My Facebook wall blew up this morning with the following news: Star Wars author Aaron Allston collapsed at a convention last night, and passed away at the age of 53. I'm having trouble processing that; Aaron has been a steady presence in the Star Wars literary world as long as I've been reading Star Wars novels, and to learn that he's gone is just a terrible thing.
Iron Fist, I'm pretty sure, was the first Star Wars novel I purchased on my own. I remember thinking that the cover looked cool in those monthly book catalogs we got when I was in Middle School, shortly after I realized 'holy crap, there are Star Wars novels??' I eagerly got the book... and couldn't get into it. I hadn't realized that it was in the middle of a longer series. The book ended up shelved for a number of years while I read my way around the rest of the Star Wars universe.
And then, I was out of books, save for the X-Wing novels. Written jointly by Michael A. Stackpole and Allston, they followed the new exploits of the Rogue Squadron, a group of fighter jocks who tangled with the Empire and generally got away with it. Stackpole's books are straight up action fair (and they hold up well too), but Aaron's novels did something different: they were funny. They had all the same stuff that Mike put in them, but Aaron injected a certain brand of humor into his stories:
"His name is Kettch, and he's an Ewok." "No." "Oh, yes. Determined to fight. You should hear him say, 'Yub, yub.' He makes it a battle cry." "Wes, assuming he could be educated up to Alliance fighter-pilot standards, an Ewok couldn't even reach an X-wing's controls." "He wears arm and leg extensions, prosthetics built for him by a sympathetic medical droid. And he's anxious to go, Commander." "Please tell me you're kidding." "Of course I'm kidding. Pilot-candidate number one is a Human female from Tatooine, Falynn Sandskimmer." "I'm going to get you, Janson." "Yub, yub, Commander."
- Wes Janson to Wedge Antilles, Wraith Squadron
Moreover, Aaron's books navigated some fun points in the Star Wars canon, something that was always complicated for anyone trying to piece together events. He made it look effortless, but above all, he made it fun. I tore through those books over and over again, and while they're tattered, they're well loved.
I met Aaron in 2005 at Celebration 3 in Indianapolis. We'd chatted before: I was a regular member of TheForce.net's discussion forums, and I'd interviewed him for a website about his pitch-perfect Clone Wars story, The Pengalan Tradeoff (which is still one of my absolute favorite Star Wars stories). He signed my copies of Wraith Squadron, Iron Fist, Solo Command and Starfighters of Adumar, and graciously answered my questions and chatted with me several times throughout the convention.
He was friendly, excited to meet fans and happy to talk with us about the characters and stories he constructed. I didn't know him as well as some of my other friends did; they regularly ran into him at Dragon*Con and other conventions, but I always enjoyed their stories and his sense of humor. I was beyond thrilled to see that the X-Wing series was granted a new addition recently, with Mercy Kill, and with Aaron behind the wheel. I bought a copy immediately, but I've been waiting to read it while I go back and re-read the entire series. Now, I'll do so with the knowledge that it'll be the last one he'll write, and that's a sad thing to contemplate.
Yub, yub, commander. Thank you for the ride and the stories.