This is not a happy post, but one filled with sadness and grief. My Friend, Robert Mason, died last week at the age of 48.
Rob came from Illinois, and worked at one of those three-letter Government agencies. He had a bachelor's and Masters degrees in computer science, and loved working on the computer. He was the only child of a single mother and was very close to her. They would spend their vacation together, and he would always go home to Illinois for Christmas. He loved, anime, model railroading, writing, drawing, and science fiction. He was a geek and a hacker in the best sense of the words. He told me more than once that the movie "Real Genius" (1985) was like reliving his college years.
I met Rob back in about '86, in, of all places, the Games Workshop store in Laurel Center Mall, in Laurel, Maryland. We became fast friends, and though him, I joined the Meade Battlegaming Society, a group that meat every other Saturday in the meeting room of Providence branch of the Ann Arundel County Library system. There we played games live Civilization, any and all train games, and the game that drew us together, Battletech.
But we were friends outside of the gaming days. I usually spent one evening a week at his place, watching videos. Anime was a constant on our to-watch list, as was Mystery Science Theater 3000. We would watch MST3K and riff right along with Joel and the bots. I remember only one film that we couldn't watch in one sitting, because it was so bad --- Kitten with a Whip. It took us two sittings to get through that stinkburger. He come over several times to Thanksgiving dinner with my family. We went to several gaming and anime conventions together, becoming part of fellowship of geeks and feeling at home.
My first real writing was co-written with Rob. There was a magazine called Battletechnology, covering the Battletech universe as if it was an in-universe journal. The magazine had BattleMech designs, stories, scenarios, and the like. We got it into our heads that we could write a story and submit it. And over a course of several months, that's what we did. He would sit as his computer and I would be looking over his shoulder and we starting piecing together the story that we called SnakeDance. We would bounce dialogue, description, and ideas off each other. And somehow, we managed to pull together a story, a scenario, and a BattleMech design and sent them in. As I look back on it now, I don't think either one of us knew what we were really doing. I can still remember the joy of holding that issue in our hands, and seeing our work on those pages. We were ready to do it again, but the issue with our stuff in it was the last one the magazine ever put out. He wrote some fanficition, but he was more of a drawer than a writer, though he did have a few ideas for Sailor Moon fanfics, ideas that will never see the light of day.
He drifted away from Battletech in the late 90's and got back into model railroading, and that was his passion the last decade of his life. He still went to local anime conventions and replaced the gaming with model railroading meets. By then, I had moved to Florida, so I didn't see him every week, but we stayed in contact. Every month to six weeks, I'd call him and we would talk for an hour or so. I even got Christmas presents from him nearly every year, usually anime series, but his last was his old computer, to replace mine, because I couldn't afford to do it myself, I tied to pull him back into the game, going to far as to fill a thumb drive with the newer Battletech material so he could get caught up. For one reason, or another, I never sent it, thinking "I'll do it next week." Well, there's no more next week, and it tears me up inside.
I was going to call him this week, only to be stunned when another of Rob's friend tracked down my phone number and called to tell me Rob had passed away. Now, I am short a friend in a very small circle, and I am grief-stricken. I couldn't make it to the funeral because it was today and I found out about his passing last night, thirty hours ago, as I write this. Even if I had had more time, I couldn't get up there to attend to attend the funeral, to say good-bye in person. That may be the hardest thing to take --- to never hear his voice again, to never discuss what he was doing, how the house was holding up, how he was holding up.
His flaws were few and I knew none that were major. He was a good friend because he put up with me when I was mentally either going in several directions at once, or acting goofy. We had our disagreements, but never serious ones and never for long. Even over the phone, we could talk out things, bounce an idea off each other, and bask in each other's friendship. And now that light is gone from the world
His obituary is here: http://www.clancygernon.com/obituaries/Robert-Madson-3/#!/Obituary. Leave a message if you can. I have to call his mother and tell her how sorry I am for her loss. I am trying to find a way to pay tribute to him in the Battletech universe.
Good bye old friend.....