I did not expect to make this post today, although I did expect it eventually. Bill Trojan has been a friend, colleague–and hell, those words are too small. Bill is family. Bill’s been family since before Dean and I started Pulphouse Publishing. Bill was one of the four of us who ran the company, the other being Debb (Cook) De Noux.
Bill died on Sunday in his hotel room at Worldcon. He had had a great convention. For those of you who know Bill, you know how rare that is. He was a curmudgeon, to say the least, and the fact that he enjoyed this convention so much that he made a point of telling the organizers how wonderful it was is absolutely stunning. When I put news of his passing on several e-mail lists and on Facebook & Google+, I heard from people who are my friends who were also Bill’s. I had no idea that we had so many friends in common–and how many of these folks he had seen and had a great conversation with over the weekend. If Bill had to go, and I guess we all do, this was the way he would have wanted it.
He’s been in bad health for years now, which is why this isn’t a surprise. Yet Bill was consistently beating the odds, so much that I expected to have him around for another decade or so. He wanted to make it to 70, and I didn’t think that was a stretch despite his ill health. But he left us at 63, which was too damn early.
Bill helped run conventions, like the World Horror Convention in Eugene several years back. Until the last five years or so, he had the biggest dealer table in the any convention, including Worldcon, and that table was covered in books. I mentioned that he helped us with Pulphouse. What I didn’t mention–and what I don’t entirely know–is how many writers he helped over the years, with advice, connections, introductions, and money. He kept his kind acts close, and never bragged about them. I’m only just now beginning to hear what he had done for other folks.
Dean was Bill’s closest friend and is the executor of the estate. If anyone needs to contact the estate for any reason, e-mail me. Dean’s off line for the week or more–trying to deal with a collector’s sudden death is extremely overwhelming. Bill had more stuff than we do, and for those who’ve seen our house, you know that’s saying something.
I also need to thank John Lorentz, Patty Wells, Ruth Schacter (whose name I am misspelling–sorry, Ruth) and the other organizers of Renovation. They’re the ones who handled the immediate emergency around Bill’s death, in the middle of tearing down a big convention. You folks are great–but Bill already told you that this weekend. What an amazing few days.
I’ll miss him greatly. Dean will miss him more. And now, I’m slowly realizing, an entire field will miss him. Dammit, Bill. I wish you had hit your 70 goal because then we would have had you around for another 7 years. Of course, even that would not have been enough.
I just found out about Bill’s death today. My condolences to you and Dean and those who knew him in the field.
I know Bill helped a lot of people. He offered me a job running his bookstore, which was quite kind of him. I turned him down, but it was nice that he asked. He also offered to help when I was having problems with Science Fiction Review but by that time the debts had gotten so large that I told Bill to save his money. I’ll never forget the look on his face. I think he wanted to help and my refusal hurt him. The curmudgeon front was an act; although it took me a long time to understand that.
I knew Bill for almost forty years. I remember when he was married and a Deputy Sheriff for Lane County. He used to being boxes of books to sell at our college science fiction at Willamette University back in the 1970’s. And I’ll remember playing ping pong with Bill in the early 90’s, and his kind comments the last time I talked with him in person, at Norwescon in 2009.
At least he died surrounded by his true family.
Thanks for sharing the memories, Elton. I hadn’t known much of that–although the curmudgeon front really was an act, wasn’t it? Thanks.
I can’t say that I’m completely shocked as Bill’s health has never been good, but just last month we talked about going to Windy City Pulp & Paperback next year. A trip I fully expected that we’d make.
Bill was a dear friend for nearly thirty years and one of the high points of my career was when he finally asked me to inscribe one of my books, declaring, “You’re finally a filthy pro, so maybe this’ll be worth something someday!” Of course, I’d been writing and selling professionally for nearly a decade before that, but Bill wasn’t one to be easily impressed.
When I started a publishing company back in 1986 Bill was one of my biggest supporters and his input helped make Axolotl Press, Midnight House, and Darkside Press successful. Kathy and I always made sure to deliver his books in person to Eugene,OR, as it was always a delightful trip, usually with Bill and I sitting up talking books until 4 or 5 in the morning. We’d do the same at conventions over the years… I’m going to miss those conversations terribly…
Thanks, Jim. You’re so right about the missing piece. We do miss him a lot.
Thanks, John. For those of you who are confused about his mention of Axolotl Press, thinking it was only Pulphouse, Pulphouse bought Axolotl from John–a sale that Bill facilitated. Bill did a lot of things like that behind the scenes. I have no idea what else he’s done because he was so private about it, but I suspect the hole in the field is even larger than we initially thought.
I can’t say that I was surprised because he was never a very healthy person but I am saddened all the same. For all his faults, Bill managed to be there when he was needed and had the ability to bring people together. Had it not been for him, I’d have never met you and Dean which would eventually lead to my meeting Charié. So I guess you could say that my kids owe their existence to Bill.
Working for him was never dull and he gave me an appreciation for rare books that I might not have developed. He had a unique ability to surround himself with talented people and my association with him allowed me to rub elbows with many of them.
He also gave me a chance to work for him and while I might not have been qualified to work for him when I started, through his guidance, I was when our association ended.
The worlds of SF, fantasy, mystery and horror have a missing piece now that will never be filled.
I’ve been out of the loop a bit and just found out this morning, I talked to him a couple of times during the con, we had a great talk on that Sat. I’m at a loss for words, he was an old friend and I’ve given him alot of money over the years for stuff…I don’t know what to say, I know you and Dean were very close to him, I’m very saddened and we lose a great guy and he loved SF and fandom so much, I will miss him dearly.
I know, Jeff. There’s not much to say. We’re still trying to figure out what a world without Bill will be like. (Sometimes it doesn’t even seem possible.) Hugs.
My most sincere condolences to you and Dean.
I’ve been there, and loosing a best friend is not easy; be gentle with and take care of each other.
Wow. This comes on one level as a real shock and on another not much of a shock at all; I hadn’t seen or spoken to Bill for years, but I knew his health was not good. I’m very sorry for your loss…I’d like to say “our” loss, but I don’t think I earned the right to do so. I met Bill over 30 years ago and knew him primarily as a collector (his personal collection still makes me sigh with envy) and bookseller. Over the years his curmudgeonly aspect was the one I encountered more and more often, so we eventually lost touch; I knew about his involvement with so many conventions, but his kindnesses to writers and others were (I don’t really know why) a secret kept far too well. Our mutual friend and dealer/collector/Clarke scholar Bruce Thompson died relatively suddenly a little over four years ago, and his absence continues to haunt me in ways I could never have imagined; I have the strange feeling that Bill’s passing will feel somewhat similar soon enough, the passing of a man I was not wise enough to know better than I did. Thanks for letting us know.
Bill got angry at people if they told of his kindnesses. He tried to help as discretely as possible and did not want his good works known at all. He wanted people to assume he was difficult (he was) and that was as deep as it went. But it wasn’t. All week, I’ve been finding out about more and more and more people he helped, people who were sworn to secrecy, who now feel free to tell the tale. Thanks for the post, Michael.
Adrian’s not the only one who got a job from Bill at a time when it was needed… Working at Escape Books, even though I too found Bill a crazy-making boss, convinced me that bookselling was what I wanted to do.
As was his wont in recent years, he stopped by my table in the Dealers’ Room at WorldCon to tease me about how hard I was working… I knew he teased ’cause he missed having his own Dealer table to set up. Even before I moved to Oregon, I’d seen him (and bought books from him) in Dealers’ Rooms at LosCons and WesterCons.
I’m glad he had such a good time in Reno…
I always knew that Bill helped people in time of need, but just how many will never know. More and more people are telling stories about Bill stepping in here and stepping in there to help. What he did behind the scenes is amazing. Thanks for the comment, Amy.
What a shock!
He was a loveable guy because he was always willing to look on the dark, ironic side.
I was so sorry to hear this. I roomed at cons with Bill a couple of times. I first met many of my friends at his bookstore. He was so much a part of the reading and writing scene here in the Northwest.
Thanks, Ray. It’s tough, isn’t it?
I jut heard the news this afternoon. I’ve been driving home from Reno since Sunday evening and hadn’t checked all of my emails. I was with Bryan Barrett on Saturday evening when he told me Bill had not been feeling well and gone back to their hotel room. My wife Lisa, a doctor, is dismayed she didn’t insist we go their hotel to check on Bill. She didn’t know Bill to know that what Bryan said about Bill “not feeling well and acting weird” might have been a significant event.
Bill was Bill; difficult, argumentative, sometimes ornery and maddening, but I still liked talking to him. We were talking early on Saturday at my dealers’ tables and had also talked a bit at George Martin’s bachelor party where Bill was advising me on the etiquette of strip clubs, something I knew where he was a genuine expert. We talked often, argued a lot, and laughed way too much. This leaves me with yet another hole in my life and I’m feeling more like Swiss Cheese than ever.
Thanks, Greg. Please tell Lisa I’m not sure it would have helped. Dean spoke to the coroner and it looks like all it would have done was prolong the misery. This way, Bill went out happy and in his element.
But that Swiss Cheese thing, yeah. I get it. Exactly right. I’m glad you had a good last time with him. It seems like a lot of us did.
Damn, damn, damn. I enjoyed every second I ever spent in Bill’s company.
I’m really sorry, Kris! He will be in my prayers.
Thanks for the comments, everyone. I’ve been directing Bill’s closest friends here so that they could see the notes. Robin, you couldn’t have had a better person to show you around Worldcon. Bill knew everyone. And it seems like all his interactions last weekend were wonderful ones. Which is about the best we could hope for.
Thanks again, y’all.
I was sad to hear about Bill. I have not seen him for a while – I knew him from NW cons. What a way and a place to go.
Kristine, I was very sorry to hear of Bill’s passing. Having come from the mystery world, this was my first WorldCon, and Bill immediately took me under his wing to introduce me to some of the people he knew, you being one of them. His enthusiasm at being at WorldCon was infectious, and I feel honored that my first experience was spent in part with Bill.
My sincere condolences to all of Bill’s friends and family. And as one good friend of Bill’s put it, Bill spent his last days doing what he loved. And he was surrounded by those he loved: all the wonderful friends–his family–at WorldCon.
Kristine and Dean, I am so very sorry for your loss.
So sorry, Kristine! My condolences to you, Dean, and all Bill Trojan’s family and friends. I didn’t know Bill, but I hope it brings great comfort to those close to him to know that he passed away doing something that he loved and that he was happy at Worldcon.
I had only recently met Bill at the L.A. Collectors Show, and he was the most helpful person there; I spent most of the time at his table. I bought one pulp from him, and we just exchanged emails just this past Friday (8/19) as he had copies of MAGIC CARPET and ORIENTAL STORIES that I was interested in purchasing.
I am very saddened to hear this news – my sincere codolences to his friends and family.
When I saw Bill on Friday in Reno, he looked happier and healthier than I’d seen in 20 years. Another aspect to Bill, of course: he helped me with several VikingCons and the World Horror Convention in Seattle. He always gave his input, 11,000 things, three of which were absolutely brilliant! I don’t know how many other volunteers running conventions he helped, but there was more to this man than I ever knew.
I am shocked and stunned, and am glad to get this news from his friends.
My thoughts are with you and Dean, Kris, and my heart goes out to you both. It’s hard to believe Bill is gone. He hired me when I really needed a job (even though he drove me crazy as a boss, lol) and he was always supportive and generous whenever I needed help.
I’ll always regret not telling him so.
Take care of yourselves (Dean especially) during such a sad and trying time.
I’m really sorry to hear about this. I don’t know Bill, but he sounds like a great guy. Sorry to hear he’s gone. My condolences to you and Dean, and to Bill’s family.
Kris, my heart goes out to you and Dean — Well, to all the people who loved and will miss Bill. But having been the executor for the estate of a person I loved, I know how wearing on the soul the experience can be, so we’ll be saying some extra prayers for Dean.
Bill was one of the first people I met when I went to local conventions twenty or so years ago. He always took the time to chat with me, a new writer, and point me toward books which helped me grow as a writer, and which I invariably loved. He was always kind and we had great conversations. I missed him when I stopped going to cons. So sad to hear this news.
Well-said, Kris. We will miss him – and another 7 years wouldn’t have been nearly enough. He made me nuts sometimes – he worked hard at that curmudgeon thing – but I also know what a sweet, generous man he really was.