Goodbye, Aaron Allston

Aaron_allston_2005I got the terrible news last night that Aaron Allston died earlier in the day. From what I can piece together, he’d arrived in Branson, Missouri, to be a guest of honor at VisionCon this weekend, where he collapsed and was taken to the hospital but did not recover.

Our mutual friend Allen Varney posted an excellent obituary for Aaron last night. Go give it a read.

Aaron was most famous these days for his many excellent Star Wars novels, but he started out in tabletop games. When I first met him at an Origins Game Fair some twenty plus years back, he was a compatriot, a fellow freelancer writing for Hero Games, working on books for Champions and Justice Inc. about the same time I was writing Western Hero. He was hellaciously talented, always ready with a wry joke or a bit of well-considered advice.

I watched Aaron move from games into novels, blazing a trail before me, much in the way of Mike Stackpole and Troy Denning, two mutual pals who mentored me along the same path. I cheered on every one of his successes. There’s something heartening about seeing good people achieve the kinds of goals you’ve set for yourself.

I’d seen him many times over the years, most recently at a Gen Con, I believe. The last time I spent any real time with him was at Comic-Con a few years back. He was recovering from heart problems, and like many freelancers didn’t have much in the way of health insurance to pay for something as costly as emergency bypass surgery. The SF and gaming communities had come together to help raise funds for him, though, and I know he appreciated that more than he could ever say.

Despite those troubles, he’d started taking better care of himself and had lost weight in an effort to improve his health. Even in the face of those challenges—both physical and financial—he put on a brave face and wore a ready smile. And he kept writing, telling fantastic stories to entertain hundreds of thousands of people for as long as he could.

He left us far too early. He was only 53.

I’ll miss him, and I know I’m not alone.