I was shocked last week to hear of Aaron's passing. It scrolled unexpectedly through my Twitter feed in a post from Matt Forbeck @mforbeck at a late enough hour that I nearly missed it. Tweets from the Force.net and others soon followed and news spread quickly. Not long after that, long time game designer posted the first post/obituary to reflect on Aaron's past work. I recommend reading it - Aaron was involved in a lot of gaming and writing projects through the years, and the post includes many I had not heard about. Matt followed up with his own comments, and other writers and game designers followed suit over the following days.
As I sit here, I have one of Aaron's business card advertisements for his then forthcoming book, Plotting, A Novelists Workout Guide pinned to a sort of free-standing, spinning block of cork combination pencil holder and note holder. Essentially, a block of cork you could pin notes to, from the days before post-it notes. The card has been there since I returned from Star Wars Celebration VI because it announced the book's release date as Sept. 2012, and it was visible from that spot no matter how cluttered the rest of my desks became. Aaron hosted one of the packed writing seminars at Celebration, which was both helpful and highly entertaining.
Perhaps predictably, the book was a bit late - February 2013. I put the ebook on my phone. Having been to his seminars, I can totally hear his voice when reading this. I'm still working my way through it. Game writing has kept me busy for awhile, though I still work a bit of fiction in here or there. Obviously, the card is still up, partly because it's good to have a reminder from time to time, and partly because my office tends to become a haphazard pile of Star Wars books or other stuff related to whatever the freelance project of the moment is.
Though Aaron started as a roleplaying game designer, he never wrote for the Star Wars RPG, likely having moved on to novels by then (if I read that correctly elsewhere). As it happens, the current Dungeons and Dragons campaign I'm playing in is an extension of our 40th D&D anniversary game, for which we are using the D&D Rules Cyclopedia - essentially the old D&D basic games combined in book form. Aaron was the editor on the project, and it is still considered a great D&D book. It's probably the only official D&D product where the entire game is in a single book.
While I knew Aaron's Star Wars work, and others, I didn't meet him until the Indy Knights Star Wars fanclub hosted a benefit breakfast at GenCon 2009 to help him pay medical bills after suffering a major heart attack. His health had been an issue since. I met him again years later at Star Wars Celebration V. I had the good fortune of falling in with a few other writers that ended up hanging out in someone's hotel suite get-together one evening, and had a good conversation. Then, of course, again at C VI, though that was one of those conversation-in-the-corridor-between-events sorts of deals.
And one last note. The second, lesser, surprise was that he passed away at/before VisionCon, a convention in Branson, Missouri. I attended VisionCon sometime in the '90s, when it was in Springfield. It was a good time then, and having run a convention myself, I can imagine how the weekend would have gone. I haven't heard any direct reports, except that someone posted a picture of his empty dealer table with just his name card, so it sounds like they were handling it as well as could be expected.
So now, I still have a few more of his books yet to read, and, of course, finish that Plotting book.
Looking forward to them.