February 28, 2014: Aaron Allston
Aaron Allston died of massive heart failure yesterday, while Guest of Honor at VisionCon. Aaron was a good man: a creator of things fantastic, yet personally straightforward, cheerful, and wry. His health went downhill while he was still relatively young, but he stayed as active as he could, and he died in the midst of the geekery that he loved and nurtured.
Aaron started off with SJ Games by doing whatever was needed; I think "Circulation Manager" was his first official title. He kept taking more responsibility and doing more neat stuff. Before too long, he was editor of The Space Gamer, and helmed it during some of its very finest days. He helped launch The Fantasy Gamer as a spinoff. He was a powerful force in the early days of Car Wars. He wrote (among many other things) the Harkwood supplement for GURPS and the Car Wars/Champions crossover Autoduel Champions. But he was wasted with a small indie game company, which is what we were at the time. He moved on to write some excellent D&D material for TSR. But when he finally found his level, it was as a bestselling novelist, creating a round dozen Star Wars novels. But I liked the things he wrote out of his own head. My own favorite is Galatea in 2-D, a stand-alone novel so obscure that (I now see) it doesn't even have a Wikipedia page. It was an unsubtle and hugely fun "geek gets superpowers, messes up badly, finds his feet at last and WINS" wish-fulfillment story. It would have made a great summer movie.
Aaron was also the best GM I've ever known. The Champions campaign he ran for the SJ Games staff was memorable. A couple of us didn't actually know the Champions system at all, but Aaron made it not matter, and we all had a fantastic time.
You can find a more eloquent eulogy of Aaron, with a far more complete discussion and appreciation of his career, courtesy of Allen Varney on Google+.
Although he lived in the Austin area, I had not seen him for years. The best I managed was to send the occasional "Say hi to Aaron!" via mutual friends. The lesson there, though you've heard it before: Don't miss a chance to hang out with the good people. They may not be around forever.
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