her my feelings about the story, and from this very long email conversations followed talk about much more than just the story. We really clicked, even though our views on things were sometimes very different. So different in fact, that she at one time said she was just weird, and I replied: "yes, and your last name should be Vision, not Visan". She laughed and liked this so much that she actually adopted "Weird Vision" as her own nickname, even using it in her email address and on Twitter.
Ioana was the kind of person who made the world a better place. One of her many character strengths was patience. When I (Magdalena) first got to know her I wasnÂ’t very good with computers, and I was afraid to try new things. But she taught me, step by step, how to proceed and, for instance, legally download video clips of our favorite skaters. This was the time before YouTube, and it was a time consuming endeavor, but worth it in the end.
On another occasion I had sent her a show review and some pictures, and asked her to make the layout. She was efficient, as usual, and sent me a link. The article looked nice, but it wasnÂ’t what I had had in mind. I hesitated to tell her since she had already put the time and effort into it, but finally I did. There was no outburst or even a sigh on her part, she just very patiently re-did the layout according to my (this time more specific) wishes. What an angel!
Our friendship and collaboration with Ioana deepened as we worked on getting AS off the ground. Ioana did so much, but she rarely got to shine (not that she wanted to anyway). Her name never appeared on articles although she had spent hours working on the photos and layout, solving coding problems we encountered on the way. And on top of that we had seemingly endless discussions about how to handle this and that, AS policies etc. She was always there with her input, expertise, knowledge and experience. She was a great co-worker, and she was a friend.
We tried very hard to give Ioana the credits we felt she deserved. She designed the website from scratch, with all the artwork (think logos, menus, etc.) involved. And although her name is on the website, listed as one of the creators, she did so much more than that. After the design itself, she kept being a full time part of the team - planning the publications, creating the layouts for articles and albums. Not every writer/photographer can do these kinds of layouts themselves.
When we decided to redesign the website, I (Mireille) suggested to not only publishing the authorÂ’s name and the photo credits, but also who did the layout. Ioana was having none of it. "Not needed, and it takes up too much space". Practical, as she always was. So, aside from thanking her on the message board (old days) and Facebook (recent), I sometimes resorted to sending her little packages, with trinkets from a competition or other fun stuff. I recall in particular that she and her family really liked those stroopwafels... ;)
We also shared stories and photos about our cats. When her cat got kittens she was worrying about how to raise them when they didn't seem to get enough milk. I was surprised there was no cat-milk substitute for sale in Romania, but hey, baby-formula works just as well!
She teased me a lot about being Â“the bossÂ”, which she knew I hated, but when I attended competitions or shows, she herself made for an awesome interim-boss! And those weren't the only times she ran the show behind the scenes. When I needed some time off for personal reasons she was there, telling me not to worry about AS... Just the way she was always there.
Figure skating wasn't her only passion, and apart from Absolute Skating and her other freelance web design work, she did so much more. As I already stated, I got in contact with Ioana because of her writings. And what started as "writing as a hobby", turned into a real, and very promising career.
Since I really liked her writing style, I followed her when she swayed from figure skating fan fiction into other topics. She was a founding member of the RPG group Roleplayhaven and a lot of the stories that came out of that cooperation I also really enjoyed. Next to all her writing in English, she also wrote in her native language, Romanian. Even though I complained that when she wrote in Romanian I couldn't read those stories, in the long run it was impossible for me to keep track and read all she wrote in English, let alone in Romanian! Through the RPG group and other workshops and collaborations, she gained the experience and confidence to start writing original fiction. And original it was!
On the day of her 30th birthday her first story got published and her career as a writer really took off. Her book website notes that she was the winner of the Eurocon 2013 Encouragement Award, but she also received the award for best Romanian story in 2009. Her short stories were published in at least 12 Romanian science fiction magazines.
She started several series in English, and self published these via Amazon. One of the fantasy series I remember vividly is The Impaler's Revenge, containing 3 novels and 2 short stories. I even remember getting out of bed in the middle of the night after finishing the first novel, to download the second one! This series is about vampires, a genre that at the time was very popular. But Ioana wouldn't be Ioana if she didnÂ’t choose a totally different take on it. This is not the popular Â“girl meets vampire and falls in loveÂ” troop, used by so many. There are vampires and romance, but not the way you would expect. Her nickname wasn't Weird Vision for nothing. ;)
I hardly ever read short stories, because it's not my thing. But her collection of short stories about shapeshifters, The Blue Moon Cafe, I did read and enjoyed very much. Because the location glued all the stories together and some characters actually appeared in multiple stories, they felt very interconnected and almost like reading a novel, even though you could just as well read all stories separately.
Surprisingly, I also read Human Instincts, an apocaclyptic novella about a geneticist who tried to save the world from an aggressive virus. The only reason I started on it was that it was written by Ioana and I knew I liked her style. This was a genre I hadn't read before, and I must say she truly opened my eyes to it and I have read several more books and series after this one. Another thing I have Ioana to thank for!
There are many more stories and series we could talk about. She had endless ideas and worked on them a lot. I will surely keep on reading all of her books I never got to, and be sad for the series she never got to finish, the ideas she never got to work out. Her passing is not just a personal loss to her family and friends, and to Absolute Skating, but also to the writing world. It would mean a lot to her if more people discovered her stories, so please check them out on her own website, or on Amazon.
We wish with all our hearts that we could stop here and not have to bring up the most recent events. Ioana went on vacation to Italy with her family, where she suddenly took ill and passed away. She suffered an esophageal blockage which caused her breathing and heart to stop. After the initial emergency procedure the medics were optimistic, but unfortunately she never woke up, at only 38 years old.
It all happened very unexpectedly and left the family and friends in shock. We are still at a loss for words, and itÂ’s very hard to express the impact she has had on our lives and on AS.
Here are some words about Ioana, as uttered by our crew as a first reaction: "She was always so kind", "So important for AS", "Always helpful, never complained", "She inspired me", Â“She was invaluable, she could handle any problem or issue with her great skillsÂ”, "She stayed neutral in difficult situations and focused on the facts" and "Our rock".
A couple of years ago, when AS celebrated its first decade, Ioana wrote in the celebration article: "The bottom line is that my love for figure skating remains. It's a wonderful sport that crosses the barrier towards art, as it requires more than just skills. Whenever you watch skaters perform their programs, you also catch a glimpse of their souls. At the end of the day, this makes life even more beautiful. So here's to another ten years!"
We wonÂ’t be getting ten more years with Ioana. It is very hard to accept, or even imagine Absolute Skating without Ioana since she was such a big part of it. But the spirit of her friendship and work lingers in the AS-logos she designed, as does her love of skating.
She wanted to reach for the stars, now she is up there with them. We miss you, girl, and always will!