A Remembrance of Pierce Askegren (1955-2006)

I first came across Pierce Askegren when I was working for Byron Preiss. We had picked up the rights to package a short-story anthology that featured stories about superheroes that was edited by Kurt Busiek & Nathan Archer. One of the stories was by John Garcia & Pierce Askegren. We were never able to find a publisher interested in taking the anthology we were packaging, but Byron had done a deal with Marvel to do books based on their comics, and with Penguin Putnam for them to copublish the books. In addition to novels, we did short-story anthologies, and when I did a call for authors for them, among the many people I solicited were the folks who contributed to that anthology.

I never got anything from John, but Pierce sent along a wonderful story for The Ultimate Silver Surfer. I was impressed with his knowledge of obscure Marvel trivia, his excellent characterizations, and his fine writing style. I also got along with him personally, as dealing with him I quickly learned he had an amazing sense of humor.

I wound up doing a lot of work with Pierce. He was ideally suited to work on the Marvel program, as he had a spectacular feel for the characters and in particular the history. People who like Kurt Busiek's work would probably also like Pierce's writing, as the two writers share an affection for the huge tapestry that has been woven in Marvel's comics since 1961. He did several more short stories, and then later novels.

To start with, he did a terrific job on a trilogy of Spider-Man team-up novels that were plotted by Danny Fingeroth and Eric Fein, and fleshed out into prose by Pierce. While the bylines for the "Doom's Day" trilogy were different for each book--Byron believed that a novel should have no more than two credited authors, and these covers were crowded with just two anyhow--all three wrote all three, as it were. (And I have to tell you, Pierce writes Dr. Doom better than anybody. Seriously.)

I rewarded him with two solo novels that were totally in his wheelhouse. One was a Fantastic Four novel, called Countdown to Chaos. Pierce had a particular affinity for the FF, and this was a story he'd wanted to tell for a long time. He was also the writer I thought would best be able to do justice to a crossover novel that Marvel themselves suggested between the Avengers and the Thunderbolts -- this was to tie in with a crossover the comics were doing (they were both written by Kurt Busiek at the time), and Kurt and editor Tom Brevoort were both incredibly helpful. Pierce did a spectacular job with The Avengers and the Thunderbolts.

Throughout all of this, Pierce maintained his sense of humor (which was prodigious), his enthusiasm, his professionalism, and did I mention his sense of humor? He and I finally got to meet in person for the first time at a convention in the D.C. area, and we just spent about three hours sitting in the bar, drinking beer, and having an absolute blast. Every time I talked to him on the phone, it was about an hour or two right there, as we'd gab about everything from old comics to television to people we both knew to various odd anecdotes....

When I struck out on my own in 1998, I formed Albé-Shiloh Inc. with the intention of getting into book packaging. At that, ASI was something of a bust, but there were two projects that did happen. One was Imaginings, and the other was a trilogy I had Pierce do called The Inconstant Moon. It was an idea I came up with, but had no interest in writing myself, but which I thought Pierce could do justice to. The three books -- Human Resource, Fall Girl, and Exit Strategy -- are all available from Ace Books, and I strongly recommend them. ASI has been a bust, overall, but I'm glad that Pierce has been part of one of its few successes.

Pierce's career continued just fine without my guidance. *laughs* He wrote an Alias novel (Collateral Damage) and a Buffy novel (Afterimage), and short stories for The Chick is in the Mail, Kolchak: The Night Stalker Casebook, and more.

We hadn't worked together in a while, so when I approached him to do a story for Doctor Who: Short Trips: The Quality of Leadership, I was thrilled when he said yes.

Sadly, that won't happen. I never got a proposal from him, and now I know why my e-mailed entreaties for same have gone unanswered.

Assuming Big Finish will let me, I'm going to dedicate the book to him. Whether they do or not, I'm definitely dedicating my next book to him.

He was my friend, and I'll miss him a lot.

[First posted on my LiveJournal on 3 December 2006.]

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