I’ve been struggling with the anecdote I wanted to share about Joe this afternoon, because it feels a little too personal and self-serving to me. I wanted to write something more than platitudes and condolences, and this is what popped into my mind. Forgive me if there’s too much “me” in this post, I just didn’t know how else to say what I needed to.
I first met Joe when I was over in the UK for UK Game Fest as a special guest. He was working with Cubicle 7 for his Lone Wolf RPG, and several folks said I had to meet him. I was completely and totally unaware of his work at the time, but recognized how much he meant to his fans because of the look of awe upon their faces as they walked by or shook hands with him.(1)
I waited until there was a break in the action for fans, in my mind, always come first. And we simply chatted. Both of us opened the conversation the same way, both of us wanting to know more about the other author. No bullshit. No “Well, don’t you know who I am?” No PR PR PR. Just two human beings having a conversation about art, about how writing is more important than sound bites and followers, about how stories matter. We exchanged business cards, and pledged to keep in touch.
Fast forward. Fast forward past a happy, surprised, and awed me looking up his work and understanding how much his work meant to the genre and to his fans. Fast forward to Gen Con. Fast forward to me wandering about the hall, running into him again, and having another great conversation about art and making games and being able to do that for a living. Fast forward to a few convention attendees, who were shocked that a bigger announcement hadn’t been made, grinning from ear to ear upon meeting Joe. This, I thought, was a moment that needed to be shared and not kept in the dark. So I fixed it as best I could via social media. It had to be done.
In the time that I knew him, Joe never asked to stand under the spotlight. He wasn’t hungry for fame, and wasn’t a jerk about it, either. I never once got the impression that he was “above me” or that the popularity he did have, after selling millions of books, went to his head. He was simply Joe Dever, the sharply-dressed creator of Lone Wolf, wholly dedicated to making more art for himself and his fans.
What Joe taught me was what matters most: our art. Nothing else matters. No amount of funny Tweets will change that, or demands for PR, or followers online, or “who” we know, or “what” people say. Nothing. All that matters, is the stories we tell–in whatever medium we choose–because that’s all that will be left behind. Our stories are pieces of ourselves that we share. We get tired sharing them, because we don’t know who is reading them. We get tired of writing them, because we don’t know who will buy them. But, we’ll never know who needs our stories even after we tell them.
Well, I’m telling you now. I’m telling you this after seeing those looks of pure joy on a reader’s/player’s face after meeting their hero. I’m telling you this after meeting a man who loved to write. Someone needs your story. Someone does. Whether you tell it in a comic, or interactively through a game, or in a novel, someone needs your story. You may never meet that person, you may never hear how much they love your story, but do it anyway.
Just write. You have no time to waste.
(1) For context, my fandom and knowledge of science fiction and fantasy and, to a larger extent, the gaming, comics, and SF&F communities is filled with gaping holes. I didn’t have the same experiences many fans and gamers have had growing up, and this often translates to me feeling as if I’m an outsider–even after ten years of working, reading, playing, writing, editing, etc.