I had been thinking just this past week or two that I needed to get in touch with him again.
I don't think he was more than six years my senior. As I said to the mutual friend who let me know, my being the youngest of our group doesn't seem like that big a gap after passing the half-century mark.
We met way back when I was still in high school; I was at a science fiction convention, overheard a fascinating conversation on abstruse philosophy of fantasy magic, and, quite uncharacteristically, interjected myself into it. I got two long-enduring friendships out of it.
At the time, Jim had already written at least one multi-volume fantasy epic and had several more mostly finished. He never got them published outside of long-defunct fanzines, and if you do a search on his name on Google, all you'll find is his soft-porn anime fanfics. Our whole circle read his stuff, though, in photocopies of his single-spaced typewritten manuscripts. I used to have custody of his "back-up files", in the days when that meant a Big Box of Manuscripts in Manila Envelopes.
But now ... dammit. I've lost a friend, but ... it hurts just as much that nobody will ever have the chance to read those novels of his, that he'll never get the fame that he should have.
I know what I've lost. But anybody who's ever enjoyed a fantasy novel has lost something, too, and most of you will never know it.
I need to start writing again. Serious writing. For Jim, who was always goading me to get my own ideas down on paper.
And maybe I'll throw a few nods to him along the way.
Good night, Jim.
I should have been a better friend.