My friend Mark Worthen (nitewanderer) passed away unexpectedly yesterday. He was a horror, crime, and science fiction writer who worked tirelessly behind the scenes of the Stoker Awards for the Horror Writers Association and also served as HWA's webmaster. I wandered around in dark fog yesterday after hearing the news. I can't believe he's gone.
I first met Mark in 1993 when I joined a writing group called Xenobia in Provo, Utah. He was only a few years older than I was, and we bonded over a certain darkness and irreverence in our fiction and our worldviews. I wouldn't have expected it back then, but he's the person from that group that I stayed in closest touch with over the years. Through one circumstance or another, we both ended up moving out of Utah around the same time and leaving some misunderstandings behind. That was another thing to bond over, the feeling that we were outcasts and exiles.
While I went to New York City, Mark's path took him to South Korea. He was a brilliant linguist and specialized in teaching ESL. I was amazed by his adventurousness, but he had lived in Europe and South America already and from the stories he told later he took full advantage of his time in Asia.
Next I heard from him, he was in the Midwest, Missouri to be precise, with the love of his life, J.P. Edwards. It was probably around then that Mark asked if I'd contribute a story to his new online horror magazine Blood Rose (one of the earlier of its kind). I did, and actually ended up hosting the website for him (which I still do). It wasn't much later that I found myself traveling to Jefferson City for Mark and Jeannie's wedding, and found him happier than I'd ever known him.
I didn't see much of Mark in person, though a visit he and Jeannie made to New York for World Horror is particularly memorable, as is the trek we made to Kabab Cafe in Queens. I don't do a great job of staying in touch with my friends, but somehow Mark wouldn't let me get away with dropping off the face of the earth. Months would go by and then he would call or email or text or DM me, often to ask if he could run a story or novel fragment past me, or if he could get a sanity check about one thing or another. Then we'd catch up all in a flurry, bitch about the universe in general, and fall out of touch again for while. We talked about getting together in Chicago, since somehow I'd ended up in the Midwest too, but we never managed to make it happen.
One of the most excited messages I ever got from him was this past spring, when he'd just discovered that his story "Final Draft" was going to make the shortlist for the Stoker Award. He gave a lot of quiet effort to HWA, and it was thrilling to see him get recognition from his peers in front of the scenes for the thing he loved doing most.
I can't believe I'm never going to get another unexpected text message from Mark asking what I'm working on. I can't believe he's the one who dropped off the face of the earth this time. That's not the way it's supposed to work.
I'm really going to miss him, as are countless people who knew him. No one more than Jeannie, though. If ever any couple were soulmates, they were the ones.
Rest in peace, buddy.