On the Passing of Dennis Etchison

Needless to say we’re very sad about the passing of our friend Dennis Etchison. Bill Nolan is upset. They were close friends for decades.

We knew for some time that Dennis was gravely ill, so this came as no shock, though it was unexpected given recent reports about his progress (he had been sick for a long time prior, though only a few people knew). Now, we turn our attention to helping our other friends cope, and especially to aiding his wife, Kristina, in her time of need. Still, I have a few thoughts.

What to say about Dennis? He was a talented writer, certainly. Also a knowledgeable film buff, photographer, wrestling fan, and jazz aficionado. By turns he was thorny, charming, and kind. He was always game to discuss writing. We spoke at length a few times about his life, his family growing up. He was a believer in God, he told me.

More than anything, Dennis, in my experience, was a true storyteller. He was always thinking in terms of story… about what a worthwhile story is, or what makes a tale work… he was a very good stylist, though at times I suspect he was unsure of his legacy, despite the fact he won numerous awards as a writer and editor. Whenever we would hang out, he was the first one to remark about “what a great title that would make” or “there’s a story in there” and so on. His mind seemed to turn on the cogs and gears of structure and character–how people spoke, or the way they (re)acted in various situations, or under specific pressures. His legacy, of course, is his short fiction.

He never quite found his footing as a novelist, and he noted that on more than one occasion. I think in part that was because his heart wasn’t in novels… in many ways, it wasn’t in writing, per se. He struck me as someone who yearned, honestly, to be a film director. He adored movies… “Old Hollywood”… he relished holding court with other writers and creatives… It is fascinating that Bill Nolan was one of the first people to publish Dennis, and that Dennis was one of the first people to publish my dear friend (sadly departed just recently) Wilum Hopfrog Pugmyr. Such strangely fantastic creatures, all of them, and I am grateful to have or have had them in my life.

There are a lot of moments and fond memories I have about Dennis, but that’s enough for the time being. I feel some things are best left to our memories, or to be recalled in the presence of those who knew the others involved in a collective sharing of experience, or who were present at certain events. I also feel strongly that some things should be kept private, their solemnity guarded as a precious thing… because it is.

Rest in peace, Dennis. I’m pleased to have known you, and to have counted you as a friend.

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