Monday, July 25, 2011

Who Will Speak for the Dead?

Paul Randles, 1965-2003
When I began this project, I wanted to include the words, stories, pictures, and perspectives of the people of Wizards of the Coast themselves. That would help the reader break free of my perspective and observations, break free of my voice and diction to let the people speak for themselves. It will take some time to put together all the interviews and collect all the writings to make this possible, but it's part of why I jumped into my first series by writing around Peter's 1993 narrative; it gave me a way to start immediately practicing what I want to do in the book itself.

When I began this project, I also knew to do this I would have to give special consideration to the dead, to those who were just as alive, just as real, just as much a part of Wizards as those still living but whose mute lips no longer give voice to their memories, whose still fingers cannot write their stories, whose candles no longer light our way. The dead are so quiet now, it is easy to forget that they are there, that they have stories to tell, that their lives and perspectives still matter, despite the difficulties we now face in learning and sharing them. Of the many people whose tales I must become custodian to, must help shepherd into this community's shared story, I have known from the beginning that these are the people I must help the most, must not forget, must bring to life on the page so that in today's pretense of an eternal present at least in this one story we will remember our silent friends, their words, their deeds.

They deserve special consideration because that's the only way to compensate for their silence now, the only way to give them their fair share of our attention now that they cannot speak for themselves. The past is just as real as the present; what they did then is just as vital and complex and interesting as what we do now. They cared as much as we care, thought as much as we think, worked as hard as we work, loved as much as we love. The past in which they still live and breathe is the larger story of which our lives at this moment are just a tiny part, and their present is our future.

Judy Sorenson, 1954-2011
Because we all walk the same road they have traveled before us. We will all pass through that mortal veil they have stepped through.

Blind Homer wrote that we are ephemeroi, creatures of a season, very like the leaves on a tree. We are all born. We all live. We all die. We are one people, quick or dead. We are bound together not just by the ways we touch each other's lives but also by our shared story, our one human, mortal frame within which we work the art of our lives. We are defined not by the nobility of our births or the ease of our deaths, but by the good we do with the time we have, by the art and justice and love we create and share. That is our legacy to the future. That is how we show our gratitude and respect for the past. That is the debt the quick owe the dead.

When I began this project, I knew we would have to work together to speak for Papa Christmas, to write for Judy Sorenson, to remember the others who should not be forgotten.

That much I knew, but I never dreamed that Bobby would be among them. Now he has left us to join them, so we must speak and act for him, too, so that his art and justice and love live on, so the part he played in helping Wizards of the Coast become what it was and helping us become who we are is remembered.

Ars longa, vita brevis, Bobby. Your candle is dark now, your fingers still, your lips silent, but our candles will illuminate you, our fingers will write your stories, our lips will give voice to your memories. The good you would have done, now we will do. We will laugh for you now, dear friend.


  1. And there are others as well. We've lost some really, really good people. Bobby has been on my mind since I heard the news, of course, but Paul has intruded as well; both were incredibly generous souls, both kind in their turn, both hilarious at times, both genial, both very human, and both died so very young, both at the hands of a horrible illness that took a lot out of them.

    I wish they were still here.

    Tonight, I am also embarrassed to say that I've forgotten the name of Linda Beardslee's compatriot in the HR department. I know her name perfectly well, I can see her face, hear her voice, and yet her name eludes me just now. I was terribly fond of her, and my lapse does her an injustice that my heart does not intend. Linda would know instantly who I'm talking about.

    I know some others have passed as well. Their lips will not be silent so long as we can hear them in our hearts.

  2. This continues to be a fascinating blog. I hope the absence of updates for the past two weeks doesn't mean you've given up on the series... please keep 'em coming!

  3. Ken, over the course of this project, let's work together and with others to help us remember and do justice to our absent friends.

  4. Kurt, thank you for your kind words. I'm finishing up a break to catch up on work for my day job. The series will resume in about a week and a half.

  5. Thanks Rick for helping me remember Paul, Judy and Mr Bob's smiles.

    Paul's humor and grace in the face of his illness in particular was a source of strength for me when I was faced with a similar situation. No matter how dire the prognosis or difficult the road he had a smile and was happy. Once in a hotel hospitality suite late in the morning at a GenCon or DragonCon (they all blend together) I asked him how he could stay so cheerful and he said, "Cause right now at this moment I'm still in the game."

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