Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Remembering Writer Pierce Askegren

Every once in a while I'll Google someone from the distant past, all too often I find they've died. That was the case for Pierce Askegren. I met him at Mendenhall Junior High the year he lived in Greensboro, NC. He was a year older than my friend John Hitchcock and I, read comics as we did, and was really into sci-fi. So we had that in common. He was very creative and extremely intelligent.

The one incident at Mendenhall I recall most was the time Coach Loflin made him run around the building for some dumb thing or another, maybe skipping gym class for an appointment, when he got back Pierce was having a full blown asthma attack and the coach was red-faced with embarrassment.

After Greensboro he moved to Northern Virginia and we kept in touch, at least until I moved to California in 1979. Pierce graduated from James Madison University that year and began writing stories for Warren Publications along with paperback novelizations of the Marvel heroes. He even gave a minor character my name in a story he wrote for 'Creepy' magazine ("Hell's Playground", illustrated by Leo Duranona in Creepy 108) and was a big fan of the comic strips I was writing & drawing.

He also penned reviews for 'The Comics Journal.' It was a critical review of 'The Illustrated Harlan Ellison' in 1980 that drew the ire of the famous science fiction writer, leading to an extended interview for that magazine where Ellison disemboweled Pierce in print, really tore into him. It was brutal, if you've ever read Harlan Ellison rant over some injustice or other you know what I mean, he takes insults to a whole new level. He's an artist that way.

By that point I'd lost touch with Pierce, I'm not sure how that public evisceration affected him but I know he stopped writing for publication. Being the kind of guy who was bullied at school I imagine Ellison's barbs stung pretty badly.

Now I know, thanks to Wikipedia and other sources, that as a youngster Pierce took part in his parents high-wire circus act until an accident ended that career for him at age 11. That would have been just a few years before we met.

After 1980 he became a technical writer, returning to comics in the mid-1990s, once again writing prose short stories for anthologies starring Marvel Comics characters, beginning with "The Broken Land" in The Ultimate Silver Surfer. A friend and collaborator wrote: "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."

Besides the Marvel books he also wrote TV show adaptations for 'Alias' and 'Angel.'

Wiki: "Outside the realm of licensed properties, he wrote the "Inconstant Moon" trilogy of science-fiction novels, about corporate colonies on the moon: Human Resource (2005), Fall Girl (2005) and Exit Strategy. His last short story, "Try and Try Again," appeared in the anthology Time Twisters, released posthumously in January 2007..[1] In 2010, his Buffy the Vampire Slayer novelization, After Image (2006), was rereleased, along with two other Buffy books.

"Askegren was found dead in his Annandale, Virginia, apartment on November 29, 2006, after suffering a heart attack on an unreported date." He was 51.

Pierce was a warm, funny, curious, loyal, and talented writer. I know he must be dearly missed by his friends and family.