I met Joel on the Fidonet SF echo that I moderated back in the days before Endless September. He and Felicia came out to a Fourth Street early in the first series, and ended up deciding to move out here (at about the same time as John M. Ford, who was a friend of theirs). A writer can live about anywhere, and the cost of living was much lower here than in Connecticut, and we had a good solid base of SF and fantasy writers here.
They’ve been here ever since; until yesterday, when Joel…well.
I’m still absorbing the shock. I’d better find a way to get better at this, I’m sure it’s going to keep happening. Still, I doubt I’ll ever just get used to it. Joel was about 5 months younger than me, that always contributes to the shock value. While he wasn’t in wonderful health, there wasn’t anything acute going on, nothing leading people to think he might not last long. Just, suddenly, I hear he collapsed, and the next day that he was dead.
Let me add myself to long list of people who have already fired this year. There really isn’t much to recommend it that I can see.
Joel and Ken Hardwick and I ran a wine-tasting series that was great fun and that I learned a lot from. We’d pick a type of wine, buy a dozen or so bottles of it, and serve them in groups of 4, in labeled paper bags. We invited our friends, and we’d all take notes and exchange impressions before we un-bagged the bottles. I know I learned a lot, and people seemed to have a great time with it as well. Tasting “blind”, and comparing notes before the un-bagging, contributed a lot to the learning.
While I’m by no means solely responsible for getting Joel interested in guns (he’d fired guns before he even moved out here), I was certainly one of the people he knew that had some, and we did some shooting. This became important when he started receiving anonymous death threats. Even under the old laws, he and Felicia were able to get carry permits. This in turn helped politicize him into an RKBA activist; he played a significant role in getting the Minnesota Citizen’s Personal Protection Act passed, and especially re-passed, and he “wrote the book” on civilian carry in Minnesota, and taught frequent carry courses. Because of networking through him, I got certified myself, and taught some courses myself, and did the original AACFI web site.
It was Joel who discovered that The Bakery (in Chicago) was closing, and got reservations for the last two nights. I’d learned about The Bakery from Steven Brust back in the late 1970s, and it was my favorite restaurant. The last two nights happened to coincide with a convention, so a bunch of us went to that as well (probably that was my first Capricon). And I got to have two final meals at the Bakery, in great company (including Joel and Felicia, and Steven, and Jon Singer).
Most recently, Joel encouraged Toni Brust in her plan to go out to Texas and bring Steven back, and dispatched extra woman-power with her; which resulted in my having another of my old highschool friends back in town again.
I did sometimes wonder why Joel and I never had a friendship-ending conflict. It’s certainly not because we agreed on everything, or held back on expressing our opinions. And Joel did have such conflicts with too many (in my opinion) people over the years. But we never got around to it—even though I had to ban him from the Fidonet SF echo for a while before we’d even met in person.
Today, I’ve been reading obituaries. Mostly “informal” ones by friends, but there was a pretty good one in the Star Tribute (a newspaper that Joel did not like very much), and I heard one on MPR as I was driving home this evening.
There are all sorts of things I had vague hopes or plans for involving Joel in the future, and now none of those can happen (at least as imagined, with Joel). This sucks.
ETA: I have put up a preliminary gallery of photos of Joel.