The Man Behind Spade/Paladin

If you’ve ever been to a fan convention (mystery, science fiction, or other), then you know they can nurture intense friendships based on mutual interests. In this guest post, Kristine Kathryn Rusch describes just such a friendship—and the influence it had on her fiction.

This story, “Trick or Treat,” makes me sad. Not because the story is sad. It isn’t. But because of what happened after I wrote it.

For a couple of years now, I have written stories about two very different detectives who work science fiction conventions. Spade is a Secret Master of Fandom (SMoF) and a forensic accountant; Paladin is an enforcer, for lack of a better term. Spade is large and geeky; Paladin is small and tough (and geeky).

When I wrote the first Spade/Paladin Conundrum, “The Case of the Vanishing Boy” (AHMM, January/February 2010), I gave it to my long-time friend, Bill Trojan, to vet. Bill had a long history at science fiction conventions. He was a junior-level SMoF, meaning he ran some conventions, knew SMoFly traditions, and didn’t get too deeply involved in the politics. For the first twenty years that I knew him, he also sold books at both science fiction and mystery conventions. If you went to any, you would see his very large table in the front of the dealer’s room. The name of his story was Escape While There’s Still Time.

Who knew the name was prescient?

I finished the story and wanted to give it to Bill, but decided to wait until after the World Science Fiction convention in Reno. Bill preferred hard copy of the stories—signed hard copy, which made the stories collectible. I didn’t e-mail him because he didn’t want to read on the screen.

Bill had a great Worldcon. He actually told some SMoFs that they had put on the best convention ever. You need to know that Bill never gave compliments lightly and often didn’t give them at all. We were convinced that something had shifted in the universe when we heard, later in the day, that he’d done that.

What we didn’t know was that something had shifted—or was about to shift. Because 36 hours later, Bill was dead.

Natural causes. He was diabetic. He wasn’t quite as large or as rich as Spade, but they had similarities of form. Only Spade is my fictional character, so if Spade has diabetes, he’s treating it. Bill never treated his.

I still feel bereft. Bill was my back-up on Spade/Paladin. He gave me an entire list of possible story ideas one afternoon—and stupid me, I didn’t write them down, figuring I would remember them. Then he plotted a Spade/Paladin novel for me and promised to give me the paper with the plot on it the next time we saw each other.

My husband and I inherited Bill’s estate, which is a whole other story, but in those piles of books and papers, I never found Bill’s notes for Spade/Paladin. For all I know, Bill planned to jot it all down later, and never got to it. Just like I never sent him “Trick or Treat.”

Which he would have liked. And he would have tweaked it, because that was what Bill did. Or he would have jumped off it for a dozen other Spade/Paladin stories.

I’ll be writing more Spade/Paladin, but all of them—in my heart anyway—will be dedicated to Bill.

I’d rather have him read the stories, though. That meant ever so much more.

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2 Comments

Filed under How'd That Happen

2 responses to “The Man Behind Spade/Paladin

  1. Doug Greene

    The Spade-Paladin stories are excellent, but this reminiscence adds an unexpected poignancy to them. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Lopresti@nas.com

    spade and Palladin are great characters and remind me of my days at cons, back when @ on a door meant something to the lonely few who had discovered email. Thanks for the back story.

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