There is this meme that 2016 sucks and that we should just get over with it and advance to 2017 unless we want more bad things happen to us. For me 2016 wasn’t particularly bad yet, especially when it came to celebrity deaths. Almost done, one might think. But this morning one of the people that influenced and strengthened me the most – without being directly involved in my life at least – died.
I am not even sure where to start to be honest. I don’t like these overbearing condolences popping up everywhere once a celebrity dies. I wasn’t part of your family or a close friend. It feels pretentious to act like I am part of some magic inner circle that somehow entitles me to talk about your death on such a personal level. But I feel it. I want to change my profile picture. I want to flood every channel I know of with the news of your death. I want to tell people what an amazing person you were and that you are dead now.
You have been part of my life for a very long time. I loved visiting flea markets when I was little. When I was 8 years old there was this shaggy, long-haired, bearded guy and he was selling books. I always loved choose-your-own-adventure books and he had a whole pile of them, 8 books for only 8 DM! Unfortunately by that time that was a month worth of pocket money and I passed the books a few dozens of times until I decided to buy them. You probably already guessed that these were my first Lone Wolf, or in German „Einsamer Wolf“ books, part 4 to 12. These are probably the best invested 8DM of my entire life. While slipping into the skin of Lone Wolf large parts of the unpleasant portion of my childhood passed. I made friends with Lord Paido and Bandeon when it was very hard for me to make real friends. I got to experience strange regions and cities in a time when fancy and adventurous vacation weren’t an option for my family. I cried over the inevitable deaths of so many of the characters I crossed my path with. I wandered through swamps and ice deserts, shared Bor beer with strangers, traveled with pirates, got betrayed, found associates, forged alliances. I encountered malicious cults, visited strange cities and spent a lot of time crawling through sewers.
Large parts of my early creative process, even my beginning in shared story-telling, was influenced by you, Joe. My first role-playing character was an warrior princess from Ikaya and it took a lot of years until I was able to let that region go. Even today I sometimes return to an ice desert inspired by Kolte – it always feels like home. I tinkered, dreamed, told stories, mainly by myself – it took another 8 years for me to find people with similar interests. In some sense you are my root, my interest in interactive story-telling was fulfilled by your works years before I even noticed that there is such a thing as ‚roleplaying games‘.
When I visited my second ever convention you were announced as a special guest. I was literally star struck and missed my first two opportunities to talk to you. When you signed my books for me I couldn’t say much more than ‚Thank you‘. But on the second day I was the lucky person to share an extended lunch with you. Mainly by coincidence, no other spot was available, apparently I wasn’t the only one a little overwhelmed, but who am I to complain? I was the happiest girl on earth.
We were having an amazing conversation, you told me so much about you, your life, your creative progress, about your thoughts while writing. You asked my about my opinions and were sincerely interested. You told me about scenes you are working on that I will love. And you talked so much about your fans. When we wandered around the MantiCon 2015, like a proud dad, you showed me the people you already met and talked to. You eyes shining with joy you pointed out the guy who became a martial arts instructor because he loved reading Lone Wolf so much as a child and really wanted to be as tough and awesome as him. You showed me another guy who trains various fighting skills and was a boy scout and even introduced me to him because you were so impressed by him. You listened to the stories of how I tinkered some of the artifacts Lone Wolf carries around in the book and it made you visibly happy.
Dear Joe, so many of my happy and reassuring memories are connected to your person. I will never meet you again, not at a convention, not anywhere else. My German first edition Greystar books will be my only ones ever signed by you. There will be no further works by you. Apparently you were in progress of finishing the very last book of Lone Wolf when you died. I don’t know if we will ever see the last book as you intended it to be and we will probably never see the new shores you were heading to with your new projects.
The news of your death struck me harder than I expected. I won’t say ‚harder than it should have‘ because you had such a huge impact on my life. I admit I even felt a little desperation. I was looking forward to your new creations. And to meeting you again.
I hope you died in the immovable certainty about your importance. About the effect you had on me and literally tens of thousands of people over the last decades. I hope you weren’t desperate and lonely and you remembered the faces and stories of all those people you inspired. And I hope it gave you peace and happiness.
Thank you, Joe Dever, thank you for everything.