RIP Aaron Allston

“Luck consists largely of hanging on by your fingernails until things start to go your way.”

~ Aaron Allston

This morning I was deeply saddened to learn that Aaron Allston passed away last night. Tributes are already flooding the internet, Twitter, and Facebook from his fans, friends, and colleagues. Dunc and her friends at Club Jade have known him especially well over the years.

I’ve made no secret that Aaron’s Star Wars books are among my very favorites. I include Starfighters of Adumar every time I recommend Expanded Universe novels. In the New Jedi Order series, Rebel Dream and Rebel Stand are defining books not just for Jaina Solo and Jagged Fel, but for the effective use of themes like family, growing up, and learning to control our fears. And the Wraith Squadron books, including the newest addition Mercy Kill, showcase not just his incredible sense of humor but also how Aaron’s talent with minor and original characters like Tyria Sarkin Tainer matched, if not exceeded, his skill with the prominent ones.

“Sithspit! What’s that?”

“That’s the sun, Wedge. It’s after dawn.”

“Well, it offends me. Turn it off.”

“It’s a hundred thirty, hundred forty million klicks from here.”

“Go up in your X-wing and shoot it down for me.”

~ Starfighters of Adumar

Aaron and his novels had a tremendous influence on me as a writer. He wrote strong female characters and casts of great diversity in humans as well as aliens. Succeeding through teamwork is a common theme in all of his Star Wars stories, and inspired my use of characters collaborating with each other in my fanfic and now in Wynde. Aaron also spoke and wrote thoughtfully about characterization, story design, and the craft of writing; for a minor supporting character like Tyria he could spin out fully formed ideas on backstory, motivations, and growth trajectory that never appeared on the page. I consider it one of the greatest compliments I can receive when someone says my writing reminds them of an X-Wing book.

Most of all, though, today I am remembering Aaron’s generosity. My first article for Star Wars Insider was interviewing Aaron about Mercy Kill, and he worked with me during a time he had a tight project deadline to deliver the kind of answers you hope to get in an interview. Likewise for Chris Trevas’ “First Kiss” artwork from my Beat of the Heart Suvudu post, which later appeared in The Essential Readers Companion. Aaron took the time to share pages of insight with me for my Suvudu piece on Tyria. He was a faithful supporter of the Jaina/Jag fans, and never shied away from doing so publicly. At Celebration V, we made an extra Team Jagged badge with Mary’s art for Aaron; I’ll always remember seeing his face light up when he realized what I’d just handed him in the food court, and he proudly wore it on his lanyard the rest of the convention – including the Fate of the Jedi panel with the other authors.

Additionally, Aaron made a point of reaching out to show he respected and valued all writers, from bloggers and fanficcers to New York Times Bestsellers, as his peers.

A hundred years in the future, nobody’s going to give a damn whether a late 20th century/early 21st century writer got his start in paper or on photons, as a marquee author for a traditional publisher or as an upstart with a laptop and an internet connection. (How many of us care that a lot of Charles Dickens’ work was published serially in newspapers? A few academics, maybe.) All the works of this era will be available from some equivalent of Project Gutenberg, and the only thing that will matter to the readers is whether the fiction is any good — and whether it’s still relevant.

And that, ultimately, is how I choose to identify my peers.

A traditional author of original fiction, a self-published writer, a fanfic writer, a
Stargate SG-1 novelist, a blogger — if he or she is good at the craft, then he or she is my peer.

And today’s generation of good writers, self-published or not — I hope they
consider me their peer.

~ from Withholding the Love

And that was basically why Aaron was loved by the Star Wars Expanded Universe fandom. He was one of us. As of this morning, condolences and remembrances are pouring into Aaron’s Facebook page.

Rest in peace, Aaron, and may the Force be with you.

~ Tricia Barr, on behalf of the Wraiths of Lomin Ale Cantina