Friday, 28 February 2014

Aaron Allston, 1960 - 2014

I’ve never done any eulogizing here. Always seemed like there were other, better places for it. Words said by other, better people. The news that came down last night, though, announcing the death of sci-fi/fantasy author Aaron Allston hit me pretty hard.


So, there’s a reason that I don’t write eulogies: I’ve never properly learned how. I tried to write one for Elmore Leonard for work last year and it came out horribly. Instead, I think I’ll just tell a story about the kind of person Aaron Allston was…

There were a couple of little cons that I used to frequent when I lived back in North Carolina. Sometimes I would go as a simple attendee, others as a volunteer. On a couple of occasions I was lucky enough to go as a speaker. Aaron was a fairly regular sight around those parts, and very well liked. He was an incredibly kind man--wickedly funny and quick, and always ready to offer a bit of advice or guidance to new writers and old hands.

My fondest memory of the man is one of my last. It was one of Aaron’s first convention appearances following his 2009 heart attack and the subsequent surgery, and I was manning a group table when he came up between panels (one of the great things about having Aaron at cons was that he would often just wander the floor and browse around like a regular attendee) and asked if he could sit in one of our free chairs. We’d run into one another often enough that he seemed to recognize me and, once he got settled, I introduced myself, told him how much I enjoyed his work and listening to him talk about writing in his panels, and then said how glad that I was that he was still with us. By way of thanks, he smiled and made the kind of groan-inducing pun that he was famous for.

We got to talking after that; going back and forth about craft and process and Star Wars (he remains one of my long-standing favorite contributors to the Star Wars Expanded Universe) and all of the other topics that you run through when you get a pair of big writing nerds together. Eventually, Aaron had another panel that he needed to be at. A volunteer came to bundle him off to the ballroom, and that was it. We ran into one another a couple of times after that, before I moved to this wretched land that has never heard of a fan convention, and we never had much of a chance to talk again but he always remembered my name and he always had a grin and a kind word for me. That’s just the kind of person that he was. One of the very best.

In a perfect world, I’d be able to have that conversation with him again following another round of surgeries. I wish that I could, and I’m sure that there are plenty of other folks who wish the same. My thoughts are with Aaron and his loved ones today.


This post was edited on the morning of 03/01/2014 for purposes of clarity and intent.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Reading List - January

Because being an active reader is an important part of being an active writer, I’m going to start profiling the stuff that I’ve been reading on a month-to-month basis. Here’s January:


  • Easy Go – Michael Crichton – Part of Hard Case Crime’s posthumous reissue of the early pulp novels that Crichton released under the name John Lange. This is the first of them that I’ve read, and it’s kind of remarkable how clearly this is still Crichton’s work…Much less refined technically, but with a lot of the clear and easy historical/scientific exposition that defined much of the man’s writing.
  • Zoe’s Tale – John Scalzi – Rounding out my collection of Scalzi’s TOR releases. It’s the same story as The Last Colony but told from a different POV, and it manages to fill in some of that other novel’s gaps while still feeling fresh and entertaining. Pulling this sort of Rashomon move across multiple novels is something that I’ve considered doing in the past, so it’s also nice to see that it can work out well.
  • A Ballad of Wayward Specters, Day OneWilliam B. Hill – The first part of a serialized cyberpunk novel written and independently released by an old friend from college. I’m still waiting to see where this story goes, but, so far, it’s an interesting take on the future of identity theft.
  • Of Dice and Men – David M. Ewalt – A long profile of the history of Dungeons & Dragons that manages to be interesting and fun without becoming overly sentimental or compromising its facts. It also had the benefit of getting me fired up to play tabletop games again, and has me working on a custom system of rules on the side.
  • Doctor Sleep – Stephen King – This one carried over into February, so you’ll probably see it on March 1st as well. Like Black House before it, Doctor Sleep is an interesting take on building a sequel to an early, classic King work. And, also like Black House, it’s not so much a direct sequel as a story about a man who is no longer the boy that he was the last time he had a traumatizing adventure.
  • Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. – Warren Ellis – One of my favorite comics series. Twelve straight issues of relentless riffing on superhero team books.
  • Lazarus, Volume One – Greg Rucka – Rucka jumps out of the gate on his new dystopian sci-fi series, and it’s already plenty intriguing. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where this goes.
  • Local – Brian Wood – Sad, exhilarating, lyrical, and beautifully drawn. In a weird way, reading this probably had a lot to do with my wanting and trying to move last month. Its portrayal of wanderlust and life experience is both tragic and inspiring. Wood has written a lot of excellent series over the years, but this is probably his most affecting.
  • Wednesday, 19 February 2014

    Adventures in Not Writing

    Hi there. It's been a while.

    So, this has been kind of a rough year so far. I won't go into too much detail, but the bottom line is that I didn't get any called in for any classes this semester so I'm basically unemployed. Add that to a car wreck, some good friends leaving the state suddenly, and a recently aborted attempt to do that myself—and I've really not been in a place where I want to write or work on things.

    Basically, I spend a lot of time looking for work and thinking about how much I hate looking for work. The rest of my time is pretty much divided between reading and drifting between side projects.

    It's difficult, trying to work through this kind of constant, low-level distress. You try to power through it, but, eventually, the way that you feel starts to color everything that you do. Nothing looks or feels quite right, but you don't know how to fix it because the problem isn't in the work, it's in you. You can't just stop feeling anxious and sad about things, so you slowly start to drift away from them. You decide that you can wait it out. That you can come back to your life later.

    That's kind of what I've been doing. Or, at least, that's the closest that I can come to articulating it right now. It's one of those things that just gets worse and worse until it starts to get better somehow.

    The good news is that I seem to be coming out of the slump lately. I revisited the current draft and the outline a few days ago, and I've started making a series of tweaks to them that resolve a lot of the problems that I had with the third act of the Ver# 0.4.0 outline. I've also made the necessary changes to the current draft that will make it line up with those changes. I've also revisited the post-mortem that I promised for Dog Star Palace (Yes: I actually wrote it. And also yes: I ended up not posting it because I was sad and didn't want to be on the internet. That's just the kind of great month that January was.) and started making some changes to it that should make it a little more informative while also including some bits about how my mood influenced the work. I'm also starting to compile some guest articles.

    That's all coming along soon or soon-ish, so keep an eye out, okay? I'm ready to get some stuff done here, and I'd like for all of you to share in it with me.