Aaron Allston was a guy I’d kind of like to be, in a lot of ways. Our lives intersected several times, at first indirectly, and later, much more directly. He left an impact on me, personally, several different ways, and judging from the responses I’m seeing about his death, I’m far from the only one.

I started gaming when I was in high school, and got a lot more serious about it when I got to college. My sophomore year, I was introduced to a game called Champions, which let you make your own superheroes. I loved this concept, and have played the game off and on ever since. I also met some friends playing that game who I’m still writing and gaming with all these years (decades, even) later. Some of the best supplements for that game were written by a guy named Aaron Allston. His Ninja Hero sourcebook is a great tool for not only Champions Game Masters, but it’s a decent quick reference for martial arts, their styles and weapons, for any writer. It’s not in depth on anything, but if you want to see real quick the difference between Tae Kwon Do and Kung Fu, it will give you some basic differences.

In addition to being a gamer, I’m a huge fan of Star Wars. When Timothy Zahn wrote his Thrawn trilogy, the expanded universe, stuff that’s outside the movies, started up (aside from some comic books). As the Star Wars novels kept coming, one series was not about the main characters like Luke, Han, Leia and company. It starred a minor character from the movies, Wedge Antilles, and built a new group of characters. These books, the X-Wing novels, were Michael Stackpoole and, later, Aaron Allston, who created Wraith Squadron, a group of fighter pilots/espionage agents. I really enjoyed those novels a lot, partially because they weren’t about Luke and the others, and let us see other bits of the Star Wars Universe.

Many years later, I started writing myself. I was initially sort of pushed into it by a friend. In fact, one of those friends I met playing Champions (thanks, Harry). Gradually, I started taking it more seriously. I went back to DragonCon, which I hadn’t done in many years, in part due to my interest in writing. There was a whole series of hour long seminars taught by Mike Stackpoole and Aaron Allston. They were on the best sellers’ list, they wrote stuff I liked, so of course I signed up to go. And I learned a lot.

I also very slightly got to know both of them. In addition to being good writers and knowledgeable teachers, they were good guys. I enjoyed talking with them. I helped Mr. Allston at one point when he got a bit turned around in all the habitrails that connect the various DragonCon hotels. Mr. Allston had health problems which, among other things, effected his eye sight. We walked together for a bit, and I had a very enjoyable conversation with him.

Last year, I didn’t get to take any of their classes, because I’d signed up for a lot of other things. But, I found Mr. Allston. I brought along my old, battered, copy of Ninja Hero, and got him to sign it. He eyed the book, and smiled, remarking both that he hadn’t seen that in quite a while, and that it was clearly “well-used and well-loved.” He really seemed pleased I had brought that to him.

That ended up being the last time I saw him. Earlier today as I write this, I learned that Mr. Allston died. Apparently, his health problems caught up with him. He suffered a massive heart attack while he was attending VisonCon in Springfield, Missouri. While 53 is far too young to die, especially in this day and age, I’m betting a lot of fantasy/sci fi writers would count that a good way to go.

Mr. Allston helped shape a game I loved, and later, a universe of books. I get most of my books from the library, as I read so many, but I still buy Star Wars novels, and have an overfull book case of them. I always enjoyed seeing his name on the cover, because I knew it would it would be a good story, with great action and humor, and because, even if just slightly, I knew him.

If you’ll excuse me, I think I have a few books to reread.

About the author

Wayland Smith WAYLAND SMITH is the pen name for a native Texan who has lived in Massachusetts, New York, Washington DC, and presently makes his home in Virginia. His rather unlikely list of jobs includes private investigator, comic book shop owner, ring crew for a circus (then he ran away from the circus and joined home), deputy sheriff, and freelance stagehand. Wayland is a four time participant in, and survivor of, NaNoWriMo, having made the 50,000 word goal each time. A black belt in shao lin kung fu, he is also a fan of comic books, reading, writing, and various computer games (I”ll shut Civ down in one more turn. Really). He lives with a beautiful woman who was crazy enough to marry him, and a goofy dog with a fondness for peanut butter and white wine.