As reported in Locus Online and in our September 2012 issue, Adam Niswander passed away last month. While we did not have space in the September issue to print this moving tribute by Gary A. Braunbeck, we are pleased to include it here. If you have any appreciations or memories of the man or his work, please leave a note in the comments.
by Gary A. Braunbeck
I’m not going to tell you what a splendid writer Adam was; if you’re reading this, you already know that. If you’ve not read his work, it’s your loss, compounded now by his death on the 12th of August. That breaks my heart.
But not nearly as much as the loss of Adam himself. I was lucky enough to be a friend of his. I damn near loved the man based on my first meeting with him, because at the end of that first visit – and a visit it was, lasting nearly 3 hours – he did something that told me everything I needed to know about him as a human being.
It was after a World Fantasy Convention. I’d been nominated but didn’t win, and Adam began our visit by expressing his sympathy. He then told me how much he’d liked my latest Cedar Hill novel, which became a discussion of the ups and downs of writing a series, then shifted to short stories, then movies, music, recent news about the progress of the Large Hadron Collider (still under construction), then which red wine was the best, then we compared the severity of on-going health problems…. The conversation veered all over the road. He was a sometimes tricky but always compelling conversationalist, his brain switching gears so fast it was electrifying – and as things began to wind down, he and I recognized and acknowledged that something akin to a brotherhood had introduced itself.
He included my wife, Lucy, in on everything; he’d read her first Jessie Shimmer novel and ‘‘dug it.’’ I determine someone’s coolness by their slang. ‘‘Dug it’’ is a big favorite of mine, been using it since the late ’60s, and knew at once that Adam’s coolness level was off the charts.
But that’s not the extraordinary thing that happened. As we were exchanging e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and handshakes, he demanded hugs. I’m a big hugger, as is Lucy, so we bent down so Adam didn’t have to exit his wheelchair. He was having none of that. Despite being exhausted from the con and in all-too-obvious pain, he stood up and took a couple of steps forward so there would be nothing to obstruct his giving us massive bear hugs. That told me everything I needed to know. The e-mails and messages and conversations we shared for too-few years afterward only served to show me how lucky I was to know this man.
We lost a wonderful storyteller. Worse, we lost a splendid human being, and in this world where both much-needed oddities are in short supply, it intensifies the emptiness that will always hum with his absence.
Dr. Seuss once said: ‘‘Don’t be sad it’s over; be glad it happened.’’ That’s going to take a while. Which I think would bug the shit out of Adam, who told me too much grieving is waste of time and energy.
Hey, Adam, this is me, still getting on your last nerve. Deal with it.
–Gary A. Braunbeck