It saddens us to have to report the passing of author and member of the Silence in the Library family Aaron Allston. Aaron collapsed last night, February 27, 2014, on his way to perform his duties as the guest of honor at Visioncon 2014 in Branson, MO. He was taken to the hospital in Springfield, MO, where cause of death was determined to be a massive heart failure.
These are the facts of Aaron’s passing, but they are far removed from an adequate explanation of the loss we have all experienced.
In the coming days, you will hear much about Aaron’s accomplishments as an author, editor, and game designer. It is right and just that the world should talk about Aaron’s work and mourn the loss of a masterful creator. Aaron was a legend in the Star Wars community, writing 13 novels and numerous short stories that brought the joy of the Star Wars universe to countless children and adults. His work in the gaming industry helped mold an entire generation of gaming enthusiasts.
For all of these things, and more, we should mourn the loss of a peerless mind and talent. What I will mourn more than anything, though, and I what I want to focus on today, is the loss of Aaron Allston the man, the mentor, the friend.
While I and the other members of Silence in the Library have not known Aaron as long as some, we have cherished every moment of our friendship with him. That friendship was forged over years as we continued to run into him at conventions. Eventually, Aaron would become a staple at our yearly writer’s workshops, providing feedback that invariably helped hone all of the stories submitted to the workshop and the craft of those who wrote the stories.
There would not be a Silence in the Library today, at least not in the form it exists, if it were not for Aaron Allston. Maggie Allen, Janine Spendlove, Bryan Young, and myself formed Silence in the Library in 2011 with the vague idea that we might do something with it in the future, but no real clue as to what that might be. It was Aaron Allston and Michael Stackpole who recognized our potential as a company and helped us to focus. Because of them Time Traveled Tales and all of our subsequent projects exist.
But even these things are just matters of record and insufficient to describe the impact Aaron had on our lives – on the lives of all those who came into contact with him. Because, you see, Aaron was one of the most selfless individuals I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. He wanted to see the people around him succeed. And he coupled that desire with a real, penetrating insight into people and the world around him. This made his advice almost invariably good.
I feel as though I am flailing around, hitting close to what I want to say, but never exactly hitting it on the head. Aaron the editor would be staring over the tops of his glasses at me right now, one eyebrow raised and a look of disapproval on his face.
I know, Aaron, “show me, don’t tell me”. The thing is, I’m not sure how to do that right now. My heart is empty and my head is numb.
Perhaps the best I can do right now is give you a list of things I know about Aaron Allston. Maybe that will help focus the effort.
1. Aaron loved making horrible puns. The more wretched, the better. If he didn’t get at least one groan out of the crowd he wasn’t happy.
2. Aaron had an enduring love of absolutely terrible movies. Our writers’ workshops generally took place over a long weekend, and Aaron reserved the last day to introduce us to his favorites of the worst movies ever made. We watched plenty of MST3K, but we also watched them in their pure, unadulterated form. Plan 9 From Outer Space, Manos: The Hands of Fate, whatever. If it was cringe worthy, it was there. He once made me a present of a movie about midget vampires titled Ankle Biters.
3. Aaron was incredibly proud, and would never have wanted anyone to know about his medical concerns or any other issues he might have had.
4. Aaron was fiercely loyal to his friends, and willing to do anything for the people he considered to be “his”.
5. Aaron loved helping new writers develop their craft. He was a born mentor.
6. As a writer, Aaron was the most skilled craftsman I have ever personally known. He understood, better than almost anyone, that writing is not a talent, it is a skill that has to be forged and regularly sharpened. He worked his entire life to be the best writer he could possibly be, and as a result, while he may not have had the commercial success of some, he was a masterful writer.
7. Aaron had an unreasonable love of knives, particularly pocket knives. He was almost like a little kid every time he talked about or displayed his latest acquisition. He also loved to give knives as gifts. To Aaron, the idea that anyone could live a happy life without a pocket knife was almost incomprehensible.
8. At least outwardly, Aaron hated to have a fuss made over him. He’s probably looking at all of the online memorials right now and trying to come up with just the right joke to let us all know how foolish we are (though I suspect some part of him would have appreciated it).
9. Aaron faced even the most difficult situations in life (perhaps particularly the most difficult situations in life) with humor. It was his cure-all and his shield.
10. Aaron loved to wear the most outrageous Hawaiian shirts. You could never miss him in a crowd.
11. Aaron lived his life as an example of his repeated writing maxim “show me, don’t tell me”. He didn’t say it a whole lot, but as his friend you knew that Aaron loved you. His every action reinforced that fact. And he relished every moment of his life, wringing the most he could out of it as if to say “See, this is how it is done!” Show me, indeed.
12. Aaron was not afraid of looking ridiculous or doing ridiculous things. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of things he wouldn’t do, but that was just because he didn’t want to do them. He never did or didn’t do something based on a fear of what others would think.
13. Aaron was one of the most genuine, honest, straight-forward people I ever knew.
So, the facts are that Aaron Allston passed away in a hospital in Springfield, MO on the night of Thursday, February 27, 2014. The truth behind the facts is that the world lost not only an inspiring writer and creator, but a human being who made the lives of all those around him richer for just being there.
I am sad. My heart aches for the loss to all of us who knew Aaron well as a person. But it aches even more for those who never had the chance.
The world lost a giant last night, and it is infinitely poorer for it.
Ron Garner, Silence in the Library Publishing