In Memoriam: Aaron Allston

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For those of you who haven’t heard the sad news, author Aaron Allston passed away very suddenly last night. The cause of death was determined to be massive heart failure. I still don’t have the words to describe Aaron’s life and career as eloquently as he deserves. Bryan Young wrote a beautiful tribute over at Big Shiny Robot, as did Ron Garner, for Silence in the Library.

All I have to offer is an email I started drafting to him hours before I learned that he had died. Early this morning, I rewrote it. I think it’s as fitting a way to say goodbye to a friend as any, so I’m going to post it here as a memorial.

 

Dear Aaron,  

Yesterday, I was writing you an email.  

You were on my list of people to personally thank re: Athena’s Daughters. I’d glanced over the names and got excited when I saw yours on the spreadsheet. Because we hadn’t seen each other since the workshop and I was looking forward to catching up. Maybe we’d chat about this year’s Origins, or the short story you’d mentioned wanting to turn into a series. 

And now I’m sitting here thinking how insufficient a single email feels in the grand scheme of things, and how utterly, stupidly insane it is that you will never get to read it. I do owe you a thank you. You won’t get to read this one, and it won’t have a jaunty postscript on the end as I’d originally planned, but I’m going to write it anyway. Even though you hate it when people make a fuss. 

So, Aaron – thank you.  

You approached writing not as a strange, unknowable force, but as a meticulous creative science. You taught me the value of structure and careful planning within a story, but you also weren’t afraid to kill the darlings in favor of better options when these changes made the work stronger. When we first met, you made me get excited about my own creative work for the first time in years. 

You were a brilliant writer and peer reviewer. Your comments on my stories were insightful, often funny, and always thought-provoking. I can’t count the number of times I heard the words maybe you ought to consider… in a workshop setting over the years. (And genuinely welcomed them.) On the flip side, although I may have reacted to a few of your editing suggestions with the kind of frowns and theatrical groans you’d usually get from a feature of Droopy Dog, you were usually right. 

More importantly, you were a generous, encouraging friend. The last time I saw you at the writer’s workshop, I asked you to sign my newly-bought copy of “A Hero By Any Other Name.” Everyone had begun multitasking by signing books for the Time Traveled Tales Kickstarter. But I wasn’t able to read your inscription until I got home a couple days later. 

I read it again last night, after I heard the news and got off the phone. The last sentence has always — and will always — make me cry. Looking forward to being in an anthology with you! 

This letter is an awful substitute for conversation. But I just wanted to thank you for your friendship and for your faith. Today, I plotted out a new story in your absence, because I didn’t know what else to do, and because it seemed like a fitting way to honor a lost friend. Selfishly, I wish I could ask you about the ending. Maybe we can talk edits after the next forty to seventy years have passed.

Clear skies, friend. We miss you. 

Conley

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